Thursday, January 31, 2013

RECORD REVIEWS - January 2013


This area garage rock outfit hits most of the right notes on this album. The sound is a little lo-fi, even for garage style rock, but it sounds more edgy than contrived. They remind me of Chicago's Plastic Crimewave Sound with a bit of the Monomen in there somewhere, albeit with some odd complexity. The rawness of the sound is similar to that of the Flesheaters and the few bands that have a good feel for the visceral rawness of amplified blues rock. This one may take a couple of listens if you are not predisposed to this type of sound, but the rewards are there. I particularly like the droning songs, as they create a twisted world where the drone absorbs my thoughts for a long, long time (something welcome these days). Most of the other records I am listing to are cleaner than this, but if we think back when we were really young, it wasn't terribly fun being too clean, was it?

Songs to try out first:

Nassau - This nearly nine minute jam has powerful moments and great tempo control. Garage Mogwai with a bit of vocals?

Scupper - Another long one that almost goes in a Flipper direction songwriting style at least (since no one ever quite sounds like Flipper).

Thunder Studies - There is a certain dreariness and sadness in life that some artists can capture. it happens here without sounding like Joy Division.


Their very name conjures up psychedelic thoughts, or perhaps shoe gaze. In this music, the gaze is straight forward, as there is a core of guitar and voice leading thoughtful songs amidst a light psychedelic landscape aiding the delivery. The vocal style here reminds me of a bouncier Prydwyn, but with that same depth of feeling evident. The real success is their ability to create lush and sumptuous music whose warmth is both embracing and stimulating. They create a smooth flowing atmosphere that allows light instrumental touches to shape the character of each song. My only complaint is that this is  a six song EP and I wanted to stay with this music longer. So listen to it all, and see if you will be relistening as much as I will be. I look forward to good things here, as they are on the right track.

The Echo Wall is celebrating the release of this CD and new CDs of Bellflur and Exit Clov this Friday, February 1st at the Strathmore Mansion.

How do you merge anthemic punk with Springsteen styled rock music? Street Dogs is close but they lean more toward punk. The Levellers tend more toward the mainstream, but are also in the neighborhood. Hot Water Music seems to walk this particular tight rope as well as anyone. There is even a little jangle in the guitar while they roar away like that of classic Australian punk bands which is always welcome to my ears. The vocals are tough but tuneful, while the band is strong throughout. If you like thoughtful, energetic music, this band will fill your needs. And what makes this record jump out a little, is the steady build that exists as you play through all of the songs. When that happens, it is usually a sign that a band has command of their sound. And their recent live show put a bold exclamation point on that thought. This band is a powerhouse and does bring a smile to my face.
Songs to try out first:

Mainline - The opening cut is a ferocious rocker with a good classic vibe, but with punk rock intensity and pace.

Drag my Body - A little jangle and bass flourishes along with the pummeling chorus.

The Traps - Probably the catchiest melody here with the most subdued vocal work, but with loads of pace and jangle.


Portland, Maine's Lisa/Liza has impressed me in the past with her homespun brand of delicate psychedelic folk music and it is more of the same for this new five-song EP. It is pretty much voice and acoustic guitar with lots of echo and some back-up vocal work extends the echo into deep dark canyons of space. It is all effective music with Lisa/Liza in full control. I might have wished for a  bit more variety as it all feels like an extended atmospheric piece as opposed to five songs, but with only five songs, it works better than if it were a full album. As she continues her songwriting, I hope she plays around with her form a bit more. But for now, it is lovely material and I am still hopeful for a nice little east coast tour down our way some time soon.


Baltimore's Adam Trice is 'Red Sammy' who writes the songs, sings and plays guitar. Lately his live shows have featured the fine dobro playing of John Decker, who I will assume is playing here. There is a steady rhythm section as well, but you almost would not know it with the dreamy long horizon on a slow journey feeling that these players produced. It is blues and folk and great care is given to the musical brushwork this band indulges in. It works its magic quite nicely in all thirteen tracks. Actually, there is music only eight of them as there are six poems (one set to music) by Steve Matanle that are featured here. They are mostly barroom stories and are short and easily slip onto the barstools set up between these songs. Trice is well known in Baltimore and regularly plays many stages around here. His work is getting better and better, or perhaps it is me who is more comfortable in his world. Whatever the case, he is worth getting out to when he comes to town and this record will a do a great job holding you over until then.
Red Sammy is having an album release show at the Windup Space in Baltimore on Sunday, February 17th.

