Monday, March 31, 2014

Preview of Coming Attractions - Early April 2014

Yellow Ostrich returns to the DC9 On Wednesday the 2nd as the previous show was snowed out (Don't tell them it snowed this past Sunday).

Team Spirit overtakes the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Thursday, April 3rd.

One of my favorites Hi-Life Wedding hits the Tree House Lounge amidst their world wide travels to get this weekend started off right on Friday, Aprl 4th.

Another of my favorites--Baraboo, Wisconsin's Phox comes to the Hamilton (with Laura Mvula) on Tuesday, April 8th. They are really hot and who doesn't like to hear or say the word Baraboo? (let alone visit there as I did oh so many decades ago).

Dave Hause calls the DC9 hom on Wednesday, April 9th.

Luther Dickinson fills the Howard Theatre on Saturday, April 12th.

Trust in the Black Cat on Sunday, April 13th.

Odonis Odonis comes to the Black Cat Black Cat on Monday, April 14th.

And since everyone has their taxes complete and filed, there is no excuse for not going to one of two shows on Tuesday, April 14th. Try out I Break Horses at the DC9 or check out Natural Child opening for the excellent Black Lips at the Black Cat.

Friday, March 28, 2014

...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - La Femme - Midnight Masses -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Mar 27 2014

Midnight Masses - There is a thickness in the air and a sheen on these guitars as this music spews forth. It is strong stuff with controlled atmosphere and a bit of variety. The clearest variety is in the beat with the pacier cuts resemblng a motorik style (although I wasn't counting with the kick drum). This was an effective enough set, although not one that dazzled the large crowd. But they were sufficiently warmed up and were treated to a decent band, so all looked well at the start of the evening.

La Femme - All the way from Paris comes these six talented musicians that cook up a French bouillabaisse of rich succulent flavors that still manages to go down lightly and not leave you with thousands of calories. Everything here is playful, but with an underlying firm control and intensity that spills out in pop beats and even freaky anarchic moves toward the end. The beats are never off as there is some Antmusic style in there, even as the vocals and instrumentation is far more subtle. The keyboards sound wonderful in a 60s pop way and there is even a strong twang in the guitar that seems like it should not fit, but does. Style such as this does not come around often and clearly the audience picked up on the vibe as you could see the movement and response increasing steadily throughout the night. It is rare when I can graph creativity and accessibility together with such high marks, as usually one will compromise the other. But La Femme has bottled the magic and figured out how to convert it into profoundly exciting music that the large Rock'n'Roll Hotel crowd will remember for a long time.
And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - This quartet has long packed them in by delivering an intense yet agreeable post hardcore style of music. Angst aplenty, but with the ability to rise above rather than mope about. They really had the pummeling tempos cooking tonight as the rhythm section particularly starred. The guitars and vocals were good with lots of interesting moves, but there was too much compression in the sound for my liking. It did improve a bit and may have done even better if the soundman and lighting person they employed had not turned the sound booth into a loud conversation much of the time, little to do with the job at hand. As much as I complain about extraneous conversations around me, this was the first time it happened from the sound board area. In spite of it all the band delivered with powerful songs, yet some that had hooks reminiscent of the Flamin' Groovies 'Shake Some Action' (which is quite intricate and intoxicating). These guys are a perfect fit in DC, taking many back to late 80s harDCore, but with a fresh personality all their own.

Photo Grab of the Night...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Little Daylight - Terraplane Sun - Flagship -- 6th + I Synagogue - Mar 25 2014

Flagship - Bah! Another cold and snowy day in DC, in late March yet. Well, that has helped keep the crowd down in the Synagogue tonight. Although there is not a marquee name here tonight, instead it is an interesting package of three up and coming young bands that each have a distinct style, but fit well together. They each do 40-45 minute sets with this six-person strong North Carolina band starting things off. Lush and warm neo-pyschedelic British post-punk styled music is what I hear from them. A bit of Teardrop Explodes/P-Furs sort of thing which can get driving at times into Bunnymen territory. Echo abounds which works well in this building, which will allow plenty of natural echo as well. This was a fine set and I particularly enjoyed the more uptempo songs.

Terraplane Sun - More neo-psyche music here with a touch of popsike, yet there is one major difference. This has American roots all the way and it is no surprise that the band hails from Venice Beach, California as I hear a lot of influence from there. They have a nice Crazy Horse vibe, but much tighter--perhaps closer to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers where I hear some similarity in a couple of the songs. There is a lot of personality here as the band has a strong grasp on their sound with powerful lead vocals and guitar work that breathes life into catchy riffs atop a strong rhythm section. I enjoyed the couple of times the keyboardist brought out a trombone for a welcome brass blast. The songs have the ability to grab you firmly, yet gently and it was nice to see the crowd warm up to the sounds and increase their movement as the set went on. It was their first time in DC and I see no reason to see why they won't be back again.

Little Daylight - This was the band that pushed the power pop button a bit more than their predecessors. They had some of the same rich rocking sounds, but with a little more pace in their rhythm section. They employed female vocals which were Lesley Gore cute, but strong enough to hang with the guitar and keyboards. When the band locked into a pulsating beat, they could generate some real excitement. There was actually quite a bit of movement and dancing here for this and all three bands tonight in a venue where that is not at all natural. That tells me this was a sharp crowd that understood what tonight was about and was not there to be cool with the latest name band. Instead, they saw three talented up and coming bands that had plenty to offer on this otherwise miserable night.

