Thursday, October 30, 2014


You'll flip for the Burger Label showcase at the Black Cat this Saturday, November 1st, headed by the Dum Dum Girls. But here's something from AJ Davila y Terror Amor.

Then head back to the Black Cat on Sunday the 2nd for Cass McCombs and the eclectic Meat Puppets.

DC's Typefighter joins Pup at the DC9 on Wednesday, November 5th.

Ian Anderson may not use the Jethro Tull name any more, but you'll plenty of great Tull music at the Lincoln Theatre on Thursday, November 6th. I will be certainly be there.

Until the Ribbon Breaks will join London Grammar at the 9:30 Club on Friday, November 7th.

Nikki Lane is in my ears and in my eyes at Gypsy Sally's on Tuesday, November 11th.

The Dream Police storm the Black Cat on Wednesday, November 12th. I wonder if they have a song called 'Cheap Trick'.

O'Death brings its lively music to the DC9 on Thursday, November 13th.

Andrew McMahon visits the 9:30 Club on Saturday, November 15th.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Temples - Spires -- 9:30 Club - Oct 28 2014

Spires - From the Temples to the Spires, these are well matched bands both by name and by sonic output. Spires has the exact look on stage as Temples with a lead singer-guitarist, bassist, drummer, and a guitarist/keyboardist. This band works the same popsike sonic territory as Temples, but of course has its own personality. The drumming and bass lines are both quite quick with the drums creating a more rock sound, while the bass smooths out the rhythm with a steady humming line. The vocals are strong with the harmonies on the lighter side of things. Guitars ring out strong and heavy at times with the tuneful melodies evident throughout. I particularly like how the keyboard parts were bold with a jarring sound that diversified the songs much more than usual (not quite Goblin, but in that direction). The songs were good and the execution even better and there is a strong likelihood of success awaiting this band.
Temples - I loved this band when I saw them last year at the DC9 and their show made my Top Ten shows of 2013 for DC. So it is no surprise that their album is also heavy on my play list and that the band has had great success with it, as well as their increased touring. So now it is the larger environs of the 9:30 Club that house the popsike fans that come to worship the Temples, or at least dig the songs. And it is of course hard not to fall back into 60s lingo when you groove to this music. Even the two ecstatic dancers that were going strong all set had an old fashioned sinewy style that took me back. These songs have some best pop hooks out there these days and the vocal quality and musical execution is top notch. They handle the big club and the big sound system just fine tonight. There is plenty of bite in their sound to make the live experience well worth the effort on any stage. I love this band and my only complaint is that I want more music. It is still pretty much the first album, although they jam it out a bit to get more than an hour out of their set. And they know how to jam, so again, see these guys live some time, as few do it this well.

More closet cleaning... or in this case, from my parents' garage. I am not sure how I did without this product for so long. My closet is like a breath of fresh air (moths beware).

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Damned - T.S.O.L. - The Briefs -- Black Cat - Oct 26 2014

The Briefs - This is a 21st century band from Seattle with a 'no apologies needed' late seventies classic punk sound. The songs aren't overly dazzling, but the energy and pace do the trick and the requisite hooks pop out enough to make it all pleasant. Shades of revved up Drones, 999, and Eater come to mind (yes, the second tier, but still fun). Brisk and rollicking this is, although I have to wonder about a song that calls for us to 'kill Bob Seger now'. Aren't we a little late for that to matter? At least they didn't follow that with a Reagan song.

T.S.O.L. - I have always thought this band was one of the most overrated in the history of punk rock and a part of a lot of the things that went wrong along the way. But I was interested in catching this near original line-up as back in the day I had only caught the decent but different second version of the band with Joe Wood on vocals. But now it is the mercurial Jack Grisham back on vocals, which was the focal point for their early work. His range doesn't seem as strong these days as his vocals are a bit shrill, but forceful enough. The rhythm section is banging it out well and Ron Emory's guitar is tough as ever. They load up on early material from their first EP and LP which gets the packed house revved up, although thankfully without a crazed moshpit. This was all decent enough, but it didn't seem to fire. I enjoyed the slightly cynical sense of humor that plays better these days, such as not remembering how many presidents there have been since their song bitching about Reagan. So I'll save my TSOL treatise for another day and give them a mildly indifferent passing grade tonight.
The Damned - It has been great fun seeing them in recent years with Dave Vanian still at the helm showcasing his great crooning voice and Captain Sensible providing the guitar licks and goofball humor. The other three guys have given this band a stability that was a word that was impossible to use when discussing the band in those brilliant early days of punk. They did their usual set of songs tonight covering their early punk songs, the great Machine Gun Etiquette material and the revved up poppier psyche-rock follow-ups on the Black Album and beyond. They gave it a bit of a Halloween twist by opening with 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' and 'Plan 9, Channel 7', although there always is a little Halloween in the Damned any time of the year. The sound was a bit iffy at first with overly light keyboards and barely audible bass. But it improved which helped bring the band's energy forward much better. They were pretty hot, although I preferred their show the last time through as the best of the three recent shows I have seen. Still, a recommended band for 2014 and as long as they care to go and an absolutely essential band to add to your record collection--one of the best bands of all-time.