Songs to try out first:

Broken Light - Laconic vibe from acoustic guitar and slide work on the dobro allow the quiet vocals to strike a dramatic chord.

Friends - A nice head nodding bluesy number with clean guitar picking.

Monstertruck - Acoustic rock beat with that rolling down the highway motion here, more like a convertible than a monster truck (but the lyric makes sense of it all).

This accomplished band has a lock on that early 1970s rock sound that often started in lengthy and multiple barroom sets and often made it to the arena tours around the country and both college and mainstream FM radio play. The vocal work is quite accomplished with a sound combining the genetics of maybe Paul Rodgers and Kevin Cronin.  The entire band is tight and rocking with strong guitar work throughout and some nice acoustic moves amidst the more prevalent heavier material. There is plenty of energy and just enough variation in the arrangements, particularly in the addition of brass on various songs. A few trend toward a ska beat, but only lightly in that direction. The lyrics could be a bit tighter, but if you are looking for straight ahead rock, this band delivers (over two full records even, as this is a classic double LP).

Songs to try out first:

Yukon Gold - This one had both an extra power-pop bounce and some nice brass that resulted in maybe the catchiest tune on the album.

Everybody Knows - I like the alternating vocals and the guitars really rock this one out.

Yesterday's Wagers - A slower cut that shows their versatility.

This singer-songwriter manages to combine some interesting sounds here in this album, livening up songs that could work as straight folk.. Yes, that is often the goal, but her folk/indie rock moves also manage to deftly incorporate some jazzy tropicalia elements without losing the plot. There are jazzy lounge elements in several songs, most notably in "Follow Close". She uses a substantial vocal range, often with quick octave jumps before settling back down in the scale. A few of the songs move in a light hearted easy going manner, but I preferred the stronger more mysterious cuts which create a unique atmosphere that I want to spend more time in. Intriguing music here that is well worth fitting into your musical palette.

Sammy Witness will be at the Velvet Lounge on Monday, February 11th.

Songs to try out first:

Brazilian Pepper Tree - The music matches the title and lyrics here, as it is a snappy, fragrant pop update on tropicalia.

Follow Close - There is a good lounge jazz folk vibe working here that is tricky to pull off.

I Love my Enemies - This has a deeper folk feel, yet the airy keyboard work creates some very personal space.

Tiger Lily - This has the most sense of mystery and wonder in the album and its evocative guitar and keyboards envelope the steadier vocal and rhythm section.

And for good measure, here is the latest video from Daddy Lion aka Jeremy Joseph, a fine DC musician spending a bit more time out of the area in recent years.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Caustic Casanova - North of Canada -- Galaxy Hut - Jan 28 2013

North of Canada - A couple of my favorite local bands draw me to the Galaxy Hut for the first time. It is a place where many bands enjoy playing, but it is on the small side. Fortunately the atmosphere is good and the sound is decent, although it is a little murky and the vocal work seems a bit distant, although both of these variants actually make things interesting. North of Canada features a couple of guitarists who trade lead vocal duties and harmonize rather well together as well. The rhythm section is a quit propulsive and driving and the guitars work out some nice pop/rock, close to power pop hooks. The vocals carry more of the pop vibe, although there are some spooky things at work here. They remind me of a 60's band that starts in pop, but got interested in equipment advancements like Vox amps and pedals and such and rocks out there sound a bit more as they move forward. There are even a few psychedelic moments and with the distant vocals, I am reminded of the fascinating lost band, Fenner, Leland & O'Brien. There was another moment where they were channeling Dr. Strangely Strange, a band that started as another Incredible String Band but added Gary Moore on their second album for some strange crossover music into rock. When you merge genres, you can work up some nice magic if you do it right. I think North of Canada is on the right track there as the 50 minute set breezed by and showcased the fine songs they have come up with. This is definitely a band that will appeal to a diverse and knowledgeable crowd.
Caustic Casanova - I have been a big fan of the band and have reviewed them countless times (actually I have a record of all reviews, but am too lazy to do math today). It has been a while since I have seen them and there is an extra reason to see this band tonight. A while back, their guitarist moved many states away and although he is still a member of the band, it puts a crimp in their live shows, as they were a trio. The rhythm section had been playing as CC Light and they began the set with this lineup tonight. But, they debuted a local guitarist for the second half of their set which brought back some of their old sound. As CC Light, they still had the chops to be an effective band. The bass playing had always been intricate and flexible, so with a few more chords added, it carried tunes in rock and even funk mode. The drumming was also excellent but was even more dynamic with that added space to fill. But when the guitarist joined in, he captured that spacey psyche-alt metal feel that this band has always done so very well. He added plenty of energy too, and was ripping away nicely, although maybe a bit too much so, as he broke two strings at various points of the set--changing one while maintaining some feedback and sustain while the rhythm section jammed away. The last cut reminded me of Amon Duul II, although they ratcheted up the heavy. So the good news is to stay tuned in, Caustic Casanova is still a vibrant and welcome force on the scene and hopefully will get plenty more shows in 2013.

