Thursday, April 30, 2015

Sixx A.M. - Apocalyptica - Vamps -- Fillmore - Apr 29 2015

Vamps - A Japanese quintet starts things off to a packed house tonight. They have a touch of glam, but far more more heft and pace to be tossed into that category. Their particular brand of metal has some old school hard rock inherent, alas lyrically, too. Yet there are some near industrial moves within and the guitar work is quite strong. The energy was high and they successfully pulled the crowd in. So ultimately this was an effective half hour opening set.

Apocalyptica - As expected, tonight's show would be just a wee bit louder and wilder than the enjoyable earlier set at the Embassy of Finland. To start, the percussionist was now at a full drum kit and with his power and skill, he was a great anchor for the three cellos. The cellos had that same outstanding interplay that was evident in the acoustic setting and the players were still able to bring it down and get delicate plucking and quieter passages working as well. New singer Frankie Perez has a fine resume and added some quality vocals for about half of the set Ultimately, it was the overall power and unbelievable speed that really amazed the crowd. The band are veterans and had lots of their own fans here tonight, but the roar at the close of the set from virtually the entire crowd just showed how amazing they were in their 45 minutes on stage. The one surprise for me was how well they worked the crowd by moving around the full width of the stage with their cellos. Kudos to the crowd for accepting something more creative than what may exist in their record collection, but with music this vibrant and thrilling, it was not much of a leap for them.
Sixx A.M. - It was only a few hours before the show, where I realized that in addition to the first two bands, I was going to see Nikki Sixx's band headlining tonight. While I somewhat loathed Motley Crue, I was happy that it was the one member I would want to listen to and even have a conversation with. Sixx is still on the bass and has a lead guitarist and lead vocalist in his trio (and contributing the initials to make up the band name). The singer does the drumming on the records, but they have a touring drummer to allow him to focus on his vocals. All of them contribute solid rock moves throughout the fare, which is decent post Crue rock music. It is not my favorite brand of metal or hard rock, but the band delivers what this crowd wants and seems on top of their game. I doubt too many people went home disappointed tonight.

Drumkit Quiz answer: The drumkit I highlighted a few posts back, was that of Terry Bozzio, of Frank Zappa and the mothers fame and then with his band, Missing Persons. He is on a lot of albums, so he has a lot of percussion. Kudos to two faithful readers who got the answer correct.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Apocalyptica -- Embassy of Finland - Apr 29 2015

Apocalyptica - This exciting three-cello rock band from Finland is opening for Nikki Sixx's band tonight at the Fillmore. They had some time to put on a brief half-hour set for a select crowd at the Embassy of Finland this afternoon. And thanks to the Embassy, I was invited to this lovely event and got to see a nice hint at what is coming tonight. This band features three cellos, a percussionist on a drum box today (no doubt a full kit tonight) and a vocalist. The vocalist took a few songs off, but added a strong hard rock/metal style to the rich and rocking cellos. I particularly enjoyed how one cello handled the bass, the other the leads, and the third did a plucking rhythm or some dual bowing with the lead. They went beyond that formula, but their basic sound is quite full and diverse showing off the versatility of the cello. I chatted with one member, who said that cellos are somewhat coming more into vogue now, but there weren't that many cello rock bands in Europe to draw influence from. I mentioned a great and obscure Dane, Tomrerclaus to him who he had not heard of, but he was quite familiar with the fine US dual cello/percussion band, Rasputina. The band did quite well today and it will only get better as it gets louder tonight.
And thanks to the Embassy of Finland for putting on such a nice program. I always have a great time at embassy events and want to remind everyone that many embassies will soon be opening their doors for the masses of DC residents that come to visit on the annual open house event. Over a quarter of million people take part, so get started early. It's gotten so big, that it is split into two Saturdays with much of the world embassies open on Saturday, May 2nd, while the European Union members (including Finland) open their doors on the Saturday the 9th. Get the details here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Previews of Coming Attractions - Early May 2015

Stix Hix may Nix Pix, but here are some more trustworthy attempts to entertain you.

Hey, the Twin Peaks were just here kicking up a racket at the DC9. This time it is the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Friday, May 1st. Next time it will be an even bigger more crowded club where you will lose more of your dollars. So go now, especiall with White Reaper on the bill.

I will bringing you my field report on Field Report when they hit the 9:30 Club on May 2nd.

