Monday, June 30, 2014

Laughing Man - Black Checker - Rom -- Churreria Madrid - Jun 29 2014

Rom - I have very much enjoyed this local trio under their former name, Dead Women. But with their new (and very welcome) moniker Rom, they are set for an exciting restart. And based on tonight and a new album that will be reviewed shortly, this is a band you should put on your radar. Tonight's show is a new room for me tonight, upstairs from this Adams Morgan restaurant/bar. Oddly enough, I saw a house show right next door in a residence above the bike shop so the room style is quite familiar. Rom did suffer a bit with the makeshift PA as there were some early feedback issues that did get worked out. Also, the vocals were a little thin, which is a downer as they are a key component of the songs. But even with that, the music of this band still connected with the fine skills that each of the three players exhibited. These guys can churn out great power pop songs and twist them around into various levels of intensities to keep things interesting. One song was a dead ringer in style to that of Kinski, when that brilliant Seattle band heads toward more hook-laden songs. They have got plenty of shows lined up for the summer, so I suggest you hit one of them.
Black Checker - Speaking of power pop... what better way to follow up a set by Rom, then bring out another excellent DC trio, who comfortably fits the genre. Of course, the genre may be the same, but this band has its own personality and energy and seem to be in strong form tonight. The sound was a little tricky with no feedback, but the vocals were a bit loud in some of the songs. But everything came through clear enough for a rocking time to be had by the mostly full room. The music was brisk, tight, and with loads of hooks brought on by quick guitar riffing on top of a strong rhythm section. In between their fine songs they snuck in covers of the Police and Queens of the Stone Age, which added to the fun. So it was another fine night from a band that keeps getting better with every gig.

Laughing Man - I feel bad about missing this set as I think I would like their sound as I see it described. But duty called for some other things going on in life, so I will have to catch these guys another time... hopefully soon.

Quote of the Night: From Black Checker after spotting a guy wearing a fez... "Dude, where did you get your hat? Did you get it from Turban Outfitters?"

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Throwing Muses - Tanya Donelly -- 9:30 Club - Jun 27 2014

Tanya Donelly - An original Throwing Muse member is here to open tonight's show with some of her own outstanding material. Donnelly handles all vocals and plays electric guitar with three other string players. She has a cellis, electric guitarist w/slide work, and an acoustic guitarist who also has a foot pedal on a drum box. These instruments combine to form a powerful atmosphere of distinct voices that meander in and about with playfulness that never deviates far from the song. Donelly's singing is great and she has some innovative moves in a few of the songs which are quite striking. This reminds me at times of an early Woven Hand/J. Munly sound with a bit more warmth and coziness here. The bright and dark songs contrasted well and fit together due to the strength of this band. The crowd was enthusiastic and treated this set pretty much as a headlining set, which it easily could have been.

Throwing Muses - I felt I knew this band, but then as I prepared to come to the show I realized I had known their name and their standing, but did not spend much time with their music. It did not take more than a couple of songs before I started kicking myself for being so negligent over the years as they have a great sound, familiar yet distinct. Tanya Donelly's step sister Kristen Hersh is on hand for vocals and electric guitar with her original drummer and long time bass player. They have an early Nirvana/Wipers feeling to them even though they started over by the other ocean in Rhode Island. The component sounds again work so well together with firm and steady drumming, a smooth and flowing bass, and crisp choppy guitar chords straight out of the power pop-punk bin. Hersh had some subtle shifts in sounds and could string out some lovely guitar lines when desired. The songs kept coming and coming and built into an outstanding set. But there was even more fun in store when Tanya Donelly joined in for the last 25 minutes of the hour long set and added guitar and vocals for some of the classics that the audience were very much in to. There were chills, some warmth, intriguing lyrics and stories which I would need more time to digest, and it all worked extremely well. I am happy they are back so I can correct my oversight and the fans here are happy for many more reasons as they called them back for a few more cuts before heading home.