Quote of the Night: CC introducing their new guitarist... "We want to bring up a special guest. The three of us met while working on the Michelle Bachmann campaign and it was a special moment."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Graveyard - The Shrine -- Black Cat - Jan 26 2013

The Shrine - Don't look for this trio from Venice Beach, California actually on the beaches of California, for these guys are the type that only come out at night. Their particular shrine is one that only works in nightclubs and bars--one that pays homage to rock music in the days it was called hard rock. They have all the spirit and power you would want with this style and knock off the songs quickly in their 25 minute set. They bring the music forward with traces of early Corrosion of Conformity and Valiant Thorr, but the old sounds of the heavier, bar-room blues brand of 1970s hard rock is the core. In other words, a perfect opening band choice for Graveyard. The crowd is warmed.
Graveyard - These four guys from Sweden knocked my socks off (along with pretty much everyone else in attendance) at a sold-out DC9 show just last year (I deemed it third best of my 200+ shows last year). Thankfully, the word of mouth and press coverage has helped a whole lot of people find the brilliance of Graveyard's music, as the Black Cat is nearly full tonight. Whether it is any of their three records or their live show, there are few heavy bands that can pull in as many classic rock fans along with modern rockers and metalheads and thoughtful music fans who enjoy it heavy. The vocal work is Leslie West powerful with the guitars roaring and the rhythm section adding that rare swing element that has gone missing in many modern rock bands. The drummer has the chops to work around the beat in addition to pummeling away when the mood hits. This gives room for undulating bass lines, while the two guitars weave in and around it all in mesmerizing patterns... all while seemingly playing simple bluesy rock songs. If any hard rock band could charm the cobra out of the wicker basket, it is Graveyard. They covered plenty of favorites from all three albums in the 75 minutes they played tonight. They even loosened up a few of them to play around with the dynamics in subtle ways (unlike some of their ham-fisted 70s counterparts). The crowd dug them and I do not believe the exponential word of mouth growth is anywhere near finished. I hope not, because these guys deserve the crowds, as they put on a show tonight that will be hard to keep off this year's 'Top Ten' list.

Quote of the Night: From the opener... "It's fuckin' awesome to be here--we're freezin' our California balls off!"

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hot Water Music - La Dispute - The Menzingers -- Jan 22 2013

The Menzingers - I only caught the last three songs, which was still at least a third of their set, so I'll make a few observations. This Scranton band is signed to Epitaph and plays a tuneful and rollicking modern brand of punk rock. Thankfully, the term positive punk did not stick, but this band reminds me of many of those early eighties tuneful hardcore bands. They also remind me of New Model Army, which is not too bad a band to model yourselves after. They appeared to have opened tonight's proceedings well enough with the really large crowd.

La Dispute - This twin-guitar and lead vocalist outfit is from Grand Rapids, Michigan. They have all the energy of the previous band, but instantly take their music in many different directions. There is real jangle in the guitar, while the rhythms bounce around between power and more worldly moves. The vocals remind me of Proletariat, sans overt political messages. But even a creative band like Proletariat did not explore this territory as these songs continue to nimbly move between jagged cliffs and clean flowing streams of sound. Wikipedia says post hardcore which is true enough, but the important thing is they are post-adherence to cliches while making comforting hook-oriented rock music. This is absolutely brilliant for the entire 42 minutes they are onstage. And there are a whole lot of people up front who can fairly ask me where I've been, as the crowd was stoked, moving, and singing along without a whole lot of prompting from the singer. It is encouraging to here some of the wonderfully heavy things coming out of post-hardcore and alt-metal scenes. This band reminded me that I have not heard it all before.
Hot Water Music - The show looks sold out by now and the mood is quite positive all around. Fortunately this twin guitar quartet hits the ground running and has no problem whatsoever carrying the energy forward that the previous bands have developed. The music here is somewhat between each of the bands and they are not on the surface, nearly as complex as that of La Dispute. But the underlying rhythms do have a lot going and the guitars do plenty of interesting things beyond the manic riffing and toughness coming out. The two guitarists trade off on lead vocals and the songs are very catchy, street tough and somewhat in the manner of a band like Street Dogs, but more balanced and nuanced. These guys have been around for much of the last twenty years and their experience shows equally with their ability. They command the stage, don't waste time, and easily get and keep the crowd involved. They are definitely one of the better main-stream grown-up punk bands out there that still have the energy but have just enough of a worldly manner in their music as well. This was a welcome invigorating night for me and most of the people here.

