Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Kaki King -- Howard Theatre - Apr 29 2013

Kaki King - It is high time I return to clubland in DC and I was welcomed back by this most fascinating guitarist. She employs a unique overhand style that is becoming a little more popular, but still wildly difficult to employ to this level of dexterity. She alternates that with classic fingerstyle technique on her acoustic guitar. Not only does she employ direct rhythm with the tapping of the guitar body, but she has a pulsating style with lightning bursts of fingerwork employed with enough feeling to be far more than a display of virtuosity. She has a quick right hand and creates involved instrumental songs that display a nice array of emotions. The guitar tones are exquisite and she holds the growing audience's attention for an opening 70 minute set. And then just to spice it up more, she comes back with an array of guitars, ukuleles, along with a drummer and a trumpeter who plays a bit of synth, but spends most of his time on an Electronic Valve Instrument. I am glad she gave us the instrument's name, as I had not seen one before. I did recognize that he was playing it like a trumpet, but connected through a synthesizer it produced keyboard sounds, basslines, and all kinds of odds and ends in the way of accompanying the drums and guitar. The trio's hour long set had a lot of hit/misses with the songs (now with some vocals), but the hits included some extraordinarily inventive progressive music as well as some great heavy and intriguing riffing. This was a real ear opening show of a fascinating and supremely odd artist. She mentioned that you never quite know what you'll get from her, which is the danger of experimental music, but when it is this inviting, it is a pretty easy recommendation to make with even straight forward mainstream fans.
Quote of the Night: Kaki King... "Thank God I didn't get that gig." after yet another story about people in the 'biz' who have tin ears.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Washington Jewish Music Festival 2013

Before heading off to Austin for Psyche Fest, I wanted to alert you to what is always an interesting music festival here in Washington. The Washington Jewish Music Festival starts on April 28th at the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center in Silver Spring and continues through May 11th featuring some fascinating music from various corners of the world. From Noa to Frank London and so much more, I would advise a look at the schedule to see what may be interesting to you. Or just take a look at these video samples the Festival staff has put together on Youtube. Enjoy!



Long one of my favorites, I look forward to each and every album from this eclectic trio (once a quartet). They live in three different states and evoke at least that many states of mind with their innocent and playful brand of modern psychedelic folk rock music. I love deep, contemplative music, yet Akron/Family consistently provides a lightness to their brand of contemplative music. They bring out the light smiles as listeners can drift back into warm thoughtful psychedelic pastures, even as they rock out with standard rock instruments.  This is one of their steadier album as the space between light and heavy is less than usual and has a smooth sonic theme woven into the fabric of the entire album. You owe it to yourself to check out their music and by all means, see the live set.

AKRON/FAMILY celebrate the release of this album, tonight  (Friday, March 29th) at Iota.

Songs to try out first:

No Room - The opening cut has power, drive, drone and that passionate clarity that the best of their vocals bring out.

Until the Morning - Lovely lead vocal work atop a mix of African and Americana background vocals with shimmering guitars and a hypnotic beat.

Holy Boredom - More magical meditation as only this band can bring.


The dreamy state of this album is even more cottony and that of the semi-conscious rem state of sleep than most of the dreamy psychedelic albums released this century. You almost do not notice the chunky rhythm guitar underneath the delicate guitars and layered vocals. Or perhaps it is the hypnotic rhythm section that is the ribcage of this band? It is a slippery sound that is at times a little too low key, but careful listening will reveal some lovely highlights. If you are into Hush Arbors or if you can imagine Sigur Ros covering Voice of Seven Thunders, this album is something worth devoting some time to. After another ten listens, I may get closer to the heart of the matter. But if not, it was worth the journey.

Songs to try out first:

People of the Sticks - This has a bit of rock bite within the elegant pop structures and flows majestically.

Catalina - Simply, there is a comforting musical pattern in this song.

Alamogordo - Deliberate pace with one of the longest gentle fade-outs I have heard in some time.


If you enjoy classic rock merged with soul, R&B, and a touch of Americana--basically the sound of around 1970, then this Texas outfit may be worth a listen. There are some things that are fairly essential if you tackle this style of music. First, you better have good vocals. Thankfully the lead vocals are steady and have the ability to push the envelope enough at the intense moments. The backing vocals could even be used a bit more as they shine brightly when employed. The rhythms for this musical style need to be assured which is true enough here, with plenty of space offered for horns and guitar runs that sneak in and out of some songs while offering steady rock moves in others. Possibly the only thing I would like to see more of, is more dynamic shifts in intensity and/or instrumentation. The songs are all good and although few stand out as 'hit singles', they all play well together and have you enjoying the band more at the end than at the beginning, as you get into their sound.

You can come see what this band does live at the DC9 on Tuesday, May 7th.

Songs to try out first:

Moorie - Quiet song with that distant organ sound, horns, light and tasty guitar and full out gospelesque backing vocals.

Shine - More good vocal work that really brings out the soulful late 60s/early 70s

It's Alright - Maybe the best hooks in the songs here and the strong guitar and horns don't hurt a bit.


This local guitarist had a successful run in a Philadelphia band called Caveman who dazzled many with its unique brand of experimental post rock music. Now, John Lee is an active local guitarist who sounds like he enjoys stretching barriers even further. This is fantastic instrumental landscape music that is fully inviting, yet has all sorts of creative edgy shifts within the melodic framework. As I so often bore people to death with, I thoroughly love music that is experimental and challenging, while retaining firm grasp of core musical forms. It is a delicate balancing act that many great artists have been able to maintain. And John Lee shows that here with fully twanged electric guitar painting the Leone/Morricone landscape, while there are mad keyboard, guitar, and percussive bursts to take this to Dali-land.


