Sunday, July 31, 2016


Funny, how I don't discuss outdoor shows during these previews. Nothing funny about outdoors and DC summers coming together.

Kick back with the Kickback at the DC9, Monday, August the 1st.

White Lung sounds a whole lot healthier than Black Lung, so find out how White Lung fills the air at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Tuesday, August 2nd.

Will See Through Dresses be wearing... oh never mind. Just go seem them at the DC9 this Thursday, the 4th.
#120 See Through Dresses: You Get Sick Again from Love Drunk on Vimeo.

A couple of fine shows blocks apart this Friday, August 5th: Try Everymen at the Velvet Lounge or Future Generations at Tropicalia. It is your choice.

Dorothy... I can't even write that without hearing Auntie Em's voice... is playing the 9:30 Club on Saturday the 6th.

Everything Everything brings everything they got to the U Street Music Hall on Monday, August 8th.

Drive Like Jehu is back and at the Black Cat on Wednesday, August 10th. Do I go now or wait for the Las Vegas set? I do have Juliette Lewis at the U Street Music Hall to make my choice even tougher.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Swans - Okkyung Lee -- 9:30 Club - Jul 28 2016

Okkyung Lee - Like many Swans tours in the past, we open with something simple and direct, yet unique and somewhat experimental. Ms. Lee is a cellist with a fine musical grounding who has the vision to explore noise concepts with greater care than most. While others may butcher an instrument to create noise, Ms. Lee explores contrasting textures with a fine touch that requires both a solid understanding of the instrument and a creative direction. The audience definitely got into this as the attention and response was strong. You can see why she collaborates with many interesting musicians as she is also capable of holding a large crowd on a big stage all by herself.
Swans - In recent years, the UK has provided some fascinating dramatic police television series from remote locales. 'Vera' was the first of these as they explore the crimes across the barren terrain of northern England. 'Hinterland' is doing the same in Aberystwyth, Wales, while 'Shetland' (along with the novels of Peter May) take you deep into isolated small island living where there is darkness around distant corners and the sense of dread permeates the air of a rugged existence in a strangely beautifully cold environment. Swans could be the soundtrack to many of these scenes and stories as they carefully unveil their sonic majesty over the expansive evening they create. With unsettling events going on everywhere at all times, they remind you of all the darkness lurking far and near. Yet there is such delicately roaring power within their music to remind you of the journey through it all. They may be urban, but their music understands broad landscapes. Their extraordinary vision and execution continues to make them one of the most important bands in existence.

And thankfully, this 'retirement' tour is not quite a full retirement, although they may not work on this scale of touring ever again. Michael Gira will continue in some way and has mentioned that Swans may be back with different musicians, in different projects. Even tonight, there was a subtle effective shift as Thor Harris is off with Amanda Palmer and his position is taken up by Paul Wallfisch who plays more keyboards and less percussion, although since keyboards are a percussive instrument, he manages to add some fascinating sonics, while often playing in a percussive fashion. But it is still the three guitars cutting into fascinating rhythms and drones with Gira's vocals stretching things out even further that come together to overwhelm you. It sounds majestic tonight and I am thankful to be here.

Additional news - And speaking of retirement, I will use this semi-retirement tour to make the first written admission of what I have been telling people for many months now. I will be retiring this blog some time in the next 3 months. I will write up more later, but I am getting old, physically challenged, and even mentally overwhelmed at times. It is scary to think about not having this terrific work to do that I have enjoyed so much, but comes the time.... More later and I only hope that I get a few more shows as good as this one before I go.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Super Furry Animals - Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band-- 9:30 Club - Jul 23 2016

by John Miller

Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band - This band are supporting headliners Super Furry Animals this evening and for a couple of other shows in the northeast. A four piece hailing from the City of Brotherly Love, they have just released their third effort, Rarity of Experience. Much like Thursday's Holy Fuck show, their compositions are largely absent of vocals. Leaning on some serious 70s rock, this is far more traditional than Thursday’s show but there is still some ample room for plenty of experimentation. One might think jam band, but I hear something far more concrete. Even though their compositions tend to last well over five minutes, every riff, note, and fill has a purpose. There isn't noise for noise's sake, noodling, or extensive use of delay. No filler, just solid songs.