Plug of the Night -- While writing this up, I listened to the second Linda Perhacs album, released a month ago. I was a big fan of the first one, which was released in 1970. Of course, like so many others, I did not discover that gem until I started collecting psychedelic folk records in the 1990s. I was excited to hear of her comeback and helped out in a very small way as a Facebook friend. I have gained so much satisfaction seeing Comus, Caedmon, Vashti Bunyan (and July, Fuschia, and I could go on), and now Linda Perhacs make it back to the music scene decades after people were not smart enough to realize how great they were to begin with. Here's a great piece from NPR. Enjoy the search for great music!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. - Chad Valley -- 9:30 Club - Mar 21 2014

Chad Valley - I forgot which Valley was opening as I've seen a couple in my past. Sonically, Chad Valley was the more appropriate as Deep Vally is better off on a more garage rock bill. Chad Valley is actually an English guy who runs electronics and plays keyboards. He shares vocal duties with an American female, as he did on his previous DC visit. There is not much different tonight and why would there be with so much electronic backing. He has all the electronic pop moves that makes for a fitting opening set. The two of them are in fine voice as they both work more in the upper register territory. It is all good, but with people filling in, it is more of a polite response whereas this set transported to the U Street Music Hall would build up a lot of energy with that crowd.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. - I can't help thinking more about this band's name than their music. It seemed like one of those jokes they would regret after a year or two (especially with the success this duo has received). Although when you learn they are from Detroit, the automotive link does at least make sense. And they have explained themselves to NASCAR and sent music and an explanation to Dale Earnhardt Jr. who is cool with it and even a fan of theirs now (even if a majority of NASCAR fans are not present tonight). And there's no country music or southern rock here, hell, there's very little to make me think of Detroit for that matter. These guys have a modern electronic pop sound, but happily for me, treat their live show as a full pop rock experience. They have a drummer and multi instrumentalist which allows them plenty of room for guitars, bass, keyboards, and additional percussion to be combined in many different ways. I need my drums with this music and the drummer did the trick keeping the sound strong and moving. The vocal work was solid and the songs had loads of pop hooks that moved around between lush and rocking. And they had bubbles. Although more interestingly was this huge white orb hovering above the stage doing nothing for a few songs until an animated face projection filled it up with a 3D feeling. They interacted well with the crowd and it felt cozy. It may have been a little nice for me overall, but I think this band earned this sellout crowd tonight and left the crowd happy that they spent their Friday night here.

Quote of the Night... actually this is from a few years ago, but I didn't want to use it that night since the guy might read it.

"Madonna? Yeah she makes good music, but I'll never forgive her for how she dresses and how young girls now dress after her."

Keep in mind this was at a Hot Tuna show featuring two Jefferson Airplane guys and this fan follows them everywhere in the region. I chose not to ask him exactly what Grace Slick and these guys were telling youth.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Osage - The Anatomy of Frank - Dead Professional -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Mar 19 2014

Dead Professional - This punk sounding band is actually quite simply just one guy--John, the guitarist/vocalist/songwriter who plays electric guitar atop some light rhythm section recordings. The backing is quite subtle and offers just enough heft without ever calling attention to itself. And that works out fine, as the guitar work is heavily atmospheric with a nice crunch to the chords and a light spacey flowing feel as well. His vocals are clean, clear without the usual pretense. The songs have a bit of a pop melody to them and are both comfortable and fulfilling. And if that was not enough, he has great personality and established a fine rapport with the crowd who rightly enjoyed his set. He gigs around pretty regularly so keep your eye open for the next show as he will make any bill a whole lot better.

The Anatomy of Frank - From nearby Charlottesville comes this intriguing quintet that knows how to build a set of music. They started up with acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, keyboards, bass and drums. Although the crowd was rather small on this rainy cold Wednesday night, I thought the band may fall into the trap of being too quiet as they laid out delicate vocals and dramatic instrumental shifts to solo acoustic guitar or glockenspiel. Yet, the qualities of the song and the drama of the presentation quieted the conversations and pulled everyone in. As they continued they got more electric with two electric guitars powering forward and with the keyboards and soaring vocal work, they reminded me of Antony and the Johnsons. Although, by set's end they really brought out some loud numbers as they continued to climb the hills of volume and power. This is one accomplished band that could be a strong player on the indie rock scene.
Osage - I saw this band once before, when they were called the Post. I am glad I did not revisit my review before this show (I almost never do) as I had forgotten their unique manner of pairing of dark and murky guitar and bass sound working below keyboards and strong vocals. Front and center is the strong vocal work that sounds like a rootsier Chissie Hynde. Underneath that the keyboards at times will move up to take a lead role or can work back adding atmosphere depending on the song. The three guys on guitar, bass, and drums have a laid back approach that keeps things steady, yet they somehow manage to be both aloof and integrated. I even hear something of Piirpauke in some of their songs (there, I've gotten my required fix of naming an obscure artist in at least one review per week). If you enjoy challenges and like music that has garage pop moves along with plenty of roots, you should definitely give this band a listen. They have something good going on.