The electronics of Love an Radiation come more from the synthesizer pop scene of old than anything too newly twisted and beat infused. There are interesting skronky noises from time to time, but the lush atmospherics are what will pull you in. That, and the scrumptious harmonies the two women design. This is not my first genre of choice, but when you have the hooks and create an atmosphere this warm and relaxing, I am happy to accept the invitation in. They specialize in shorter songs that accomplish the pop atmosphere they strive for and move on, with the atmosphere as a whole lingering in the air. This is a light pleasure with enough substance to allow for enjoyable revisits.

Come see them live with Sansyou and Silo Halo (both I will happily endorse) at the Pinch this Sunday, April 28th. And if you can't make that they stay in town and play at the Velvet Lounge with Pleasure Curses and Lenorable.

Songs to try out first:

Winter - I love the harmonies and this opening cut will hook you in for good.

Ganymede - Frankly, I just like the word Ganymede, but the vocals shine again.

Augury - Why do they choose such cool words for song titles? How about Murmur? Oh wait, REM did that already.


Fifteen live tracks served with style and panache by this Baltimore collective. They are certainly a part of the Americana roots scene, but they conjure up a lot more jazz and worldbeats than one might first suspect. That is likely due to the high level of musicianship these guys have. All the more amazing that this is a live recording. The keyboards are outstanding and they connect with the guitar parts in elaborate ways, while the rhythm section swings effortlessly (seemingly so after a million years of practice and gigging no doubt). This is a veteran band that is smart with the songwriting and the arrangements. The live forum is definitely the way to present this material and hopefully they can make it their way south some time. But if you are in the Baltimore area, I would advise finding their live shows whenever you want a a cross between a bar band and a major league all encompassing rock band.

Songs to try out first:

Daybreak Until Seven - Undulating rhythms and instruments locked in a loose manner proving the unlikely.

He's the Weatherman - Hilarious lyrics and one of the more dancehall beats, old school. I'm bopping around at home looking quite silly to Jimmy Stewart across the way in the other window.

McCarthy's in the Second Row - This melodic line is as playful as it gets with clever lyrics and a quick pace.


I had envisioned this band as a monster noise machine, but was left impressed with the sonic complexities at a variety of volumes, tempos and tones on this thoroughly interesting album. They remind me of a more experimental (and stoned) Black Mountain taking psychedelic approaches to carefully extended songs. There is more minimalism in this, than that of fellow psyche travelers Dead Meadow and the Black Angels. It is not a sound that will grab you as instantaneously as those bands, but for people wanting to move from their world of electronica into psychedelia, Suuns may have opened the portal doors significantly wider. This will not be the record I grab when I want a few psyche nuggets to blast open my mind, but will be one to put on when I want to drift into similar terrain for 45 minutes.

Songs to try out first:

2020 - The twisted slide guitar run sounds like something from No Wave Land with disturbing undertones near by.

Sunspot - The soft vocals work well with the quiet bite of the guitar and the electronics moving amongst the rhythms.

Music Won't Save You - No, but it sure makes the time pass by more pleasantly.

You may know Vakirai as the former vocalist of the excellent local band, The Honeyguns. His stellar tones took the lead in an intriguing stew of mixed genre rock music. He uses some of his bandmates along with the excellent guitarist John Lee and some other top musicians for this, his first solo album. The style is not as rocking as that of his former band, but is every bit as creative with a mix of intriguing styles. It starts with his personal roots from Zimbabwe, which immediately has me thinking of one of my favorite musicians, Thomas Mapfumo. The songs are not fully of that style but there is a lot of backing vocal work that sounds familiar to fans of South African vocal music. American soul music may be the strongest root here, but there is so many subtle touches occurring in both the songwriting and the skills of the backing musicians, that there is great pleasure in feeling all sorts of styles come together. I hear Isaac Hayes style guitars, folk moves, and standard rock signatures mixed with African or American rock rhythms. Above it all, Vakirai proves once again he is one of the finer singers in the area as his personality stays strong on every song, no matter where he may travel. And I should also thank him for inviting me to a listening party at One World Studios, where he and producer J. Kofi Rozzell presented the songs to a small crowd. This was a fun way to be introduced to a new album. I am happy to see Vakirai continue to create great music and hopefully will catch a live set some time soon as this album in officially released on May 31st (with the single Shine out May 2nd).

Songs to try out first:

Oliver - The opening cut has a great combination of trad African sounds fused with rock, Americana, which pulls together into a cohesive pop soul song.

Michael - I like the sparse vocal and acoustic guitar folk style here, with a vocal that is powerful in a Dino Valente manner.

Shine - The production and full bodied arrangements complete with horns shine here, yet Vakirai's vocal work is still strong enough to stay on top of all the exciting instrumentation.

This local slightly-psychedelic rock band's new album is filled with B-sdes, alternate versions, demos, and all but the kitchen sink. Some times these albums are 'for fans only', but thankfully this has lots of intriguing music with psychedelic roots along with quieter pop rock tunes. The quieter tunes are not as interesting as the heavier material (are they ever?). What really works best for this band is how they take a quiet dreamy vocal line and manage to blend it in to a thicker distorted guitar sound with loads of fuzz and feedback and manage to make it so complete. The quiet/loud compare and contrast within one song is a great way to explore psychedelic territory. It is a bit of a grab bag here, but that sort of goes with the premise of this album. The highlights are well worth repeated listens as this band manages to take familiar sounds and combine them in ways that make them intriguing to any long time of recent psyche-rock fan.