Quote of the Night: Kristen Hersh was telling an interesting story about talking to her label long ago and wondering why they weren't selling many records. The label said it was ok, because they were getting 'reaction'..... "We heard our song in a store so Dave went up to the record store clerk and asked if they had the Throwing Muses record. He said 'you mean Weezer?' So that's why no one buys our record because Throwing Muses rhymes with Weezer."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Lake Street Drive - The Sun Parade -- 9:30 Club - Jun 24 2014

The Sun Parade - This quartet does a fine job with breezy indie rock with some folk rock moves her and some pop moves there. It is all brisk and bright, and thus is a sun parade of sorts. It is always nice when a band's name gives you the quick and dirty on their particular sound, and this band is as good as it gets in that department. This is all likable music, although I have that sense that this is easy to forget, like a decent sugary dessert that while not memorable, does the trick for that moment. A lot of music falls into that category and it may say as much about me coming to a live show after reviewing four albums just prior. They went over well enough with the crowd and being that they hail from a quality music scene I have spent a little time in, Northampton, MA, they should continue to good things and will hopefully grow into a solid headliner some day.
Lake Street Drive - This is one powerhouse of a band and what is somewhat unusual these days, the power comes from the vocals. Instrumentally, they are on the lighter side although that is lighter on volume and heavy on style. Rachael Price's lead vocals have all the bluesy power we have all heard before, but with plenty of range and style shifts into whatever direction the songs go. The guitarist switches off to trumpet, which even further showcases the vocals. I should add that all members supply decent backing vocals frequently. The rhythm section also deserves star billing as the acoustic bass and drums have a playful swing style which is underused these days compared to the late sixties when it was pretty much de rigueur. This band sold out the club tonight and many people here were highly familiar with this band from many successful past shows as well as their fine recorded works. It is fascinating to think of this music occurring at any point in the last 50 years. I would think this band would succeed just about anywhere along that spectrum. They certainly succeeded tonight.

Quote of the Night... or rather another of the harshest Musician on Musician insults compiled by Tom Hawking. I'll give you two, as the first one may be too British for us (meaning I don't get it, although I do know the Levellers music and their bass player is named Jeremy)...

20. Richey Edwards on The Levellers
“You could go to any Levellers concert and stand in the middle and shout, ‘Jeremy!’, and 75% of the audience would turn round.”

19. Kurt Cobain on Guns N’ Roses
“They’re really talentless people, and they write crap music, and they’re the most popular rock band on the earth right now. I can’t believe it.”

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Bear Hands - Lightwaves -- DC9 - Jun 21 2014

Lightwaves - This is only the second show ever for this DC band? Perhaps so, but they have hit the ground running with this sharp little twenty minute set of throbbing pop music. They could really lock into a groove, while delivering their quality pop vocal melody lines with clarity and just enough energy. The pulsating sound of it all was fascinating, helped with keyboards in addition to the rock trio of instruments. The drumming was a bit crude at times, occasionally helpful to the throb, other times distracting. But overall, there was a solid core sound that works well and they successfully warmed the large crowd present at an early Saturday evening show.
Bear Hands - I missed a DC show from this band earlier this year (and a number prior to that) and am happy to catch up and see what these Brooklynites can deliver. The first couple of songs had me impressed with their playing and some of their choices of how they interacted with each other, but I was not so sure about the songs. Thankfully, I was here for 50 minutes with this band and about mid way through the set, they had built up a strong identity that made complete sense. This is quirky pop music with a bit of post-punk heft in many of the songs and it took me a while to fully integrate what they were doing with their marriage of contrasting sounds. They seem like a band that works their ideas out with creative moves slowly integrated by each member over time. There is a lot going on individually, but it is hard to notice as the group seems so locked into a group sound. They mentioned they are always happy here in DC and DC is happy with them as tonight's show was sold out. And I am happy that I finally joined in on what many people have known about for some time now, that Bear Hands is a strong band, well worth devoting some club time to.