Set List (with a few holes filled in by Dr. Jekyll, Plan 9, Love Song, Machine Gun Etiquette, I Just Can't Be Happy, Wait for the Blackout, Lively Arts, Silly Kids Games, History of the World, 13th Floor Vendetta, Ignite, Stranger on the Town, Eloise (Great Paul Ryan cover!), Disco Man, New Rose, Neat Neat Neat.  Encores: Curtain Call, Nasty, Anti-Pope, Smash it Up

Quote of the Night: Captain Sensible after playing 'I Just Can't Be Happy Today' ...
"The old ones hold up pretty well to what the newer acts come up with. For instance..."
Crowd: "Morrisey"
Sensible: "Morrisey? That song could have been written for him."

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Whitey Morgan & the 78s - The Highballers --Gypsy Sally's - Oct 25 2014

The Highballers - It's been a long time since I've seen one of the finest area honkytonk, country & WESTERN bands, and it's high time I see them at Gypsy Sally's, one of their favorite venues. There is a big crowd in the sizable room and they all are digging into this easily digestible music. The band employs loads of skill and style in making this music so easy to grab on to. These all sound like classic songs (well one IS by the Bee Gees interestingly enough) with their solid backing components, along with crisp guitar leads. There are twin lead vocalists and harmonies with a male and female voice providing significant diversity. It's all done with humor and a relaxed feel good style that is perfect for a night in the clubs. They can hold their own with anyone on any stage and even have enough glitter on their guitars to work with Billy Zoom. Even if this genre is not at the top of your list (and it's not for me), you owe it to yourself to see a great band like this as they offer up great songs that link the wide array of rock'n'roll styles that hold the universe together... or just come out, let your hair down and have fun.

Whitey Morgan & the 78s - It seems like this Flint Michigan band is a hard touring outfit. That may be apparent from simple web research or a comment they made about having 'a rare four days off without a show', but is also obvious from their skills on stage. They have three guitars cooking atop of a rhythm section. One is a pedal steel, which works for me in ways that many bands fail as it compliments the sound with subtlety and style and doesn't go for any syrupy emotions. Instead, all three guitars have a strong bite as they tear into hard C+W music that probably doesn't sit too well with the mainstream crowd. You pretty much need to embrace the outlaw music to dig into this. And the large crowd tonight did all of that. Gypsy Sally's is a comfortable place, feeling like a smaller Birchmere or Hamilton, but their pattern of booking some of the finer touring and local roots bands has certainly helped bring in a good crowd like tonight.

Quote of the Night... from the Highballers' guitarist - "And now for something we hope you really like."

Rocky & Bullwinkle references will always get you extra credit points in my book.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Drowners - Bully -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Oct 21 2014

Bully - Up first tonight is a twin guitar rock quartet with a female vocalist adding rhythm guitar. Her vocal work is attractive but tough enough to almost live up to their name. It has to have a little toughness as the band cooks up some stirring hard rock with plenty of pace and a cutting edge. The lead guitar swirls around, sometimes underneath the verses, which is a jarring and effective move when done well. No real new ground here, but this band knows its territory and works it well. There is a young crowd that is enthusiastic yet eerily polite tonight and they seemed to enjoy this set.
Drowners - And to finish the night is another twin guitar quartet from NYC ready to rock the house down. By set's end, they did just that as a good solid rocking set built to a powerful finish through their crafting a fine set list. The early material showcased warm music with some jangle in the guitar and strong focused singing. The rhythm section seemed to push things forward with strength and a smooth style, which left plenty of room for thoughtful guitar moves. The songs were all pretty solid, but a gutsy cover of Gun Club's 'Sex Beat' really ramped things up. Fortunately they had a few originals equal to the pace and power of this song to follow. The last cuts seem to come more from that LA punk scene that Gun Club grew out of and brought out the inner punk rocker in me that is never to far away with a band that has the right energy. Drowners are a band that is attracting a young crowd and they have a lot to offer them and even some of us old timers as well.

The 'clean out the parents' medicine cabinet photo of the day. This product was available at Revco once upon a time for twenty-nine cents...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Agent Orange - The Architects -- Black Cat - Oct 20 2014

By Kyle Schmitt 

The Architects - This band of brothers brought their Kansas City classic rock to the Black Cat’s backstage. Singer/guitarist Brandon Phillips has a fine ear for vocal melodies; his timely pauses and phrasing bring to mind The Crystals as much as any hard-rock group. His sibling rhythm section (bassist Zachary and drummer Adam) added some thrash to The Architects’ sound, which would’ve been just at home in the late 1970s. A cover of AC/DC’s “Sin City” fit tightly into their set, while the group’s own “Daddy Wore Black” was damn near anthemic. “Cadillac” brought some impressive swagger to a set that had already featured Brandon presenting his pick to the heavens in delayed, sweaty anticipation of another guitar-based attack. Bonus points for the band’s Tumblr account, which features copious entries in a Rachel Maddow fan fiction anthology.
Agent Orange - Singer/guitarist Mike Palm knows where he’s from and why he’s here. His band played most of their debut album Living in Darkness, the SoCal classic that helped establish west coast punk, while Palm offered a tribute to Z-Boy skating legend Jay Adams. Palm also paid tribute to DC, claiming he was sick of getting sent out to Springfield for gigs. He estimated that the band hadn’t played the Black Cat since it left its original location (many crowd members looked as if they’d probably attended the show in question). Old favorites “Everything Turns Grey”, “I Kill Spies”, and “Bloodstains” provoked dancing from the old-school audience, as did a crowd-pleasing cover of the Dead Kennedys’ “Police Truck”. Palm even displayed his chivalrous side when he honored a bride-to-be by engineering a “ladies only” mosh pit and serenading the dancers with Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love”. The group showcased their renowned surf-rock chops by bookending their set with genre classics “Miserlou” and “Pipeline”. Although “The Last Goodbye” helped round out the show, Agent Orange gave reason to believe that 35 years in the business weren’t enough for this proud DIY outfit.