Songs to try out first:

Save Room for the Water - Nice crunching guitar fighting through feedback noise deep in the mix with crisp rhythms and nice understated vocal work.

Let's Go with Alice - The wailing guitar battles the dreamy vocals to see which is more haunting and it is a tie.

Anyone - Byrdsian vocal harmonies atop a good garage rock stomper.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Carousel Rogues - The Share - The Echo Wall - Blind Man Leading - The Band Concord -- Jammin Java - Apr 22 2013

The Band Concord - In one of those wonderful cosmic alliances, no sooner had I typed this band's name, ready to begin my review, when on came the song "Ho Hey"--the fifth cut from the Lumineers album I was playing. The connection was that this band played a nice cover of this song complete with a loop of the 'Ho Hey' chorus. This band features a singer on acoustic guitar and a mandolin player assisting. The vocals were in a Don McLean style and the folk material was mostly straight strumming with the occasional mandolin solo. Later in the set the guitarist employed some finger style moves which were a welcome accompaniment. There was even one original song that sounded eerily similar to Jackson Frank, which is someone more folkies should be modelling themselves after (or at least learning from). Good set with a nice early crowd to hear it. And why not? This is a comfortable place with good food, nice sound and they are continuing their fine coverage of the local scene with this series of JamnJavadoorGal's Local Scene shows.

Blind Man Leading - This Baltimore trio has a rather straight pop-rock sound with a modern indie feel to it. The vocals are soft and wrap nicely around a somewhat jagged guitar at times. The rhythm section is solid and the band almost hits that soul-rock sound, but does not quite get there as things are a bit more modern and understated. They do not generate a lot of immediate excitement within me, but they slowly work their way in to my brain with some quality songs in the latter part of their set. And it is hard to complain with a nice steady set from the fourth band on a five-band billing. Keep at it lads, with additional quality songs, this can be a good act.
The Echo Wall - I have seen this local seven-piece band before and have liked them with a few reservations. And once again, the formula of taking some time off between seeing a band has paid dividends as I thought this was their finest show yet. They still do not always integrate the strings (cello and violin) as much as I would like, but with guitar, glockenspiel, and trumpet/french horn, and rhythm section, they have a lot going on already. I particularly thought the rhythm section was flowing beautifully tonight and even on the opening number where they apparently played it on the fast side, they were making all the right choices. The songs are good in the Americana folk-rock style and this band really brought them to life tonight.

The Share - Two sisters--one blond, one darker hair; one with guitar and vocals, one on vocals... sounding a bit like the Wilson sisters and probably a few other sister combos through the ages. Like the Wilson sisters, these two certainly create some magical vocal work together. They are joined with a guy who adds some acoustic guitar, but not really enough to matter much. The women are the focal point, although I do hope they can work in some musical heft as there were some songs where I felt something was missing. But they are on there way to becoming a Smoke Fairies or Chimera in sound, and just lack a little of the intensity and songwriting for now. But there is a lot of potential here.
Carousel Rogues - The three core members of this Frederick band are on guitars and keyboards with a little bit of instrument swapping. They are joined by a rhythm section and have a timeless rock sound, not rooted in any particular place or scene. When then happens, you certainly need quality and there is enough here. The keyboards are used well with variety, helped by the different players' style. The vocal work is strong and they occasionally put out some nice hooks. There were a couple of rough edges in some of the songs, but maybe when I see them again in a year or so, it will come together even better (see above). But there is nothing wrong with the set now, as they employ some nice skills to these good songs.

Quote of the Night: From me to myself... "If I ever quit this vocation, one reason will be to attain the eternal peace of being spared the question put to me hundreds of times a year...'how are you guys doing tonight?'"

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Joy Formidable - Blood Red Shoes - You Won't -- 9:30 Club - Apr 21 2013

You Won't - The modern style of guitar and drum duos is presented first tonight, which always has my mind racing of how to approach my somewhat lessening suspicion of this format. Fortunately, this Boston band takes my mind off of the cliches and into their music rather quickly. One of the keys to their success was the drummer's additional instrumention. In what was a first for me, he played harmonica while drumming on several songs. He also had a glockenspiel, ukulele, and electronics and keyboards which he sometimes employed while drumming in the same way as you see in Wye Oak. The guitarist handled the vocal work with a strong nasal tone and brought out a lot of pop elements with the rock and Americana base. The drums were crisp and quick with plenty of flourish which helps when your guitarist isn't named Jack White. But the guitar moves were playful and plenty rocking with great energy and cleverness added to the songs. One song even seemed to be a cross of the Meat Puppets and Presto Bando, so these guys were here to have fun with their 30 minute opening set. And most of the sold out crowd was here early and appreciated the unique yet comfortable style presented here.

