Saturday, April 30, 2016


May I entice you with the following choices...

James Supercave spelunks their way in to the Black Cat on Sunday the 1st--that is tomorrow!

Vetiver moves to the Hamilton on Wednesday, May 4th. Or if you want a grittier club, try Hello Ocho at the Velvet Lounge.

Woods was brilliant at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel last time through. They are back on Thursday the 5th.

Cate LeBon makes DC a regular stop and does so again at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Saturday, the 7th.

Ought aught to be pretty great when they play the Black Cat on Tuesday, May 10th.

The Parquet Courts AND Titus Andronicus come to the 9:30 Club on Thursday, May 12th. What an awesome bill--too bad it is two shows that are separately ticketed (as early and late shows), but I still may do both.

Kick back with the Kickback when they hit the DC9 on Friday the 13th.

The Kills and LA Witch make a potent concoction at the 9:30 Club on Saturday, May 14th.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Suuns - John Congleton -- DC9 - Apr 27 2016

John Congleton - Not only does John Congleton have an incredibly long and varied list of musicians that he has produced and engineered for, but his own music conjures up an incredibly long list of obscure acts that he somehow fits in with. He is on vocals playing acoustic and electric guitars with one key ingredient, a fellow at synthesizer. The guitars are sharply pummeled with oddball chords or worked into twisted spooky arrangements. The synthesizer and electronic parts are carefully worked in at various volume levels with great care and superb touch. His vocals are intense and have me listening more closely than usual. So who I am hearing? Is it Billy Childish with Claudio Simonetti? Perhaps TV Smith with Brain Eno? Maybe this is Suicide playing different instruments? I think it is actually the sons of Cosmic Michael and Nicodemus here on Earth to take us to the next level of accessible outsider music. Whatever it is, it is unique, exciting, and has easily won over the smart little crowd tonight. I am happy.
Suuns - I have liked this band previously, but after tonight, I really like them a lot. It could have something to do with them, but it is almost certainly me, for while this band is immediately interesting, I think their music ages well after spending some extra time with it. They began tonight's tight set with an easy going spacey sound that builds into their thick sound of two guitars, keyboards and drums. Three guys sing with one guitarist taking the lead. I particularly like how they rarely 'come up for air' and just keep the music coming. It has a certain krautrock brand of psychedelia and just keeps coming at you. It is far from jamming however, as the songs are clear and distinct, as throbbing and as droning as they may be. As the set moves on, you hear some of the more song oriented psychedelic-meets-shoe gaze styled music from yesteryear, although they don't quite fit that camp either. They have some hardened fans here tonight, but the word needs to spread further. Suuns is offering up a solid dose of 21st century psychedelic music--more grounded than most, but with plenty of room for mind expansion.

Trivia Bonus Question - What album cover are Suuns recreating in the above photo? Answer forthcoming.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

We Banjo 3 - Charm City Junction -- The Hamilton - Apr 26 2016

Charm City Junction - This Baltimore quartet starts off the banjo night with said instrument along with standup bass, accordion, and one fellow switching between mandolin and violin. Of course, as you can guess from that instrumental array, we should call the last instrument a fiddle. These guys proclaim that they will show the connection between Ireland and bluegrass through way of Appalachia and they back that up with a nice varied set of tunes. There is also a balance between instrumentals and songs with vocals. The vocals are not terribly strong with the instrumentals faring better. They play well and do some playful runs that are easy to enjoy, but there is not a lot of power and drive at the core. All in all this is a likable opening 45 minutes, but I would like a bit more fire from a lineup like this.
We Banjo 3 - This Galway band wastes no time in reminding the cynics that yes, they know there are four of them and there is only one or two banjos at most. All the better, as the banjo, the mandolin, the acoustic guitar, and the violin all create a rich sound brilliantly shaped by these masterful musicians. They lock in, but still allow room for each instrument to breathe and resonate, even while they play their fastest passages. They have Irish music nailed down, but also explore American music as the opening band did and created a variety of moods within these forms. The vocals were strong and the band was so sharp, that they did not need to do much prompting to get the audience clapping or singing along. There was even a dance company that came out during some of the reels. I definitely need a fix of Irish music now and then and it is all the better when you catch a group doing it this well. And it is good to see that after playing for the President and various dignitaries in DC a month ago, that they returned to play for the rabble, or at least a crowded club. They fully deserve these wide audiences.

Facebook Grab of the Night: Keeping the Celtic theme, although from a different universe altogether:

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Into It Over It - The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die - The Sidekicks -- Black Cat - Apr 23 2016

by John Miller

The Sidekicks - It's low key tonight, despite the crowd. Everyone seems so polite. Even the conversation is kept to a minimum in between songs.  The Sidekicks start with a crunch reminiscent of Domestica era Cursive. Though the similarities end quickly; it's far less serious. It's bright, a la Promise Ring, Everything Hurts. Yet as the set continues there are small moments when Tim Kasher's influence returns. The way the two guitarists play off one another, this minor scale crunch, it's decidedly late 90s. Sidekicks are supporting their first album with new label Epitaph, Runners in the Nerve World. The newer pieces are far less concerned with casting a wide net. Specifically, the vocals have changed; before bouncing off one another, both guitarist harmonized, the vocals, now handled by Steve Ciolek are almost sung in falsetto. It's a change for sure. The songwriting is more complicated as well. There is a lot more going on with the guitar parts than the previous pieces. They end with a cover of People Who Died: seems appropriate considering the news.

The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die - Whoa, that beats the former band with the longest name title holder, And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead. The name encapsulates the band perfectly, there is an exceptional amount things going on tonight. I count no less than seven members. What's weird though is that are quite reminiscent of The Black Clouds but even with the seven members, I don't think they come close to the amount of noise at a Black Clouds show. This is almost a throw back to early 2000s; the quiet, scream aesthetic, the earnest vocals. It should be said though that the way one of the many guitarists (I think there are three but there could be more) plays pitch games that make the instrument sound like it is dying. But the actual song structure, at least musically feels more in tune with something that purposefully avoids vocals; like Pelican. Their songs are soft, spacey, melodic, though it always feels as if that could change at any moment. There this sense of dread that follows them; it's all about to go to shit. The way things build up and then suddenly become calm, soft picking leading to a deluge of power chords, sudden crashes followed by pads.  I can't help but come back to The Black Clouds; these two need to tour together, it would be the perfect marriage of doom and gloom.

Into It Over It - In between asides Evan Thomas Weiss sings his first song. It's a quiet acoustic piece. He sweeps along the strings as he jokes with the audience. The remainder of Into It Over it slowly files in behind him before letting us all know that this is going to be a good one. Singalongs quickly follow. Evan is supporting his newest effort Standards, which was released earlier last month on the 11th. The set reminded me a lot of the latter emo scene as well, the more radio friendly era; like a less angsty Thursday combined with a quieter Taking Back Sunday. It’s weird how these genres cycle around and as I get older it feels as if those cycles are shorter and shorter.  Into It Over It, reminds me a lot of Titus Andronicus, who I saw late last year, especially the vocal styling. There is an earnest quality that causes each piece to feel like it was written specifically for each individual fan. That quality, being so earnest, yet being relatable, is such a rare quality. It's really quite good.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Wylder - Justin Trawick - Annie Stokes -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Apr 22 2016

Annie Stokes - Actually it is the Annie Stokes band which is good since it is Friday night at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel where acoustic music usually turns into a chorale of conversation. As it is, it is still not enough volume to drown out the crowd. The electric guitar and rhythm section do add enough to push this folk rock forward and into a decent live sound. Annie Stokes leans toward blues at times, but then adds a touch of Country&Western in another cut, which adds to the variety while keeping her personal style intact. There is enough of an emotional core in the songs to make Annie Stokes and her band worth another visit for me.