Quote of the Night: courtesy of Dead Professional...
DP (to audience) - How does it sound?
Soundman (to DP in PA) - Why do you have to ask?
DP - Oh, of course--doesn't it sound good here at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel? That is what I meant to say.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Mostly Dead - The Creep Crusades - BSR (Basic Skills Review) - Ish -- DC9 - Mar 16 2014

Ish - Hardcore Sunday comes to us courtesy of the DC9 with the first of four area bands. Ish is pretty raw, but they have a good sound and some good ideas. And it is the fourth band on the bill and it is only their sixth show. So it is good to see them getting the experience on a solid bill. They need to work more on vocals and get a lot more comfortable with microphones. But the guitarist exhibits plenty of chops and the rhythm section varies it from mid tempo to a quicker pace pending the song. The rhythm section changes places for one songs and what came close to shambles was actually quite fun as there was a Flipper quality to it, that they will hopefully learn to explore further. Although the best moment of the set was when they pulled a friend on stage who was eating out of a bowl. The soundman, Randy, quickly jumped up and bent a microphone toward the bowl to ensure its spot in the mix. If Ish keeps playing and challenge themselves to further develop the tools they have, they can be at the top of a bill like this some day.

B.S.R. - This twin guitar attack features a vocalist who used to sing for a popular Richmond band, Avail, or so my sources tell me. Based on his energy roaming around the room, climbing every available spot, you would expect him to be just out of teens. And the band had plenty of energy to keep pace as they cranked out quick but tough songs with tight little guitar solos. This was a classic slab of hardcore with a band that had interesting songs that were a pleasure to get involved with. And the energy boost is always welcome in these creaky old bones.

The Creep Crusaders - A trio this time around and while fully absorbed in the hardcore, had yet a different take from the first couple of bands. The sound had a sneering darker quality, although the vocals were more straight forward than that. There was plenty of power and some creative moves at times. I liked their sound and probably would need a couple more listens to fully engage in the material, but their personal approach makes for a subtle shift in a nice four-band bill like tonight.

The Mostly Dead - It is hard for me to believe this band has only been around since 2008, but that means I have been with them pretty much every step of the way. I have always enjoyed their straight ahead classic harDCore sound with plenty of worldly influences. They have always had a way with adding just enough twists and turns to keep it fresh an invigorating for an old timer like myself who has not quite heard it all, but heard all of the classics at least. Tonight they featured material from their forthcoming record which shows even further development. But fear not, they still have all the energy and power with a drummer that knows how to lay down a crisp line for the bass player to stay very busy with rapid fire notes all smoothly linked together. The guitarist can still nail down the crunching chords while leaving room for some interesting sonic explorations tightly woven into the song. Zak lets the vocals fly on high making these songs some of the best they have done. It is a great set tonight and not even a serious snowstorm kept at least a small to moderate crowd from having a great time. I certainly can't blame anyone from staying home tonight, but hopefully you will put this band on your 'to do' list for their next area show as you'll get something classic, yet something fresh. Go for it.

R.I.P. of the night - It was sobering to get the news that Scott Asheton died just before I left for the show. Now both Asheton brothers have left us a little too soon, but not before they could reunite the Stooges and treat us to some of the best rock music, this planet has ever produced. Punk rock could not have happened in the same way were it not for those pivotal Stooges albums. I was fortunate to see the reunion show in four different cities on two different continents and they were all blow-away brilliant. Scott was soft spoken, but was one of my early myspace friends and stayed active with fans all over the world. I'll leave you with the single released by the great Sonic Rendevous Band, which featured Scott and members of the MC5, Rationals, and the Up.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Boat Burning's Music for Massed Guitars -- Union Arts DC - Mar 14 2014

Boat Burning's Music for Massed Guitars - The first thing you think of when you see a conductor in front of a mass of electric guitars is Glenn Branca. While I enjoyed Glenn Branca a year ago, I think this project by Andras Fekete was even more exciting. He conducted a room full of guitarists (I thought 14, someone thought 20, but another viewer thought 16) along with a drummer, cellist, and violinist in a series of songs that he explained some of the experimentation involved. That had to do with octaves, half octaves, intervals, and all the shifts that created patterns emerging deep within the sounds. And while the clinical fascination was evident, you could also sit back and just enjoy the waves of guitar sounds that these highly skilled players brought to life. The drums were superb and so helpful in wrapping it into a structure, although perhaps it helped that I was sitting next to the drummer and had him rather high in my mix. The strings were evident and the guitarists were conducted in sections with clear parts to work off of each other. The guitarists are all well known around the area and included several from bands I have seen such as Tone, Paperhaus, Ra Ra Rasputin, Imperial China, and Dark Sea Dream. There was quite a crowd in this interesting room deep within a warehouse on New York Avenue in the NE. The crowd response was great and I hope we can see something like this again in an even bigger venue, say maybe at Sonic Circuits Festival? (hint, hint). Great music for 50 minutes, loud but purposeful, flowing and emotionally involving over something cool and clinical. I was happy to be here (although sorry that I didn't stick around for Les Rhino and the Fordists--hopefully another day).
Quote of the Night: After I asked Antonio (of the band Greenland) if he had fun tonight... "Yeah, it was a lot of fun for us, I don't know about the audience--hopefully."

A resounding yes from me, and likely to be unanimous from my feeling in the midst of the crowd.

Friday, March 14, 2014


The Internet comes to the Historic 6th + I Synagogue on Tuesday, March 18th and of course, this is the band 'The Internet', not a Wifi hook-up as this video shows.

Osage and Dead Professional and... are at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Wednesday, March 19th. It is Osage's record release show and those are always worth attending.

Prides hits the U Street Music Hall with RAC on Thursday, March 20th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. slides into pit road at the 9:30 Club on Friday, March 21st. Come early to see Chad Valley too!