Blood Red Shoes - This UK duo also has the guitar and drums approach with a sound that is much more straight forward in a hard rock style with a touch of garage pop. So basically, we get seven musicians tonight, which equals the size of say Lynyrd Skynyrd, but spread out over three bands. Yet from what I am hearing early in this set, the sound will be big, bigger and biggest. For there is plenty of rock intensity in this duo's quick hitting approach, although the early songs may have been a bit thin. But the guitar work toughened up and offered some creativity, but not as much as the vocal trade-offs and harmonies which were more the star. They also sounded almost too much like the headliners at times, but the songs were good and their 40 minute set breezed by and was a pleasure to listen to.
The Joy Formidable - It's only been a little over two years since this Welsh trio released their debut album "The Big Roar", but they have been touring so hard it feels like they have been around a decade. This is the third time I have seen them and I have missed two other area shows that I know of. But it is hard to pass up an opportunity to see one of the better young bands out there, so here I am again. And it was great to hear them feature much of their second album whose material is about as strong as that of their first. I was a bit worried at first as the vocals sounded pretty awful, but by the second or third song, the sound man made the correct adjustments and the melodious tones of Ritzy Bryan became clearer. Of course the band was roaring away with their brand of shoegaze tinged assertive rock. All three make a ton of noise but have a fluid style that meshes so well together in their hook laden songs. Everything is bright and energized when they are on, and they had it working tonight in one of their favorite clubs in a city that Welsh born Ms. Bryan knows well, living here for a while just before forming this band. If you like catchy rock music, you really can't go wrong with this band. I just hope they can keep their energy and not burn out with all the road work that has piled up recently. If so, they have a long career ahead of them.

Quote of the Night: "Eats... Shoots... Leaves?" from the Guardian commenting on Liverpool's Luis Suarez who bit a Chelsea opponent in the second half (missed by ref) and went on to score the last second tying goal before being greeted by the press wondering if he will be shipped off of the island, since this is the second time in his career he has been caught biting. Oh yeah, there was that ten game ban for racist comments, too.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Steven Wilson -- Howard Theatre - Apr 20 2013

Steven Wilson - Such a misleadingly simple name--Steven Wilson. His main band's name, Porcupine Tree, conjured up more of the image of the complex progressive music that endlessly flowed out of Wilson. He has also worked behind the scenes with Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth and many other collaborators as he has built a deserved reputation as one of the masters of progressive music. Tonight he featured a normal sized band consisting of drums, bass/backing vocals, keyboards, guitar, and flute/sax, while he sang and played an ever changing array of guitars, keyboards, and even bass. It did not take me long to remember how great he is on stage. I had not seen him in many years since Porcupine Tree played in Falls Church. He has a great personality and energy that he shows in the music and even in his pleasant and funny stage patter. The music was fantastic as well, as was the overall stage presentation. They began about a half hour before the show with a film related to their recent album cover and some great ambient psychedelic droning music. The band then ripped into a variety of music from recent albums, along with a few older numbers (as best I could tell--you'll have to get set lists elsewhere as I am terrible with titles). They were extremely versatile as you could hear folk moves, psychedelic touches, some very heavy metallic moves, and a touch of progressive jazz. At one point they seemed to be a blend of Parsifal, recent Opeth, and Rush, while at other times I would hear progressive metal, or a reworking of King Crimson's "Cirkus". The versatility in the writing is more than matched by the skills and versatility of these players. I thought the excellent bass player was familiar and yes, it was Nick Beggs who I saw tour with Steve Hackett some years back--the use of the Chapman Stick is a giveaway, although he is a recognizable presence on any stage.
Just before the halfway point of the 2 hour set, a scrim dropped as the band took a four minute break while a film played with more trippy music. They returned and played behind the scrim for a few songs which was a nice touch as they showed films which blended into the band who were lit enough blend in with the images. Sound, imagery, personality... everything clicked tonight. They finished in style and came back with an encore that was a medley of surprises for the hardcore fans, of which there were many. In fact, it was wonderful to see such a full house tonight as I was not sure how this would go over at this venue. But smart music fans know to come and see Steven Wilson when he comes to town, as it is a rare treat that works on about every level. I now feel a lot smarter for choosing this as my Saturday night treat.

Quote of the Night: SW... "I'm going to play a cheery song... Do I detect some sarcasm?"

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Vietnam - Silent Old Mtns. - Brandon Butler -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Apr 19 2013

Brandon Butler - The former guitarist from Boy's Life starts off with a solo set featuring voice, acoustic guitar, and awkward rambling (sometimes funny) stories. Normally, acoustic solo sets are death in this club on a Friday night, but the ferocious storms outside kept the crowd down to a quiet dozen when he started his set. As the crowd doubled and then some, it did get noisier, but Butler had a strong enough voice and guitar strum to keep control of the stage. He evokes thoughtful and emotional moods with his songs and he was completely wrong when he said it was all down hill from his opening cut. A few of the latter ones were excellent and he even added a nice finger style in one of the last cuts. His story telling kind of skewed things to a dullish modern vibe that distracted from the timeless qualities in the music. Otherwise, this was folk solid.

Silent Old Mtns. - From nearby Frederick, comes this collective of musicians who have plenty of guitars, banjos, voices, and a rhythm section. They cook up a whacked out brand of Americana folk rock that dives headlong into psyche terrain frequently. The songs were good enough, but the arrangements really shined brightly when they connected. Maybe they are a trippier version of O'Death, but these guys take familiar things to strange places. They were loose, but in a good way, like a jamming band that uses space properly where listeners can float around and connect far more often than get lost. I will certainly look forward to seeing them on another night when the rains are not keeping people away. But the 30-40 people here were enjoying the set.
Vietnam - This band is has a rhythm section, a couple of guitars, keyboards, and violin. They continue the motif of the evening with a psychedelic jamming rural stoned-out folk rock vibe. The songs were not as distinct as that of their recent album (although I recognized a few), but blended together into what felt like an extended jam. They reminded me a bit of MV & EE, but they certainly have their own style. What was interesting was that no player seemed to ever jump to the forefront with any sort of virtuosity, but skillfully wove their sound into the overall fabric. They did a good job on a tough night and I may be catching them quite soon when I make my way to Austin for Psyche Fest.