Justin Trawick - Trawick plays in various combinations around town and tonight he has a standup bass, violin, and mandolin accompanying his vocals and acoustic guitar. It is a bit too acoustic to fully cut through the crowd noise, but the strong lead voice and full four-man chorus helps out quite a bit. These guys can play and the mandolin and violin solos show off some flashy technique. He brings up some guests at the end, but it is still a bit hard to focus fully on the music with the Friday night crowd.
Wylder - This local band formerly known as Save the Arcadian is celebrating their new album tonight (which will be reviewed here in a bout a week). They have a bold sound that pushes what others may call folk-rock into bigger pop rock areas. They are slick and professional and I like their sound tonight even more than I did on their album as everything was balanced nicely. They have a violin, which always adds a good dimension for a rock band as well as keyboards and the usual guitars, bass, and drums. It is still outrageously noisy in the back, so I move a bit closer, although there is a sizable crowd packed in tonight, which bodes well for this band. They appear to have the drive to back their big sound with a strong effort on stage, which mains they could well obtain some national prominence. Time will tell.

Photo Grab of the Night: This looks like an old typesetting error from the days when people typeset.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Sam Cohen -- Black Cat - Apr 20 2016

by John Miller

Sam Cohen - Part of my reasoning for seeing Sam Cohen this evening was that I wanted to see a peer that was successful in their given profession. Not just on an artistic level but a professional level. Sam has written for the likes of Norah Jones, Shakira, the Banana Splits, and countless others. He has played with Bob Weir and was the musical director for the Last Waltz as well. His professional credits are just as lengthy as his musical and it isn’t often that an artist can straddle that line and continue to work consistently for the better part of 15 years.

Sam’s voce is distinct in the way he emphasizes certain vowels. The way he draws out his vowels, the ‘ahs’ and ‘ews’ reminds me a lot of a younger Bob Dylan or even better, Tom Petty. Most would call this psychedelic or psychedelia and I'm not sure that's really right. Sure there is a presence of haze, one that seems to linger especially when he leans on his effects but I would characterize as something that is definitely retro with breezy sixties flourishes, cool Americana. His guitar work is really something.  The ease in which he plays is interesting. Usually those that play with heavy effects seem to have a very serious intensity; each bend, each, pull off looks painful. Slamming feet on pedals like putting out fires. It's not present here. The casualness as Sam goes from effect heavy riffs to clean is almost seamless.
The set starts bright, calm and the musicians don’t seem to be particularly worried about the very sparse attendance. It does not go unnoticed as Sam asks us all to text our friends to come down to the show. I can understand where the psychedelic comes from as the first two songs lean quite heavily on the keyboards. They are turned up and the hooks are emphasized. But as the set continues, the keys fall further into the background and there is an effort to really showcase Sam’s guitar work for the rest of the set. They play more of a supportive role, accenting those guitar lines with their own sort of haze; sustain and pads (though at some points I find it hard to distinguish the two). The bassist plays on a Hofner. It fits with the sixties vibe Sam is so often compared to. And it works well, really well. I often found myself singling out his playing. It complemented the complicated guitar pieces while maintaining the rhythm with the drums. Speaking of which, last night was the drummer, David’s birthday. Sam made it a point to say it several times during the set, so even though you probably won’t read this, happy birthday David. The set ends about forty minutes later. They close with a longer piece that allows Sam to really go wild on his guitar. His head rocks back and forth with the short, quick bursts of the bass and drums. I think I would have been disappointed if I hadn’t seen him get lost in a solo tonight.

Ultimately the set had this casualness that you don’t see too often. It’s kind of difficult to explain, like Sam and his band were okay with everything in front of them and everything that could come their way. Like, you want to go grab something to eat casual. It doesn’t really matter if we eat or not, everyone is okay with just relaxing but if we eat, that would be nice too. Everyone just seems really content with where they are and would be just as content with greasy food as they would with playing a marginally crowded club on a Wednesday night. It’s cool.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Ballroom Thieves -- Jammin Java - Apr 19 2016

by John Miller

The Ballroom Thieves - It’s not often that I feel as if I get what’s happening on stage. That’s not to say that I can’t understand or interpret what an artist is doing, it’s just that tonight I feel as if The Ballroom Thieves presented a fully formed vision; one with subtle hints as to what’s to come in their future. The Ballroom Thieves, a folk trio from Boston, are accompanied by a fully fledged string orchestra this evening. There must be over twenty people on stage, all with instruments of varying sizes. I'd be lying if there wasn't some trepidation. It's an intimidating setup, one that was far from expected. It's ambitious to say the least. They are backed by the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra; an outfit not dissimilar to the School of Rock. The group tonight consists of about twenty teenagers conducted under Kevin Oates. The group does an excellent job of really pushing The Ballroom Thieves’ agenda tonight, making their pieces cinematic in scope.

Usually with folk shows the talent is fighting over the sounds of the kitchen; an ensemble of broken dishes and silverware emphasizes the spaces and pauses. That's not the case tonight; immediately the sheer volume overtakes me. Everything is amplified. The resulting compositions sound as if they are part of a larger piece, like a film or hour-long drama and ultimately that raises a couple of interesting questions; firstly does the orchestra with their volume and emotion drown out the smaller subtle parts of songs? With the additional backing, initially it felt as if that may be the case, ultimately though I feel as if that was part of the plan. While we may not be able to hear every slide, breath, or legato, we instead are forced to envision these pieces as something that is greater than the sum of its parts. I was especially worried about the vocals but all three members performed with exceptional gusto. In fact, the vocals were some of the strongest both in volume and emotion that I have heard regardless of genre. The other question that the orchestra backing had me thinking about was about honesty; meaning was their addition unintentionally weight or emotion to The Ballroom Thieves songs? Fortunately the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra took some time to allow the band to breathe on their own midway through the set so I could answer that question.
Initially, guitarist Martin Earley does most of the heavy lifting. His quiet finger picking slides across his acoustic, offering a nice juxtaposition to his strong vocals. Earlier I suspected that the band might be compensating for the orchestra but that was not the case. And as the set continues each member is highlighted as they each take the lead. As they continued, I was surprised how little we heard Calin Peters play her cello. I imagined that we would hear more of that particular instrument once the orchestra left.  When there is but one cello player amongst the typical, it is easy, at least sonically, to pick it out and understand what it is that it adds to the compositions. The anger, rage, confusion, and sadness can completely change the dynamic of a song or even an entire album (see The Ugly Organ). Here Calin has to compete with an entire string orchestra. So aside from a few flourishes any addition that she brings to the pieces is ultimately enveloped by those that play as back up. Fortunately though, she finally picks up here piece and let's go.  It works well with the last piece; Martin finally gets to pummel his guitar and Calin gets to add the flourishes I wrote of earlier.