Quote of the Night: Actually this is from the classics division here, this was an exchange between a news reporter and one of the more engaging popes...

Reporter: "Your Holiness, how many people work at the Vatican?"
Pope John XXIII: "....About half of them."

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Soundgarden -- DAR Constitution Hall - Jan 18 2013

Soundgarden - As heavily as I was into the Seattle scene that this band helped bring about, I could never quite get fully into their music. I was extremely impressed by their clinical and powerful vision, but never warmed to their music enough to induce multiple replays. I never caught them live, and was expecting that the live performance would be a better way to experience them. The classic line-up with Chris Cornell, Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd are all here, a couple years into their reconstituted band that were dormant for 13 years. They have a backline that is simple and to the point that would look more at home at the Black Cat. They go right to business with their thick rock sound that merges classic to modern, not hitting metal, but adding touches of psyche, blues, and dirge. They mix new songs in with lots of classic songs from all eras of the band even going back to a brilliant "Hunted Down", still a favorite of mine. For me, their music is still a little too cool and clinical to fully absorb me, but I do enjoy their abilities live. Cornell's voice is still the star, although Matt Cameron's drumming stands out as something well above average for even top bands. Bands like Kyuss and Kylesa hit warmer grooves or more psychedelic power than Soundgarden in my estimation. Yet, if you want an intriguing balance of rock sounds, this band still delivers the goods. The light show was interesting with lots of black and white leading into some slight green and purple hues into bolder colors toward the end. This enhanced the absorption of their music as the night wore on. And by the end of the set, I was there, maybe not to the degree I would like, but appreciative of what these guys can do. Live is the best way to experience many bands, but vital with Soundgarden.
 Quote of the Night: Matt Cameron: "Did anyone come to our show at the 9:30 Club in 1987? Kim was there, I was there and the rats were like..." motions with hands 12 to 24 inches (a few did, somehow I missed it, although I did catch a slightly more known Sonic Youth there in 1987).

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Morrisey - Kristeen Young -- Strathmore - Jan 16 2013

Kristeen Young - The last time I saw Ms. Young, she was opening for Carol Bui at the backstage of the Black Cat in front of about 50 people. Although people are still filing in, there are only one or two thousand more tonight so far. I would have wondered if just Ms. Young's voice, her piano, and backing rhythm tracks would have been enough to fill this huge room. But I remember being impressed by her operatic voice then and it had no trouble soaring up to me in the balcony. For all her incredible range, she manages to infuse pop moves into the songs. Yet, the incredibly quick moves between high and low notes is amazing. I also recalled that I enjoyed her keyboard work and it was even more evident tonight as she has a real flourish in a rock music sense. If you enjoy Diamanda Galas, Antony Hegarty, or the Dresden Dolls, you owe it to yourself to listen to Kristeen Young. She possesses both the power and creativity to take solo command of the stage even as big as this one. She is often a favored opener for Morrisey and I believe most of the crowd understood why.
Morrisey - Before the set, we were treated to several videos that lay the groundwork for Morrisey. it was older material like Small Faces, Dusty Springfield to the color videos of David Bowie (this drew applause, even) and of course the New York Dolls. Nicely done, ensuring never a dull moment between the acts tonight. Although for several reasons, mostly personal and a few musical, I was somehow not looking forward to this show. Aside from the personal, maybe I had been spending too much time reading Morrisey's quotes in newspapers and magazines and not following his music as much as I should have been. Thankfully for tonight, the stage patter was just right and the music was amazing. His sharp band consisted of drums, bass, two guitars, and a keyboardist who played some guitar and percussion. They created a thick precise stew which clarified into sharper tones over the night. Morrisey's familiar voice is on top of it all, even at the band's loudest moments. Everyone is familiar with his vocal warmth which at times gets a little same-old, but it is such a lovely voice carrying great emotions, that it consistently works over the course of a live set. The songs vary just enough from the loud to the quiet, harder rock, to catchier pop, etc that I was pulled in the whole time. All in all, this was a powerful set with transcendent material delivered coolly, professionally, but with plenty of fire and warmth from within. But Morrisey's opening quote below sums it up well enough.

