Friday, July 31, 2015


Cayucas cruises into the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Monday, August 3rd. Be there, I will.

Flesh World brings the heat to the Black Cat on Tuesday, August 4th.

Ezra Furman continues the alphabetic sequence at the DC9 on Thursday, the 6th (with J.Fernandez.

The Thurston Moore Band arrives on our shores Friday, August 7th and will play a killer show at the Black Cat, my educated guess at least.

Lvl Up blasts the rafters at the 9:30 Club on Thursday the 13th.

LVL UP - "DBTS" [Official Music Video] from House of Nod on Vimeo.

And the Folklords bring a timely sound to the Union Arts Center on Saturday, August 15th. Get out of the heat and into the clubs.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Django Django - Beat Connection -- 9:30 Club - Jul 29 2015

Beat Conection - This four piece comes from Seattle, sounding nothing like Seattle, at least in most people's minds. Instead there is a combination of subtle style shifts within a bright and rhythmic modern pop approach. Everything sounds a little bit too synthesized for my tastes sort of like a good live band's overly slick studio approach. Except this time, it is the live sound that seems a bit off for me. They are very loud, overly so for songs that have some warmth at their heart, thus enforcing the colder techno sounds. They had a warm enough reception, so a younger audience probably enjoys this sound more than I do. There were a few songs that could be quite good with a better arrangement. But we will see where they go from here.
Django Django - There is a similar instrumental look onstage with keyboards, guitar, bass, and drums, but the sound is so much better with this UK band. They have a harder rocking popsike sound early on, but shift into various sonic landscapes with guest saxophones, acoustic and percussion duos and differing degrees of intensity. What is really outstanding is their vocal work, powerful, harmonized, and quite creative at times. When they cranked it up, they reminded me of a hybrid of the Zombies and Ride, driving hooks home. They had great energy and personality along with projections low stage back lighting, which made for a great live show. Their album is also excellent, so this is a band I intend to follow and I am sure most of the crowd is with me there.

Quote of the Night (well, from the band's Wikipedia page): "Our name has nothing to do with Django Reinhardt". Good, although if they had a side project, it seems Reinhardt Reinhardt would be the perfect name (ala Kinski's side project being called Herzog).

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Color Palette - Drop Electric - Honest Haloway - Boon -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jul 25 2015

Boon - This local quartet starts out with an exciting song that sounds like the band Chrome is trying to tackle shoegaze. There is surprisingly heavy riffing going on to a big beat with the spacey sonics carrying the melody. It came down into expected territory after that, but still pretty good when the song clicked. Basically it was more of a dreamy shoegaze set that was bit overly loud to where the sound did not come together as it should. Loudness is tricky and quite distracting when sounds are not balanced properly. Still, a decent set from a band worth a listen to (and hopefully will write more intriguing crossover songs).

Honest Haloway - Just three people making a similar din on stage for this set. Lots of keyboards with a bass or guitar working on top of the drums. They begin with a tough British pop rock style reminding me of Echo and the Bunnymen, again with a touch of shoegaze. The brisk pace moves it ahead of shoegaze to my ears. Again, the set tapered off into more predictable realms and a broken guitar string and a few lesser sound issues slowed the momentum some. Yet there is plenty of promise with this band and I would be happy seeing them on a bill again as their bright approach works well with their better songs.

Drop Electric - For a long time now, Drop Electric has been a powerful presence on the DC scene. Little has changed as they tear through another powerful set tonight. It was a little long in coming as the set up seemed extraordinarily long. But it was worth the wait as the band was on form with its heavy sound that seems like a happier Bardo Pond. There are seven members on stage and at times the vocals get a bit lost in the mix, but as the set wears on, the sound and songs sharpen up and create a well defined mood. They even ratchet it up on their closer in what sounds surprisingly close to an instrument progressive death metal song. So all is right in their world, join in when you get a chance.
Color Palette - I was looking forward to this set from 'newcomers' Color Palette as I really enjoyed the main man Jay Neymeyer's previous band, Silver Liners. It did not take long to where I saw every bit of the warm and rich sounds in the previous band, yet with a stronger tougher approach here. And that makes me quite happy, as I was not sure the band would be able to really bring it with such urgency early in their existence. But bring it they did, as the deep intensity roared underneath the sprightlier sounds on top. And with warm vocals and catchy indie rock styled melodies, there was little way to avoid catching on to this excellent sound. The band seemed to push each other forward with each and every fine song in their set, whether they were working some popsike moves or headed out to full hard psychedelic rock jams. They are starting out with a full palette and they clearly know how to mix their colors well. I certainly look forward to their forthcoming album, but in the mean time, head out for their live shows as you may as well get in at the beginning here, as they have hit the ground running.

Cartoon of the Night:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Emily King - Redline Graffiti - Shadowboxers -- U Street Music Hall - Jul 22 2015

Shadowboxers - Guitars and keyboards on top of the drums lay out a soulful pop, light R&B sort of sound here. The most interesting sound to me is the three-part harmony that sounds almost as if CSN had taken a stab at dance music. There are some tempo shifts from more obvious dance beats to a more introspective souful approach. This would not normally interest me a lot, but there sense of calm and deep feeling worked a bit of magic on me, getting the stress levels down after a hectic run of emails on my record sale. The crowd was also enjoying the set, particularly when they covered D'Angelo's "Untitled (How Does it Feel)", which of course I was the only one in the crowd who couldn't name that tune. The sing along even was quite successful, so this Atlanta band's set pretty much worked for everyone in this large crowd.