And it is that last piece that they play without the orchestra that is their strongest. I was surprised with the energy coming from just a bass, tom and crash. Devin does an excellent job of getting the most out of his handicapped set and it really worked well. With some of the earlier pieces it felt as if the backing could be interchangeable, each member a soloist; but without relying too heavily on one particular member the piece really stood out as something important.

The orchestra returns and the score continues; the beat of the drums floods the orchestra. Playing the theme to Game of Thrones reinforces the idea of the cinematic. At this point, I feel as if this idea of cinematic is intentional. Though I am not one for medieval fantasy and dragons, small tours showcasing the power of your songwriting backed by an orchestra is a strong way to sell yourself. The dragon talk continues as they close the set and at this point it seems safe to say that, the band too, feels something cinematic about tonight too. I can see it, there are dragons in their future, and all they need is a good agent. Game of Thrones, How to Train your Dragon, this is folksy traveling music with a little bite. If The Ballroom Thieves are not scoring some medieval adventure in the next decade, then I am not a marginally talented, unemployable, tolerated writer. Get on it guys.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Dandy Warhols - Seratones -- 9:30 Club - Apr 17 2016

Seratones - This is unique--a band from Louisiana sounding like they are from Los Angeles. The swamp rock sound is bit more muted with this band, which makes sense as they are from Shreveport, but they still sound like a tougher Gun Club merged with the Alleycats and the Bags. They are a four piece with a strong rhythm section, a tough and interesting lead guitarist, and a powerhouse female vocalist who adds plenty of rhythm guitar. She reminds me a bit of Dorris Henderson taking a gutsy voice that could easily move into blues, lounge jazz, or folk depending how she plays it. She goes for power here with plenty of control of the emotional swagger in these songs. This flat out rocks with pace. Finally, when singer AJ Haynes puts down the guitar for the last song and takes her mic into the crowd to sing and dance on the closing number, the gathering crowd whoops it up and is clearly stoked about being out for a night of rock'n'roll.
The Dandy Warhols - Time flies... this venerable band has been around 22 years now and this is just the first time I have taken in a show. Their sound shifts from the strong rock opening into that easy going psychedelic pop rock that they have been doing pretty much all of this time. With a firm grasp of a melody, they engage in a relaxed but highly thoughtful way of creating an atmosphere that makes their set every bit as powerful. There are harder psyche bands, as well as those that go deeper into popsike. The Dandies keep it in between, invoking some droning/jamming moves, but retaining the clarity of their individual songs. They mix it up well early on, with Courtney Taylor-Taylor even taking a solo turn with 'Every Day Should be a Holiday' getting the crowd to sing along. The second half of the set slowed a bit making me wonder if they should have mixed up their set list a bit. But they quickly picked it up with some strong finishing songs including a wild psychedelic outing with trippy chanting greatness. This band is a solid unit that knows what they want to do and I hope they want to continue to create their music for another couple of decades. I can't see there fans drifting away, when they continue to play this well.

Facebook Grab of the Day:

Saturday, April 16, 2016

HalfSpeak - Jessica Fichot -- Tree House Lounge - Apr 15 2016

Jessica Fichot - From Los Angeles via France comes this tantalizing singer songwriter who occupies a space that is as wide as the world. As she said late on, I sing in French as that was where I was born, in Spanish since I live in LA, in English because I know that as well, and Russian because I can. Add some Chinese culture from her mother's heritage as well as songs and styles from the 1950s to present and you have as diverse a body a work as you will find. Enjoy a trip around the world for a modest cover charge! Along with her vocals and accordion, she has a band that offers acoustic guitar, stand-up bass, and saxophone/clarinet. While there is a lounge jazz-folk-rock sound at the core, there are many gypsy elements at work and songs that delve into deep areas while others just cut loose and offer up the fun. Her lovely undulating voice rolls around the punchy guitar and bass with the brass and wind instruments winding around the song. And even though it was very early evening with only a dozen or so people here, I have rarely seen a crowd as eager to join in on clapping and singalongs. Keep your radar working in case Ms. Fichot returns for another visit, as you will really have to try hard to not have a highly enjoyable time listening to her set.

HalfSpeak - In typical Tree House fashion, we get the second of four diverse bands, although this will be my last for the evening. This trio offers up a hard dose of powerful rock music yet there is some sort of hardcore punk infusion in there, although it would be wrong to call it that. I was kind of thinking Ch. 3 but since I learn that they are brothers perhaps the LA version of Youth Brigade is the more accurate comparison. These guys can play, but there is something that just is not quite working correctly. It is very hard to pin down, although if pressed I would say that their writing needs work and before even that, there needs to be a better focus on an overall approach. There is plenty of potential here and it is likely early days for them. So I would not mind checking in on the progress down the road a ways.

Facebook Grab of the Night: If you ever needed proof of inflation, here is a price sheet of what the UK bands of 1969 would cost you to book. I know getting Pink Floyd for just under $400 will have you digging in your wallet, but that could work.

Friday, April 15, 2016


Busy, busy, busy. See as many of the below as you can. I'll try.

The Dandy Warhols are still going strong as will no doubt be evidenced at the 9:30 Club this Sunday night. Be there, dig?

Living Hour occurs at the DC9 on Monday, April 18th.

Operators either perform surgery or take calls at the DC9 on Tuesday the 19th. Or sneak a dance in at the Jammin Java when Ballroom Thieves play there that same night.

Sam Cohen hits the Black Cat on Wednesday, April 20th.

Is Wylder wilder than most bands? Find out at their record release show at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Friday, April 22nd.

American Television and Dot Dash will no doubt put on a fine show at the Velvet Lounge on Saturday the 23rd.

Marc Erelli comes to the Iota on Sunday, April 24th.

See if We Banjo 3 plays 'We Be Soldiers 3' at the Hamilton on Tuesday the 26th. I am guessing they don't, but I may want to see the full set just the same.

Suuns bring the fuun to the DC9 on Wednesday, April 27th.

Bunny Wailer brings his legendary sound to the Howard Theatre on Thursday, April 28th (still kicking myself for not being able to fit an interview into my schedule).

Elliphant stomps on in to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Friday, April 29th.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Joy Formidable - Everything Everything -- 9:30 Club - Apr 13 2016