Quote of the Night: Morrisey before the first note... "The Joy of Music..."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ugly Purple Sweater - Kingsley Flood - Kindlewood -- Black Cat - Jan 12 2013

Kindlewood - I arrived a little late and there was still a line at the door, so I only caught two songs of their set. I had bad luck once before in trying to see this band, so hopefully one day I will get the full set. I saw enough to know that these three people create a sound I can easily get into. They have female vocals, a couple of guitars--acoustic and electric, and the singer did a bit of drumming. They had a lovely 'by the stream' pastoral folk vibe with a just enough psyche touches. Evensong meets Shide & Acorn comes to mind, but I should really hear more. However, I hope I hear them somewhere other than a crowded Black Cat room on a Saturday night, as their sound does not work well with extensive crowd noise.
Kingsley Flood - These are six people from Boston with a DC member as well, or so I hear. I saw them once before and found them to be quite vibrant with their ability to transform Americana style rock into some intriguing hybrids invoking punk and even noise genres. They are touring their new album (which is also excellent) and blasted most of that and more tonight in a satisfying 67 minute set. They had full command of their sound and handled the big crowded room like real pros. Whether they were playing quiet Americana folk rock with intriguing drones underneath, blasting away free form solos, or locking in with classic hooks and melodies, there was always something excellent going on. They really handle dynamic shifts so well, probably because they are equally skilled to excel at quiet and noisy. Some of their most raucous breaks were applauded mid-song by the crowd who were easily pulled in to the center of Kingsley Flood's universe. The one cover I heard was the Rolling Stones "Heartbreaker" which featured wonderfully excessive wah-wah pedals and plenty of brass from their sax and trumpet players (who also play violin and keyboards which allow an incredible width in their style). They also had some guests pop up to help out including plenty of brass with a tuba even. If you like Elliott Brood, the Levellers, 16 Horsepower, and enjoy bands that can soar off beyond all of that, you really should be listening to this band.

Ugly Purple Sweater - Unfortunately personal issues kept me from hearing their set. I have caught them a couple of times before and found them to be a skilled and classy band with some great songs. It seems people around here do not need me to tell you this any more, as they nearly packed the big stage tonight. The future looks bright for them. They have a new album out and here's their new video

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Niki and the Dove - Vacationer -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jan 11 2013

Vacationer - Up first is a four piece from Philadelphia. The bassist handles the lead vocals and is augmented with drums, guitar, and keyboards. They are a little soft for my tastes as they mete out the pop music, but the keyboards do some nice things underneath the melodies to create some interest. Their set contains some odd little songs that don't work, but mostly they sound fairly lush and in control. If you like this style, the band may work well for you. Late in the set they sharpened up their playing, finding the zone from where they began. If they can build the middle further, they just might be able to win me over. But not quite tonight.
Niki and the Dove - This is a Swedish male/female duo that is thrilled to be back here for a third time if I heard correctly. And apparently, many people around here are equally thrilled as this show sold out well before showtime. They start out quite dark and exotic with the guy handling multiple electronics, backing vocals and even some live drums. The woman has an atmospheric and powerful voice somewhere between Nina Hagen and Siouxsie Sioux. But as the songs come out, they have some lighter happy fair which while giving a nice contrast, does not sound out of character. That is a tricky line to walk and they handle it with perfect balance (said this reviewer who after the show tripped on an uneven sidewalk and is nursing two sore joints and about a dozen cuts). The music seems fully developed, catchy, deep and the crowd was really digging it with a fair amount of dancing. These two have a grand style to them and even though this style of music is not where I am at my best, I was happy to take in this set with a band that has such broad appeal. There are a few other electronic pop acts selling out bigger clubs (that used to play downstairs at the Black Cat), and I think this band is due for that sort of bump as they combine complexity with accessibility so very well.

Quote of the Night: From the opener... "You guys are so wild, it's making me blush."