Photo grab of the Night: Amusing caption writing is a fine art...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pillar Point - Pleasure Curses -- Jun 17 2014

Pleasure Curses - It often happens that I recognize the name of a band I had seen before, but can't place the specific sound (or do worse and guess wrong). This was the case tonight, but before this local duo struck a note, I immediately recalled that this is the guy that looks and sounds like Morrisey as they concoct some decent electro-pop music. Their half hour set still went along those lines tonight, with the singer playing guitar on the opening and closing numbers while occasionally fiddling with some electronics. But the music was mostly set up by the other member who played a lot of bass, worked synthesizers and electronics, and even hit some drum pads. The vocals work well to establish a mood with just enough breathy qualities in them. Even with the instrument shifts, there are some moments that get a little too 'samey' for me, as the second song with the guitar snapped me back to attention. I would suggest they add a few guitar chords in a few more songs to keep us on edge a bit more. But this was a likable set from a band that does bring the pleasure, even if we are all cursed.
Pillar Point - The Iota certainly succeeded in booking complimentary bands tonight as this touring trio picked up right where Pleasure Curses left off with a solid set of thoughtful pop music with plenty of electronics and keyboards. The band is actually one person with two touring members, but I am reviewing a live show, so it is a band for me. They included keyboards, a drummer which always helps in the live setting, and the singer played guitar frequently. He created some interesting tones, but more importantly, added some heft to the songs generating some real rock excitement. The keyboards were busy in a positive way as the songs merged complex underpinnings with clean melodies on top. The second to last song they played was a perfect example of combining different layers of sound into a vibrant song. They are from Seattle, on their first tour, and could develop enough fans to do this all again some day. It was a smallish Tuesday crowd with lots of good shows going on throughout DC, but there was some real dancing and enthusiasm here, so I think I chose well tonight.

Quote of the Night... or rather another 'musician on musician insult as collected by Tom Hawking:

21. Paul Weller on Freddie Mercury
“He said he wanted to bring ballet to the working classes. What a cunt.”

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Trews - FLINTface - Clones of Clones -- DC9 - Jun 15 2014

Clones of Clones - This local quartet features a twin guitar line-up with a couple of keyboards for occasional use. The rhythm section was steady as the band cooked up an 80s style alt rock sound with some pop melodies in there as well. The lead guitar was quite busy and was generally a highlight for me and gave their music just enough distinction to be interesting, even for those of us that have 'heard it all'. They faded a lot of endings which was kind of anti-climactic, although the last couple of songs were more tight. That would be the one recommendation on what otherwise was a fine opening set, well received by a fairly small crowd.

FLINTface - Interesting band, this. Rather this is a band that features singer songwriter Joe Scorsone with his wife assisting on vocals and a sharp backing band. They have a balanced Americana rock sound that encompasses rural and urban feelings in the manner of Petty, Walkabouts, and many other successful acts. The dynamics in the better songs are achieved with a great sense of subtlety creating a dramatic environment for the vocals. They did a great job and it was nice to see the crowd double and fill out the club into something of an event, even if the usual self absorption blocked some of the contact between band and audience. This is a sharp little outfit worthy of a look and a listen.
The Trews - I enjoyed this Canadian band's album, but was not sure if their rather straight ahead rock format was unique enough. Well, for album listening maybe, maybe not, but a live stage is where music like this thrives. Not only did this band blast away with great playing from all four members, but the lead guitar work had the crowd cheering in ecstasy. Some of the songs also went more into a cool direction in the manner of a T2 or Mighty Baby. The vocals were hearty and could stay on top, although due to a vocal infection, the singer had to dip into his 'magic spray' more than once. The crowd definitely got over their dull conversations and dug in for this set. These guys are touring hard and that is the best way for music like this to get over.

Quote of the Night, or yet another of our series of nasty musician on musician insults (and thankfully the last on Courtney Love)...

22. Kathleen Hanna on Courtney Love
“Where’s the baby? In the closet with an IV?”

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Preview of Coming Attractions for the rest of June 2014

I'm out of town for a few days, but want to come back in time to see...

The Trews, who come in from Canada to play the DC9 this Sunday, June 15th.

Sharon Van Etten brings her excellent music to the 9:30 Club on Tuesday, June 17th.