Redline Graffiti - I saw this local quartet a couple times three years back and enjoyed their sound well enough. They seemed even more interesting tonight, although their almost experimental approach was trickier for the crowd to grasp. They had a great sense of quiet as they carefully built and let down the sounds in their songs. There was a bit of a jazz approach to their R&B moves and I found their music to be an enjoyable challenge tonight. Their set was a bit too short as this was the first of two (different) shows tonight, but I hope to catch a fuller set some time from this interesting band.
Emily King - This is the second show in a row that I felt was perfectly booked with two opening bands each doing something slightly different and a headliner that takes elements of both of those sounds and builds it up to something special. This approach makes for a complete evening of interesting music. But even if you only heard Emily King tonight, you would probably enjoy it just as well as she was on top of her game. The crowd loved the energy as King and her band cooked up her unique and fresh R&B sound. I was a bit worried at first as they were taking a long time starting with two soundmen running back and forth between the back booth and the set up in front of that. After switching people off, the first song was really rough, but the new guy on the Board got it together so the vocal work from King, a female backup singer and a male guitarist was balanced perfectly with the moderately strong instrumentation. The vibe continued as this was an uplifting finish to a strong night of music. There were a lot of happy faces tonight.

Cartoon of the Night -

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Neon Trees - Coin - Fictionist -- 9:30 Club - Jul 20 2015

Fictionist - Our openers from tonight also hail from Provo, Utah, the birthplace of our headliners. The first notes sound like 'My Sharona' crossed with 'Whip It' but lighter, which was not a particularly interesting combination to my ears. But the next song toughened up the sound considerably. From then on the twin guitar power and driving rhythm section kept me engaged. There were plenty of dance and pop moves within the sound, but it rocked hard and loud, so it worked for both myself and the young sold-out crowd.

Coin - And from Nashville comes this quartet who doesn't sound remotely like Nashville (By now I've learned that this is a big city and plenty of bands of all styles). Coin is a good fit for this show. They are not as heavy as the openers, but with the softer vocals, warm hooks, and dance beats, they captivate the crowd pretty quickly. They had pretty good drive as the set went on. It was all decent enough aside from the singer's desire for 'cheap pops'. That is a wrestling term for getting the crowd on your side through hackneyed cliches. In this case, it was gratuitous use of yelling out 'DC' in various forms. I counted 12 times and if I am counting, I am distracted from what the band is there to do. Still a decent enough set from the youngest band tonight, who will get a chance to play to their new fans at the U Street Music Hall this autumn.
Neon Trees - This Utah foursome is fleshed out by extra guitars and keyboards which make for a serious wall of sound. This was a well constructed billing as this band combined the power of the first band with the extra catchy hooks of the second and put it all together for a strong package delivered to a very happy crowd. There is the feeling of a 'boy band' type crowd although it is old enough where I am at in the balcony. Normally, this is not my thing, but I am glad I came tonight as these bands show some serious rock moves and seem like a great antidote for the manufactured pop bands designed for kids. You can grow up to the Neon Trees and hopefully a lot more, as they will give you the hooks you crave, but show off enough of what better rock music is all about. I would almost call them a gateway band, but they have been doing this long enough that they have a strong presence overlapping a few genres in the rock world. So they have carved out a chunk of territory for them themselves and they showed it off tonight with much aplomb.

Quote of the Night - and this is just one more nail for my retirement coffin... As I was sitting and reading my book in between bands up in the balcony, I guy walked by and asked "So, are you a chauffeur tonight as well?"

Monday, July 20, 2015

Dinosaur Jr. - History Repeated -- Black Cat - Jul 19 2015

History Repeated - It is great to see this fine local outfit gigging around town so much this year. They have long been a strong live act and they continue to show it at billings where they are an important part of. They started off on fire tonight with a thick throaty sound that delivered their usual brand of unique post punk rock. There is plenty of personality in this band from the vocals to the music and their sound really made the most of that tonight. It was a sold-out crowd tonight and they were engaged in this set, which was a perfect lead in to tonight's headliners.
Dinosaur Jr. - It has been a few tours since I last caught with this powerful Boston trio. I have long enjoyed the band, although since their reunion a decade ago, it's been even better as it is the original trio who are grown up and getting along and still making great music. Although there is still plenty of 'You're Living All Over Me' all over this set along with a panoply of cuts from many different albums. All the signatures the fans have come to expect here. The massive sound from three stacks of amps from the J. Mascis guitar, that delivers the volume but does not mask the quality of the playing. Lou Barlow's bass is part rhythm guitar in addition to the thick bottom that matches the volume. Murph's drumming is spot on as always and it is easy to get lost in this music and let the melodies and muscular warmth of the mood wrap you up. Mascis has got to be the only guitarist rated as one of the best 100 ever to honestly admit he has more fun playing drums than guitar, but it is always hard to tell how he determines 'fun' anyways. But although his patter is to Robyn Hitchcock what my writing is to Shakespeare, he is almost chatty tonight with Lou Barlow a bit quieter, but nice as ever. These guys have other projects at work, too, but it is great to see them keeping the Dinosaur alive and healthy for as long as they see fit.