Quote of the Night: From Silent Old Mtns.... "How many people have wet socks". Thankfully I got here early enough, so I was not one of the many who cheered, but with the wind kicking up, I had a lot of wet clothes to hang up after the walk to the car following the show.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ivan and Alyosha - The Lone Bellow -- DC9 - Apr 17 2013

The Lone Bellow - This Brooklyn trio through way of Georgia and Virginia play guitars and mandolin and are accompanied by a rhythm section. It is easy to see that the star of this show is the three-part harmony created with one female and two male voices. Yes, it they do a magnificent job at that, but I keep thinking that if I want great vocal music, I would stay home and listen to Palestrina and Tallis like I have been doing a lot of lately. There just is not much going on musically to help get my interest up. The music is more country than alt, and has gospel roots showing as well. It is all pretty much 1-2-3-4 without variation or interesting tonal color. When the mandolinist sings, she brings a lounge blues quality out which is a nice diversion. But I am left with very little to grab hold of in this 50 minute set. Fortunately, the band was not listening to me and instead listened to very excited crowd who was having a great time before 8pm on a Wednesday night. So there is definitely something here for somebody.
Ivan and Alyosha - This show sold out so fast, that they added an early show which also sold out. I am not sure what the buzz is, aside from the always excellent work by their publicist, but this is one upbeat crowd. As in the prior set, it was great to see a crowd so into the music tonight, despite everything wrapping up before sundown. I went along more with the crowd this time, as this band was a bit more my style. They have three guitars going for many songs which was often one more than may have been needed, but careful listening revealed careful sounds well placed in these folky pop rock songs. There were vocal harmonies, but this time the lead vocalist carried more of the weight in leading the song. They did not quite hit the heights of the Decemberists or the Long Ryders, but when they nailed a song, they created some great music. There was even a song that sounded like Canned Heat trying to play a shoegaze version of a Sigur Ros song. Or maybe not, but they had some nice creative touches dancing in between some comfortably familiar sounds in their songs. And there was nothing cloying in this set, just clever music honestly coming out and pulling the listeners in. Obviously they will be in a bigger club the next time in town and they have the sound to handle all of that and more.

Quote of the Night: From the opener... "This is great, there are so many people tonight." Fill in your own ironic reply.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Woven Hand - Wrekmeister Harmonies -- DC9 - Apr 14 2013

Wrekmeister Harmonies - One man sits on stage with a guitar and promises us a 30-minute composition. And exactly 30 minutes later, Chicago based J.R. Robinson not only kept accurate time, but delivered a lovely hard ambient soundscape filled with imagination and even a touch of humor. Spacey guitar pillows and droning background sounds lay out space for soft spoken vocals that build in intensity. The guitar noise moves up a few notches as well before ceding to a quiet finish filled with odd lyrical bursts including a few lines from the Meat Puppets' "Lake of Fire". This reminded me of Robbie Basho's "Zarthus" album with its contemplative sonic intensity, and Basho may have played in this manner if he was born 20 years later. There were also vocal moves that were reminiscent of Alan Vega from Suicide with a trace of Nick Cave. Woven Hand likes to play live with drone bands, which create an interesting comparison and contrast with what they have evolved into. And this set was effective both as part of that overall pattern or by itself as a way to spend 30 minutes floating between highly active and passive listening. And in chatting with him afterward about a new album coming out featuring strings, and many musicians collaborating, I will want to keep up with this interesting musician.
Woven Hand - This band is on a short list of bands I will always go out of my way to see and whose records, I am constantly replaying year after year, likely until I expire. David Eugene Edwards has been a genius of a songwriter ever since he began 16 Horsepower in my former hometown of Denver, Colorado. Woven Hand has evolved from a solo project into a full band featuring Ordy Garrison on drums and a variety of players and combinations that now comes to us as a trio with a bass player filling the gap between percussion and the intensity of DEE's vocals, guitars, and banjos. Intensity is the word a friend of mine used when he saw them recently and I would add mesmerizing as rarely am I as transfixed by a 75 minute set of music as I was by tonight's performance. This is a very heavy Woven Hand, sonically speaking, as there are subtle droning sounds going on somewhere in the mix, as well as masterful control of guitar feedback, and constant bass work segueing the many songs from their recent albums. Yet the real heaviness is the journey we take following this music forward into dark mystical territory. Answers are not there, but insights develop as the assembled crowd follows along, with far more rapt listening than that of a crowded DC9 show. It was good to see several Xes on hands here, along with the many people that like I, have been following this music for a long, long time. Rather than write more, it is time to lean back and continue to absorb this profound experience while the music surrounds my head.

Quote of the Night: From the introduction before the Wrekmeister Harmonies set... "Don't talk, but if you have some thoughts (during the set), write them down and put them under your pillow tonight and I'll come by and give you a shiny quarter. No answers, but you'll get a shiny new quarter."