Quote of the Night: “Can you imagine if your job not only allowed you to drink at work, but supplied the alcohol?” - Mike Palm upon recommending the bar at Black Cat.

Lia Ices -- 9:30 Club - Oct 20 2014

Lia Ices - Tonight's opener (and closer for me) is an interesting singer who does well to create pop music with a personal flair. Lia Ices' powerful voice elevates the music maybe not to Kate Bush levels, but to something that will grab your attention. The drums are steady, the guitar lighter and more intricate, and the keys and backing tracks there to thicken out the sound a bit. It could be dream pop were it not for the strong vocals that will keep you wide awake. Still, you may drift off into her pop world with her array of songs that may be a bit too steady. The second to last cut featured a heftier electric guitar with some added synth leads that created some extra excitement. The only flaw for me was that the set should of closed on this cut rather than the next song which was a bit of a let down. Still, a solid set of interesting music that went over well enough with the sold-out crowd awaiting Phantogram.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Minus the Bear - O'Brother -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Oct 19 2014

O'Brother - I have already decided that the state of Georgia was a surprisingly fertile land for some extremely interesting heavy bands, Mastodon and Kylesa being the most famous of the bunch. So I am not surprised to expand my list further with these eight year veterans I am catching up with finally. They start out ultra heavy with three guitars blazing away atop the powerful rhythm section. There are strange trebly runs that invoke indie rock that has me thinking they are too indie for the doom crowd and possibly too doom for the indie crowd. But they are so good, they can probably pull in a majority of anyone who likes things heavy and creative. The vocals are surprisingly strong as the remind me quite a bit of Queens of the Stone Age at their steadiest and heaviest style. Or perhaps it is as if Josh Homme was jamming with Mogwai? There songs vary enough primarily through the vocal work, that any more comparisons are not terribly important. They impressed me a bunch and this sold out room was warm to them as well. Great start and worth the price of admission alone.

Minus the Bear - But why quit after a great opening set, when you get one of the strongest bands coming out of Seattle since a certain movement captivated the world a couple of decades back? No one was quitting as the packed house was fully engaged in this band's set. Their sound was inviting, but with a cool side to it as well, which they managed to integrate without any awkward transitions. This showed great skill as if Magazine was integrated with Echo & the Bunnymen or the Teardrop Explodes. Or perhaps Minus the Bear's neo-psyche approach is worked into strong songs that could be adapted to other rock styles? The formula is not exactly clear to me, which is always a good thing as it shows this band has confidently taken a creative path resulting in music that is so easy to get into, without being forgotten amidst dozens of other similar bands. I left completely convinced of this band's skill and power.

Photo grab of the Night... This was a facebook post from Christ Stein via Tim Sommer. It follows one of my favorite games of comparing photos in very odd ways... So here we have a fire eating bass player with a scroll eating avenger.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chomp Chomp - Sir EU - Dullard -- Velvet Lounge - Oct 15 2014

Dullard - Thankfully, this gentleman's moniker was not prophetic to what I thought of his set. And it was going to be a challenge tonight as I was hearing electronica and hip hop, usually something I would enjoy at home more than in a club. Dullard was just one guy with his computer and electronic gear, but he managed to cook up a smart set that was a pleasure to listen to. His drum programming was a bit better than average and the overall thickness of the sound worked well for me. Good job.

Sir EU - Jesse aka Chomp Chomp is working the beats for this DC area rapper. I can follow some of it well enough, but at other times the cliches come out in between the fast dialog which is less comprehensible. I am not sure there is a lot of new ground here, but I rather enjoyed a couple of his later raps as he had more interesting lines with just enough innovation on the beat. Enough of the crowd was getting into the set and he delivered the goods quickly and efficiently. So if the local hip hop scene is your scene, Sir EU should be a part of it.
Chomp Chomp - We have another electronica set which does not always excite me in the live setting. However, it seems a really good fit at the small and cozier Velvet Lounge. There was a modest crowd close to twenty who added to the comfort with a bit of dancing and a lot of support. Jesse's music began with a nice pulsating beat that never went into a more annoying throb. He kept it nimble and interesting with various melodic shifts and bursts. The real success in making this set work for me was his tracking where he shifted from darker material to brighter poppier bits before finishing with a grandiose powerhouse. This was the right setting for a pleasant night of music with enough variety to hold attention from beginning to end. So I was happy to attend.

Quote of the Night: From Sir EU... "You people are slaves, I got the microphone."

Yes, but I had the pen.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Zola Jesus plays my favorite Smithsonian Museum, the Hirshhorn this Friday, October 17th.

Minus the Bear will have me pondering their name when I see them on Sunday, October 19th when they hit the Rock'n'Roll Hotel.

Lia Ices coolly welcomes us to autumn at the 9:30 Club, on Monday, October 20th

The Drowners head to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Tuesday, October 21st (after a meet'n'greet at Doc Martens in Georgetown earlier in the day).

Ocean Blue sails in to play the Jammin Java on Friday, October 24th. They do two shows that night and the first one is already sold out.

Wampire and Tops get you ready for Halloween at the DC9 on Monday, October 27th.