Satisfy your itch with the Vertical Scratchers at DC9 on Sunday, March 23rd. Also on the bill is some fascinating Brazilian music from Boogarins.

The great Cate le Bon is back to DC after a recent show since she gets to back up the mighty Warpaint this time around. Make sure to be there early at the Black Cat on Monday, March 24th.

Terraplane Sun heads to the 6th+I Synagogue on Tuesday, March 25th.

La Femme sashays over to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Thursday, March 27th. See you in the clubs!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Emily King - Jennah Bell -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Mar 9 2014

Jennah Bell - This Oakland through Boston musician comes to us with a guitarist partner while playing guitar and handling all vocal duties herself. The 42 minute was utterly fascinating as it went from the expected light lounge R&B soul moves deep into surprising psychedelic folk territory. There were the daring moves of a Neneh Cherry right next to songs that sounded like Marissa Nadler. This was haunting, delicate, highly original music here. So, it was no surprise to learn that Jennah Bell was accepted into the Berklee College of Music and has worked on her songwriting with Paul Simon and many other talented writers. It did not take 20 minutes to see that she is a major talent that should be able to unite music lovers from many different genres. I even refused to let the gabby people in the back bother me as I focused on full concentration in order to lock into these wonderful songs. I will have the last laugh when in ten years, these people having their mundane conversations will be paying big dollars to see Jennah Bell.
Emily King - Here is more of the lounge soul I expected tonight coupled with doses of R&B and funky guitar. It is a packed house here to see Ms. King and her band featuring guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and a female accompanying vocalist. The band lays out attractive music that knows when to pull back and allow King's vocals to shine or to add some killer guitar moves or funky rhythms when an extra jolt was desired. Emily King has a bounce her step, musically, with a playful style that shows plenty of strength even in the softer moments. Famed producer Chucky Thompson did a walk-on half way through a song and sat in on bass for the restart. That just added to the warm homey feeling to this set. Emily King has been around over ten years now, but at age 28 has plenty of youthful enthusiasm still in the tank, and with plenty of experience and talent shown here, has a strong future to look forward to. Truly, a fun night of music tonight, and the vibe was positive and uplifting.

Quote of the Night: Overheard from people leaving the show...
"I liked her transformation--her new look."
"She looked weird."

Sunday, March 9, 2014

You Monster - Dads - The NRIs - Green River Junction -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Mar 8 2014

Green River Junction - Just some good foot stomping music here with equal measures of rock, rockabilly, blues, funk, and more all rolled out with acoustic guitar, bass, and drums. No frills, just cut loose and have fun and even though it was an early start, the crowd was ready to join in and help create a good atmosphere for the night ahead.

The NRIs - It has been some time since I've seen this fine local collective that fills the stage with a couple of guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, violin, and sax/percussion. There is a lot of noise making, but they have been together a while and know how to work as a band to keep it cohesive and interesting throughout the set. They can rock pretty hard with plenty of pop hooks and slow it down a bit too and opt more for moody pop. The vocals are good as they use 2-4 voices frequently, elevating the songs even further. If there was not enough sound, they added a guest trumpeter for the last couple of songs. This is band that should be welcomed on any bill around here and the fairly large crowd would seem to agree with that tonight.

Dads - How did this Jersey band sneak into the third slot of this local show? No matter, as this duo gave an interesting take on a slightly more punk sound than anything we heard tonight. They do more the emo/earnest thing in the vocals (performed by both the drummer and guitarist). They have indie moves as well and stretch out sounds and songs. But here's the thing, when they rocked they were skilled enough and busy enough to work up a welcome racket. But when they slowed it down and created some interesting guitar textures, there was nothing to weave into, as there would be with four and five piece bands. Some of these duos can do it, but I would still like most of them to hire some road warriors to join them on stage for their tour. And I hope they stay heavy as that is where they shine brightest.
You Monster - And we finish with another fine local outfit that I have not seen in a while (actually in a slightly altered format and name). This quartet goes two guitars strong with work well together in classic hard rock rhythm chording and interesting lead guitar integration. The rhythm section keeps things steady and grounded allowing the other two to be more playful. The vocals have a 999 intensity to them and the pop-punk-rock moves that 999 had are not too far from what this band achieves when they nail a particularly good song. This was a solid set and this band, like most tonight and most on virtually every night, has there share of strong songs and weaker ones. But as long as there are enough strong songs and they have command of their sound, they can bring off a good set. And that happened frequently tonight.

Quote of the Night: As the NRIs brought on their guest trumpeter... "You might recognized him from such bands as any other band in DC".

Saturday, March 8, 2014

We Were Promised Jetpacks - Honeyblood -- Black Cat - Mar 7 2014

Honeyblood - Coming along for the tour from the headliner's home of Glasgow, are this up and coming female duo on guitar and drums. They both sing, but the drummer does not chime in too often leaving the guitarist to bring the songs to life with her cute style cut with a tough edge when warranted. They succeed most when their grungy tough brand of power pop cuts loose with a little pace and drive. Otherwise, the songs are nice but not as easy to dig in to. Like many rock duos, they could use another component, even more than a bass (which I think I heard a few times). All in all, this was a likable set and the band does not even have their first record out. So there is potential here and they should be excited to be on such a large scale tour with receptive audiences.
We Were Promised Jetpacks - And this sold out highly receptive audience was treated to this vibrant revved up Scottish quintet. I saw them a couple of tours ago--probably their first US tour, and aside from liking their name, found them to be a rock solid rock band that was worthy of attention. But now, they are a fully formed outfit, confident of their sound, with plenty of great songs to fill out their set. They remind me a lot of their fellow countrymen, Big Country, but have an even more powerful sound. They have all the hooks though and quality vocals that are somewhere in the neighborhood of Stuart Adamson and Morrisey. This was a wonderful show and the crowd was great in a club where it is comfortable to be a part of a sold-out crowd. This band should be on your radar and by the time they return to DC, they will probably be selling out the 9:30 Club.