Quote of the Night: John Stabb... "This is Derrick on guitar--he wanted to play really loud tonight so he brought his orange (Marshall) stack".  Wise move--far better than carrying on a little hand-held Vox or Fender amp in front of that massive Mascis backline.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Happyness - Michael Rault -- Tropicalia - Jul 17 2015

Michael Rault - From Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (via Toronto) comes this fine guitarist/singer songwriter complete with band. They performed an excellent cosine set, or rather a strong opening and closing with a lesser but still decent middle. They could really let it rip in both a classic rock style, a catchy garage hook oriented approach, and even a touch of post punk. The constant was a warm vocal approach that reminded me of the pop approach of the Nils. This was helpful as the instrumental moves shifted in so many interesting directions. I think a good tour like this will sharpen up the band and as they add to their arsenal of core songs, they could be a very sharp act in time. For now, it's a lot of fun and the crowd definitely dug it. And the ferocious closing number has me eager to see what they come up with next time around.
Happyness - Ostensibly the headliners tonight although going on second of the three bands as they are sharing equipment with the opener, this British trio hits the stage. From very early on until set's end, they had that certain ability to create a sound that seemed familiar but just was not quite something you could pinpoint. And to a seasoned listener, this is a compliment as it is not easy finding new sounds. At least in this case, there are many familiar songs combined in an interesting and engaging manner. The rhythm is rolling throughout with relaxed on point drumming at the core. The bass is quite steady and the lead vocals come from the bassist although both he and the guitarist harmonize a lot in a catchy power pop manner. The guitar churns out hooks, although he can wildly solo one moment and move into deep distorted territory the next. This was one of those sets you try to pick apart for a bit, then you just move on and enjoy it awaiting the subtle surprises that await. Fascinating band.

Apologies to Heavy Breathing, but I was too spent to catch their set.

Quote of the Night: The Happyness bassist after explaining they arrived on our shores after a long trip in their yacht across the Atantic fielded this question...
"Where's the yacht?"
"We sold it for $500 of Taco Bell vouchers... so if you are hungry, see us after the show."

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


When the two cups pass the five wands, the Universe opens up to reveal the following upcoming shows:

Alpha Rev revs up the Jammin Java tomorrow, Thursday the 16th.

Happyness and Michael Rault bring all of that to the Tropicalia on Friday the 17th.

Ike Reilly heads NE to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Saturday, July 18th.

Neon Trees light up the summer sky at the 9:30 Club on Monday, July 20th.

Join me in welcoming Steeleye Span back to the Birchmere on Tuesday, July 21st.

Emily King at U Street Music Hall? Lilly Hiatt at Gypsy Sallys? Dustbowl Revival at the Hamilton? Oh what to do on Wednesday, July 22nd.

Skylar Spence rows on into the DC9 on Thursday July 23rd, with a prize going to anyone who gets my reference.

Memory Tapes fast forward to the DC9 on Sunday, July 26th.

Django Django and Beat Connection make for a formidable coupling at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, July 29th.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mourn - Den-Mate -- DC9 - Jul 13 2015

Den-Mate - This local quintet has a couple guitars, a rhythm section and a female vocalist. At their best I am taken back to the Banshees in the early McGeoch days, although it is filtered through a parallel time portal as this band has a bit of their own personality to add. Yet at their worst, a few songs sound like Gray Matter or Rites of Spring outtakes, not terribly bad, just less gripping. Ultimately there is enough creativity on the pacier rockier numbers especially, that this band is well worth a listen. They definitely energized a healthy Monday night crowd, no easy task, especially for a surprisingly late start.
Mourn - The youth movement continues on stage and in the crowd as these Barcelona youngsters continue to make their name on this continent. They have a great fusion of a near krautrock rhythm with a post punk guitar style from the two guitarists who also share vocal duties. I've got Banshees on the brain as the guitars resemble that punk invents post punk sound, although the vocals take on an interesting harmonic approach. The music seems simple and catchy, but they have some intriguing shifts and solos that foreshadow some great things ahead. But it is quite good already as this is a fine set that is over with this crowd. When I see a band with x's on their hand that are this accomplished, I get quite optimistic for my continuing quest to find great bands out in the world, even if I feel a bit out of place in the room. But I am happy to have been a part of this tonight.

Plug of the Night: The latest issue of Folkworld is up with German and US editions featuring many reprints of DC live shows as well as my latest album reviews that are NOT reprinted here. So to find out if the latest Richard Thompson album is any good (not so much a spoiler alert--it is), head on over.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Stiff Little Fingers - Government Issue -- Black Cat - Jul 11 2015

Government Issue - Seems like I normally catch a Christmas reunion show for this legendary harDCore outfit. But it is Christmas in July due to the fabulous headliner that these guys are paired with. This is a very different looking band as there never is quite the same combination of former players like Tom Lyle, Brian Baker, J. Robbins and more. This time it is a different rhythm section with original guitarist John Barry backing John Stabb's antics and vocals. Barry only played on their very first and very raw EP, but he handles the latter day GI songs quite well. Stabb is a lot of fun as usual and the band bangs out 'the hits' with plenty of energy. Sonically, it was not quite there for some reason. I noticed the drumming was erratic in the mix and some times too loud with an overall mudiness in there. I missed the clarity of other shows, but hey it's punk rock and it was a decent enough opening set to get ready for the return of...

Stiff Little Fingers - I always try to catch this legendary Northern Ireland band whenever they are through, although I missed the previous Baltimore show a couple years back. So I am more than ready for the return of Jake, Aly, and the 'new kids' Ian and Steve who have now been in the band far longer than previous drummers or guitarists. This is one tight unit with an amazing array of classic anthemic punk rock songs that tell personal stories as opposed to the more general variety of punk shout alongs. It think it is that personal connection along with talented and white hot musicianship that makes their music so brilliant. They were firing on all cylinders tonight. The guitars were perfectly integrated with the heavy beats and the incredible energy and presence that Ali McMordie gives the band. He has a menacing look, but moves about like he is having a blast, which just about everyone in the crowd is having as well. Jake shook off the early moment of stupidity (see below) and still has powerful pipes for the songs and plenty of stories on how some of these songs came about--he loves to talk about songs and his book has much to do about that as well. And the songs really form an integral connection with every fan of this band, whether they are the classics from the early albums or the fine songs that they still come up with today. Tonight it is as good as it gets for Stiff Little Fingers music and for someone like me who is reminded of the brilliance of the music that turned me on over 35 years ago and still can move me today.