The Donkeys bray into action at the DC9 on Tuesday, May 5th. Raucous local outfit Time is Fire, who I just reviewed a few days ago is opening.

Speedy Ortiz has the pace and creativity to make Wednesday, May 6th an important date for you, so join them at the Black Cat.

Former Superchunkian, Mac MacCaughan keeps the Black Cat busy on Thursday, May 7th.

Those Darlins and Adia Victoria are at the DC9 on Friday May 8th and the Replacements have already sold out, so join me at the DC9 (I already wasted my money on the drunken louts masquerading as the Replacements many years ago... ok, it was all of four dollars, but it is the principle).

It is an honor to have John Cooper Clarke come across the pond and grace several US clubs with his poetic presence. He is in DC at the Hamilton on Tuesday, May 12th. Don't miss.

Epichorus is part of the Washington Jewish Music Festival. They play the DCJCC on Wednesday, the 13th.

Golem is also a part of the festival and they play on Thursday the 14th at the Historic 6th + I Synagogue.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Time is Fire - Cigarbox Planetarium -- Bossa Bistro - Apr 26th

Cigarbox Planetarium - If you have not seen this local duo, it is difficult to describe them. Yet they inspired me to write what is still my personal favorite review of the thousand plus reviews I have done. Read it here, as their sound and approach is not going to change any time soon and did not tonight. It is still guitar channeling Link Wray and Duane Eddy coupled with two banks of keyboards creating farfisa and carnival organ sounds among other subtle sonic shifts here and there. I could easily enjoy both players as solo acts, but thankfully they come together in something that is astonishing in its wildly creative retro approach. If you consider yourself a music fan, you owe it to yourself to stretch your boundaries in some sort of past/future nexus and seek this band out. Perhaps you aren't old enough to recall hearing the Stones and Beatles on the radio and hunting through your parents lame record collection to try and find something anywhere near as cool on the Ray Coniff records (no) or Percy Faith records (not much) before hitting that instrumental gem on Andre Kostelanetz. So do the next best thing and check out one of the area's best kept secrets, Cigarbox Planetarium.
Time is Fire - This is a fairly new entry on to the local scene and they are more than welcome to it based on what I hear tonight. Start with the energy as the band is loaded with it. The drummer creates a firm beat for the guitarist to riff heavy on, while the bass player bounces around, both on the fretboard and in the club from end to end. The singer reminds me quite a bit of Arthur Brown (as the photo above so obviously shows), although he like everyone else on the planet does not quite get all the way to Brown's heights. But he stays on top of the racket and adds some percussion as well to the strong rhythmic qualities of the songs. I particularly liked the early songs with the wild snakey guitar runs that reminded me of Baris Manco crossed with Omar Souleyman. As the set went on, a few more reggae beats worked their way in and they got a tad too jamming toward the end. But it was still fun and great live, so the set had never a dull moment. A really fun night in the clubs tonight.

Oh and a quick note about the club. The downstairs area of this Adams Morgan club has had music for some time. This was in the upstairs area, where if you miss the intimacy of the Red & the Black, you can find it here. It's tiny, but the sound is good and it is a fine place to see some interesting bands. They may not always be this good, but with a cover of $5, you really can't go wrong.

Follow up on my prior post - A couple of hints about the drumkit photo I posted last time... The owner of it played for a prolific musician who died young and whose son carries on the music today. The drummer then formed a band with his wife who had some success, before he went solo and she went to Hustler Magazine. The answer... next time.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tei Shi - Pleasure Curses - Champagne Fever -- DC9 - Apr 25 2015

Champagne Fever - This local duo is in the electronica field, although I am pleased to see a lot of bass playing in their set. Add soulful vocals to these throbbing bass lines and you have an act that is able to create a fine live sensibility to the synth runs and drum beats. They are active on stage throughout and have some decent tunes as well. This is a quality opening set and perfect for a Saturday evening in a crowded club. You could feel the audience working up the beginnings of a fever.