But if you want some other opportunities on Tuesday, why not try Painted Palms at the Black Cat or Pillar Point at Iota.

I really dug the Tweens latest album and now I get to see it all live and up close at the Black Cat on Wednesday, June 18th.

Lust for Youth (and who doesn't, at least at some point in life) hits the Union Arts on Saturday, June 21st.

or check out Bear Hands on Saturday the 21st at the DC9.

Joywave splashes forth at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Tuesday, June 24th.

Lake Street Drive comes to the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, June 25th.

Rodrigo Amarante has a lovely album out and will certainly showcase much of it at the 6th and I Synagogue on Saturday, June 28th.

And if you still have the energy, head out to Gypsy Sally's on Sunday, June 29th for the Jamestown Revival.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Gold Mask - Motion Lines -- Black Cat - Jun 9 2014

Motion Lines - I saw this band eighteen months back and made my frequent complaint of seeing a couple of decent musicians playing to sub-mediocre drum machine beats. That is all fixed tonight as they have three members and shift around a bit on instruments with the occasional drum machine used only when the drummer moves forward to sing or play keyboards. A bass is used at times and the guitarist has a nice array of sounds, so they have a lot more to offer this time around. There's is a rich and dreamy sound without frequent dynamic shifts, although when it happens, it does stand out distinctly. The mood is good and there were at least a couple of songs that had me take notice. They are doing well and are worth a listen some time again.
My Gold Mask - This Chicago trio has a lot of the same instruments and works the same general area as the openers, but is a bit more intense about it all. The female lead vocals are powerful with a slightly goth sense to the pop. It is some unholy combination of Siouxsie, Poly Styrene, and Deborah Harry. She also plays some percussion, although there is a stand up drummer and synth player handling most of the beats. The guitarist thickens the vocal works even more when he chimes in. Otherwise, he comes up with a lot of powerfully thick sounds. They sound surprisingly dense, yet the percussion is good in maintaining clarity throughout. Some of the songs are quite catchy and the crowd is digging it all well. Thankfully, this quiet Monday night crowd doubled in size, which resulted in 30-40 enthusiastic people. They made me smile more than once, no small task as I am severely in the midst of my pre-travel anxiety. If you like a more intense brand of electronic pop music, then give this band a look and listen.

Quote of the Night, or rather more quotes from Tom Hawking's '30 harshest musician on musician insults'. And it's a twofer tonight...

24. Courtney Love on Dave Grohl
“As for that drummer, well, he’s hit on me so many times. He’s just a very very conflicted guy about me, which is why he continually writes songs about me to hear he ‘hates’ me more than ‘anyone else.’ Kurt loathed HIM more than anyone else (except a journalist) … He’s just sub-mediocre kind of [guy] who does this ‘nice guy’ nonsense.”

23. Dave Grohl on Courtney Love
“She’s an ugly fucking bitch.”

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dan Saks -- Historic 6th+I Syngagogue - Jun 7 2014

Dan Saks, Sephardic Songs + Stories - It is good to hear that Dan Saks is still doing well in Mexico City, where he moved just before the previous time his band DeLeon played the Washington Jewish Music Festival. That was two years ago and although it has resulted in less DeLeon since then, we are treated to an intimate version of some of their music along with other traditional Sephardic songs, as interpreted by this former DC area native. Dan has also brought out Kevin Snider, his childhood friend and band mate from the area to assist on several songs tonight. Otherwise it is just Dan, an acoustic guitar or banjo, and his excellent voice. I really enjoyed his stories as he did have a lot to say about the songs and the traditions with all the changes and alternate viewpoints that crop up. There was a supportive crowd tonight in the downstairs area of the Synagogue as it was completely filled. He even had his brother and mother assist he and his bass player with backing vocals on the last cut. I think the only way to improve this show would have been a slightly longer set (this was under an hour or so) or possibly an opening band. But I would rather have quality music in small doses with good musicology instead of cliched stage patter, so this was a lovely way to spend a Saturday night.
Quote of the Night: Dan Saks - "When I research these songs, there is always a discrepancy - That's the theme for tonight, discrepancy."