by John Miller

Everything Everything - The band are supporting their third release, Get to Heaven tonight, opening for headliners The Joy Formidable. And judging from the significant amount of praise the album has received, they are destined to be Great Britain's next big thing (though the English seem to anoint that title on at least three separate bands a year). The looping and heavy use of computers, get the crowd riled up almost immediately. It's an interesting set up; there are no less than three keyboards that layer their compositions; a mix of progressive, pop, hip hop, and EDM. The guitars are rich and approachable. Unlike the more complicated keyboards, they keep Everything Everything grounded ; an anchor of sorts that prevents the group from floating away with the occasional glam inspired solo. The drums too, are often just that, approachable. The prog-rock leanings would lead one to believe that wouldn't be the case but the multiple keyboards take care of the more frantic and progressive. On more than one occasion, I hear patches that feel as if they were directly lifted from Yes or King Crimson. The slow, deliberate synth sounds often find themselves leading into repeating arpeggios. Jonathan Riggs, the lead vocalist, has quite the impressive range, often singing in a strong falsetto. He is reminiscent of Patrick Stump though relying less on his nasal cavities and you know; better. His range is impressive to say the least. The melodies are often complex; moving from mouthfuls, to the sparse. In fact everything is complicated. There is so much going on but the truly amazing part is despite the tendency for some progressive acts to have their heads far up their collective asses, Everything Everything somehow makes their songs approachable enough to clap along to, dance to. 
The Joy Formidable - A half note, followed by triplets; repeat. It's simple, more so than anything from the previous set. It's as if The Joy Formidable are letting the audience know this is what we plan to lean on, so get prepared to dance. And that simple phrase does just that, repeats; something to hang on to while the guitars and drums kick in, something to fall back on just in case. The second song begins much as the last did; with a simple phrase. It is surprising that the two were played back to back. Is not often that you hear songs so similarly structured played in quick succession. Their next piece quickly explodes, the hand holding comes to an end as the drums crash. And just like that we are off to the races. The solos were particularly inspired. I tend to be partial to acts that talk in between songs. I love the stories, especially those that border on nonsensical, ones that, at best, have a questionable connections. The Joy Formidable are in rare form tonight, often rambling on for several minutes in between songs (topics range from Cuba to dog biscuits). Suffice it say, the soliloquies were varied tonight. I may be remembering the band wrong, but The Joy Formidable kind of remind me of 90s one hit wonders, Republica. I know that may be an easy comparison, considering both are female led and English but there is something about the occasional distortion and undeniable pop layered with loud guitars and booming drums. And I don’t mean for the comparison to come off as disparaging, it’s just the first thing that came to mind. Though as I continue to think about it, I may be wrong. Regardless, it’s a good set and a nice compliment to the more complicated structures from earlier.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Algiers - Sunwolf - Burn to Shine 6 -- Black Cat - Apr 12 2016

by John Miller

Burn to Shine 6 - Burn to Shine is an anthology of short films curated by both Christoph Green and former member of Fugazi, Brendan Canty (the former directing each film in the series). The idea began over a decade ago; the first in the series highlighting Washington DC and since 2004, six have been filmed. Tonight is the third stop of a small six date tour before the sixth film (shot in Atlanta on a sweltering late July day) is released nationally. Each piece begins the same; a group of artists converge on a house destined to be demolished. There is no real narrative to speak of as each band plays one song; a brief interstitial separates them. And each film ends the same; the house is ultimately demolished. These films serve as picture, a brief moment in time, for each respective city’s musical landscape. They act, not only as anthropological pieces, but also eulogies; each film highlighting a vibrant, lively scene shortly before their demise. Before tonight’s festivities, I familiarized myself with the series and watched the Chicago film. It was good; however I didn’t truly appreciate the impact until watching the Atlanta piece tonight. Everything really came together during one of the last shots; Green holds the camera on the teeth of a bulldozer as it slowly stabs this house. He waits for what feels like an impossibly long time until those teeth finally penetrate the structure, then quickly cuts to the home’s insides spilling out. This house was a home just a short moment ago. It’s painful to watch.

Sunwolf - Sunwolf has the dubious task of beginning the musical part of the evening. Locals from DC, this trio also has a Fugazi connection. Sunwolf is built, as I imagine most local bands are, with the pieces of other local bands; singer/songwriter Kalani Tifford recruited both Tom Bunnell from the Felt Letters and Jerry Busher from Fugazi. It's a quick set. Despite the film running a little long, Sunwolf finish their set within half an hour. It's a mix of garage and power pop. The compositions are quick, catchy, and with a more receptive audience, singalongs wouldn't have been out of the question. Following the movie was no easy task; about half the room emptied after its completion and the remaining half seem somewhat distracted from what they just saw. Something is definitely missing from the set and I don't fault Sunwolf. It's tough to follow a piece seeped in nostalgia but they power through it and their music does a good job of trying to lighten up the room again. The last piece is different; they slow things down as the reach the halfway point; quick chords become long, sustaining, whole notes. The drums though continue their steady beat, almost as if they are leading the guitar, a crumb trail back home.
Algiers - The evening ends poetically; despite the good intentions, serving “as a time capsule of that scene on that particular day in that particular city, and as an epitaph for the building the performances take place in”, the Burn to Shine series can be quite depressing. With each film, we witness not only the death of a home but too the death of these very close, amazingly talented communities. As the teeth of the heavy machinery cut into the walls of these homes, Green closes a door. While that particular moment in Atlanta may have died almost a decade ago; Algiers lets us all know that Atlanta still has a lot to offer. Algiers is more rhythmic than anything featured in the Burn to Shine piece this evening. The beats, the constant thud of the drum and the accompanying computer, seep through, and wrap their way around each member. Like the movie, interstitials play a part in Algiers' set. Each piece begins with something out of a Tangerine Dream score. These are quick, progressive pieces that set the table for the songs that follow. It works well and reminds me of Zechs Marquise as well. Algiers, in particular, is a pleasure to watch as the passion for what they are doing is hard to ignore. Usually that passion is most clearly seen in lead vocalist, Franklin James Fisher. It’s worth noting that his melodies are particularly strong. Since the compositions tend to emphasize rhythm, Franklin is often left alone to do the heavy lifting and he does not disappoint.  It's a shame that the room remains sparsely attended. Both bands have put on excellent and varied performances.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Martin Barre -- Ram's Head On Stage - Apr 11 2016

Martin Barre - When a band gets me to travel out of town (Annapolis) just four months after I last saw them and if you know my intense dislike of travel, then you can easily conclude I am a big fan. That said, I was interested in what this new tour had to offer as Martin Barre and his band are delving deeper into the US at the start of this more intensive tour. The previous Jammin Java show was surprisingly excellent, exceeding my moderately high expectations. I also really enjoyed interviewing Martin Barre six weeks back as he was easy and fun to talk with and had several insights into the music business and furthered my Jethro Tull knowledge base.

Tonight it is the same great band as it has been for over a year now. George Lindsay anchors it all on drums and you may not notice him with all the talent downstage, but when I listen carefully I noticed he has just enough artistry to add some subtle touches which add to the song's complexity without getting in the way of the main thrust. Alan Thomson plays bass, some slide guitar and mandolin and is a brilliant progressive player with a quiet fluid style that has worked in the past with such diverse artists as Rick Wakeman and Bo Diddley. So it is easy to see why it works here so well. Dan Crisp provides the vocals and very effective second guitar where he can solo and work around Martin Barre's moves to add an extra layer of excitement to the song.
Of course, the large crowd tonight is excited to see Martin Barre and were not disappointed. Not only was Martin in top form with his playing and creative reworking of Jethro Tull songs, but his energy levels were way up there and between the crowd and the band, this Monday night show was even hotter than the previous show I attended. And it is all the more impressive at a seated club like this one. There were more originals worked into the set and they were accepted well, as the bluesy rock base of each one had plenty of fire within. Of course, the Jethro Tull catalog was explored with fairly faithful renditions (albeit still reworked for two guitars) to songs like a mandolin jig that becomes 'Hymn 43' or the originally mandolin based 'Fat Man' which now becomes guitar based. Even the encore 'Locomotive Breath' which although not one of my personal favorites (especially without the great piano intro), becomes a fresh invigorating version with guitar moves that snake around with dramatic flair until a new beast is formed.

This was a blast for me and you could feel the excitement level rise throughout the night, so this is not a band to be missed if they head to your town or when they return to our area.