Pleasure Curses - I have enjoyed this duo quite a bit in the past with their Morrisey-esque vocals delivering fine pop tunes with electronics backing that up. Tonight was a bit more subdued for some reason. The vocals were more like withdrawn-Bowie, still with a fine quality, but down a notch on the energy scale. A couple of songs later in the set picked things up and showed them at their best. So it was not a home run tonight, but they are still a band worth catching some time.
Tei Shi - The crowd quickly revved up to the fascinating music of this trio, led by Argentian born, Brooklyn residing Valerie Teicher. With full time drums and a guitarist/keyboardist backing her vocals and occasional keyboards, they combined atmosphere and strength to deliver some powerful and unique pop music. The first song was all about atmosphere as the drummer proved able to create passages that emphasized the quiet before he would punch into a bigger beat for a bouncier song. The vocals are not quite as audacious as Kate Bush, but they have some of the same effect, especially with music that is challenging whilst retaining accessibility. There is only an EP out at present, so the future looks quite bright for Tei Shi, especially as this is day one of an extensive tour. I am glad I caught her in the beginning of what could be a long career, as crowds are certainly going to get larger and ticket prices higher the next time through.

Photo of the Night: I saw a picture of an overwhelming drum kit. So here's a quiz, whose kit does this belong to?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Grand Funk Rairoad -- Maryland Live! Casino - Apr 23 2015

Grand Funk Railroad - I have never quite known how to fit this monster band of my youth into the grand scheme of my take on rock history. I recall them as arena behemoths (selling out Shea Stadium faster than the Beatles) with some radio friendly hits and some gnarlier, gritty midwestern styled brutal rockers. Having never seen them in their day, would tonight be a night of seeing some creaky, out of shape old folks hobbling in with canes trying to rock out? No, that was just the crowd. The five piece version of 2015 (which has been together unchanged since 2000) looked great, looked mean and lean and probably could have cleared out the whole sold-out room by themselves if need be. But that was hardly needed as the fans were totally into this set, as well they should have been as Grand Funk Railroad still has a surprisingly high energy set to present tonight.
The band features the original rhythm section with Don Brewer on some lead and backing vocals as well. Vocals and rhythm guitar are handled by Max Carl of 38 Special, who has been around a long time, but still sounds great. Bruce Kulick put in several years at lead guitar for Kiss, which is appropriate as that sound hearkens back to Grand Funk, and he had plenty of thick blues rock riffs and solos to lay out tonight. They have a keyboardist, Tim Cashion, who I believe has an MFA in music and he adds some vocals as well. Everyone but Mel Schacher sings, which adds even more strength to the powerful instrumental base. Mel's 'bong rattling bass', as Homer Simpson describes, is still there and with John Bonham long deceased, Don Brewer has to be the hardest hitting veteran drummer out there. His overall energy can keep this going about a year after he's dead. Amazing. And the band showcased a variety of solos in tried and true or unique ways with the part where four of them were on percussion with Carl's harmonica solo being particularly brilliant.

The set was constructed well with the five songs I could remember off the top of my head all there (well four, but I recognized a fifth quickly enough in my 'oh yeah' moment). To answer my original question, this band fits perfectly well into the strong tradition of Michigan rock music. The original band members hailed from Flint and worked with Terry Knight and Question Mark, but took that to a much heavier place, cooking up sounds that fit well in with Mitch Ryder, early Bob Seger, and even a bit of the MC5. Michigan rock might be one of the best scenes from top to bottom and Grand Funk not only is a big part of that history, but still has the fire and the ability to show you why in 2015.
I don't know if I have this set list correct, but this is what they did earlier this year and if not exact tonight, it's close...  Bottle Rocket - Rock and Roll Soul - Footstompin' Music - Shinin' On - The Loco-motion - Walk Like a Man - Second Chance - Drum solo - Lightning and Thunder - Inside Looking Out - Some Kind of Wonderful - I'm Your Captain - We're an American Band

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Marian McLaughlin -- Strathmore Mansion - Apr 22 2015