Temples is one of the best bands in the world right now. I caught them at the DC9 a while back and apparently a whole lot of people agree with me as they are now headlining the 9:30 Club on Tuesday, October 28th.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Second Hand Rose -- Atlas Performing Arts Center - Oct 10 2014

Second Hand Rose - Glam rock is one of those nearly lost arts of my youth. There were a few styles of music done then that just don't seem to create the inspiration for younger bands to follow. I think more of it is due to finding like minded musical partners as well as developing the extra layers of skill to make it work. Whatever the reason, my quests will always continue to find these lost arts. Thanks to the Atlas Performing Arts Center, they have provided me my glam fix with this wonderful band from China. For nearly two hours this band created a wild universe of glamor, hard rock, ethnic sounds, and sheer joy. The large crowd was very much into this band as there was a significant Chinese presence in the auditorium. This was rather fun as most of the stage patter was in Chinese and it was amusing to hear people laughing at jokes I couldn't begin to get. Clearly this band is big and very comfortable with their audience. That translated just fine. And musically, with guitar solos wailing away on top of a smooth active rhythm section, there were was plenty to translate to any rock fan. There was also a Dutch guy on percussion and electronics, which gave things an extra bounce. The real wild card was the guy on horns and wooden flutes. He created intense bleats that worked with the guitars, as the sound was as intense as that of the Brian Jones album "The Pipes of Pan at Joujouka". Of course the charisma and vocal force of founding member Liang Long is the commanding presence throughout the set.
I rarely wear a smile as long as I did last night, even at shows that I am enjoying. This band created a world somewhat forgotten to me, where they take the best of Roxy Music, Sadistic Mika Band. and Sweet and toss in psyche and prog moves from many of the classic bands and formed it into something magical of their own. I have had a lot of choices on my schedule and I have been very fortunate to be a bit more adventurous lately and am thrilled that I came to the Atlas tonight, a comfortable venue that will push the boundaries of the club scene into something a bit more worldly. I will be writing me more when I do my 'Ten Best Shows' column at year's end, as this one has a spot reserved there.

Quote of the Night: From Jeroen Groenwegen-Lau in answering Li Ziqiang's lyrical East/West debate... "No. Plastics were invented in the West."

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sinkane - Helado Negro - Kahli Abdu -- DC9 - Oct 8 2014

Kahli Abdu - Nigerian singer Kahli Abu starts off tonight with a drummer and an electronics guy who also plays some bass. Abu also plays some synth/electronics and varies his music between raps and R&B crooning. His delivery is silky smooth in both forms and with the fine accompanying sounds, works comfortably as a full and complete set of music. This is good and better than I expected, so full credit to Abdu and his two cohorts for getting this show started off so well.

Helado Negro - I knew the name and thought I had seen him before as this sounded familiar, and sure enough I did catch a set a couple of years ago. Both times it felt a little long as the sound is almost too steady with mostly quieter moments, but overall I am quite impressed by Negro's approach. He has two electronics musicians with him who look like Christmas trees where kids went crazy with the tinsel. The music was quiet and chillingly effective, although the vocal work is what truly stands out. He has a Robbie Basho quivering approach with some experimental Scott Walker moves, although he keeps it a bit more on the straight and narrow than that. Evocative and distant settings are conjured up through this approach and I am sure he would be even more effective late at night through the headphones alone at home. But this was a club, so there was some crowd noise to deal with. The music was of such high quality to have me involved fully in spite of this.
Sinkane - Sinkane comes from Sudan through Brooklyn and has a full band with him to help concoct some of the more fascinating modern psychedelic R&B music for lack of a better term. He calls it fake jazz and that works as well as there are so many elements within these flowing jams that morph into delectable songs. It is as if Isaac Hayes worked with PiL covering Doors songs inspired by Can. I could go on, but that would distract from the deceptively tricky grooves they manage to make sound so warm and simple. This is so easy to get into it, yet with so much going on, it does get your mind spinning. His vocals cut into this music with great purpose and clarity and thus create these fine compositions. This is classy music for a modern age that completes a great night that shows how electronica and/or careful playing can create magic that will blow through any boundaries and barriers you may think you have as a listener. The packed house seemed to agree.

T-shirt of the Night - which is a photograb from Facebook, but has its place tonight and at all too many shows I attend...

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Electric Six - The Soft White Sixties -- Black Cat - Oct 7 2014

The Soft White Sixties - The first thing noticeable with this quartet is that they employ a full time vocalist, well he bashes a tambourine some, but it is surprisingly unusual to have a full time singer in the rock world at the indie level (although it will happen again tonight). The second thing I noticed was how good the rhythm section was at allowing so much room for the one guitar to be playful with the vocals carrying the melody. This worked since the bass had a very fat sound and the drumming had measured and controlled strength at the core. The guitarist also spent a lot of time at the keyboards, which added even further dimensions to these songs. He could spend much of his time in one song on fills and runs, the next on power chords, and the following song on guitar alternating with thick keyboards. The singer was strong and pushed everything up a notch as these songs worked a very broad territory. Yes, there's some soulful and psychedelic sixties elements here, but they were ultimately a rather timeless rock band with good variety and solid personality. There was a nod to an old Fleetwood Mac cut, 'Oh Well' in the final boogie jam concoction, which was quite amazing. This was the DC debut for this San Francisco band and they won over some fans and should be back for a return visit I would imagine (and hope for).
Electric Six - This Detroit band have been regular visitors to DC for a long time now and  have consistently torn it up on stage acquiring an intense core of fans. So although the big room was about half full on this Tuesday night, the intensity was like a Saturday night up front. And this band deserves a lot of fans as they have a great swagger to their highly energized rock'n'roll. They have a firm NY Dollsian based punk rock approach that is always fun, yet they add a Roxy Music flourish with their personality and synth blasts which elevates them beyond so many other decent bands. The humor was good and the singer worked the crowd nicely in the brief moments between songs. This was a blast, pure and simple, and it has been a lot of fun to see so many bands come through lately that make you feel good that you came out to experience the pleasures of live music. Electric Six is as good as that as anyone.