Quote of the Night - from Jake Burns DURING the opening song with the band keeping it together. "Don't throw any shit at the fuckin' stage!"

This was a cup of liquid which sprayed across his face as he stepped to the microphone. He had to back away while the band churned out the rhythms until he could gather himself. Ya see, kiddies, some of the punk rock (and regular rock for that matter) shit really was never liked by most bands, even then and certainly not now. Although I am reminded that the utterly misguided 'gobbing' fad thankfully passed out of existence as nobody liked that.

Things settled quickly and this did not darken a great night with a good energetic group in front of the stage with no silly pits forming.

Friday, July 10, 2015

A thought that has been nagging me...

As I was watching Mudhoney the other night, I kept thinking how when Nirvana was looking for a drummer as they made their move to DGC, they used the Melvins’ Dale Crover and Mudhoney’s Dan Peters on a couple of recordings. Crover did not want to leave the Melvins, while Peters was willing to commit to full-time Nirvana work. It appeared this brilliant drummer was going to be the guy until for some reason Curt went with another brilliant drummer, Dave Grohl.

As Dan Peters made his signature muscular and creative moves for Mudhoney, I kept thinking that if Nirvana had just stayed with the ‘bird in the hand’ who by all accounts is a decent guy and a fine musical anchor, then we would not have had the July 4th RFK stadium with our local star coming out on his self designed guitar throne (thankfully when he designed it, he apparently knew how to put ‘ instead of “ for the measurements on the napkin).

And while Dave Grohl is a perfectly good guy, aside from his band’s photo policy apparently, there is one thing that has long bothered me as it was passed around on Facebook with the support and plaudits that are not really deserved the more I thought about it. While I agree with Dave Grohl in having little use for American Idol and only watched one season just to make I sure I knew what I was avoiding; I think that Grohl makes a rather ridiculous point here. Allow me to list his quote below with my comments in red.

“When I think about kids watching a TV show like American Idol or The Voice, then they think, ‘Oh, OK, that’s how you become a musician, you stand in line for eight fucking hours with 800 people at a convention center and… then you sing your heart out for someone and then they tell you it’s not fuckin’ good enough.’ Can you imagine?” he implores.  Yes, it is called critiquing a performance, something that has gone on since the beginning of performance and kind of like you are doing with a TV show here. “It’s destroying the next generation of musicians! Exactly how? There is no evidence of this. There has been this style of performance in a competitive form for many years throughout the world. Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy and old fucking drum set and get in their garage and just suck. I’m ok with this and encourage it as well. Additionally, based on the club scene, I see no evidence that this is going away any time soon. And get their friends to come in and they’ll suck, too. And then they’ll fucking start playing and they’ll have the best time they’ve ever had in their lives and then all of a sudden they’ll become Nirvana. Oh, so that is how it works. Just like that! Just as there are thousands of people in line who dream of becoming Carrie Underwood, every garage band goes on to become Nirvana. Because that’s exactly what happened with Nirvana. Just a bunch of guys that had some shitty old instruments and they got together and started playing some noisy-ass shit, and they became the biggest band in the world. Of course that did happen while you were on another coast, until you headed west with Scream and got the Nirvana gig because you were talented (after sucking in your garage band) and connected with the right people at the right time. That can happen again! Of course it can, do you really think American Idol has prevented this? You don’t need a fucking computer or the internet or The Voice or American Idol.” - Dave Grohl Nor do you ‘need’ Dave Grohl’s dimestore advice on how to become rich, famous, critically acclaimed or however else you want to describe Nirvana.

Yeah, I know his point is just to play an instrument and have fun and see what happens. That is done all the time and should have been the extent of his advice. Why should he rip on all the positive experiences and fun times other people have expressing themselves in another manner that he does not like. When I go to see someone in the clubs, I see bands that have come straight from their garage one night, someone from Berklee the next night, and someone who won a battle of the bands contest at some point in their life on the following night. All of these bands have been featured on this blog and music fans of all ages have seen all this and much much more.  DC bands and the musical world does not need DC ROCK LIVE. But if you want to write for me, or start your own blog, or go to journalism school and work for a big time publication, or win some creative writing contest, then go for it. There will be more gained through this diversity than with one formula.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Mudhoney - Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds -- Black Cat - Jul 7 2015

Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds - I last saw the Kid and his band in 2008 when he opened for one of his three (true) Hall of Fame bands he played in, the Bad Seeds. His other gigantic bands were the Cramps and the Gun Club, with the latter featuring more in the sound tonight. I immediately felt that this band was a much more garage rocking outfit than the previous set, which was solid but more laid back. Sure enough, as this set went on, it featured Powers' fun songs with his great warm personality, but with a raucous band underneath it all. They finished off with a killer version of 'Sex Beat', which was the third time I have seen a band play this in the last two years (of course this was the first featuring someone who was in the Gun Club). After that, the band ripped through a brilliant instrumental garage rocker to conclude their amazing 45 minute set. With songs about Susan Tyrell and 'Killer Diller', there is a great sense of humor at work, even as the guitars are blazing. This is timeless garage rock music and I wish this band (filled tonight with great DC artists Mark Cisneros and James Canty) would play just a wee bit more around here. The burgeoning crowd got their money's worth from this set alone.
Mudhoney - This is the fifth different venue in the third different city where I have seen Mudhoney live and in person, which coincidentally are the same numbers I can connect to Blue Oyster Cult. Maybe not so coincidentally as both bands have been my absolute favorites at different stages of my life. And whether you are a seasoned Mudhoney fan or an uninitiated observer, you should have walked away tonight feeling sufficiently blown away to be a fan for life. These guys still deliver a monster sound that culls from all of the great rock and roll and punk rock scenes and shapes it into a beast that many have tried to copy, but few can get just right. Tonight's sound was especially fierce with more power and volume than any of the previous shows. Some of the nuance of the guitar interplay was buried, but all the components were clear enough when they needed to be as each member is such an integral part to the band. I also like how they manage to play a lot of the familiar classics, but vary enough of the set between tours that there are always some surprises. Embarrassingly enough, I needed to see the setlist before I recognized the Angry Samoans cover song that seemed so familiar to me. The good news is that it is not too late--you can still see the band that made the 1990s tolerable and still has plenty to offer in the way of new albums and smoking live sets. The roar of the large crowd tonight will certainly affirm that.