Photo grab of the night: following my line of famous people that look like other unlikely famous people...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

RECORD REVIEWS - February 2014

With a band name that will get them at the top of the Yellow Pages listings (those of you under 40 can skip this puzzling reference) comes a very quirky indie band from Portland, Oregon. I sometimes wonder if there any other kind from Portland? At times it was almost too quirky, and then there were moments where it was not quirky enough. But thankfully much of the time, they come up with interesting songs and some even more interesting arrangements. Time well spent.

Songs to try first:

Spiritual Provisions - A catchy song is twisted, pulled, and pushed in several directions, but keeps its shape nicely.

Loveless Dreams - but, a lovely smooth instrumental melody stretched into a song.

Daylight - Lovely song with delicate vocals and careful instrumentation to offset them perfectly until the rising crescendo.

Here's a lovely modern psychedelic folk EP that does not try to be modern and overly precocious, but instead just works as a solid entry of a field started in or around 1964 and is still vibrant today. These five songs have a fine strolling rhythm with jarring moments and room for all kinds of electric guitar solos (reminding me of Caedmon) as well as welcome flute passages. The vocals have plenty of harmonies jumping in and out. They have a Black Mountain meets Akron Family style for a mostly acoustic session, or maybe Mighty Baby if you go back far enough (and you should for Mighty Baby). But if I go back aways the flute and electric guitar head in the direction of British progsters, Gravy Train.

For a straight ahead, pull no punches electronica trio, these guys do a lot of things right by me. Although they have modern technology at work, they also bring back some of the analog sounds and more importantly style of the great krautrock scene way back in the day. And they even have a name that sounds like it should be on the Pilz label. This is essentially a double album (at least) with 28 songs. And although this is an instrumental band, they do have various guest vocalist offering everything from narration, singing, and chanting. It is a nice mix and helps everything flow all the better. This is a band for those that want to cut loose and dance with plenty to offer us old guys in the back of the room who would rather lean back and be transported into various dimensions.

Bart Davenport's style may take some getting used to. If you are as old as I, it is easy to remember the lounge singers that my parents listened to and relate that to an early musical foundation more than early rock'n'roll records. Somehow Bart Davenport is trying to follow in this vein, which is a bit of a challenge. There is such a strangeness here, clothed that it is in familiar sounds. It is clearly a record that is not for everyone, but for people who have nostalgia for Kenny Loggins or Kenny Rankin or Kenny somebody had they gone a bit more lounge, this may be right up your alley. I think I'll understand it even better after the tenth listen, yet it has a certain charm after the first. I sense the sincerity is brazen to the point of being tongue in cheek, but that may be more to do to my experiences. Bart Davenport has done something quite interesting here and is a true individual.

Songs to try first:

Fuck Fame - subtitled 'but I would still like the money if offered'--no, that's my subtitle, but the lyrics do address that with a surprisingly romantic lounge flourish.

On Your Own Planet - Rhythmic thrusts and subtle vocals working off of it all.

Loop in my Head - That is a fine title to close out an album with.

This local band has a very composed style evident on this six song EP. The songs have character where lyrics and music work together and use a mid tempo pace to pull listeners in to the story and mood. I particularly enjoyed "My Little Dark Side" as it takes off from a Donovanesque folk song into a breezy light rocker. Fever Dreams also cooks smartly with sharp electric guitar leads and a hearty melody. This is a crafty little band that takes its ideas seriously, even as they infuse a sense of lightness into the material. It is always a pleasure to listen to high quality music that does not cross that pretentious edge, but instead has thought behind it all that moves it beyond the ordinary boundaries of rock music.

This record has a lot of something for everyone. As its name implies, it is dark, but instead of heading toward black metal, it takes a sinister turn toward gothic industrial ambiance. It hits hard rock tones in "Head Spirit", yet adds disco moves (of all things) in "Waka Waka". All the while, there are deep distant vocals, murky tones, various percussive patterns and that overall dark tone. They do lighten it up toward the end, while maintaining a mysterious musical flow. This is fascinating music and I am quite happy it made its way to my computer, even if it is quite challenging to describe.

Songs to try first:

Head Spirit (for our Mechanical Time) - This takes the spacey beginning and with galloping drums, transforms it into a rock song that comes from the hinterlands of inner space.

Kalaboogie - As what is often the case, the title cut has a lot of excitement within.

Eternal Return - A lovely flow to this song, not as sinister, but more contemplative.

This three-song EP provides a nice taste of the band's brand of pop music. I have enjoyed the band live as they were able to take electronic based rock music and make it sing for those of us who prefer the guitar oriented bands. Often bands like this, lean toward a leaner funkier electronic sound on record, but El Ten Eleven retains every bit of their big arena rock sound here. There is guitar and a strong rhythm section with real quality drumming to elevate this up several notches. There are electronic patterns and synthesizers and they use them in a modern (less Germanic) sort of way. Normally, I prefer the older style, but again this band knows how to create great music synthesizing various sounds in a fresh and original manner. These songs are instrumental and although Mogwai's recent album comes to mind at times, there is still more a direct accessibility here. This is one clever band that a lot of people have picked up on already and no doubt will continue to bring in more listeners to their world.