Friday, January 11, 2013

David Murray Big Band with Macy Gray -- Howard Theatre - Jan 10 2013

David Murray Big Band with Macy Gray - I had to call up my old friend and music writer Jeff Wilson prior to the show as he convinced me to go with him to see David Murray about 30 years ago at a small jazz club in Dayton, Ohio. I saw him again in NYC and bought several albums as his jazz saxophone ability was extremely impressive. We speculated that the audience would be more inclined to be at tonight's show for Macy Gray, but with her R&B style, Murray's avant garde jazz style, and arrangements for big band jazz, there was some mystery as to what would come out of it all. Sure enough, most of the people at my table were there to see Macy Gray, although I was happy to have the guy next to me twice comment after a David Murray solo, that he saw why I was here to see him. Thankfully, in addition to his jazz conducting which was rather low-key aside from calling out solos and occasional coordinating moves,  he frequently pulled out his saxophone to take the lead. The one shining moment with just his playing featured his most intense free jazz moves, incredible circular breathing runs, and astonishing tones that induced a few gasps from the audience. The band was big with loads of brass, a brief flute solo and included drums, bass, electric guitar, and keyboards. They showed good flexibility with rock moves, R&B feel, varying jazz structures and worked well together as much as I can tell. Admittedly, this is the first big band show I have seen since Tito Puente in 1986 (although I also helped lift Count Basie's piano to the stage in 1980 prior to that fine show).
Macy Gray came out after the band had played a fifteen minute jazz number. She would sing 2-3 songs and take breaks for the rest of the 130 minute set. I was a little worried early as her second song was sung hunched over the sheet music stand and frankly, there was a lack of comfort that remained throughout the show. I did enjoy her breathy voice with just enough raspiness. She has a little bit of power at times, although style seems to be the key to her success. There is clearly some magic with her approach. She had many elements of a spacey diva and that was fun for the most part, especially with the costume changes every break. Still, there was something disjointed here on a technical or clinical level. But it was easy enough to just sit back and enjoy the better songs when the band locked in and she was in the zone. They concluded with a spirited "Every Now and Then" and I would guess most people went home happy, and quite a few eyes were opened to the skills of David Murray.

Quote of the Night: M.Gray... "Sexy people, you sure are quiet for DC".

Actually that is fairly normal for here these days, although there was a bit more energy later in the set.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Presto Bando - Two Alpacas - Dela Sante -- Velvet Lounge - Jan 4 2013

Dela Sante - The opening band has just started as I arrive upstairs. The room is packed so if I count correctly, I see six members featuring a couple of guitars, rhythm section and two keyboards electronic guys. One guy brings out a trumpet, trombone, and sax for different songs and there is only one microphone for stage patter. Their instrumental music is clearly progressive, but with a modern electronic touch. The brass is a great addition and adds a vibrancy to the songs. But the core four guys would be enjoyable enough on their own as the rhythm is solid and the guitars shift between power and interesting noodling with good skill and touch. I enjoy a good prog band and these guys fit the bill with a personal approach that succeeded nicely tonight. Being fully instrumental may be a challenge to their songwriting as they go forward, but they have plenty to offer now.

Two Alpacas - A trio is up next, but not a power trio. Guitar, drums and the third guy mostly on guitar with some keyboards. They all sing with different lead voices at times. I thought they started strong, but kind of lost the formula as the set wore on. The second cut had a great Lou Reed/Richard Hell storytelling wordy coolness to it and the music was on the edgy side. Then they went to an indie rock/pop hybrid that did show some personality, but varied depending on the catchiness (or lack thereof) of each song. The final two cuts reminded me of the openers and gave me hope that they will continue to hone their craft and come up with some exciting music.
Presto Bando - This is the farewell show for one of the most creative bands in the DC area. Back in 1987, I saw farewell shows for the Meatmen, Blackmarket Baby, and Marginal Man. I saw all three of them in the last three years. Time will tell if it happens here, but if not, I certainly hope these three guys continue doing creative things, hopefully on the stages of DC clubs. My mood has been overwhelmingly somber in the last couple months anyway and somehow that vibe was here tonight. The band still put on an energetic set, and although there was sadness, their quirky songs still put a smile on my face many times. We all move forward and I eagerly await the day when I will let everyone know of a hot new band featuring some ex-Presto Bando member. Stay tuned and hit the clubs and see if you can find other bands with this level of creativity. They are out there, but it takes time.