And if you would like to read an old interview I had with him, click here.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray - Luray - Derek Evry -- Black Cat - Jun 4 2014

Derek Evry - Although he is playing bass with the headliners tonight, Evry is up for double duty with a solo acoustic guitar and vocal set. On more than one occasion, I have seen where these type sets feel tacked on. Not tonight. Derek Evry has plenty of style and fine songs presented with a strong voice and energetic guitar work. Although he flat picks, he has some intricate moves in between his energetic chords. He is as much rock as folk and the songs work well in this presentation. Not surprisingly, he has a solo album out and will be having a record release party with a full band at the Iota on Saturday, June 21st. Based on what I saw from this set, it's a lock to be a fun night.

Luray - It has been a while since I have seen Shannon Carey and her band which has steadily evolved into a strong working unit. The sound is still delicate with banjo and voice taking the lead, but the supporting band fleshes out the songs into fully complete works that retain the heart, while having the heft to work in a rock club. Although this crowd was very supportive and into the music tonight, so crowd noise was not a problem. Sarah Gilberg offers a lot to the sound with colorful keyboard work, a bit of guitar and excellent vocals. Then there is guitar, bass, and percussion with even a bit of thumb piano, always one of my favorite instruments. The band even nails down some mysterious droning moves that elevate the music even further into fascinating areas. Luray is definitely one of the finer bands in the area and proved it again tonight.
Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray - Tonight's show ends several months of touring and 'the Honeymoon is over'. That's a joke they are tired of by now as Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray were married back in March and have spent their extended honeymoon blazing a trail across the country playing their great brand of music every step of the way. It was nice to see they still had the energy to put on a great show. I knew the songs would be good, as I really enjoyed their recent album that I reviewed last month. This live set did not quite have the surprising dynamics, although that may be due to knowing a little more of what was coming. They still varied songs nicely from rootsy rockers to intense singer songwriter cuts with spacey western landscapes. They had that Denver sound murder ballad style working as well and all of it connected with the nice crowd assembled filling out the smaller room. They have lots of fans around here, deservedly so, and are hopefully spreading their base with their heavy touring. The music has that combination of originality with comfortable hooks that will connect with a large crowd if given a chance.

Quote of the Night: Derek Evry counting in a song... "One, Two, why am I counting."

But to continue the series of harsh musician on musician insults, here is one more for your list...

25. Mark E Smith on Mumford & Sons
“There was this other group warming up … and they were terrible. I said, ‘Shut them cunts up!’ And they were still warming up, so I threw a bottle at them … I just thought they were a load of retarded Irish folk singers.”

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Stagnant Pools -- U Street Music Hall - June 2 2014

Stagnant Pools - It's another guitar and drums duo which, along with vocals, makes for the usual breakdown of three distinct sounds. And distinct is the word for this band as all parts sound quite different, yet work to achieve a cohesive whole... at least somewhat. The drumming is powerful with some creative throbbing rhythms and is a real highlight here. The guitar work has a shoegaze drone quality that can go with the pace when needed. The vocals is where things don't quite connect for me. The dreary Ian Curtis quality certainly can work, but with Joy Division, Ian had a lot more than one move, in spite of his profound and intense style. Here, it just goes on and on, even as the music shifts around nicely depending on the song. I hope they work on that, as there are some core elements that work here.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - This is the second 'Yeah' band I have seen in the past year and in both cases, the live set was much better than I expected, even with the fine reputations of both bands (the other being the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). It was a real pleasure to listen to how this band takes such complex moves and combines them in ways that work so well with a pop music simplicity to it all. Progressive pop hooks? I am not sure too many bands can do it this well. They switched around their instrumental combinations with drums and vocals working full time with differing numbers of guitars, keyboards, and/or a bass. Although that helped freshen the songs, it was much more due to their very sharp songwriting abilities and skilled control of sounds and pace. They had songs that had a post-Radiohead style to them, as well as a few that reminded me of the sharper new wave cuts back in the day. I suppose if you imagine Radiohead with a sense of fun like the B-52s added in, you get something in this direction. But Clap Your Hands Say Yeah have certainly and successfully carved out their own musical space as they showed tonight with a large supportive crowd reminding them of that after every song. I'm hooked and now it is up to me to make up for lost time with their recordings.