Quote of the Night: from a fan earlier... "I'll be right there, I gotta get my dollar's worth."

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Swirlies - Big Hush -- Black Cat - Jul 6 2015

Big Hush - This local twin guitar quartet tried to teeter on the brink of feedback early on, occasionally getting it wrong, but quickly finding that edge, giving their music a fascinating mix of safety and danger. They work well with melody in some sort of a post shoegaze world of intensity underneath a dreamy vocal line. In fact the vocals are quite good and at one time spectacular. They have three voices, one female, that take turns with leads and harmonize in different combinations. One song had some counter vocal lines at work, the type of which is nearly foreign in most songs I encounter these days. At worst, this is a decent band, but at their best they have some excellent songs that will stay with you. I hope to see them again later this year and see if they can resonate as strongly, then I will get a good read on their talent. For now, I'll keep them high in my charts with a bullet.
Swirlies - There is nearly a full room in the backstage of the Black Cat as this occasionally active Boston band now scattered about many cities in a couple of continents. The hardcore Swirlies fans should be excited that original member Seana Carmody is back on guitar and vocals along with Damon Tutunjian, original bassist Andy Bernick and two more recent veterans joining in on this 25th anniversary tour. It is easy to see why they have a devoted following, but do not quite hit the mainstream (much to the mainstream's loss). They have a deep 50-Foot Hose feeling in their mysterious songs, which they twist around with their proto-shoe gaze sound filled with dreampop vocal lines, a hard hitting rhythm, and a mix of jagged and (yes) swirling guitars. Frankly, every Sonic Youth fan should have jumped aboard with this band as the creativity and sonic interest is every bit as high. And with catchy songs fully evident tonight, the show is a big success. The crowd is stoked from beginning to end as every song helped build this splendid set, including Shawna's solo voice and guitar closer. Great band--I hope this isn't the last time I say that following a live show.

Photograb of the Night: Look carefully. This is a stellar makeup job from Natalie Sharp who has done other classic rock album covers and much more.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Exit Vehicles - Tone - Rom -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jul 3 2015

Rom -The first of three local bands, all of which I have seen before and all of which are well worth seeing again. Rom is a trio that subtly move from fine indie rock with power pop moves into a more full throated punk power pop offshoot. They did a great job of tracking their set to increase the intensity and power and get the audience more and more revved up with each song. They put a few new songs into the set including a cool instrumental that sounded like a lost Buzzcocks track sans vocal. The closer was particularly fiery without losing the melody and really grabbed the crowd by the throat. Fine, fine, and then some.

Tone - This quintet of instrumentalists showcasing three guitars atop a rhythm section is a far better testament to DC music than what is going on tonight at RFK. The band started off with their controlled intensity that will immediately take you into the worlds of Mogwai and Kinski. But they have their own style that is so commanding as their second cut showed brilliantly. Ferocious yet warm, the overall pounding was punctuated with subtle guitar moves that seemingly form from the etherworld. You simply can not go wrong with the unrelenting power and musical craft of Tone.

Exit Vehicles - Ah yes, the band with the singer and drummer book-ended by twins. Exit Vehicles casts a memorable look on stage and has the musical chops to back it up. Tone is a tough act to follow, but with a new album in hand, this band is ready to showcase it on the stage at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel. They are up for the task for as soon as the soundman gets it together by the second song, the band's playful yet strong alternative rock meets power pop moves comes full force. There often is a playful rhythm section with guitar moves that go from powerful crunching chords to more snappier runs. It is coming together nicely tonight with the clarity of the vocals cutting through the thicker sounds. This set rounded off a great night of local music. I was happy I celebrated the colors and the noise tonight rather than tomorrow where I will be sitting with my cat to ensure the excessive colors and noise does not bother him. Rock music is a never ending 365 days a year celebration.

Video of the night: Hieronymus Bosch's brilliant painting 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' has an amazing amount of detail within, including some musical notation on a torture victim's bum. An enterprising pianist recorded this hellish melody.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Without further adieu...

I saw this duo quite a few years ago in a club long since closed and repurposed. I found the band quite good at having some real bite with their electronic pop music. With these ten songs, it seems there is a softer approach then I recall. That is often the case going from live show to recordings, although not as much as it used to be. Although I miss some of the more intense moments, they still have an overall sound that is strong enough and plenty of hooks in their songs. This is all quite danceable but good enough to listen to on its own as well. Although I would prefer a bit more guitar like that in ‘Heartbeat’ which also has a creative drumbeat. Thankfully there are enough creative drums as well. I don’t know that there are considerable strong songs that you should start on as the whole album breezes by steadily enough. In the pop world, AM & Shawn Lee still have their great touch at work.