Quote of the Night... From the E.Six's lead singer (with tongue partially in cheek?)... "It's great being out of the midwest--fucking piece of shit."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

20,000 Days on Earth - Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market

By Kyle Schmitt

20,000 Days on Earth draws a hard target on what drives Nick Cave to write and perform. This task proves demanding with a subject whose first confession is that he ceased to be a human being at the end of the 20th century, and he doesn’t necessarily feel bad about it. His attempt to explain how songwriting is about developing a counterpoint starts with an analogy that compares letting a child into the same room “as a Mongolian psychopath” and ends with the phrase “shooting the clown.” Fortunately, directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard manage to extract some lucid explanations from Cave that illuminate exactly what he’s trying to do with his craft. His songwriting attempts to create a world of good guys and bad guys, a place “where God actually exists.” Cave even opens up about his muses: his wife (whose special moments with Cave are “cannibalized in song”) and the town of Brighton, which he claims has been “forcing its way violently” into his music. But he credits his bandmates’ collaboration for helping him transcend his limitations, and Forsyth and Pollard show how Cave’s fellow Bad Seeds bring life to new songs like “Higgs Boson Blues” and “Push the Sky Away” in rehearsals. His lieutenant Warren Ellis shines during these scenes, which feature Ellis comparing a nascent Cave creation to Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long (All Night)”, presenting the singer with a well-meaning gift of firecrackers for his children, and recounting the time he made off with Nina Simone’s used chewing gum. Far milder off-stage than his live persona would suggest, Cave explains that a “psychodrama” between himself and the first few rows at his concerts supports the narrative of his songs. He says he strives to make his shows communal and transformative, claiming that, “If you can get to the center of the song, you can become God-like.” Cave comes close to divinity in a striking finale that intercuts an epic “Jubilee Street” performance with live footage of the Birthday Party and vintage Bad Seeds. A provocatively shot documentary of one of rock’s greatest creators, 20,000 Days on Earth plays at Angelika through Thursday, October 9.

Editor's note... And to celebrate the rerelease of the Pop Group's vast archives of material upcoming on Freaks R Us Records (through Kartel), beginning this October 21st, here's Nick Cave talking about this important band...

Monday, October 6, 2014

King Tuff - Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires -- Black Cat - Oct 4 2014

By Kyle Schmitt (@KyleRadioviolet)

Lee Bains III and The Glory Fires were so loud I could only watch comfortably from the very back table of the Black Cat’s elevated seating area. A spirited delivery engaged the whole room, however, and this group (particularly the Williamson brothers rhythm section) ripped it up in their opening set. Birmingham native Bains wears his southern heritage and liberalism like badges, and delivered a grad school civics course onstage, tackling subjects ranging from Medicaid expansion to American imperialism in his lyrics. The song “We Dare Defend Our Rights” takes a dim view of Alabama’s state motto in the wake of the state passing its own “show me your papers” law aimed at immigrants. Bains’ lyrics link different eras by comparing “four little girls in Sunday school” with “the hijos watching Papa patted down in the blue lights and siren’s noise.” There were positive memories to convey too, as Bains sang of his father kicking back and watching 1970s stock-car races in “Dirt Track.” He delivered an unflinching look at his state’s highs and lows, then sported an Alabama baseball cap while greeting fans post-show. 
King Tuff was fittingly introduced with smoke and the Ghostbusters theme song. His crew brought a lighthearted attitude to the stage, drawing hearty approvals from a favorable crowd just by asking if they want to hear another song. Tuff sounds best while howling over his own riffage, as on “Wild Desire” and “Freak When I’m Dead”. But he showed welcome versatility when he kept the vocals subdued while imploring, “I wanna shine / so show me your secret.” While Tuff hit his highlight with a fiery “Bad Thing”, his ethos was best represented on “Biggest Hearts”. He admits to having “scraggly hair and wild eyes” while asserting that scary-looking schlubs can be the kindest and most generous dudes around. Credit for his powerful three-man set also goes to bassist Magic Jake, who threw free t-shirts to fans after Tuff broke a guitar string, and drummer Old Gary, who Tuff accused of farting black smoke. 

Esoterica: Quote of the Night goes to King Tuff after laying eyes on an Orioles fan: “I see a Baltimore cap out there … I’m from Detroit.” He then affirmed that he was here not for the ongoing O’s-Tigers playoff series, but for rock ’n roll and to party with everyone… Tuff’s merch table puts one in the mood for Halloween. There are Frankenstein and hooded skull t-shirts, the latter of which “glows in the dark” according to a saleslady wearing ghoulish green facepaint … The guy sitting next to me in the Black Cat’s street-level cafe complained that some bully was making fun of his blond mullet. An hour later, a woman took a surreptitious camera-phone shot of the haircut in question while standing 10 feet behind him.