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Band of Heathens - Drew Gibson -- Jammin Java - Apr 12 2013

Drew Gibson - Long a favorite of mine, this local singer songwriter delivers high quality sets whether it is solo with acoustic guitar or like tonight with a full band of sharp musicians he frequently works with. And it is a good thing to have the full band tonight, as this is a late show with a sold out crowd, many of whom are already lubed up and quite noisy. But there were plenty of people locked and focused to these delicate yet hearty folk rock tunes. Gibson sings and plays guitar with drums, bass, and steel guitarist providing a soft touch with just enough mystery in the air to highlight the songs. I still find his song "I Know I Miss You More" to be quite amazing and it hit me how much it fit in with the songs of Alan Tunbridge as interpreted by Wizz Jones. And although Drew Gibson is back home after a brief tour of the midwest, this half hour set affirmed Drew Gibson's position in the local scene as on the short list of high quality singer songwriters. Add the full band and they can hold there own on any stage around town.
Band of Heathens - This Austin based collective certainly has the chops and the songs to draw in the crowds. They harmonize exceedingly well and all the instruments blend together with a deft handling of the Americana style. Yet, I find this all incredibly predictable tonight. I do not want to be too hard on this band, as they do everything right. They remind me a lot of the Band--and like that band, have earned plenty of respect from music lovers everywhere. But I was never a big fan of the Band, and although I find few flaws here, I am not fully into this set. But (also like the Band) when they have a really great song and lock into a groove, they are absolutely brilliant. The guitars and organ are really capable of weaving some great patterns. More importantly, the crowd that came to see them got everything they wanted as these guys have the skills to deliver some powerful music. It may take me a little more time to get the full effect, but they don't need to wait around for that to happen.

Quote of the Night: From BofH..."We heard Kim il-Sung (North Korea) put Austin on his list of targets. We thought we'd show him by playing in his other targets--DC, New York... We don't give a shit."

Friday, April 12, 2013

Garnet Rogers - Eliot Bronson -- Jammin Java - Apr 11 2013

Eliot Bronson - This singer/songwriter is from Baltimore but lives in Atlanta now. He has the expected folk presence with acoustic guitar, microphone and a bag of harmonicas used for a couple of songs. His voice is more the star than his guitar, although his control of volume in his chords and fingerwork is effective and thoughtful. He mostly strums with some light fingerstyle that works its way in as the 50 minute set progresses. He has soft, yet rich voice which is effective in bringing to life his original songs. His pleasant personality endeared himself to the crowd which was very much into his music. Everything was warm and full of enough quality to keep this modern folk stylist on your radar.

Garnet Rogers - I first heard of this Canadian folk artist when I was filling out my record collection with Scottish legend Archie Fisher's catalog, where there is one collaborative album. His name came up again recently as his brother Stan Rogers has had his catalog rereleased, which I have been reviewing for Folkworld. Sadly, his brother passed away in 1983 in a tragic airplane fire, but thankfully his Canadian sea shanty old school folk songs live on and have impressed me so much, that I wanted to see what younger brother Garnet was up to these days. I bring up this background sequence to let you know why I should spend less time finding angles and reasons to see older folk artists, and just get off my butt and go to the show. There is little better in the musical world, then to see an old pro play great songs and regale a crowd with hilarious and interesting stories reflecting a lifetime of musical experiences around the world. Garnet Rogers was pure magic here tonight with gripping, funny stories that rank up there with Robyn Hitchcock, Joe Boyd, Robin Williamson, and all the greats I have seen over the past few decades. But even if he never said a word, his deep baritone voice warmed over the crowd, while his fiery acoustic guitar runs offered a cornucopia of delight to feast on. He played much of his own work, a cut from his brother, and pulled the bottleneck out for a crisp version of "Corinna Corinna". Also enjoyable was a Nic Jones song he did to keep his spirit alive and get his music out there, as Nic Jones has had limited performance capacity for several decades after a horrid car accident. Yet, it was hard to top his "Welcome to Hell" which was lyrically updated with events in the past week and had me in a Joker-grin for about five minutes (for those that know me, that is very hard to do). This was fabulous and I hope he will continue to come down from his Nova Scotia home and play his music. I have little doubt that most everyone in the room tonight will be back for more.

Quote of the Night: Impossible to choose from stories of female stalkers who would only talk to him through identically dressed puppets or the horrors of CB radio, but I'll go with this snippet from Garnet Rogers talking about raising horses with foals (paraphrased as best I could between laughter and asides)... "We would listen with a baby monitor over the radio and hear these horses taking these massive pees going on and on and bowel movements... it's like rooming with a bass player."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tarrtufi - Showpony - Appomattox -- Ghion - Apr 10 2013

Appomattox - I don't know who needs to surrender here, but this ridiculously hot day has transferred itself into this club making me wonder if this is over before it starts. To the credit of the staff, they were trying to get the air conditioning to work, but the circulation was not sufficient. This is another upstairs club with no backstage. It is quite comfortable even with some odd proportions--narrow in front, sunken and more spacious in back. First up is a NY trio that I thought was far too raw to be touring. The guitarist played some keyboards at times and I thought that material worked a little better. The songs were jagged in the wrong ways. Abrasive can be fun, but not with this choppy material. A couple moments clicked, so maybe there is some hope. The awful feed back did not help, although it is difficult to judge a band when I am encased in sweat.

Tartufi - I really enjoyed this San Francisco band's recent album (reviewed here) and looked forward to the show. They came on to a slightly cooler room as the staff got some outside air circulated and were trying to get things as humane as they could. The first cut sounded like Dead Can Dance playing on top of the bass line to "My Sharona". That staggering concept worked very well and foreshadowed a mostly excellent set thereafter. This band is clearly in the modern prog, post rock genre and has a nice array of mostly instrumental sounds with some fine vocal layerings as well. At least that was the case when there was not some ear piercing and unintended feedback. Where was that guy who was upset with the sound at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel the other night? He needs to go far deeper into clubland and house shows before he gets so worked up. I will need to see this band again some time when they hit this coast again, but this initial taste was quite tantalizing. I hope they continue to make their unique brand of creative music.