This seven-song psyche-fest starts off with a great little ambient opening before showing a more straight forward west coast psyche style, slightly westernized with the guitars and vocals, but with a good mix of hard rock and spacey moves worked in as well. It all works quite well with a a surprise around every corner all the way to the twisted cover of ‘The Rose’ to close it out. This trio should be a real hoot and a holler live, I would think. There is just that little extra push at all the key dramatic moments.


Although from Brisbane, Australia, Kat Cooper has also spent a bit of time in Canada and LA prior to concocting this universal pop album. It all sounds quite big, bright, and classic not rooting down to any particular place or time. There are songs that veer toward heavy pop-rock in the manner of Joy Formidable and other sharp pop songs that have great synthesizer parts such as ‘Ghosts’. The variety is helpful and even a bit more would be desirable. But each song is strong and of high quality so it is hard to find much fault with anything here.

Songs to start with first:

Heaviest of Weights - The opening cut has a strong Joy Formidable feel which works for me.

Forward - Smooth and steady in the deliver of this fine pop tune.

Novocaine - Another big, big song.

Popsike is getting quite popular. Thankfully, Django Django is not jumping on a bandwagon but carving their own space somewhat in between the heavier psyche bands like Black Angels and the poppier ones like Temples. The vocal harmonies and overall tone is outstanding here, while the musical backing is modern, but fully reminiscent of classic psychedelic pop bands of the 1960s. This is a very warm and embracing sound that shows great ability and understanding of this music. Small wonder this band is making a big name for itself. These harmonies will be staying with me long after this record stops.

 Join me to see Django Django and the Beat Connection live and in person at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, July 29th.

Songs to start with first:

Giant - The opener is the longest cut, which had me thinking how rare that is, but it conveys the mood of the album quite well, so why not?

Shake and Tremble - There’s a bit of Secret Agent Man in here, so you know it’s catchy.

Reflections - Great rock moves in a pop setting that also balance old vibes and new sounds.

One of the sharper bands around DC in recent years has been Exit Vehicles, proven by this fine new album. They manage edgy guitars over smooth bass lines, punchy drums and vocals that somehow bridge the soft tones with the harsher sounds. No easy feat this, but these guys manage it quite well over most of these ten songs. They faded a little with the hooks at times, but always had precision and energy to keep things moving along. This is strong and accessible, so give it a listen and you will likely be back for more.

And you can see their excellent live show with the amazing Tone at the Rock’n’Roll Hotel this Friday night, July 3rd.

Songs to start with first:

Face Behind - A bit of post punk pop guitar with a great hook and fine vocal line.

Circular - Surprising twists in the songwriting turns a good song into something quite compelling by the time it concludes.

Millenial - Gutsy little finishing number to round out a fine album.


Well not quit everything is a mess as this Alberta band has a lot of things tight and to the point in their assertive punk music with those classic Canadian hooks. When this works, it works very well indeed. There are times where the vocals get a bit monotonous and the music is no better. But when they nail a hook and retain their power, they have a great sound. That happens often enough to make me happy I had a full listen (and then some).

Songs to start with first:

Bad Trip - Revved up pop to punk with fuzzy guitars and plenty of drive.

Shotgun - Has a classic punk hook here and some great sonics to make it their own.

Surf’s Up - Instrumental psycho surf punk is much fun, especially the way this sounds.

This Washington DC hip hop collective has put together a fine album here, strong in sound with lots of variety that I always look for in this genre. There is plenty of rap atop sharp rhythms, but with female backing vocals and occasional lead male vocals in a soul vein, there is a lot here. There are some strong rock moves here as well and the producer deserves kudos for putting all this together with great balance and clarity. And any genre with tasty guitar runs like on many of these songs will always succeed with me. This was a pleasure to listen to and makes me with I had been able to catch a live show previously—hopefully I will get my chance again. I don’t need to break out the individual songs, it’s all good.

This ranges from power pop delivered by a pop gun into more forms of inorganic combinations than I can possibly figure out. The first cut sounds like equal measures of sugary pop, punk, and hip hop all tossed together to see what happens. If you really want to test your creative limits, give this a listen, as there are familiar sounds put together in such ways you have not quite heard before. There is just too much here for me to digest and make sense out of. It’s like taking the Bonzo Dog Band and Skafish songs and running them through a meat grinder to sample the oozings. Full credit for going out there. You may want to pull back a bit to let some of us in, or just keep stretching the barriers until people catch up.

Songs to start with first:

Restless Year - Is the sound of hip hop, punk, and sugary pop music coming together in equal proportions?

Ordinary Life - ‘I’m sick of this record already’ is the first line, I can’t say that, although I have some puzzled looks here and there, but less here.

Can I Sleep in Your Brain - Cool garage pop tune, a little on the standard side for this album, which is ok by me.

If you don’t recognize these names, you may have heard of the two bands they were pivotal members of—Cocteau Twins and Ride, respectively. Unfortunately as is often in the case of these collaborations you end up comparing the new material to the older works of each band. And when it is not a reformation of either band, the expected new direction takes a while to get used to. This work is decent enough, but takes a much safer mainstream route than what I would have hoped for. There are some lush interiors of these songs and they are certainly attractive enough for fans of the lighter side of British pop music fused with ambient guitar wash.

Songs to start with first:

Dice - Mainstream rock appeal with some of the lush textures subtly placed within.

Amnesia - Interesting acoustic guitar work within a structure that still pulls in the dreamy background you expect.

Sometime - A smooth operator of a song.

Normally anything I discuss with a name this Welsh is some classic psychedelic folk record born out of Meic Stevens and Pererin. But here we have a thoroughly modern pop album with electronics, ambiance, and scrumptious female vocals. It is a little better than most as it attracted enough attention for me to stay with, especially when the vocals clicked.

Songs to start with first:

Chwyldro - Somewhat dark backing with spritely beat and great inviting vocals.