Marian McLaughlin - Often when I have seen one of my favorite DC area artists several times over most of the 6 1/2 years I have been writing about them, I am at a loss of what to add. But that is never the case with Marian McLaughlin. Even if the focus is on songs I have heard before, there is always something new to discover within her unique approach to folk in the direction of classic UK and European psychedelic folk artists of the sixties and seventies. Additionally, she continues to explore new terrain with the help of Ethan Foote who plays bass and continues to work out brilliant arrangements to an ever growing series of instuments.
Tonight was the culmination of a month long residency at the Mansion of Strathmore, which celebrates its tenth year of assisting young musicians continue to grow. It made for a fantastic environment tonight as Marian had Ethan Foote, a percussionist, a guitarist and brass players, but also had the Strathmore's recent resident artists, Invoke, a classic string quartet. The combination of sounds was magical tonight and the soundman deserves credit for making it all clear with Marian's strong vocal work and delicate picking clear. The players had a great sense of the song and used their power and restraint to enhance the already stirring drama within the song.
The continuing growth of Marian McLaughin (which will be shown in a second album later this year) is such a pleasure for the many of us that have seen her at various house shows and clubs in the DC area. And a good part of that is the collaboration with Ethan Foote, which is something I probably should have written more about in the past. It reminds me of Joe Boyd and Robert Kirby working with Vashti Bunyan and Nick Drake or Mickie Most producing early Donovan classics. Collaborations such as these can take dazzling core material and allow them to soar even further into the stratosphere.

It was also a pleasure to see a different audience tonight than the usual faces in the crowd that I can always find and almost predict in advance when I see a local band. Marian has the ability to pull in young and old music lovers, including many of those that have never heard of any of the artists that she reminds me of. She has a song she played tonight called 'Even Magic Falters' that is true enough, although her particular magic is going strong and growing to heights where people cannot help but notice and engage. Marian McLaughlin has a lot of fans in the world. Many of them don't know it yet, but they will.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Elvis Perkins - Kinsey -- Historic 6th + I Synagogue - Apr 21 2015

Kinsey - Thankfully, there were no jokes about sexuality, etc. as Nick Kinsey has probably heard all too many. So it is just a man named Kinsey playing guitar, singing and using a kick drum. But the ace up his sleeve was using Elvis Perkins' keyboardist for about half of the set. The little bit of coloring and subtle synthesizer runs really sharpened up the set. Perkins songs were decent enough by themselves and he had a strong clear voice with a gutsy rhythm cooked up on either acoustic or electric guitar. He varied the tones a bit more than the style, but it all came together rather well tonight.
 photo: Rob Gordon

Elvis Perkins - And speaking up famous names, although my first thoughts go to Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins, this is actually the son of the great actor, Anthony Perkins and nephew of Marissa Berenson (among a lot more... see Wikipedia). But all that means nothing if he doesn't have the songs or the style. It was quickly evident that he had more than enough of each and he could maintain a keen interest throughout his full set. He played guitar throughout with occasional harmonica bursts and some sort of flute solo once. He also had his ace keyboardist and a woman on bass, zither, or glockenspiel. Nick Kinsey joined on drums for many songs and even the added percussion meshed well with the careful tonal accompaniment to create mystical settings or earthly calm. This was excellent music with intriguing vocal patterns, interesting stories, and deep music that could be playful as well. He is working a terrain I have enjoyed following before, perhaps somewhere between Perry Leopold and Jeff Buckley. But his own voice is confident and powerful with many flexible twists and turns keeping things quite exciting in a quiet way. Although there was room for a few more fans tonight, it appeared he had a strong contingent of people who figured him out quicker than I did. I will be back with them the next time he is through.

Quote of the Morning...  From my Mom earlier (and these days I can't use many of her quotes, sadly):  "Someone took me to an opera on Sunday. I made it through the first two acts but sat in the hallway for the third, which I didn't mind as someone always dies in the third act anyway."

Monday, April 20, 2015

Doldrums - Moon King -- DC9 - Apr 19 2015

Moon King - This Toronto duo is showing four phases of the moon tonight as they have a drummer and guitarist/keyboardist augmenting their stark approach of two vocalists with one or two guitars going between them. It is a challenging night for them as only seven people are here marking yet another poorly attended show after so many others that exceeded my expectations. Maybe it is just a random occurrence, although the steady rain tonight may have a little something to do with it. Although the band is young, they were quite savvy in dealing with it by just plowing ahead with their music, not spending much time between songs with patter and pauses, but keeping it flowing. And that worked to the advantage of their churning psyche riffs which mixed dark post punk and lighter pop moves depending on the song. The male/female vocal combination was solid and the focal point throughout. Their sound is not quite full enough or vibrant enough yet, but they are off to a good start and could easily develop into something solid and fulfilling. The core of the music is there.
Doldrums - Oh dear, during the first song, I am wondering if this electonic outfit's name may be all too accurately named. It didn't help that there was a slow transition into the second song resulting in a restart after not getting it right. At least one of the keyboard/electronic guys went to a drum kit which always livens up the sound for me. Eventually they got it together and it wasn't half bad thereafter. In fact, it may be a good mix of electronics and soulful pop rock music. It really did not connect with me though, as I'm a hard sell for this. But like most Canadians, they seemed like really nice guys and they hopefully will find a larger audience than the dozen to 15 people here tonight. Perhaps this should be at the U Street Music Hall? Seems a better fit.