Quick plug of the Night: I may not like to travel, but am happy to have attended the Utrecht Record Fair in the Netherlands on three separate occasions (it is a multi-day effort). The 45th fair is this weekend, so if you are anywhere, check it out. It is in a event to behold.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Dolly Rockers -- The Commune - April 8 2016

by John Miller

One of the most painful experiences driving in the city has to be the rush to park, finding said parking blocks away from your destination, and finally seeing all the open spots that you missed as you curse yourself run/walking to the evening's ending. 

Tonight's sparsely attended show comes from The Commune, a house that hosts random gigs for artists ala the now defunct Paperhaus. The venue is located in a small basement off of 15th Street about 2 blocks of southwest The Black Cat. I talked with the showrunner briefly and even though it was somewhat hard to get straight answers (alcohol may or may have been involved) it sounds as if The Commune is open for business. So, while the space may not be the biggest and the PA isn’t the best, there is a space out there for local artists to showcase their work.
Eric from The Dolly Rockers contacted us and I decided to make the trek out. That said if any of you are in a band but lack proper PR, please contact us and we will be happy to come out if our schedules permit. So this is definitely a new thing. Uncertainty dominates the laundry room. Sound check takes a good twenty minutes and the levels are really right but it's a laundry room in the basement of a row home, so I imagine everyone is doing the best they can. More sound checks in between songs. It's trying but with time this stuff will all fade away. The Dolly Rockers, a five piece from Virginia, begin tonight. I can't tell if they are just starting out or not. It's a moderate rock, a little dirty, not a ton of energy is coming from the support. It's a new thing though so perhaps with time the support will match that of the lead singer. Despite the lack of enthusiasm from this small crowd, Eric tries his best to own the room, however its difficult as tonight skews a lot older than I had thought it would (I saw someone nursing their sore knee after a set). Flailing and just moving. When he isn't taking the lead the energy definitely takes a hit. Far be it from me to make suggestions, but when as a band, you have found someone that clearly doesn't give a shit, you lean on that. It's about making a connection with the audience, not giving everyone ample time to do their thing. Forget that noise. People want to see the guy that strains his vocal chords, moves, shakes his fists at nothing, and sweats. Case in point, Going Crazy was exceptional. While sonically, no new ground was necessarily broken, the performance was particularly good.

The night continues much as it started; newer bands playing short, cramped sets. I know all of this sounds somewhat negative, but this is what you sign up for when trying to make it; smaller, cramped gigs. Later on I spoke with Eric about the set and the scene in general. I tried my best to rely some of the little experience I have. We both came to the same, tired conclusion; it’s tough in DC.  

Phil Cook - Dead Tongues -- Black Cat - April 8 2016

Dead Tongues - OK, first let's get the pet peeve out of the way. I don't like the trend of band names for solo projects, although there are complications making this far from a hard and fast pet peeve. Ironically although this is a solo banjoman/guitarist, Phil Cook will next play with a a full band. Anyway, there is some help half way through the set when a keyboardist comes out and adds some organ. That fills it out a bit, but it is still a sparse rural Americana folk at work. There is some blues moves as the resonator guitar has a lot more going on than the more average banjo playing. The vocals of Ryan Gustafson carry his songs further with style and deep thought within. It's a little too laid back for me, but no real faults here.
 photo: David Tanner

Phil Cook - Phil Cook was just here at the DC9 and I made up for missing that show by coming around tonight. I was joined by many, many more than could fit into the DC9, so Phil Cook's personality and great music is really catching fire around town. No surprise as he was in the fine Megafaun and other bands with various Bon Iver comrades. He has got a full band with him called the Guitarheels and they are fully locked into his musical lead. Early in the set, Cook explains that his brain works at the speed of his music which is a midtempo groove that is active, and engaged, but not out of control. It is a good place for your brain and his guitar work makes it a fine place as well. He and the band can really jam well, but they stop well short of being lumped in with jam bands as the songs are strong and balanced with guitar leads and the various choruses and verses. But it is the overall warmth and musical groove that keeps this set engaging from beginning to end. This is definitely music to see in a club and it can really brighten your evening.

Facebook grab of the Day: Since Phil Cook is a 'science guy' when not rocking out, this is appropriate: 

Friday, April 8, 2016

High Highs -- Black Cat - Apr 7 2016

by John Miller

High Highs - Sometimes these shows don't always go as planned; little detours that necessitate exacting navigation. Tonight was no exception as it was quite difficult to make it past the gatekeeper. After some back and forth, and an appropriate sacrifice, entry was granted to the High Highs show.

Tonight's set is the second to last for High Highs current tour. Considering they are from Australia, one might assume that the anticipation to finally return home might lead to an uneven show, however they played like pros and any anticipation I have unfairly labeled them with isn't heard tonight. They are on the quiet side, a four piece.  They remind me of fellow Australians, The Church; the moderate to slow tempo, leaning on the keys, fleeting vocals that are just soft enough. The heavy use of pads and sustain evoke this feeling of distance. It's not as if they are physically distance from the audience tonight, actually it's quite the opposite; it is quite intimate. The Backroom is about half full; those that braved the shitty weather tap their feet along and nod their heads in unison. So the distance felt is more emotional, in that High Highs seem to be consistently chasing. Though I wouldn't characterize it as necessarily chasing the past, steeped in nostalgia; the two aren't mutually exclusive. They aren’t looking to relive the past, just remember it.

The bass; it is a constant tonight. Usually with the quieter bands, it's mixed down, barely noticeable but there is definitely a consistent groove throughout the set. I'm scared the woman next to me is going to topple over with all the movement on top of this bench. The set continues as it started; occasionally though the more upbeat finds its way through the clouds but not before the fog slows them down again. It's a perfect soundtrack for the evening; cloudy.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


After having the enormous pleasure of interviewing Ian Anderson two years ago, I know have the extraordinary bonus of interviewing his long time collaborator and guitarist Martin Barre. They were in Jethro Tull together well over 40 years and now both are quite active with their own bands. Martin Barre put on a great show at the Jammin Java this past December. Be sure to mark your calendar for Monday, April 11th, when the Martin Barre band will be at Ram's Head in Annapolis. And if you live elsewhere, look up the Martin Barre tour dates, as he is covering a major amount of the USA this time around.

The band is great, Martin Barre is still in top form, and they are full of surprises, as you can see below. Thanks to Anne Leighton for arranging this interview. It was conducted by phone on March 3rd and there was a phrase or two garbled, so blame any unclear transcription passages on me.
DAVID HINTZ - (Introduction) …and I’ll be running this in my DC Blog before the show in Annapolis and in Folkworld, a European webzine… we are rather loose with the definition of folk, but you fit.

MARTIN BARRE - Well, yeah. That never worries me or intimidates me.

DH - Yeah, genres rarely worry musicians, it’s more our thing.

MB -  Yes, for the record stores.

DH - Right. I will start off with a prediction I had made or thoughts I had when you stopped with Jethro Tull. I believed you would be hanging around in England, quietly working some blues clubs with recordings here and there. But now you have a full band, a steady stream of new records and are doing an awful lot of touring. How much time are you on the road these days?

MB - More and more because we are building up the band. We do a fair amount with four pretty busy years, although it’s great even with tensions of getting more and more shows and really, I’m just starting off in America, so there are huge possibilities in the different territories of the USA. I am probably doing less of England and a bit less in Europe, because the clubs in England are pretty well at a dead end. But I love festivals, so we do as many festivals as possible. But at the moment it is really focused on the States.