Ex Hex - Speedy Ortiz - Teen Liver - Black Cat -- Oct 5 2014

Teen Liver - Second time around for me with this local trio and I am looking forward to it. I recognize the rhythm section as brothers from a more recognized local band. Yet, this is my band of choice as Teen Liver nails a garage punk style far better than most. It is like the vocals and songs of the Dickies with the thick murky primordial ooze of the band Crime. You can also hear that raw punk sound of the early Dicks, the Flesheaters and the Controllers, and many more bands who just knew enough about their instruments to create amazingly raw, feral rock songs with pop hooks. I will always be listening to music like this for as long as I have ears.

Speedy Ortiz - Wow, I hear about one hundred 'alternative' bands worth of sound in the songs of this twin guitar rock outfit. I could name all the suspects... Sugar, Dinosaur Jr., Minutemen, Nirvana, Sebadoh, etc., but Northampton Mass's Speedy Ortiz has their own personality and has the chops to share a festival stage with any of the bands that perfected that 'beyond punk' brand of of rock music in the late 1980s and beyond. The songs are a bit more oblique here and I am more impressed by the overall sound and skillful playing than the writing, but that may be corrected by more album listening as it may take a few spins for me. Their newer material seemed a bit more song oriented and occasionally slowed it down a bit, but there are still great guitar slashing moments that get my eyebrows up in the air. I enjoyed the 44 minute set as did the really large crowd here tonight to witness this exciting bill.
Ex Hex - This is really simple pop-punk. This trio is all female, which is nothing terribly new these days (thankfully) but I mention it since they all sing and manage to create some nice vocal variations and harmonies. There is nothing terribly flashy in their playing, but they do grab onto a groove and manage to elevate their pop songs into something a bit extra special. It is hard to see exactly why this works so well, yet it does. One thing I noted was how familiar I am with many of these songs, even though I only heard their new album one time about two or three weeks back. If that is the case, then clearly these three have a knack for writing solid pop songs that stay with you. And that will make for a great show or great album. Fun, fun, fun on this Sunday night.

Quote of the Night: And here we are with the last quote that I have pulled from Tom Hawking's article... "The 30 Harshest Musician-on-Musician Insults in History". It was a fine list with a few that will stay with me. This is number one on his list...

1. Tupac on The Notorious BIG
 - All of “Hit ‘Em Up,” really, but particularly this: “I fucked your bitch, you fat motherfucker.”

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Gardens & Villa - Sandy Alex G -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Oct 4 2014

Sandy Alex G - This Philadelphia quartet was described to me as slacker rock, which was evident from start to finish in their set. They were laid back pretty much every step of the way, yet they still managed to add many twists and turns along their meandering path to create a vibrant 41 minutes of music. They could be thick and chunky or loose and jangly with easy psychedelic vocals that carried the tunes. This was quite enjoyable and the style and band's quirky humor worked well with the crowd. There was just enough skill in the guitar runs and a few songs that showed craftiness that belied their slacker image, but they are all the better for that. There certainly is nothing wrong with developing the skills so you can relax and use them well.

Gardens & Villa - The club is about half full tonight, but it would look even more full if this was the normal crowd of hangers-about. Instead, just about everyone has pushed forward as they are very much into what this fine pop band is doing. The sound is ultra-smooth from the clean soaring vocals to the shimmering pop sounds that are more keyboard than guitar all working off of a snappy rhythm section. This is a great sound that harkens back to the great 80s synth pop, but is also much smarter than some of that. The songs have hooks and just enough variety to keep me engaged. This is one of those bands that can win over a lot of fans from other genres, since they can rock out and have loads of skills. But they have plenty of their own fans here tonight and gave all of them a great Saturday night out.

Quote of the Night: From the opening band introducing their last song... "I think a lot of people are going to like this song because it's the best song ever written."

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


The fine Belgian record label Hypertension has released record number three of their five planned albums featuring two artists on one 12" record album. The first two releases were quite exciting and this delivers yet another two interesting bands that carve out significant creative space in the musical universe.

Drums are for Parades engages in trippy dark psychedelic ambiance to coin a genre. Just when you settle in, they twist the tones around to put you on the edge of your seat. Thoughtful music for the dark krautrock fans of old and new. Highly interesting and engaging, this.

Sardonis is more in the nu-metal camp. They play thick instrumentals and the first cut has a dancing folk melodic quality that reminds me of Black Sabbath meeting Circulus. I love classic melodies and Sardonis delivers them with real panache. They may need some variety as they go beyond these four songs, but this is exciting material and they likely can grow from this.

This is one tasty album. And for me, that usually means there is intelligence afoot in the songwriting with crisp mid-tempo rock arrangements. There is a lot of that here with some songs veering toward pop, but most having either a rootsy base or more ethereal rock moves. The vocals are steady with a pullback on emotions rather than an in your face thrust. The drums, bass, and guitar playing is all nimble and well done. There are even a few songs where the fuzz guitar achieves some of thickest fuzz sound I have heard, perhaps more disarming within the context of these clever songs. This is a high quality album that has me bouncing along throughout the 11 songs.

I will be out of town, but you should head over to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Sunday, October 12th to see what these guys can do on stage.

Songs to try first:

Kings and Queens - A sharp little rock song with a cliff walking ending.

We Come from the Same Place - The busy playing is so smooth, that it flows like thick chords.