Quote of the Night, again drawn from the Tom Hawking article, 'The 30 Harshest Musician-on-Musician Insults in History'...

26. Trent Reznor on Marilyn Manson
“A malicious guy [who] will step on anybody’s face to succeed, and cross any line of decency.”

Monday, June 2, 2014

Matisyahu - Lisner Auditorium - Jun 1st 2014

Matisyahu - Tonight kicks off the 15th Washington Jewish Music Festival, and it starts with a bang in a nearly filled Lisner Auditorium. The last time I was here was over two years back for a couple of shows featuring two of the greats of the Brazilian Tropicalia movement, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. Interestingly enough, tonight's artist is also known for an intriguing blend of genres, like Tropicalia, but more of his own making. I was not familiar with his music until tonight and did not detect too much of his famed reggae style in this acoustic performance featuring his vocals and Adam Weinberg on acoustic guitar. There were some raps and partial raps along with his beatbox vocal skills, which he used frequently, but in small doses (to much applause). Mostly, there were high quality songs featuring delicate guitar with a wide array of styles exhibited. His vocals soared and while not quite hitting Thom Yorke heights, I detected more of Colin Meloy, which may be a fair comparison considering the variety of styles exhibited tonight. And even late on, the guitarist had a fascinating droning rhythm working on a loop that did venture into the subtle psychedelic pastures of Tropicalia. I really enjoyed the newer songs played here tonight and there were moments of real magic. I look forward to hearing his new album. This stripped down 90 minute set showcased a fascinating talent who hopefully will continue to focus his energies in creative ways like what was shown tonight.

Quote of the Night: And to close with another of our 30 harshest musician on musician insults, courtesy of Tom Hawking... (keep reading here and collect them all!)

27. Lily Allen on Cheryl Cole
“Taking your clothes off, doing sexy dancing and marrying a rich footballer must be very gratifying. Your mother must be so proud. Stupid bitch.”

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Futurebirds - Avers -- Black Cat - May 31 2014

Avers - This trippy Richmond collective blows through my expected guitar ratio with four guitars starting out with the rock rhythm section. Although in the first song, one of the guitarists spends more time on keyboards. They pass my personal test by playing different passages and working well together as the band cooks up a powerful psychedelic stew that is not too heavy but hearty and full of spice. I like that they use (at least) three different lead vocalists and harmonize in different ways. That and few slower cuts keep everything fresh and original. I am reminded of Black Mountain and also the Black Angels at times when they really cook, although the Swedish collective Spacious Mind also comes to... er, mind. Just about every time Richmond sends a band up our way, I end up quite impressed and this was no exception. Avers can easily hold their own at Psychefest or with a variety of psychedelic bands from the extreme improv jammers to the more pop song oriented types. As a bonus, it was nice to get more than a 50 minute set from them, and it was as solid at the end as it was in the beginning.
Futurebirds - Although this band hails from Athens, Georgia, I am hearing the best sort of California light jamming psychedelia coming out of the PA. They have a confidence and control of the tempo that makes their interesting material work all the better. So it is not a surprise that they have nearly filled the big room tonight. What is surprising is how many people here are self absorbed in their own little worlds and treat the live music like a background to their conversation. Oh well, at least they are supporting live music even as they get far less out of it than they would if they focused on the many strengths of this band. Yes, they can go off into jamming Neil Young sort of songs, but like Neil, there are really good songs here to latch onto. And their vocals and song structures are beyond a simple comparison, as they carve out their own turf in this spacey landscape. Definitely a band to follow.

And the next entry form "The Harshest Musician-on-Musician Insults in History" by Tom Hawking is:    28. David Lee Roth on Elvis Costello
“Music journalists like Elvis Costello because music journalists look like Elvis Costello.”