Caon Peiriant - Spacey beginning leads into a catchy enough song with just enough mysterious distance.

Fratolish Hiang Perpeshki - Sounds like a Boiled in Lead title, but is much more of a throbbing dance cut with cool vocals.


Sparsely arranged folk is tricky music to tackle. It is easy enough to create, but challenging to make it creative, unique, and compelling. I am not sure the Henrys fully catch all the key points, but there are some strong and unique moments among these 14 songs. When they focus on vocals and guitar, the vocals are not interesting enough to pull me into their world. But when the rhythm section is doing some funky things and the guitar work jabs away creatively, things are much better.

Songs to start with first:

A Thousand Corners - A fine arrangement of strongly plucked acoustic guitar and light percussion, almost Pentangle like.

Was Is - A bit jazzier and rhythm section is front and center.

When the Far Shore Disappears - Strange moody song where the vocals work with the distant musical atmosphere.

This is an amalgamation of power pop, quirky indie rock, and even a bit of hip hop or R&B at times. The vocals have a strong personality to them—kind of warm, kind of challenging. Musically, it is a mixed bag as they don’t always lock into a comfort zone and get a bit too noodling at times. But there are germs of ideas that show creativity and can connect with a lot of modern rock fans.

Songs to start with first:

Young Adult Fiction - Fresh vibrant opener has the pace and energy to resonate.

N.E.S.W. - A bit of hip hop within this fine rocker.

Neighbor Girl - Their longest and most ambitious song succeeds with a touch of epic quality within the pop moves.

Stay with this album as it just may creep up on you. Karcic is from my old stomping ground of Ohio and is presently a member of Scrawl. His solo album is filled with snippets and short songs mostly that start off a little oddly until they ultimately head off into some fascinating pathways. It is a mixed bag for sure with some odd little fragments that would make Robert Pollard continue working. But for the most part, Karcic has a style that moves from modern rock to psychedelic in unique ways. I was not sure he could win me over when I started listening, but I am fully on board at album’s end.

Songs to start with first:

Pledge - The start was fair, but the finish added an air of mystery and expectation, which I don’t hear too often in songs.

Open Up the Window - Things star getting psychedelic.

Roundy Round - Things continue to get psychedelic in this surprisingly long song.

Blues rock will never die, it will just twist and morph and go with the flow of every gritty bar band that wants to get a little bit heavy. These guys take the toughness and song writing skills of a Steamhammer or Groundhogs and inject a bit of Skynyrd attitude and come up with the goods. Like those bands, the base is quite tried and true, but the execution and the thoughtful moves in the songs are what separates them from the average band. These guys can take their sound into more places than most and come out alive and with lots of followers watching their back.

Songs to start with first:

Tres Borrachos - The opening cut takes not prisoners and gets the ball rolling. Jump on or steer clear.

Elephant Stomp - Creative guitar sounds are normally not part of hard blues rock, but they work here.

All Damn Day - A bit of heavy metal funk? Why not.

Pure Pop Music for 21st Century Now People could be the working title of this album. I suppose we can debate the word pure as this is on the lush side of pop music, with delicate but focused instrumentation and quietly high flying vocals. The quality stands out far more than the originality, but that is a worthy goal for any 21st century band. Like most basic pop records, this one didn’t blow my mind, but it was nicely done and made for a happy listen.

Songs to start with first:

I See - Gentle undulating pop moves all over this opening song.

Rest and be Thankful - If this was spacier, this could be one of my favorites, the Folklords.

Dream Dream - Add a touch of jangle and some clever arrangements and you have a song that is a step up from the pack.

This one is somewhere in between wyrdfolk and a certain quirky singer songwriter style. The vocals may take some getting used to as they are Nick Drake quiet, but with odd dynamic twists and turns, singing a mix of strange and poetic set of lyrics. At times it is a bit too precious for me, but when he is not trying to hard, he can be quite effective. Little Wings, also known as Kyle Ward, gets bonus points for creativity in their execution, but it is still not quite enough for me to get too excited about, at least at this juncture. This could change.

Songs to start with first:

By Now - The opener has a great lilting style with delicate vocals singing more challenging lyrics. Mysterious mood.

Fat Chance - If you like this song, you will like this album.

Hollowed Log - No pedal steel and lovely vocal work.

I thought I made a vow to review less instrumental electronica music? Somehow this record slipped past my napping Quality Control Department and made it way into my Itunes. Poor poor me that has these sixteen songs. While they did not offer the hoped for surprise, they were perfectly decent soundtrack cuts that offered melodic backing music to whatever activity was at hand. There were some annoying throbbing moves here and there, but on the positive side there were some arty vocal touches that were a pleasant surprise. I would rather see an accompanying film with music like this, but there are a few nice things going on as it is.

This began as a mixture of west coast cowpoke rock and roll with stabs at a poppier indie rock. Usually I prefer the latter, but it is in this band’s character to go for that US desert blues rock fully westernized and laid back to the fullest. This band has enough skill to pull in even people like me for the ride, at least for a little while anyway. The guitars and keyboards had the right balance of crunch and playfulness respectively in the cuts that worked best for me. The vocals are what you would expect but pulled back even further into Americana. If this is your style, you should really listen to this band as their creative elements seem a cut above the many in this field.

 Come to Acre 121 on Friday, July 10th and see how this band cuts it on stage. My guess is that they will do just fine.

Songs to start with first:

Best I Can - If you liked the Flying Burrito Brothers, give this a listen.

Wasted Sex - Nasty sounding electric guitar and barrelhouse piano make for a great song.

Drink Your Health - Steady rocker with those laid back yet intense vocals aided with big harmonies and bigger guitars.