Bright Eyes - I am not sure which I like more, the call and response vocals or the fuzz lead guitar.

This Japanese band seems more psycho than psychedelic, but there is a method in their madness. Vocals pull back or scream out. Guitars slash away like chainsaws at post-punk party. The rhythm section pulsates once and then hits that Big Black overdrive next. There are quieter psychedelic moments such as in the nearly ten minute "Mukaeni Ikenai", but this is mostly a heavy affair. But there is intrigue around every corner as this band adds some extra spice to familiar ingredients. At times, it gets a little too noodling, but there is enough inner strength to keep it flowing. This is definitely a band I'll be listening to again and again.

Songs to try first:

Psychedelic Misemono Goya (reprise) - This grinder is way cool.

Slider - A lot of sliding, slashing, confrontational tones merging together into a great song.

Maki-Modoshi - Spaceman 3 gone funk? Believe it!

The Nerves are not as known as they should be, as they were an excellent LA pop-punk band. Even if you don't know them, you may know one of their songs, "Hanging on the Telephone" which was covered by Blondie. Collins was the drummer, but has played guitar, sang, written, and pretty much done it all in his solo career or with his band, the Beat. Extremely catchy music has been the connector between it all no matter what genre leaning is going on, and nothing has changed here. These 12 songs are likely to be even more hook oriented than many a modern pop album you could pull up, so give this a listen.

Songs to try first:

Feel the Noise - The title cut features rip roaring guitars with the expected pop hooks.

Baby I Want You - Gutsy vocals here to remind you that pop music can be tough and vibrant.

Don't Know How to Treat a Lady - This brings back the 60s from the Beau Brummels to the Byrds, all with a rocking drive.

There are many bands cropping up that bridge the '60s Punk' style with the '70s Punk' attack. In fact, from the Ramones onward, there was often a look back to 1960s pop and garage psyche-rock. Ex Hex captures all of this with an emphasis on pop songs played with Ramones pace. There are several shades of light and heavy shifting throughout these 12 songs, but the hooks and spirit are there in every one of them. I hear some of that charming Shonen Knife feeling here as well. The guitar work is crisp, the rhythms steady, and the vocals expressive. Add those catchy melodies and it is terribly difficult to avoid having fun listening to this music.

Catch this band this Sunday night at the Black Cat!

Songs to try first:

You Fell Apart - Real drive in this with fun lyrics.

How You Got that Girl - On the lighter side, which showcases their great pop style.

New Kid - Killer guitar runs lift this pop gem up.

Freeman is actually Aaron Freeman, who more people know as Gene Ween. With the Ween band in either hibernation or deep freeze storage, depending who you talk to, it is great to see Gene Ween active again under his real name. These songs are sometimes folky, sometimes rocky, with loads of the expected twists, turns, and even a few roller coaster dips here and there. It is a fun ride, with crazed lyrical twists to keep attention high. Even if he was humming, there are enough pop hooks and cool musical twists to keep the attention there as well. So basically this is a creative album with no loose spots or throwaway moments.

And be sure to come to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel show this Thursday night

Songs to try first:

Covert Discretion - The opening cut starts out delicately and ends with fury. Consider yourself awake.

I Couldn't Play my Guitar Like a Man - subtitle (for a while) as now he clearly can.

El Shaddai - Great Eastern moves always work with me.

Good pop moves are at work here in the writing and execution of these ten songs from this London collective. I hear elements from the Beatles to power pop to dream pop and much more in these arrangements that layer in sounds that alternately give room for the vocals and then thicken up the atmosphere to a more intense flow. There are a lot of exciting contrasts at work with smooth slightly understated female vocals pulling it together. Pop fans and rock fans that enjoy contrasting moves within an album should give this album a listen. There is a lot to like on it.

Songs to try first:

Tame - A touch of the whimsical Beatles pop early in this cut.

Keep Wondering - More assertive guitars add a stronger rock element, yet the vocals retain a light airy feel.

Don't You Wanna be Mine - Gutsy popsike number with some heavy sounds alternating between spritely passages.

More modern pop music for you on this album, which may be getting a bit excessive for me this month. Fortunately, Lia Ices has plenty of personality evident in her vocals and there are a variety of strong instruments percolating throughout these songs to keep me listening. This is not a style I would otherwise gravitate toward, but the sense of mystery and focus is more compelling than most of this ilk.

And try this out live at the 9:30 Club on Monday, October 20th.

Songs to try first:

Thousand Eyes - laid back journey by stream while looking at the clouds with two of those thousand eyes.

Love Ices - punchy percussion, tricky vocal effects and a nice melody add up to an intriguing song.

How We Are - Great intro passage and a nice build to this rhythmic song.

Pretty much only hardcore folkies who know their history will know how much of a compliment I am paying Itasca when I compare them to Joan Mills & Mike Raven. Yes, the female voice and acoustic guitar combo has been done often, but Itasca captures that deep woods psyche vibe that Mills & Raven cooked up so well in the early 1970s. There are moments where it gets as mystical as Book of AM and others that are a bit closer to straight folk. But nothing is terribly light here, there are layers of dreams slowing opening up in these eleven songs. This is one of the finer folk albums of the year.

Songs to try first:

Alleyway - The second cut establishes the Mills/Raven style that grabs attention.

The Hermit's View - Add a haunting flute with the haunting vocals and it's all the more powerful.