DH - Good. Do you have hot spots in the United States? I mean Jethro Tull was coast to coast, so I am sure you would have a good audience everywhere.

MB - Yeah, well we have done the northeast last year and we had four weeks. And we are coming back and doing that territory again in April and also Chicago. Then in September and October we will be in the midwest and maybe go to the west coast. We have been everywhere and I intend to go everywhere again and I know America really well and saying it is a second home is really close to the truth. I am married to an American lady. My son lives in America and I love being there.

DH - Great. Yeah, it is kind of a challenge to get started with visas and being a full band, but once you get going, it can take off, which it sounds like it is. I saw your show in the DC area in Vienna Virginia on that first leg recently.

MB - Oh, you were there!

DH - Yeah, that was great. I had a great time.

MB - Yeah, that (Jammin Java) is a good club.

DH - Any chance of Asia or South America… did Jethro Tull do South America?

MB - Oh yeah. I really haven’t really promoted that, but I want to look at that for 2017. And I really, really want to go over to Australia.

DH -  Oh, yeah, that would be great.

MB - Every day I am working on what we’ve got and hopefully with patience I will be able to get to places that I really want to do.

DH - And I am sure you have tons of fans there that want you to come over. Now just in general, in your long career you have had plenty of space to be a highly creative force, but now you are the clear leader, at least on the marquee. How big a change is this for you?

MB - A huge change because when Jethro Tull finished, I took stock of where I was in my personal life in every aspect, particularly musically. And the first thing that dawned on me was that I was getting very dormant on a musical level because Jethro Tull had become very antiseptic. There was no fire left in the band at all and wherever you are with a band that becomes normal, whether you are top of the game or settling down and going through the motions.That becomes your normal mode of operation and I realized that my mode is very very low. So it was a bit of a wake-up call. So the first thing I did was to record an acoustic album because I had to think very hard at how to proceed with my career. And it suited me to sit at home in my studio, writing a load of music and then record it as an acoustic album. It was really good fun because it was intense musically and kept me really, really busy. It got me playing again; it got my brain working, fingers working. I really enjoyed doing it.

DH - OK.

MB - And at the same time, the band was being pulled together and doing shows to find where I wanted to go with the electric side of it. That took another year for the band and for me to find what I really wanted to do.
DH - Interesting… and I can continue to see that on your albums as you continue to mix styles and instruments. And I am sure one of the things you enjoy is creating your own setlist. And I really have to give you top marks for that at the show I saw. I had no idea you would come up with such an eclectic group of originals, Jethro Tull songs, blues standards, and interesting covers and I have a few questions about those.

MB - Well, that makes me very, very happy because that part of it is so important and in the latter days in Tull, I would go to Ian and say let’s try this song or try doing that and nothing ever happened. I know that Ian was restricted with his voice problems.

DH - Right.

MB - But it just meant the door was closed on a huge area of the Jethro Tull catalog. And I love experimenting, I love challenging an audience. So I am really pleased that you say that, because that to me is the ultimate test for the people that go to a gig. If they go ‘wow, I wasn’t expecting that’. That works in my book. I don’t want to be predictable. I don’t want to do normal. I have the Jethro Tull heritage but I want to use that in a very constructive way. I maybe want a reconstructing recipe with Jethro Tull music by taking the essence that you really have to keep and the rest I will reconstruct it. Obviously there is no flute so I have a lot of area to put guitar playing into. I have enjoyed doing that and I think that the audience may as well because it still pays respect to the song, but is fresh, it’s new, it’s got energy and it works.

DH - I found that interesting too, as there must be some careful thought on your part to where some songs sounded very close with even your singer doing the vocal inflections really well and other times, it’s like Wow—you’ll just take off and go off in a crazy fun unknown direction.

MB - Yeah, I never gave Dan, as he was learning all these songs, that the melody is pretty written in stone, but if you mess with the melody, it is you—you are singing it and I want your personality in it. I don’t want a reproduction of Ian’s personality. I know you said about the inflections and I guess it is hard not to, but I think Dan is his own person.

DH - I think you are right, but he has the ability with his tone to bring it out some where it flows with the lyric…

MB - Yeah.

DH - And there are other songs, which are more distinct and he does not sound like he is in front of a tribute band.

MB - I hope not.

DH - Right… and you also get to do ‘To Cry You a Song’. That was one where I believe you always wanted to do.

MB - Yeah, I just think that works really well live. It really did in the early days. When I would suggest that to Ian, he wouldn’t do it, because he didn’t have enough to do.

DH - Ah… (laughs) OK

MB - And it’s a shame. I don’t have any of those restrictions and I’ll say to the guys in the band that if a song doesn’t need like a second guitar part, then give it more space. I believe that not playing is as much as a talent as playing is because it is reading the space, listening to other players, and giving them head room is such a powerful part of music.

DH - Agreed.

MB - It is like an orchestra where you are reading a part and there are a lot of empty spaces that are not really empty, but that they have a musical reason to being empty. But in an orchestra, people understand that.

DH - Right. How about the blues songs—the classics that you choose? What is your methodology there?

MB - Again, I am not playing straight blues. There were people who did that incredibly well, if you look back to Stevie Ray. There are some great pure blues players. It is not particularly my area, although I love the blues and I play blues guitar—we all do as: blues as rock; blues as folk; blues as country… there are blues styles in all music. But I am going to make it a bit different such as ‘Smokestack Lightning’ for instance. And ‘Crossroads’ when I do that, I want to make it fresh, different. And with the Smokestack blues chords, I’ll try to make it more like a song someone would write today, rather than an old blues classic. When you see the guy… I saw Willie Dixon play on Youtube and it’s unbelievably good, but all it is, is a riff that goes on for ten minutes. And you can’t do that because you’ll never sound as good as him—only he could do that. You gotta pay them respect by leaving it alone, it’s their heritage, leave it there. But I love the music so I’m going to develop the blues that I play on stage.

DH - I see. I’ve read before as well that when someone says you play jazz or classical, that you say ‘no, you play your own style WITHIN a variety of forms’, is that right?

MB - Yeah, I can’t play classical music and I definitely can’t play jazz either. But I sound jazzy or I can sound classical, but any jazz musician or classical musician would tell you (and I will tell you) that it is not classical with a capital ‘C’ or jazz with a capital ‘J’ the way I play it. But I am quite happy as I don’t want to be a jazz player, as there is so much more in music that I want to develop. And I wouldn’t be pretentious enough to describe anything I do in those directions. I just like ALL music and there is some jazz I love and hate; and in classical, I love nearly all of it, but it is just when I listen to it, I soak it in like any musician would.

DH - Was there any of the British folk music in your early days that was influential along with the Blues?

MB - There wasn’t because early folk music for me was where I went to folk festivals that my sister dragged me to in the mid-sixties and I really hated it. Because folk music in those days was someone standing with a guitar strumming three chords and was really really boring. And there was no musicality in it. And now, unbelievable bands…  there are Irish bands who are phenomenal musicians. And their approach with sympathy of folk music is a completely different animal. And it is fabulous and I am in awe of the people who play that style of music. And in America, bluegrass.

DH - Oh yeah.

MB - Incredible, incredible players… I love it, it’s fabulous and I’ll never be good enough to play it, but I enjoy listening to it and I try to bring some of it out in the music I write, as much as I can.