Super Furry Animals - Super Furry Animals have been somewhat silent for almost a decade. The last album. Dark Days/Light Years, was released all the way back in 2009. This newly reunited Welsh outfit, has been out just playing shows and not really supporting anything particular. I know David has had some issues seeing some reunited acts that fail to deliver; thankfully I have yet to run into anything truly deplorable (Ed-I think a majority end up with successful new life, thankfully). Though they didn't walk on stage to it, an extra long version of the theme to Hawaii Five-O played just before the theatrics began. A note; if you want to get a crowd pumped, play Hawaii Five-O before doing anything.  Clad in white jumpsuits, the five members come out to thumping bass and a frantic video backing piece that shakes with each image. There are helmets and signs too; one simply says "Ape Shit". The audience complies. Super Furry run through some of their more popular songs to begin with. It's a fun set. The psych-pop begins easy enough but each song grows, expands, and bursts. Stopping half way into "Hello Sunshine" just to have a chat, Rhys goes for a bit before holding up another sign; "Louder". The audience complies. Super Furry Animals even had some time for some newer pieces. Inspired by the Welsh National Soccer team qualifying for the Euro this year, Bing Bong their newest piece, is a fun sing a long that could easily fit aside anything from the earlier catalog. But perhaps the biggest response came from The Man Don't Give A Fuck; the audience  quickly joins in a hearty sing-along with more fucks than one could possibly count.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Trixie Whitley - Indigo Street -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jul 22 2016

Indigo Street - Indigo Street is a woman, not a band, but she has a strong band locked in behind her. She brings the lead vocals and electric guitar, while the band provides 12-string acoustic guitar, stand-up bass, and drums. It is an intriguing combination as she provides the intensity in the music, while the band adds subtle intricate backing. It is a fabulous sound that takes its cue from the the old European psyche folk scene with progressive elements, rock moments, even a touch of jazz. I hear elements of a smoother Elyse Weinberg along with someone like Mariza Koch and the band, Emma Myldenberger. Considering this is their second show together, it is amazingly accomplished. But these are fine experienced musicians that know how to create a unique atmosphere. The songs are strong and there is nothing not to like here, especially for an old psyche-folker like me.
photo: Rock'n'Roll Hotel
Trixie Whitley - If the opening band was edgy, Trixie Whitley and her band are even edgier. She sings and plays guitar most, but not all of the time. She is backed with drums, electric bass, and keyboards. Although there is a singer songwriter approach, it veers more towards rock than folk. The vocals are intense and expressive and create the edginess, but the keyboards counter that with a spooky backing that you don't think about often, but feel every step of the way. Her songs are strong and her personality is fun especially as she embraces a rather small crowd tonight. But that made for an even better show as I rarely see a Friday night crowd enraptured by the music and staying so quietly focused. And there was much to focus on as Whitley changed the arrangements from sparse solo outings to full band outings that varied in volume and depth. When you see a relatively small show filled with serious fans, you know there will be bigger shows in the future as the music gets discovered.

Video grab of the Night: Speaking of spooky...

Friday, July 22, 2016

Caustic Casanova - The Ravenna Arsenal - Horseburner - Matter of Planets - Borracho -- The Pinch - Jul 21 2016

Borracho - 5 bands? The real review will be of my back at the end of the night and tomorrow morning. But if the middle batch is as good as the bookends, it will be worth it. We start with a Power with a capital P trio that has always done a great job around town. They have such a tough sound, but don't let it overshadow their fine songs that could probably work in more than a few offshoot genres, as long as it still rocks. I had not been to the Pinch in a while and the sound seemed to be a bit better tonight with better equipment. The vocals are still a bit buried, but the clarity of the instrumentation is solid. Their drummer is off for South America soon and is the second DC area musician to head to that continent that I know of. Hope he has a blast and hope the remaining duo continue to offer great music to this area. This was a fine final set for me that I really enjoyed.

Matter of Planets - From Columbus, Ohio, a former home town of mine and also home of Lo-Pan, a really fine band I have seen on this very stage, comes this powerful quartet. They can easily work on any metal stage with Lo-Pan or all of the bands tonight, but they quickly set course for the stars. They have two guitars soaring, but keep it tough along the way. They create some nice shifts in course to keep the journey interesting, which is important as this is a fully instrumental set. Good solos and rhythmic shifts kept things interesting as well. Ultimately, this band proved to have a different sound from the rest, but still connected well with the others as they could match the strength of the metal offered up tonight.

Horseburner - I am not sure what a horseburner is, but I also don't think I want to know. But for the band behind the name, we have a West Virginia quartet that knows how to kick up some serious sludge metal. They have enough shifts in tone and pace to not stay too much in drone trappings. In fact, they added more than one double lead moment, as well as some post Metallica metal offerings. This may be a bit too much genre (or sub genre perhaps) jumping for some, but bring it on. It works ok for me and did for the modest crowd out on this hot night.