Quote of the Night: From PB... "This song is called 'Live Without End'. It is the song that got us quasi-not famous."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Time for one of those pesky lists again with their arbitrary cutoff points. But since even this annual activity makes far more sense to me than getting drunk on December 31st so you can watch the odometer click over, I will again offer my list of favorite DC shows this past year. The bias is the same, in that I personally have to be really moved by the show--either one band or the totality of the bands, so that might rule out bands I see a lot. And if anything, 2012 was a year I saw bands a lot. 202 shows were reviewed here. When you add the amount of nights I go to the theater, this has become a five days a week occupation. I can pretty much promise you that I will not keep up the pace in 2013, but I will be back to the clubs well over a hundred times if all holds well and true for me in my life. Anyway, on to music. Here are the ten runners up...

Jan 2012 Akron/Family (R'n'Roll Hotel)
Mar 2012 Electric Eel Shock/Hot ChaCha/Thee Lolitas/Caustic Casanova (Black Cat)
Apr 2012 Retribution Gospel Choir/District Lights/Maple (Red Palace)
May 2012 Opeth/Mastadon/Ghost (Fillmore)
Jun 2012 The Revivalists (Velvet Lounge)
Jun 2012 Dengue Fever/Omar Souleyman (9:30 Club)
Sep 2012 Mission of Burma (Black Cat)
Nov 2012 Social Distortion/Lindi Ortega (9:30 Club)
Dec 2012 Six Organs of Admittance (DC9)

But the winners in reverse order are:

10. Jan 2012: Screen Vinyl Image, Ceremony, and Silo Halo - Black Cat. Great show from area bands I have seen a number of times, but it came together quite wonderfully that night.

9. Jun 2012: Marissa Nadler, Marian McLaughlin - DC9. Two solo artists with guitars and voice both played their own brand of psychedelic folk music with style and substance.

8. Jul 2012: Tangerine Dream - Howard Theatre. Legendary band I have followed for 36 years, plays great music for three hours--kind of a lock for my list.

7. Feb 2012: The Kennedys - Jammin Java. They also knocked it out of the park later in the year at the Hamilton. This duo has some of the broadest appeal of anyone I have seen.

6. Sep 2012: The Acoustic Strawbs, John Wesley Harding - Jammin Java. I always loved seeing any version of the Strawbs and they did a long powerful set tonight with a brilliant opening act I had seen just prior as a headliner.

5. Mar 2012: The Joy Formidable, A Place to Bury Strangers, Exitmusic - 9:30 Club. The Joy Formidable again proved what a powerhouse they are as they combine pop, punk, and shoegaze into an astonishing end product. The openers were nearly as brilliant.

4. Van der Graaf Generator - Howard Theatre. Three old British guys dressed for the retirement home can outrock the kids with intriguing progressive music and the power of the Pete Hammill voice.

3. Graveyard, Radio Moscow, Black Cowgirl - DC9. Sweden does a lot of things right musically, and garage rock is one of them. Graveyard nails it as well as anybody and are not fooling anyone, as they are headed back for this year's show at a much bigger club (Black Cat).

2. Swans - Black Cat. These veterans have an amazing ability to coax complexities out of drones and sustain power and interest in songs that extend to 30 minutes. They were so powerful that they blew up my computer and I lost my review the day after the show.

1. Spiritualized, Nikki Lane - 9:30 Club. The revelation of how brilliant Spiritualized is happened over four years ago in Denver when I first saw them. So when this show came around, I did not think they could take me as far as before. But they did, as they have the alchemic touch when they play live.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Tim Bragg takes command of a balanced garage rock style with pop sensibility and a blue collar rock ethos. When these songs rock, the guitars ring out constantly somewhere in between Smithereens and Radio Birdman. When they slow down a bit, they retain a real grit in the guitar work as they explore the lyrical end of things atop a bouncy rhythm. Bragg eventually plays through variations on the rock format with some soul and pop moves. At times, the songs lapse into some standard R&B/rock moves that I do not prefer as much as his rockers or creative soulful journeys, but most of these fourteen songs succeed. The sound is crisp and strong with creative arrangements sneaking in various lead guitar coloring, keys, or a brief sax. He covers Lowell George and a Phil Lynott song "King's Call" which features that classic Lynott vocal pattern. The album ends with some great guitar work reminding me of a more 1970s style Bevis Frond. Although based in France, the lyrics are in English and the sound combines UK, USA, and continental Europe moves (as well as some worldly touches). Tim Bragg has both a taste for classic rock and creative approaches to rock music that keeps this album fresh and invigorating. His music is always welcome on my playlist and I would love to see him on this side of the Atlantic some time.