DH - And I gotta ask… Porcupine Tree and Government Mule (laughs), you blew me away with those covers. Any more surprises like that?

MB - (laughter) Well, I love those songs and that aren’t many that I love, but I am always looking. There is never a day when I’m not trying to think of something to do. I am working on three bits of music this week and I’ll be looking for more. I might change it around. It keeps me active and will keep the audience active as well. We have got a huge set list that we can draw from and is quite nice. It is different than Jethro Tull who played the same set list year after year, maybe with one change at that extreme. And then like Zappa at the other extreme when you would play anything from his whole catalog any night. I like to think I am somewhere in the middle, where we are building up a big catalog of music we can play. And then each night we will chat about what people want to do that night and we kick it about.

DH - OK. How about the writing process… You seem to be active, even with mixing in a lot of other songs, but what is your process for writing your original songs.

MB - I want it to be strong and I want it to be music that works really well on stage. You know, the first adjective would be rock, but I don’t write rock music, but I want it to be powerful. I try to see where my writing goes—I try to keep it to be very much straight ahead. I try to write music that sounds simple, but is more complicated and I don’t want to write music that sounds more complicated than it is. You know, trying to avoid the weird time signatures and tempo changes. I just like music that an audience can hear, having never heard it before, and like it. But it will have a lot of music in it, since that is the way I am anyway, but I want it to come across being straight ahead.

DH - OK. And another thing you get to do these days is choose your entire band and I am curious as to how you found the excellent players you are working with now.

MB - Yeah, it has just developed… I have had a few different versions of the band before this came together. There is George  (Lindsay on drums) and I knew he was a keeper. Dan (Crisp, vocals+guitar) I have know for a long time—he lives right down the road from me and the best choice was right under my nose. I didn’t see it. And as soon as Dan joined, I knew it was the right decision. And then Alan Thompson is the most recent one (on bass) and I was lucky to get somebody like him. It’s not all musicality. I am not looking for necessarily great musicians, but it is about living together, focusing on the same things, and really enjoying playing with the music. There is a lot of positive emotion in the band—it is four guys together that really share everything. That is a really important thing and I’m really happy with the guys I’ve got.

DH - Excellent and that all will show up to the audience.

MB - Yeah, Yeah.

DH - What was your recording process for ‘Back to Steel’ in terms of home studios or professional studios?

MB - Well, I wrote it all at home and then we did it in a couple of blocks of sessions. The first one, we had a full rehearsal at the house—we have a big cellar. And then it was three days in the studio and we got six or seven tracks down. Then I finished them off at my house, did the vocals and guitars there. And then we did the same thing a month later, except that I had written a lot more songs. Having done the first set of songs, it put me on the right track as to where to go with the rest of the album. It came together as we proceeded with the rest of the album. It came together easy, we got good results and everything was a pleasure. And I have hated being in a recording studio, particularly in the seventies where there was such an intimidating environment with producers and engineers. There is a big pretension of them being in control.

DH - Oh yeah.

MB - You were struggling to get a good sound and struggling to get a good performance. You don’t need it. It was back when it was the first time in my own studio and I thought: hang on a minute—it has nothing to do with the guy in a control room, really. Just EQ the channel, get the level right, then it is completely down to the musicians. They are in control and there is no set of secrets to getting a great sound. Well, there are—I’m oversimplifying it. In fact, I work with an amazing engineer and his job is to get the sound in the studio control room and getting it on the computer and getting the music from A to B very, very efficiently. Essentially with that, what sounds good in the room is going to have to sound good when you record it. You know I really hated recording in the past, but now it is the opposite as I really enjoy being in the studio. And there is a great local studio we use, really laid back. It is very earthy and a great place to be.

DH - Great and you are touching on one improvement from the old days to the new and I am curious that back in the 1970s it seemed there was a lot of pressure on your band and many others to bang out a lot of albums and tour all the time. Was that difficult in that era?

MB - Hmmm… I think so. And again record companies, basically as we all know are a load of idiots.

DH - Heh, yeah.

MB - There were a lot of kids out of college that wanted to be in the music business, that couldn’t play an instrument. And of course, they had the power to control a band, which was a big mistake. They are financial institutions, the record companies, who are selling a product and they want some control. But it should not be a musical control at all. It is really the band and the artists. And with Jethro Tull, we had some idiot who was in charge of A&R who told us our next album would have to do better. So he brought us all into a meeting… he carried in six vinyl albums, this is how long ago it was. He said these albums have been top ten sellers. This is what you need to be doing.

DH - Oh geeze.

MB - And one of them was Fleetwood Mac and I can’t even remember the other ones, and of course they are great bands.

DH - Yeah, sure.

MB - Oh another one was the Moody Blues. He seriously wanted us to change Jethro Tull’s music to be in line with what were essentially pop bands, very, very good ones. Everybody knows these bands had fabulous albums and great songwriters. But that is not what Jethro Tull did and not what Jethro Tull fans wanted either. This guy, I mean I think it was at that point I just gave up on those people. And essentially I knew my market place is different.… and now you’ve got Youtube and downloads. You can get your music to people directly. It is a good thing you can.

DH - It is good and there have been a lot of improvements. I mean though unfortunately with the free music, you would try to defend the old system, but then you were defending the record labels an then you didn’t want to do that either.

MB - Yeah. In retrospect, most of the people I met were pretty useless and they didn’t do anything for the music. They had no importance. I mean they might have handled incredible artists, but then every label would have them. Because every artist needed a record label with none of the credit was due to the label, other than the fact they hopefully did their job and got prints of the album and distributed it. But you can do that with cornflakes, it is the same business.

DH - (laughs) Exactly. Anyway I saw that you guested on Mick Abrahams latest record. Did you work with him directly or was it through file sharing?

MB - No, I mean I have a lot of respect for Mick and a bit of a soft spot for him, as he was and still is very nice to me.

DH - Good, yeah.

MB - He is very respectful and it means a lot to me that he is that way and I just want to help him out, out of respect. He just sent me some tracks and then I just put my guitar on it. I have not even heard the end result (laughs).

DH - (laughs). Yeah, I have not heard it either, I just read it the other day.

MB - Oh, ok. I have no idea.

DH - Yes, well I will look it up sometime and listen because I enjoy his work as well. And in preparing for this interview, I listened to your new album ‘Back to Steel’, of course, but I also chose ‘Stand Up’ because I really miss Glenn Cornick. Did you enjoy the chemistry with him and Clive Bunker?

MB - Well yeah. You know I always think there is this whole thing about the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, if it is ever going to be an issue. I always think who would it be if they ever were interested in Jethro Tull—how would they deal with a band that had so many people in it? Would they just say let Ian in and that makes it easy? Or maybe me. I just think that the band that was Jethro Tull—there were two bands, the first one is Clive and Glenn and me and Ian. That was the Jethro Tull that hit America and made it all happen. That was the catalyst, the really historically important line-up. And the other one would be when we did ‘Bursting Out’ and ‘Thick as a Brick’ with Barry Barlow, Jeffery Hammond and John Evans. That was a strong lineup and so much happened during that line-up. And again it was just an important part of Jethro Tull’s career. But it can not happen because there are guys that passed away like Glenn has, someone else has moved to Australia, and another one wouldn’t have anything to do with it (laughs). But I think with so many people, it was too much, it should have been left alone with the Bursting Out line-up, that should have been the end of it—not the band, but the changes. We should have got on with what we had. It would be like if Mick Jagger replaced the rest of the Stones with better musicians. Why would he do it? It was a big mistake. Anyway, I’m blathering on.