Dream of the Night: I vowed in a dream that I would explain the concept of Mensi of Angelic Upstarts using a second mic on his collar to pick up his vocals as he often sang away from the main microphone. He was doing that quite a bit as I was watching from backstage. Well, it made sense in my dream. Not having seen Angelic Upstarts, I cannot prove this didn't happen.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Howlin' Rain - Joy Classic -- Black Cat - Apr 16 2015

Joy Classic - It is a pleasure to see a twin guitar quartet actually have a fifth member on lead vocals, rather than resort to the overused strategy of having the guitarist or bassist with the least worst voice handle the vocals. The vocals are clear, dreamy and carry the songs as they should. This allows the guitars to work a clean treble area with some clever interplay. The rhythm section holds the bottom and keeps things rocking. My only criticism would be a tonal and tempo steadiness that can be a bit tedious over a 37 minute set. A few sonic jolts would be welcome, but that may come with continued writing. For now, this Baltimore band has a decent approach to showcase.
 reposted photo from Greg Gabrisch

Howlin' Rain - I have not seen Ethan Miller since a brilliant Comets on Fire set many, many years back in this same club. I have followed the albums and have enjoyed how he still had plenty of fire, but added a more west coast roots style to the core of the sound. I was a bit worried tonight as his last album was a stark outing, similar to Neil Young's 'Tonight's the Night' with light guitar and piano behind pained vocals. But from first note to last, this was more the classic wild west coast psychedelic hard rock ride with screaming guitars, bass lines, powerhouse drumming and Miller's vocal gymnastics that somehow stay on top of it all. There is great dynamic shifts and solid song structures at the core with plenty of room to jam and riff and just cut loose. I was in heaven pretty much the whole way here and I made it a point to listen to every band member who was highly skilled and locked in. I heard drumbeats that worked the snare on the expected beat and then went into extra shots that came 1 1/2 beats later, consistently every time. The bass player would hold back until the right time was there to work the entire fretboard. The guitarists just wailed away with slide moves, some subtle steel work, and thoughtful coloring to the vocals. Just great stuff and high time I caught this band. So why were only 20-35 people here? Your loss.

Quote of the Night: From the opening band's singer... "This one's about me doing drugs, but my mother is here so it's about me NOT doing drugs."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sick of Sarah - The Last Year -- Black Cat - Apr 14 2015

The Last Year - This Baltimore quartet is new to me and is playing several dates on this tour. They feature strong female vocals in front of a mixture of keyboards, bass, guitar, additional percussion, and drums. I was hearing a more intense Eurythmics at first, but it was more of a bombastic rock sound with powerful throbbing synthesizer and danceable beats. They had loads of energy and a hint at charisma. Still, it seemed like more high spots than deep structure to me, but I think that may be a function of age. This is great music for young energetic people looking to move and they went over pretty well with the crowd tonight in the backstage room. It is early for them with only one EP out at present, so this band may have a chance to focus their noise and make a name for themselves.
Sick of Sarah - This slightly more veteran Minneapolis band has a fine fan base here tonight. They have a Runaways look to their lineup, but their music is more interesting in more of an Alley Cats vein. They could have worked well on the Dangerhouse label with their hook oriented, driving punk sound that has enough pop to it to attract a wide range of rock fans. I liked the way they had a churning quality deep in their song, just grinding out the songs with enough subtle twists to keep me attentive. I did not care for some of the sound quality as it was a bit murky at times, although the sound man sharpened it up as the set went on. The vocals had too much reverb, which did not seem at all necessary and ended up getting lost in some songs, or even echoing off the beat in odd ways. But the energy was good and the music interesting and was worth a listen. I would like to hear more of their recordings and would give it another shot live as well.

Rimshot Quote of the Day: “I called an insurance company to get a quote. They gave me one of Oscar Wilde’s best. -- Jarod Kintz.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Here's some shows upcoming, a majority of which I will attend. Come join me or find some other cool shows. 'tis the season as touring is easier.