The Ravenna Arsenal - I learned from the hard working photographer behind Roxplosion that one of this Ohio band's guitarists is a luthier who has built the guitars they were using tonight and has a very small line of guitars he has crafted. While not an expert in gear, I can safely say they delivered the crunch, power, and tone that a fine metal band requires. They often had some grungy gooey slow parts in their overall sound, but there were some fascinating high tones fighting to come through the muck that offered a ghostly melody to the mix. This is another strangely likable band in what is turning out to be a successful evening with nary a note out of place.
Caustic Casanova - I just saw this trio, long one of my favorites, less than two months ago, so nothing changed too much from that review. A bit of tinkering with the set list as we began with the opening riffs courtesy of Mr. Nugent (he won't notice, he's busy this week) that work into one of their newer metallic crunching songs with the usual artistry within (something Ted could not touch with a ten foot bow). They keep the sonics coming with all the creative flourish that you come to expect and the crowd is enjoying it all. They unify all the elements previously heard tonight and add a few spices of their own to what is now a long but fulfilling night. Another cut reminded me of Budgie jamming with Led Zeppelin until some how a Rush song emerged. There is plenty of psychedelic intensity as well, as this trio knows how to play with all forms of metal and beyond to concoct something unique. And they continue to work hard and tour frequently. And next week they are off for TEN WEEKS. So if they come your way, do check them out. You will not be sorry.

Cartoon Grab of the Night: I dedicate this On the Fastrack cartoon to Mugger, Gibby Haynes, and Duff McKagan, and accountants everywhere.

Holy Fuck - Doomsquad -- DC9 - Jul 21 2016

by John Miller

Doomsquad - It's getting late. Doomsquad, supporting their latest effort, Total Time, are in the 28th minute of what appears to be a 30 minute delay. Shit happens, I get it. There are lots of moving parts, so perhaps the delay was inevitable. It's interesting, the drums, rather percussion is spot on. In addition to the traditional, there looks to be some triggers activating a pre-recorded beat and there is definitely something else but it has gotten so crowded, the mystery instrument, remains just that, a mystery. The keyboards (of which I count three) keep this progressive techno grounded. With the amount of rhythmic gymnastics happening, they provide an exceptional base. If I get lost, I'll just listen for the keys. Considering Doomsquad began as a joke; a riff on the classic family outfits of the sixties and seventies, they did a good job of subverting those tropes on their collective heads. Far from saccharine, they are aggressive and at points almost confrontational. Very impressive.

Holy Fuck - Let's count how many times I can write fuck or a derivative of fuck. DC9 has some pretty amazing food and some pretty amazing booths. Super comfortable. Generally I'll take a seat before a show, slide as far as I can to the left, and rest against the wall. An older gentleman sat down across from me tonight with the drummer from Holy Fuck. While I didn't add much of anything to the conversation, I was able to confirm the suggestion of local mainstays Tone as someone Holy Fuck should get into. Moral of the story; talk to strangers

Holy Fuck has an interesting approach to their brand of electronic music; they use non-traditional instruments to approximate the sound of modern electronic music. That's not to say they don't use electronic instruments, Holy Fuck aren't using the typical tools. Though I don't see any laser guns yet, it’s early, so there is still hope. Holy Fuck is much more traditional than I could have imagined. There is a constant thumping base and looping keyboard patterns that are unmistakably dance; Fuck isn't exactly clean either. There’s film of dirt that envelops their compositions. I imagine a lot of that has to do with the fuzz coming off the bass. Lots and lots of fuzz, low ends, distortion, effect games with the keyboards. Vocally there isn't much to speak of; any additions from the band are usually in the form of atmospheric noise. The drums are on point all night; through it all they are crisp and varied. Matt keeps it interesting with his choice of time signatures. It reminds me of Battles. I almost feel as if there is too much noise. It can be overbearing at times and take away from the cleaner, quieter moments. And too be honest the quiet moments aren't even that quiet. This isn't manic, swinging violently from volume to volume, it’s excessive. And with a name like Holy Fuck, who can blame them?

Total fuck count: 9

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Amanda + Jack Palmer - Thor & Friends -- 9:30 Club - Jul 16 2016

Thor & Friends - Thor is Thor Harris and not the Norse God (nor the old Max's KC performer). If you are like me, you know him from his run with the Swans, who you can see at this same club in about ten days. But before he gears up with the guitar power of the Swans, he has consciously put together a guitar, bass, and drumless outfit to open up tonight (and also back up some of Amanda Palmer's songs). He has a synth player mostly handling the bottom sounds and a viola handling the drone. That leaves himself and two other vibes players to move around to various xylophones. Thor adds a bit of clarinet as well to this intriguing sound. Amanda Palmer even grabs a pair of mallets and joins in. The band began with rhythmic droning pieces, but work in more melodic works. There was quite a bit of complexity here and the band handles it well as a serene ambiance prevailed. Yet it is a setting that kept you quite alert and mentally active with all that was coming out of this band. The Swans unplugged? Not really, but this was an imaginative spin on that concept. Ultimately this was a fine set that would be even more successful in a smaller room.