ShowPony -It was nice to see a good crowd here in this now more comfortable room thanks to cooling temperatures. This local band is a straight ahead guitar-bass-drums trio with no vocal microphones in sight. They played a far more aggressive brand of progressive rock music than that of many of their peers. It was fast, but not with abandon. Instead, the guitarist created intriguing patterns over countering bass runs atop crisp snare and cymbal attacks. They have some similarities with local band Buildings with an injection of Les Rhino energy. The music is mobile with some jagged cuts as an ice skater may fly by leaving a crystal trail. Oh, and not a sound problem to be heard here, as perhaps this band controlled their amp volume better or more likely it was the exclusion of vocal microphones. Whatever the case, this rocked clean and hard with loads of skill and intelligence behind it all.

NOTE-- Readers before 2pm had a review where I mixed up the latter two bands (due to limited viewing access--not hearing any mention of their names from the stage, change of planned order, etc. Thanks to ShowPony for letting me know quickly).

Quote of the Night - "You are over 18, right?" from the friendly staff at Ghion. With summer coming on, I am wary, but there were plenty of positives here to make me want to come again as it appears they are booking some interesting shows.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cave Singers - Bleeding Rainbow -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Apr 9 2013

Bleeding Rainbow - formerly known as Reading Rainbow, this Philly quartet must have changed their name when they saw blood coming out of their amps. Loud shoegaze rock is what they put into said amps with steady fast paced rhythms underneath the waves of guitars. When this clicks, the lead guitarist creates some great subtextures that result in that familiar psychedelic wash of noisy countermelodies. The vocals struggled to stay on top, but were quite effective with good male/female harmonies. There was a churning rock quality that even had a Flipper vibe in a few songs, although the rhythm section was far quicker (and far more in time, of course that goes without saying). Still, after 40 minutes, they had me in want of better songcraft and a few more curveballs to keep things fresh and exciting. But the noise was good, so I'll stay tuned.
Cave Singers - This quartet is from Seattle and offers a very different sonic template than that of the opener. They have drums and a bassist who adds some flute at times with a lead guitarist and a vocalist who plays guitar half the time and adds some percussion and a touch of harmonica. The first song is quiet and reminds me of a lovely Tom Rapp (Pearls Before Swine) song. They rock out a little more thereafter here and there and offer many challenging rhythm patterns in each song. The guitar work is excellent, occasionally reminding me of a softer Thomas Mapfumo style. They even dabbled with Bo Diddley style beats. All of this had heartland style vocals that managed to pull the diverse sounds together into an agreeable whole. They played a full 80 minutes and managed to keep things interesting every step of the way. The club had slowly filled up to a couple hundred or so and had much appreciation for this band. I am quite happy to have discovered these guys as they affirm my faith that there are ways to make Americana/indie rock far more worldly and interesting.

Quote of the Night - From the crowd "Best Concert ever!" Yes, well, a good one for sure. But I do need to add that the light show was particularly excellent tonight (sorry for the in-joke, but it was good).

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Redd Kross - Tough Shits -- Black Cat - Apr 5 2013

Tough Shits - "We are the Tough Shits from Philly and we are here to see Redd Kross. We get to see them for free on the condition you have to listen to us play for a minute." Fortunately the 26 minutes went down painlessly with several positive moments as well. These guys have the garage rock elements working over time with some glam punk and power pop moves in here as well. The vocal work reminds me a bit of the cute sneer of the Dickies. I had not seen these guys in years and there were some ragged moments and a few flat spots, but they mentioned that this was their first show in about six months (so there is truth in their early pronouncement). And with a nice cover of the Byrds' "It Won't Be Wrong", the both stage and audience were warmed on this hot Friday night.
Redd Kross - It is great to see these guys back, releasing records, and most importantly on the road bringing their bright and broad personalities to the stage. They established an important position in the punk scene when they began as a teenage band playing instruments as they learned them. They eventually morphed into an excellent glam punk psyche rock powerhouse that met with some deserved success in the 1980s. They were the first band I went to see when I moved here in 1987 at a show at the old 9:30 Club. Their line-up was solid and they were amazingly good that night. After a long hiatus that line-up reconvened and has now returned to DC. Well, guitarist Robert Hecker is not touring, so Jason Shapiro is the new gunslinger who capably filled in with skill and some heavy tremolo touches. The drums were powerful and the McDonald brothers sounded great and did manage to bring the warmth and style in the vocal work above the loud raucous sound underneath. These guitars ring as well as roar. I recognized some of the hits like "Annie's Gone" as well as some covers like "TV Eye" which somehow they managed to make sound fun. The McDonald brothers are monster stylists and can bring out the crazy innocent fun in just about anything--even more amazing that it is 33 years later. After a quick finish, they jumped back on stage to do the really old stuff, beginning with "Cover Band" which they said was the first song they ever recorded in a studio while waiting for the Plimsouls (!!) to finish with their time. The backstage room was packed and the enthusiasm was there from start to finish by plenty of people that were there at the beginning and the usual sprinkling of younger ages that are smart enough to pick up on the great cult bands of former eras. And they finished by asking for requests and decided to do Kiss's "Deuce" which is what they opened with when I saw them in 1987. It still rocks.