This is one way to make electronic music work for me. This band has plenty of beeps and squawks, but encases them in some solid rock songs with hip singing that is effective and not pretentious. They have hip hop moves, modern indie sound, and other musical genres mixed, mingled, and mangled in these songs, yet the songs remain. There is just enough swagger with the cool here and it made for fun energized listening.

Songs to try first:

Dark Matter of Fact - The flow of the song is excellent and hearkens back to classic pop music in the writing.

Haacksaw - This has an intense take on slacker rock, which somehow makes sense.

Shrug Lyfe Shadows - Hvy synth rock with head throbbing beat.

Like hawks and doves, there are equal parts battle and peace in this music. The peace is lovely American styled folk music and warm vocals at the heart of these songs. The battles occur when various guitar noise and electronics work there way into the mix at various strategic points to give the music some real excitement and surprise. There are some strings with help with the droning tones that stretch out some of the songs. They remind me of a more delicate Woven Hand, who works this territory with more barely controlled fury. So if you are a Woven Hand Fan and your significant other likes the Felice Brothers, you will both have a fine time with Hawk and Dove. This record is sometimes a little long for me, but since there is always something interesting going on, it is easy to stay with it.

This high quality band plays the Velvet Lounge this Wednesday, March 5th.

Songs to try first:

Send Your Blood to War - The warm vocals are intense, which is needed to keep up with the strong gnarly noisy guitar tones.

Things We Lost So Far - For over six and half minutes, they build a folkish rock tune into a special mini-epic.

Electricity - Twisted, droning song with great violin slashing around lightly picked guitar and what sounds like the doings of some former member of an NYC no wave band.

This album takes a starting point of modern Americana indie folk rock and pushes on the barriers in a few directions. There are guitar freak outs, folk steadiness, electronic touches, and all within a song structure that stays quite steady. This is a solid entry to the modern day field of hearty songwriters who want to hit the stage rocking. Douglas Keith has played with Sharon von Etten and other bands as well as worked with solo projects. Clearly, he understands many styles of music and more importantly fuses them in a coherent manner. Nice work, here.

Songs to try first:

I Will Burn for You - The band cooks up a haunting drone backdrop with snare punctuates to keep one alert to the vocals.

Pure Gold - Almost a Banshees/Joy Division instrumentation with quiet Americana vocals, prior to a great electric guitarist blazing away in the second half.

The Weather's Fucking Awful - Simply too appropriate for those of us in many parts of the country entering March.

This seven song album/EP twiner features just enough music to sink deep into the music as it carves out a little more space for guitar in the lush pop world. It is a steady album that does not quite hit enough buttons for me, but has enough charm for fans of this music. The guitar work makes it a pleasant enough of a listen with just enough bite.

This Netherlands band kicked off a US tour in DC a few weeks back and made a great impression on the Black Cat crowd who probably had not heard a note of their music. And now it is time to hear if the great sounds I heard from the stage are recreated here in the twelve songs of their debut album. Nor surprisingly, the answer is yes. As is often the case, it is not quite as loud and in your face as the live show, but has more diversity of volume, tempo, and style. Although they comfortably fit into a 'popsike' category with other favorites of mine such as Temples and Jacco Gardner, they mix in straighter pop elements, thicker grunge pop moves, and moodier pieces. The vocals are strong and the players control the mood steadily throughout these songs. And there are a few that could easily sneak onto a Nuggets album undetected as something from the 21st Century. This is an excellent band that I will definitely be following.

Songs to try first:

Bloodsucker - The loose garage rock is wonderful enough until the vocals twist it around your heart.

Seasons - This has their stylish garage rock sound, but a tricky rhythm that elevates it into I am not sure where, but it's way cool.

Gimme Some - Killer hook making this a hit in some jukebox in an alternate universe.

This is one quirky album (ok, yet another quirky album) that combines Indie rock with math rock in playful patterns that shoot for pop hooks and succeed often enough. It is a little too precious for me in some of the songs, but about half of them resonate with melodic lines that stick with me and arrangements that bounce around to keep the cranial cels on high alert. This is the type of music that made its way into the post punk world among brave people seeking intriguing angles to music with bands willing to forgo commercial success and challenge their listeners. But the Owls have just enough of a pop sensibility to make it work on a larger scale. I am not sure this album will take them there, yet, but it will draw aficionados.

Songs to try first:

Four Works of Art - There's an interesting songwriting angle, like Josh Homme was trying to ape Sebadoh.

The Lion - Great guitar crunch allows room for lovely vocals as soft and abrasive find a perfect balance.

It Collects Itself - Reminds of Swell Maps in a very good way.

Here is another fuzzy pop rocker with a nod to the 1960s. We have heard it before and I generally am willing to accept it all with open arms. I will especially do so here when the artist has strong power pop moves in the songwriting and has some modern and subtle use of electronics and distortion to fill out the sound. There are some strong highlights on this album. The lesser songs are 'merely' fun and likable. So with a starting point like that, let this album fly, cut loose and enjoy!

And enjoy Luke Rathborne even more when he hits the DC9 stage this Wednesday, March 5th sans ashes no doubt.