Sorry, but this band name has me singing their name in my Mike Heron voice from ‘Mercy I Cry City’. But back to this album; if you like polite pop music that is radio friendly, give this a listen. It may annoy some of you, while others will accept its warm embrace. I have heard too much of this to know where I fall, but these guys do this music well.

Songs to start with first:

Without You - Not the Nilsson cut, but it does take you back to that era.

Sandy - A fine pop song with saccharine vocals and plenty of drive.

Cool Water - One of their songs where an acoustic guitar takes the lead adding a spacey folk quality to their album.


This is not quite power pop, but an energetic pop music that takes a page or two from the late sixties when fuzz guitars were the rage. I love the guitar sound here as it seems so purely rooted in that style as opposed to having about nine pedals in play. When the vocals click and the song has a great hook, this is some of the most fun music around. It doesn’t always click, but there is always something that works in each song. This was a pleasure as one of those records that is a bit of a nostalgia trip, but sounds modern enough and makes you wonder why you don’t hear more of this.

Come see Michael Rault with Happyness at Tropicalia on Friday, July 17th.

Songs to start with first:

Hiding from a Heartbreak - Easy going pace with plenty of fuzz guitar.

Suckcess - Ultra catchy song with plenty of bite—easy to bounce around the room to.

Lost Something - The fine vocals make this the catchiest song on this album.

There are plenty of fine garage styled rock bands out there. But it is the bands with best pop hooks and/or creative twists that will sink deeper into the memory. The ‘and’ is in play with this Providence band as they have the hooks and great style adjustments along with some very clever songwriting moves. Yet you can sit back and not think about any of this and enjoy their sound and energy as they never lose sight of the simple joy of playing rock music. These guys have it down well and as long as they keep working up clever songs while retaining their spirit, they should do quite well.

Songs to start with first:

Bloody Opus - Something between the Saints and Dickies is a really good way to rock.

Hobbies - Cool song elevated further with a killer break past the half-way point.

Accidental - Sharp rocker that is super catchy.


This is fine lo-fi punk rock from one of the better places for all things rock, Detroit, Michigan. They are closest in sound to a Chicago band called the Mentally Ill with the bombastic rhythms, an abrasive buzz in the guitars (maybe a synth). Of course the manic vocals are out front with plenty of intensity and desperation. This is well done with just the right balance of creativity and ‘screw creativity, let’s rock’ attitude. It is not for everybody but if you are not sure if people still play decent punk rock music, give this one a listen and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Songs to start with first:

Fits You Fine - This takes me back to Detroit hardcore with more grungy punk infused.

Cleaner Love - Tub thumping drums drive this one home.

Sniper - Maybe the catchiest song for me.


I thought this album was going to be a fine little psychedelic throwback, but as the eleven songs came forth, there were many interesting twists and turns. This LA band is capable of sounding very classic-LA in both psychedelic and pop ways, but they weave in some east of the Atlantic moves as well and take things into different areas of pop music before rocking out a bit more at the end. It somehow all comes together and is a light little adventure, maybe sounding a bit more safe than it is, but they have such a relaxing effect. I am not sure of the staying power of this music, but it will be fascinating to listen to again.

Songs to start with first:

Time’s Still for No One Yet - Good garage pop opener with plenty of jangle and catchy vocals.

After Tonight - Swirling delicate pop move, not too retro, not too modern.

She Lives in my House - The 13th Floor Elevators’ sounding title yields a 13th Elevators’ sounding song and that is very good.

TURK TRESIZE “If it is to Be”

There is a lot of fine roots rock’n’roll here in these 15 songs. All the usual elements are here: gutsy rasps of vocals firing out, solid electric guitar thickness, rolling piano and thick organ sound, all atop the power of the rhythm section. The vocals are strong with fine female backing, with the lead sounding like a cross between Rob Tyner (MC5) and Bob Seger. This is definitely old school soulful rock music (you know that when they rhyme rock’n’roll with soul as in ‘Hail, Hail’). Don’t expect the unexpected and it may get a bit much at times, but if you want the real goods delivered with sweat and sincerity, give this album a listen.

Songs to start with first:

Just You - The second cut finds the groove and shows off the basic skills in the execution of this band.

101 - Fine songwriting covers a big range of emotions and sounds.

Too Much - Fine ballads still work on me and this one does, in part as there is more guts than usual.

The mysterious qualities in both the music and vocals give this delightfully accessible music a distinct edge that has this jaded listener surprisingly engaged. The overall feeling goes from old fashioned lounge music to modern poptronica. This was a nice surprise as normally I am a tough sell for music like this. But this duo’s command of old musical forms and sparkling playing and singing make for a great adventurous journey on this album.

Songs to start with first:

A Wheel Within a Wheel - Every vocal utterance is crystal clear as the music lurks along until you are fully enveloped.

Hold On - Shockingly loud beginning makes way for a snappy lounge pop ditty.

Liar Liar Quietly - A slow jazzy one, heck this is all good, don’t stop at three songs.

Here’s a lovely album that will take you back to the days of Joan Baez, Carole King, and Anne Briggs. The female vocals are perfectly attuned with the song and highly expressive in that understated manner. What really makes things even stronger is the similar understatement in the musical backing. This approach lifts the songs into a clear focus that commands attention. And the quality is such that this attention is held and rewarded throughout these eleven songs.

And you can see this all LIVE at the comfortable DC9 club on Friday, July 17th.

Songs to start with first:

Loyalty - The title cut is a fine example of the quality songwriting and seemingly easy going execution.

Shy Women - Fabulous mood created by the vocals and restrained playing, like a light Phox song.

Personal Eclipse - Just another excellent song.