Nature's Gift - There is just a wee bit more tension with the restraint shown in the pace.

I can get pretty cynical about newer versions of punk rock these days. But when bands do it right, it still is a blast to listen to along side the classics that I still turn to. And all the better when I get to hear a great voice from the past in front of a new band that can deliver the goods. Dayton's Ed Pittman formed one of the finest midwest punk bands Toxic Reasons some 35 years ago. His new band, the New Regrets has much of the same intensity with that classic midwest straight ahead rock style that is rooted in hard rock of old, but played with punk rock pace and fury. It is especially great to hear that Ed still has the fire both in the lyrics and his voice to rouse the dead. So kick in to top gear with these five songs and reconnect to your own fire within.

Normally I run cold on electronica pop music, but Populous manages to integrate some ambient sounds and outsider bits that make this a lot more interesting than I would have guessed. There are still some songs that follow basic electropop patterns and fail to move me much at all, but with various guests and some creative touches, there may be something here that works as well for you as it does for me… and likely better. 'Vu' featuring Clap Clap and 'Quad Boogie' featuring Digi G'Alessio are a couple of cuts that work for me.

This is a surprisingly straight up pop record album. It should not be surprising, but when I don't hear much electronica, things that are overly dreamy, or any of the other modern touches, it is a bit unusual these days. Actually, there are some dreamy tones, but it still sounds almost dated in a good way. I am reminded of early 1970s which wasn't always good for pop music, but had its moments. This is not as dense as Abba, but it has some of the vocal qualities that takes me back there. It is not consistently exciting to me, but is surprisingly original and well thought out. Pop fans should definitely take a listen.

Songs to try first:

Dream the Dare - I am daring to dream this is Abba reborn.

Twins - Dancing melody with sharper vocals splitting into the mix.

Only Lonely Lovers - Breezy vocals over thicker sounds with a real feel-good vibe throughout.

I like just about every Toronto band I listen to and here is yet another whose third album is good enough to make me want to hunt down the earlier efforts and see what I missed. There are certainly some rural heartland elements at the cores of these songs, but there is a strong rock experience in most of them with huge sounds and vibrant melodic jabs working off the strong drumming. I have heard variations of this sound before, perhaps no more so than in the Decemberists when they were really rocking. I have no problem with the similarities when the music works as well as this. I would really enjoy a live show, so hopefully that is next.

Be sure to put down November 11th on your calendar as the night to see this band live at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel.

Songs to try first:

Our Love - The opener is both epic and intimate with an exciting arrangement.

Terrified - Tension created with quiet acoustic guitars battling loud electric guitars.

Not Love or Death - Strong rocker with thunderous drums.

Unlike Pure Bathing Culture, Slow Magic is clearly working in the modern electronic pop domain. The dreamy vocals are woven in between the many pulsating beats and melodies. Unfortunately, this music disarms me more than creates any magic. If your pop sensibilities run counter to mine (and in many cases, they surely will), you may want to try out this album as it has an interesting mix of sharp tones and soft textures. I like the attempts at contrast, but was still not left with enough of a change for me to fully embrace. I did rather enjoy the live effort a few weeks back.

I saw a video interview interview of Mike Patton who broke from his train of thought and said 'god, Wolfmother, what decade are we in?'. If you are someone like that who does not want to revisit the days of hard rock with younger 21st century bands, then you may not want to visit this album. But for anyone who likes that style, this fine local band dishes up some gutsy rock songs. They have the right amount of strength in guitars and the rhythm section to keep it invigorating. The vocals are good and some of the tunes stand out as well crafted songs. The recording is no frills, straight ahead with everything clear enough to get a taste of what they can do live, which is where this music plays out best. Check this DC area band out some time, hard rockers,

Songs to try first:

Don't Wanna Let It - Heavy with a good tune at he core.

Feelin' Around - Tuneful cut with some keyboards and punchy rhythms.

Poison Ida - There is some good wah-wah, but I just like the title with its hint at a certain great band.


We have eight songs here on this short LP, which offers plenty of gutsy songs from this Toronto quartet to grab on to and figure out what Teenanger is about. Their second song is called 'Sky Saxon'--now honestly, do you need to know anything more? Of course it is garage rock at its finest--complete with a wide as the world sneer in the vocals and even an extra post-punk attack in the instrumentation that has a bit more snarl than mere fuzz. There is a more deeper darker tone that fits better in to a post-punk world, so Teenanger has affected an interesting hybrid here. I think thoughtful rock fans will find something quite interesting here. I did.

This California trio has a great command of that state's tradition of marrying power pop and punk rock. Sure the hooks are here with great driving guitar and potent rhythm section, but the vocals also carry this forward with class. Just four songs here, but that was more than enough to get me hopping around and shaking my head to these lovely songs. They have that perfect balance of accessibility and edginess that I really hope to hear when I want to have fun and rock out (without turning off my brain). Ted Leo fans, check this out.

Even lo-fi punk can go a variety of ways. This Memphis outfit has a twisted psychedelic approach at times with arty guitars fed through harsh blender pre-amps. Twisted vocal work and oddball melodies complete the picture, as much as it can be. It is as if Chrome added members from Man or Astroman and Pere Ubu and let them cut loose with their signature sounds. In other words, an interesting album we have here. Not for everyone, nor should it be as that is what makes it fun. I recommend listening to all of it as this style sounds well enough early on, but the full effect is a winning formula that may have you hopping about the room by the time it finishes.