Songs to try first:

Soft - A strong rocker sets the tone with outstanding sound and plenty of drive.

I'm So Tired - The power pop hooks really dig into you on this one.

Low! - A nice rocker without too much in common with Bowie's 'Low' even if the preceding song here is entitled 'Eno'.

Quite simply, this is one fine album of instrumental finger style acoustic guitar. The playing is elegant as Rodriguez has a light touch and a keen sense of phrasing. But he adds some fantastic Eastern style drone work in "Ragalamas" and there are several other songs that explore more psychedelic territory with some secondary sounds along with his controlled playing. Rodriguez is from Argentina and South America has always had some fascinating takes on psychedelic music that was merged with ethnic folk songs

I am happy that September Girls is capable of playing such comfortable and easily accessible rock music without being over cliched about it all. They have a foot in the shoe gaze camp, but there is too much crisp rock attack for that. The vocals are dreamy, but the songs are too firm for straight pop music. And with all these interesting sonic textures, it is far from simple rock music here. Yet, it all sounds welcome and familiar. The band is Irish, although the music created is not terribly grounded to there or anywhere else. They definitely have the talent and style to tour the world and hopefully will be able to make it to our shores and tour this exceptionally fine debut album.

Songs to try first:

Cursing the Sea - The title cut establishes the sound with a flowing melody seems to continue after the song stops.

Heartbeats - A little extra punch in the rhythm section really makes this song pop.

Talking - Hard rocking with vocals that soar more than drift.

The female vocals and overall approach remind me of a softer Smoke Fairies. Whereas that band goes hiking into classic psyche folk ground, Snowbird opts for the dream pop trails. Yet, the female vocal harmonies lead the way in both cases and are not often heard these days. The music is nearly as fragile as the vocals and envelopes it all in a cottony haze that allows the vocals to continually float along. Often I prefer a few jolts in an album, but when the songs and vocal lines are thought out well, you don't need as much variety. Most of the time Snowbird works powerful magic. And probably the most beneficial thing I can say about their sound is that in addition to songwriter/vocalist, Stephanie Dosen, Simon Raymonde is here to provide the lush music that is reminiscent of his former band, the Cocteau Twins. And if that is still not enough to intrigue you, assisting this duo are members of Radiohead, Midlake, and Lanterns on the Lake.

Songs to try first:

I Heard the Owl Calling my Name - The opening cut sets the mood which is strong enough to keep you there for ten more songs.

All Wishes are Ghosts - The harmonies here are particularly complex and lovely.

Bears on my Trail - The lilting melody is infectious.

This is one methodical post electronica slo-gaze whatever record. It is thoroughly modern, yet has an ancient ambiance hearkening back to the 1980s dark synth wave. There are male and female harmonies that sound as if some electronic whiz took an Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan record and worked out some intensely dark arrangements (for that dreaded remix trend that is going on now). I really enjoy this album as they are highly effective in making dark brooding music compelling. LIke many albums of this particular tone and emotion, you do need to be in the right mood to receive this properly. But this album will likely having you headed back there more often as the sonic textures offer some positivity, even if the songs with titles like "Wreckage" and "Heartaches" go deep in one direction.

Songs to try first:

Hallowed Ground - The opener has a lush sound which wraps around slow vocals that fade to mumbles.

Tonight - The first notes reminded of Bowie's "Low"

Dark Light - Not significantly better than the rest, but the title is about all you need for a band descriptor.

This one is like trying to grab a cloud. It has its share of pop and rock moves, but has transcendent sound patterns and edgy post punk guitar thrusts here and there. The vocals soar and the patterns allow room for interesting bridges and musical wanderings. Yet it stays together with nimble rhythms featuring crisp snare work and fluid bass runs. There are more interesting songs than not and I think this will appeal to thoughtful modern rock fans who will appreciate the textures and creativity even if they can not quite pin down all the positive reasons this works. It should be even more fascinating to see what comes out at a live show.

And you can do just that when Yellow Ostrich plays live at the DC9 on Wednesday, April 2nd.

Songs to try first:

Neon Fists - Lovely harmonies and a smooth rock sound warms this one into my head.

You are the Stars - Sharp guitar thrusts take this to strange and intriguing places.

Any Wonder - I like the choices they made in writing this rocker.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Touche Amore - Mewithoutyou - Seahaven - Caravels -- Black Cat - Mar 2 2014

Caravels - The music in this twin guitar attack is quite thoughtful and interesting. It is moody post hardcore music that does some of the same things that Kattatonia does to metal. However, the comparison ends with the vocals which are the same earnest hardcore intense bleats that we have all heard 1,000 times. The vocal lines do not even seem to fit the music at times. Still, there is certainly a solid sound and some interesting songs for fans of this genre.

Seahaven - The crowd came early and has really filled up much of the big room to hear this LA quintet. There are three guitars at times, although one of them switches to keyboards frequently. The guitarist who handles most of the lead vocals has a strange slacker style which works well with the first rather straight forward indie rock number. But the second song is where the fun starts. The band floats off on a roaring droning riff river with the singer heading upstream in a strange style that should not work, but does. As the band continues, they exhibit great style and a fine variety of heavy sounds and deep contemplative moves. There was one pop-punk song even, before some more crunching riffs kicked in. Just to make things stranger still, the singer finishes with a solo cut with just his light strumming on guitar in somewhat of an electric Nick Drake move. Very strange and very good.