Quote of the Night: From Jeff McDonald looking about the stage after the opener... "Uh, the person who stole the set list is going to have to shout out the songs to us."

Friday, April 5, 2013

ON AN ON - Savoir Adore -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Apr 4 2013

Savoir Adore - This Brooklyn duo (with three more in the band) has been around a while and has opened quite a few ears along the way. They opened mine tonight with a 47 minute set of smooth and luscious pop music with plenty of bite underneath. They had drums, bass, a couple of guitars, keyboards with the primary duo handling lead vocals with great trade-offs and harmonies. It was a striking look in all white clothing that I had not seen since the days of the Buddhist punk band, Ruin... (was not quite old enough for Marc Bolan's John's Children). The steady drums and throaty bass added just enough guts to the attractive sheen of the involved melodies weaving away on top. This is dance music for me with lots of complications stirring the emotions above the beat and a look that intrigues me far more than the one guy bobbing his head fiddling with ac computer and some buttons. There was drama in the music with delicacy in the vocals and this was a set to savor. Years ago, New York critics said this was a band to watch. OK, I am all eyes now, so pass it on.
ON AN ON - This Chicago/Minneapolis quartet begins an east coast tour tonight that will keep them busy all month before they head off to Europe in May. Not bad, for a band touring their debut album, although there is no sign that they are merely warming up here as the first song rocks out with both finesse and great heart. They have much of the same sound as the first band tonight, thus making this an ideal package. However, when they push the rock element, they are even heavier and this is where they shine brightest. They pull it back a bit on some songs and although the variety is nice, the songcraft does not quite hold up as well. But they bounce back with something hearty and full of hooks that really stands out with utter brilliance. Imagine some sort of U2/Muse/Animal Collective collective dialed down to club level. I am not sure that is it, but it is hard to pin down exactly how this works, other than the simple case of when this fine band presents their best songs, they can be amazing. I sense the crowd picked up on this as the songs I really liked were met with much more response than the lesser material. So although it may not be all the way here yet for this band, this is an excellent start as the overall effect was a success tonight.

Quote of the Day: And from Football365.com, we get yet another fine example of the British Press's paraphrasing skills on the respective top German and English football leagues in this case.

Reports The BBC Website: 'Former England international Owen Hargreaves believes that the Bundesliga is outpacing the Premier League...

Actual quotes from Owen Hargreaves: "I think there's room for improvement, but to say the Bundesliga is better than the Premier League is not a fair assessment."

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Flume - Eprom - Lovelife - Philip Goyette -- U Street Music Hall - Apr 3 2013

Flume, Eprom, Lovelife, Philip Goyette -- In the never ending quest to challenge myself into trying new things, I decided to try a mixed DJ and band show tonight. This is not completely new to me but the DJ/Dance scene is just one that I have never felt apart of and really do not know what to make of it beyond the obvious. If you are here to dance, cut loose with friends, meet vibrant young people, then this is the place to come--and even on a Thursday night, the line went into the streets past 11pm deep into the show. Do people do ecstasy any more? It is quite a wholesome crowd and I do chat with some young people who are courteous in the extreme. Well, calling on my keen grasp of the obvious, I see some of them still do glow sticks.

A DJ was greeting people into the club with his gear set up on the stage. He made way for an English band called Lovelife. They had drums, keys, a lead vocalist, and a guitarist. The guitar may as well have been a synthesizer as I could not detect any plucked string sounds in the lush pop melodic lines that the band put out. The vocals were good and these guys do the romantic pop sound proud. A guy next to me showed me a phone with a description of this club and its fabulous sound system that people rave about. True, I have heard that, but then why is this sounding so muddy? It may be a spa-grade mud, but everything was fuzzy with annoying buzzes on vocals and slight volume increases. It got a little better, but I've seen portable PAs operated by the bands on stage deliver better than this.
Without pause, things shifted from the stage to the large DJ booth at the opposite end where the DJs took over. Things kept moving and the crowd was having a good time, although the dancing still was a bit restrained as it so often seems to be in this city. But, again, this is not my area and I'm comparing it to the dancier rock/pop shows that I frequent. The music did have decent percussion and a nice sense of pace and control in a more simple Germanic mode, than the thick wall of noise that usually turns me off. And the sound was more in line with the raves that this system receives. Although not confident of the genre, I still could sense a quality tonight that the crowd understood and enough of my electronic buttons were pressed that date back to the Germanic days of the 1970s.

I am happy to try out new things to try to stretch my genre boundaries, but like so often happens, I end up getting pulled back to the safe familiar grounds of old. But every time I stretch, I pull back somewhere further along than where I have been. So I may do this again some day. With luck, I will be able to write a proper review.

Quote of the Night - a partial answer to the above question overheard from someone in the crowd... "I ate too many valiums."

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

April Shows of Note

Below are some recent promotional videos of bands playing in a DC area club this April. Hopefully you will take in some of these shows along with the many other shows featuring our fine DC area bands as well as noteworthy touring artists. And don't forget I have many more recommendations in the column to the right--most of those shows I will attend. See you in the clubs!

ON AND ON at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel, Thursday, April 4th

JANEL & ANTHONY at the Kennedy Center - Free show, 6pm, Friday April 5th

TARTUFI@Ghion, Wednesday, April 10th
SUUNS at the Black Cat, Tuesday, April 16th

BLANK TAPES with Matt Costa at the U Street Music Hall, Friday, April 19th