Howlin' Rain washes over the Black Cat on Thursday, April 16th. I FINALLY get to see this offshoot of Comets on Fire after missing them the last three times in town. Looking forward to this one.

Jann Klose is a great folkster who can really nail it on stage. Head over to Electric Maid in Takoma Park on Friday, April 17th to see for yourself.

Tal National plays the Tropicalia on Friday the 17th if you want to stick to U Street and not go to Takoma Park.

Moon King expands their reign at the DC9 on Sunday, April 19th.

Elvis Perkins... no, not Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins, comes to the Historic 6th+I Synagogue on Tuesday, April 21st.

Marian McLaughlin has long been a favorite local folkie whose songs hearken back to the strong European psyche-folk scene of old. She has expanded her sound and is finally getting just the start of the recognition she deserves. See if you agree with me at the Strathmore Mansion, on Wednesday April 22nd.

While I am off seeing Grand Funk Railroad (Don't trust anyone who likes this band over the age 50), you can see Marrow on Thursday April 23rd at the Black Cat.

Tei Shi hits the stage of the DC9 on Saturday, April 25th.

Laura Tsaggaris brings her assertive folk sound to the 6th+I Synagogue on Sunday, April 26th opening for Lowland Hum (oh she is at Jammin Java earlier on the 23rd if you would rather do that).

Local powerhouse Mittenfields celebrate their album release at the Black Cat on Thursday April 30th with some excellent support as well.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Diamond Rugs - New Madrid - Justin Collins -- Black Cat - Apr 10 2015

Justin Collins - I had a play to see so I rushed over and caught all of one minute of this trio. And that's ok, as I am thinking much more of the Dark Shadows character Justin Collins who died a few weeks ago as I'm nearing the end of a 1,245 episode viewing of this bizarre television experience. Fortunately I ran into someone who's opinion is at least as good as my own who told me the set was decent enough and described them as one of those 'tweener' bands that tend a bit toward Americana, a bit toward indie rock, and added some decent boogie moves at times. And that makes sense from a hip Nashville guy.

New Madrid - These Georgians were just here in February and it is good to see them gigging again on this tour as they are young and still can gain some valuable experience with lots of shows. The sound has not changed much from their intriguing mix of psychedelia, indie rock, and shoegaze played with different layers of intensity. I wrote about it here, and all this applies as they went over pretty well tonight as well. The sound was muddier tonight and the band was a little more loose, which was ok at times, not at others. I like these guys and they have found some tricks in freshening up psychedelic music in this century. If they keep gigging and writing, it's gonna get really good, even though it is just fine already.
Diamond Rugs - This is a second tier supergroup (maybe first tier), I suppose--depends on your meaning for 'super'. They feature three guitars and rhythm section featuring current or former members of Deer Tick, Black Lips, Dead Confederate, Six Finger Satellite, and Los Lobos. Steve Berlin of Los Lobos had to fly off and do something for his main band, but with three guitars already, it did not hurt the sound tonight. For they were loud and proud, banging out strong rock songs with enough pop hooks so they sounded familiar even for the first time. They leaned toward the garage at times, while tightening up for a more modern rock style in other songs. They varied the lead vocals and harmonized plenty as well, as they had a fun sense of just pushing things forward and letting it hang out. This was a fine show, perfect for a Friday night. If you like the bands these guys come from (and many do), you will have no problem with this set as they are not going off on a crazy tangent.

Quote of the Night: This is an overheard elevator conversation from my friend in Chicago...

“I’m thinking of hiring a psychic, but the people at the hospital don’t think that’s such a good idea…”

Friday, April 10, 2015

Lady Lamb - Rathborne -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Apr 9 2015

Rathborne - From the artist's twitter account... "Washington DC. You are the Capitol of my heart. Thank you Rock'n'Roll Hotel and Lady Lamb for haulin us around"

As for my comments on the set? I'm still riding around a several block police barricade trying to find my way into an area I can park and maybe get to the club.
Lady Lamb - From the artist's twitter account... "Thank you for singing with me at Rock'n'Roll Hotel, Washington DC"

As for me, I'm at home seeing that there are several blocks still on shut down looking for the gunman/kidnapper (and still one closed block this morning). I am glad that the show happened and there were people who somehow got there and were safe.