Songs to try first:

Sometimes - This is the first cut, it's the single, and it's busy garage rock guitar work sets the stage for some active listening.

My Family - There are some horns in this fine arrangement of a highly balanced song that could fit in a variety of radio formats.

Distant Charms - This has a great laid back rhythm and soulful delivery of the vocals. A change of pace and a standout song.


This Philadelphia outfit is one of those secret treasures out there that I was lucky enough to run into at a show at the Asylum years ago. Thankfully, they have kept me in the loop where their musical offerings which have always left me greatly excited at the sound and direction they come up with. This latest record is no exception. They open with a wicked curve ball psyche folk number that sounds closer to Josh Homme doing psyche-folk than Wizz Jones. But next, it is more of what I expect with a thunderous psyche/alt metal song. Thereafter, it is some of the more imaginative heavy rock being made on this or any other coast. There are strong shifts in pace and volume and I emphasize strong as there is full assurance whether they are blasting away at electric guitar or adding lovely violin runs and keyboard fills. Here is hoping 2013 will be productive for them and allow us a live experience here in the DC area. And although I list a few songs to try, you should really go all in here.

Songs to try first:

Glass Mouth - Fierce yet creative rocker to wake up the dead.

And If - A lovely song with creative rock edginess and an engaging melody. This is what Queens of the Stone Age and bands like that should be doing.

E.Y.E.S. - A brighter power drone than that of what you might expect from Bardo Pond.


This local band is known for energized performances featuring ballsy rock'n'roll and high spirited heartland songs delivered with gusto and passion. So of course, the opening number shows careful restraint as they carefully manage intricate guitar work atop a lightly lively rhythm while showing off a great male/female vocal duet. This is Americana rock music with great balladry with gutsy heart-worn-on-sleeve songs that do not head anywhere near pretension like many other post-Springsteen bands to remain nameless. There is a touch of Smithereens, John Doe, Sadies, and many other bands in the history of rock'n'roll here. You won't get any new genres invented on this record, but you will get some sparkling playing in a highly enjoyable style of music along with some fresh songs covering some very old themes.

And for a fun filled Saturday night, you can come to the CD release party at the Iota on January 12th.

Songs to try first:

Juneen - The opener sets the tone with a light Sadies style song where the notes dance around a crowded dance floor while creating their own space.

The Price You Pay - Simply, a lovely song that I will be replaying first, when I don't have time to hear the whole album.

Better Man - I really like the extra jangle in the guitar and the playful melody.


I saw this Boston band this past summer and they somewhat blew me away with an eclectic hard rocking brand of Americana that twisted and morphed into intriguing directions. This album has much of what I saw and more. They do fit into the indie rock crowd with intriguing modern rock sounds, yet with plenty of Americana and folk touches along the way (or in this case, effectively bookending the harder rock songs). And although there are genre bending moves everywhere, the songs all sound of one highly skilled band. And when you really bring the creativity as they do here, genre bending is really an uplifting experience for those of us that listen to hundreds of new bands each and every year, decade after decade.

And come hear for yourself when they join us at the Black Cat on January 12th with the fine local band, Ugly Purple Sweater.

Songs to try first:

Don't Change my Mind - If the title cut is the opener, you can bet you want to start right there. This has a haunting melody reminding me of some of my deeper felt folk cuts from my collection.

Pick Your Battles - This cut rocks more with power pop guitar moves, cool organ parts, and a great vocal line augmented with some ooh-ah backing vocals that still work.

Strongman - Kind of a classic rock song wearing post modern clothing. Clashing? No, somehow it works in a nice creative twist.


This five-song EP comes my way from my old hometown of Dayton, Ohio. Or rather, it is an LP as the five songs have some length to them. Either way, this power trio recreates the classic hard rock I grew up on in that slow midwestern industrial town. There is a post-punk, metal understanding presence here, but the Sabbath meets Motorhead approach to the pace and sound of this heavy music is welcome to my ears. There is even a progressive sophistication like that of the Sword in "Weather Breeder" that continues in a few other songs as well. There is always plenty of room for music of this style when the quality and assertiveness is there as it is here. There is a strength to the propulsion and a good feel in the vocal work. Add a strong production and you have a nice starting point for this up and coming band. I hear they are hungry for the road and based on this, an east coast swing would find them lots of hungry rock fans.