Mewithoutyou - I am glad this is a co-headline tour because this band nailed it as well as any headliner I have heard this year. My first thought was that this was like an alt country band who got really really bored and decided to convert their songs to nu metal. Or if I'm thinking of Denver, it would be like Munly Munly fronting the Fluid. They have a lot of that fun crazy attitude that Akron/Family has, although they have more subtle style to them. I have extensive notes that I can't read and I am not sure a description can do justice to the vibrant way they combine heavy and light and twist and turn their songs into something unique and powerful. Great stuff here and although they had plenty of fans early on, you could see the crowd becoming more involved as their 45 minute set continued to its rousing conclusion.

Touche Amore - This band, although still relatively young, is well established and seems to be a favorite in this area, as evident by the crowd tonight. The band was quite thankful that so many people came out on a Sunday night with a storm starting. Fortunately it was still rain around here (although it's a pretty nasty snowstorm as I type this the next morning) and people were here just to bunker down and rock out. This band delivers creative heavy rockers as well as anybody. Probably the only disappointment for me was how straight forward they sounded after the previous two bands. That is a little unfair, as a careful listen reveals some thoughtful choices the guitarists make underneath the main rhythmic thrusts and vocal lines. They rocked the house and gave every one a great final set to put smiles on faces until everyone heads for home, hopefully still on safe roads.

Quote of the Night: Another dream quote from a disturbing moment in last night's dream when I saw someone stab Bob Mould in the throat. Shortly after as I tried to check out on-line what happened (still in the dream) I heard a newscaster say this... "Supposedly a man came up to Mr. Mould and asked him to play the song 'Woffing' and then stabbed him twice."

Fortunately I find my dreams have very little predictive value, so you can see Bob this Wednesday at the 9:30 Club as he revisits his first solo album, "Workbook".

And aside from the need to have happier dreams, I was at least interested to learn that there is no such thing as woffing, although the word is part of some online game.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Preview of Coming Attractions: Early March 2014

There is plenty going on in March. Here are some video and audio previews of bands you should consider as you select the shows you want to go to. One thing to consider... try going out of your safety zone and try something different. I realize money is tight, but there is great value in the surprise of an unknown band in a lesser listened to genre nailing down a great set. Give it a try!

Yellow Ostrich plays the DC9, if the snow does not mess things up this Monday, March 3rd.

Miniature Tigers and Bear Hands w/Total Slacker hit the DC9 on Tuesday the 4th for a fun evening.

What to do on Wednesday the 5th?! There are at least four shows that interest me. Watch the following and decide for yourself it is Slothrust at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel or perhaps Ex Hex at the Black Cat. I will even list more in the recommendations column to the right.

Small Black returns to town and will have lots of people coming back to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel this Thursday, March 6th.

Scotland's We Were Promised Jetpacks is an excellent band and returns to the Black Cat on Friday the 7th. Be there.

Grammy nominated singer songwriter Emily King will be at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Sunday the 9th.

Moonface comes to the Black Cat on Wednesday, March 12th. They are on the Jagjaguwar label, which quite consistently delivers excellent artists to the world.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Stone Driver - Mike Weyrauch -- Tree House Lounge - Feb 28 2014

Stone Driver - Back at the Tree House Lounge near Gallaudet University as they continue to offer solid shows featuring lots of local artists. Not only are Stone Driver local, but they are here for their debut show. Although these guys clearly have plenty of experience in other combinations as they are all proficient players and show some comfort playing off of each other tonight. There is a lot of original music, with covers scattered about. Nothing wrong with that as they played for an hour and twenty minutes over two sets, so there is room for covers. I enjoyed many of them including the Pearl Jam cut as well as the oft covered Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World". I do admit getting tired of Tom Petty's "Mary Jane's Last Dance" as I think I have now heard that covered more than I've heard the original.
Most importantly, Stone Driver has some good original songs to build a set from. Like any new band, they pretty much play them all and time will sharpen the best of them and add new exciting ideas. A couple of the songs could be keepers for as long as they exist, since they would be songs any touring indie rock band would be proud of. The two guitars (one acoustic) do head somewhere between indie rock and classic rock, leaning toward the latter more frequently. They remind me of a cross between Blodwyn Pig and Sugar Creek (maybe not, but I have been dying to reference this amazing band). The crowd filled much of the room and made for a great atmosphere for straight up rock music. Good debut, and you will no doubt be able to see these guys again.

Mike Weyrauch - And it is not all local, as this singer songwriter guitarist has made it down from Dover, Delaware to share his songs. Alas, some of the same issues at the bigger clubs exist here tonight in what I call Acoustic Death. That syndrome exists with an acoustic player sharing a stage with rock bands on a Friday or Saturday night with a large crowd. The symptoms are simply a loud crowd chatter making it difficult for people like me who want to lose themselves in the music. I did stay to hear a few songs and Weyrauch was a real pro pushing forward his songs. He has a lot of power in his voice and his guitarwork was also strong in a rock sense with lead runs as well as strong chord work. This allowed him to stay within if not atop the noise, and I did hear some good songwriting. Hopefully I can catch him again some time (maybe the Jammin Java on a Tuesday).

And there were two more bands for the late night crowd, but I'm still getting over my cold, so I called it a night early. But it was good to see live music succeed yet again in a location some people have yet to discover.

Quote of the Night: from an anonymous source in a dream I had the other night... "Booze: It's like a canary meal meeting a parasite."