DH - Nah, that’s ok (laughs). It is interesting, and with the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, even though I don’t care much for it—like all Hall of Fames, it is rather ridiculous and as much marketing as anything, but they really screwed up with Deep Purple.

MB - Oh, did they?

DH  - Yeah, they took the first singer, but not the first bass player, who was on the same first three albums. They took some subsequent players, but the remaining original members are mad since there are a couple guys they have played with the last twenty years who are not included, so…

MB - Yeah.

DH - And Richie Blackmore isn’t going to come now, as there are still some issues going on with Ian Gillan and such.

MB - It’s a bit like Tull—a dysfunctional band. But you know, I wouldn’t begin to go into why. But you make decision and you carry out those decisions in a certain way and for Jethro Tull, there were some bad decisions. And the way they were put into being, it is a shame that of what could have been.

DH - OK, let’s see… How is your life in general when you are not working on music or playing guitar. Is everything going well?

MB - Well, that is my life (laughter)

DH - Yes, there is not much room in between, eh?

MB - There is a bit of room, like now I might go for a run. It’s freezing cold and been raining all day, but I just have to get out as running clears my brain. After running a few miles, I will get together with Dan, our singer, and go through some new songs. I have a great life and my wife is amazing. We go to a lot of theater.

DH - Oh, good.

MB - We love music. I like to be social. We’ve got two girls that I would like to bring to the States. They play with us in England in Europe. So we have them and their boyfriends—they are all musicians obviously.

DH - Right.

MB - They are guitar players (laughs). They are young kids, they are in their early twenties. But they are brilliant, they are just great. I like people and I have a lot years where I was very insulated, but now I just enjoy meeting people and being around other people and communicating. It is a different life, but I am very, very happy.
DH - Super, just a couple quick questions before I let you go.  Every musician has musical people they look up to as influences, but who in the non-musical world like from writing, art, or visual, who has been one of your big influences or who are you a big fan of.

MB - Hmmmmm… (laughs) that is a really hard question.

DH - Everyone says that.

MB - I really love art and when me and Jeffrey (Hammond) were touring states—he paints and his favorite artist was (Pierre) Bonnard. In fact we just went up to London to see a Monet exhibition. It was all about gardens and there were Renoirs, Klees, and Bonnards. It was stunning. And here’s my take… I’ve started enjoying art more, just as a punter. I sort of overdosed on it with Jeffrey because we used to go to the local galleries and since we were from England and played in Jethro Tull, they would give us access to the locked rooms and the private galleries, like one from a billionaire and they would let us in to a house full of unbelievable pieces. I mean art inspires me with what people do with their hands, although I couldn’t mention one that is special to me. We just try and buy a painting maybe once a year, because they are expensive. But they are such lovely things. It is like you buy a CD and you say OK and put it in a pile. But with a piece of art, it is a really important decision because you can’t buy many of them and you really do live with them, whereas music is so disposable if you don’t like it, you can throw it away.  I just think that are not any individuals that inspire me outside of music—I am so throughly involved in music.

DH - Well, art is a good connection. That makes sense.

MB - Yeah, and also with live theater just seeing how hard people work. People say it must be hard work being a gigging musician, but not as much when you see a theater production. And a lot of American actors come over and do London theater because it is so special. They work really hard and they inspire me because it such a physical and mental exercise compared to what I do on stage, it is really an inspiration.

DH - I agree with you on theater, as I love it as well. And just one silly question… do you have a favorite football team? And please don’t tell me it is Aston Villa.

MB - (loud laugh) Well, I was born in Birmingham and fortunately Birmingham City was the team I would go and see. I love football and I don’t support anybody. If anything, I quite like the teams that come from very poor areas like Blackburn and Sunderland and Middlesborough. I just think… I don’t know why, but I just think Chelsea has too much money and Manchester United is too rich, you know, but for the real down at the heel fans where football must be so important for the people that live there, so I like the underdog. I just enjoy a great game and probably don’t care who wins.

DH - I am a bit that way and this year is really fun with Leicester surprising everyone.

MB - Yeah, that is really great. I hate it when it is predictable with Chelsea or Arsenal, Manchester City winning cups by  having the money to get the best players. I personally think it would be interesting if teams were only allowed to have players that lived within their city, for maybe living there five years. That would make it interesting.

DH - Ah, regional. Yeah, and we have something over here in some of our leagues with salary caps  with TV money being spread evenly to small and big markets so it all evens out better.

MB - Yeah.

DH - Anyway, I want to wrap up and I appreciate your time on this. You were one of my earliest concerts, it was probably the War Child tour and there was little hockey rink in Dayton, Ohio called Hara Arena.

MB - Yeah.

DH - And that night it was soooo crowded getting in. You could lift your feet up and let the crowd move you along. There were even broken windows, it was crazy for a Jethro Tull show, but it was definitely exciting.

MB - Yeah, those were good days. We were having a good time.

DH - Great. Well I hope to see you next in Annapolis (at Ram’s Head on Monday, April 11th). That is a comfortable place.

MB - Yes that is great room to play. See you then.

Friday, April 1, 2016

DMA's - Cold Fronts -- Black Cat - Mar 31 2016

Cold Fronts - I am suspicious of three-guitar bands not named Swans, but this Philadelphia outfit immediately grabs hold of my attention with a screaming triple lead of sort to get things rolling. Rolling and rocking as this is heavy material as these guys bring the rock with plenty of energy and volume. Yet they could almost be a power pop band as the songs are quite catchy and engaging, but there is nothing poppy beyond the melodies. They shake it a bit loose and garage like, but have a strong tight rhythm section anchoring it in place. There are even a lot of harmonies to the solid lead vocals, but the guitars continue to star as they grind out at the chords and offer plenty of crazy fills and leads, either together or working off each other. You could feel the audience enjoying each song more than the last and this is the kind of opening band you want to see, or closing band for that matter.
DMA's - Another three-guitar band? Well one of them is acoustic, but I am wondering if the last time I saw two three-guitar bands back to back was when I saw Lynyrd Skynrd (with Ronnie Van Zant!) and the Outlaws. Once again, no southern rock here, just a hot young band from Australia. They have impressed Europe and now are here to spread their sound through the US of A. And quite a sound it is as it has a warm jangly guitar sound underneath a smooth and emotive dedicated vocalist. It is refreshing to see a vocalist focused solely on his task and this guy is a powerful instrument leading the way in these highly engaging songs. Early on I hear REM meeting the Feelies, although others have mentioned Oasis. As the set moves forward and the soundman finds the right buttons and faders, the band sounds even more powerful with a shoegaze styled wall of sound. Yet, there are intricate moves going on nearly at every turn that keep this very much a collection of fine songs. They even did a couple that were mostly acoustic and voice, with a few electric moves added at the finish. There was a large crowd and if these guys keep it together, they will be up in the big room next time, as there are loads of music lovers out there who would easily take to what these guys bring. Quite a fun night of heavy music with two diverse approaches.

Facebook Grab of the Night - No it's not Rick Nielsen, but in honor of the guitar fury tonight...