This is the second time a gun wielding nut prevented me from getting to a show. But it's not my complaint, as I am alive to tell the tale, unlike two people who were facing the gunmen.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Jose Gonzalez - Olof Arnalds -- 9:30 Club - Apr 7 2015

Olof Arnalds - Add the name Olof Arnalds to the ever lengthening list of Icelandic talent to find their way to the rest of the world. It is just her voice and acoustic guitar tonight, although she is an accomplished violinist as well. The guitar playing is quite good and she creates fine textures through a few different techniques. But the real star is the voice. She reminds me a lot of Jenny Sorrenti with the ability to chill and warm, nearly at the same time. It is both comforting and powerful and the songs resonate deeply. It is tough with a sold out crowd to bring just an acoustic guitar to the club, but Olof Arnalds succeeded and made a few new fans tonight, myself included.

Jose Gonzalez - Here is someone I have been following since his early solo albums, where it was fascinating to see somene from the hardcore punk scene create such fascinating and delicate folk music. He has put on several fine shows in DC as a solo artist and lately with his folky band Junip. I was not sure what we would get tonight, but was happy to see a full band comprised of a drummer, percussionist, keyboardist, and acoustic guitarist joining him. The keyboards were quite light and the percussion was smart and reserved through much of the set, leaving the two guitars to conjure up some melodic magic. There was also extensive use of three voices, which was a plus to cut through this large crowd. Although this crowd was quite attentive as they were fully into this music. And with a band that could up the tempo and acoustic guitar volume so carefully, it made for edge of the chair fascination. I can not quite say excitement, because his songs are like fragile artworks that you want to handle with care (and wonder). I think of him up there somwhere in between Jackson Frank and Nick Drake in style, and nearly in quality. It is always a pleasure to spend some time with the music of Jose Gonzalez.

The new issue of FolkWorld is online and features some reprints of folk shows I have reviewed in the area along with lots of other news from folk scenes around the world. The CD reviews are not quite up at this hour, but will be shortly.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Liturgy - Sannhet - Horse Lords -- DC9 - Apr 2 2015

Horse Lords - This powerful package tour begins tonight at the DC9 and we start with a set from a Baltimore quartet who are new to me. 28 minutes later, the strong impression they stamped on me and the rest of the sizable crowd will be embedded in my memory for some time. They are fully instrumental with bass and a guitar capable of many interesting tones (I kept looking for a keyboardist hiding in the shadows). They also began with two drummers and aside from my brain yelling 'less cowbell'!, these guys integrated well and kept things really tight. There is a mix of intricacy and churning riffs, so they fit comfortably between the droners and the Frippians. And when the one drummer rolled a saxophone, a whole new sonic blast was found. Fine music from a band who hopefully will return here soon after they get some rest from this tour.

Sannhet - This trio from Brooklyn comes on with a dark stage, backdrop film, quiet music, building tension... then -bam- a thick hard hitting riff band emerges who start with a thunderous rock approach until they add the swirling psychedelic guitar sounds that create the many subtextures that make this music easy to grab on to, but tough to hold. It is all quite good, not the be all end all of this style, but a fine approach with guys that control their sound well and have plenty of energy to sustain it throughout the set. They are fully instrumental, so the vocals of our headliner are going to be positively Sinatra-esque.

photo Ebru Yildiz

Liturgy - This is my third time for me and it is quite exciting as I was not sure it would happen again when the last time around was the last tour for one of the best drummers on the planet who was going off to do electronica. Well, thankfully he is back with the bassist and two guitarists in front and they have a new and intriguing album to display tonight. The sound is somewhere between the Swans and death metal. It is not for everybody, but if you like things heavy, Liturgy offers a very compelling approach. The drummer breaks a lot of rules in his magical creations the same way Keith Moon did--it works, but it is not clear how and not too many drummers can recreate what happens here. The axemen are linked together in one powerful roar that conjures up familiar and unfamiliar melodies bouncing off of each other in the songs. The vocals, well they are far from Sinatra, in fact they seem oddly atonal and detached, but yet they somehow fit into the logic of this band as well. If they are headed to your town, see what sense you can make of this. It is far more a challenge to put into words, then it is to just sit back and absorb these fascinating waves of intensity.

Quote of the Night: from a conversation nearby...
"...Vasco da Gama?"
" Errr, well anyway..."