Noah Britton - In an uncredited appearance, the writer of one of the songs on the new Jack + Amanda Palmer LP made an appearance here to do a couple of songs. Britton's comdey troupe, Aspergers are Us, is appearing at the Kennedy Center tonight. Britton played a deep voiced folk cut that was quite original and then a singalong that showed decent finger style guitar and a nice melody. Sometimes these little interludes are a distraction, but not tonight. This was a fun surprise that went over well.
Jack and Amanda Palmer - I have not seen Amanda Palmer since the Dresden dolls were here many years ago and I was looking forward to something different tonight. She played hostess the whole way through by introducing and playing with Thor early on. She explained the evening and took questions from the audience reminding me of a funny personable Carol Burnett show opening. When her set began, she played a few tunes with Thor & Friends to start things off. Although the crowd was stoked, the tone was set early on with maybe a bit too much repartee with the audience as the first song was stopped four times. It was hard to find too much fault as the set was loose and fun. Then Amanda's Dad comes out with acoustic guitar as they sang duets from their latest album where they chose cover songs from the last 50 years to play together. The voices worked well as Jack seemed like an old folkie and Amanda has a profoundly excellent voice. Still, I would have rather heard more songs and less talking where my brain was led to debate what I was hearing...

"Love is not about perfection, it is fucked up. We are all fucked up, right?" Well no, that sort of generalization for billions of people is as meaningless as saying that it is all about perfection.

paraphrasing... 'This is a Phil Ochs song from 1964 and sadly is still going on today'. Agreed, but again awfully general, since if you talked to anyone who was there, things are radically different. If you expect major problems and bad attitudes to become extinct, well good luck. It is like expecting to win a 'war on drugs' or expecting sin to be eradicated. But hey, a Phil Ochs song is welcome and will be for centuries to come.

I know I am getting picky here, because the atmosphere was fun, but the songs can speak to the big issues better than the performer most times. And yes these are troubling times, but any sort of reading of history should remind you of why people have always been using creative means to get through it all. So long may Amanda Palmer continue with the creative songs she writes and the covers she interprets so well.

Quote of the Night: From Noah Britton in the middle of his successful sing along...
"That's it, make Minor Threat proud."

Thursday, July 14, 2016


The heat is in. If I can brave the walk to the clubs, these are some of the shows I will be attending:

Amanda Palmer with Thor & Friends will be at the 9:30 Club this Saturday night, July 16th. The last time I saw Amanda at the Club was when she played for the first Obama inauguration. What a radical choice we had for that election. Can't get any more radical than that.

Doomsquad opens for Holy Expletive (I use expletives like a sailor, but I just hate them in band names) at the DC9 on Thursday, July 21st.

Trixie Whitley joins us at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Friday the 22nd.

Super Furry Animals bring their super furry fun across the ocean to play for us at the 9:30 Club on Saturday, July 23rd.

The Defibulators will keep your heart pumping at Gypsy Sally's on Tuesday, July 26th.

The mighty Swans will be playing their last show on Thursday the 28th at the 9:30 Club. Let's call it their... oh, go watch Rocky & Bullwinkle if you don't know what comes next.

If you don't make it to the Swans, by all means head over to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel to see Quilt and Big Thief. My theoretical clone will be there.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Steve Gunn - Spacin -- Black Cat - Jul 10 2016

by John Miller

Spacin - Spacin meander on stage about ten after eight. The crowd follows, slowly making their way into the Back Room. It's quiet but to be honest, I expected as much. Spacin have to compete with uncharacteristically nice weather. Beer in hand, Jason Killinger introduces his four piece as they stumble into their first piece. It's decidedly lo-fi fuzz that begins quietly enough before morphing into a four minute riff. Hailing from Philadelphia, Spacin is supporting their latest, 'Total Freedom', and if it's anything like this set, it is probably well worth the listen. Jason keeps it light, asking for a bottle opener during an impromptu intermission. The drums thud while the bass follows along. Jason fiddles with his beverage. For such a laid back set there is a lot of shredding tonight. The lead guitarist is doing a killer job of keeping things exciting. Structurally the songs are interesting; big hooks followed by sludge, that find their way back to the hooks. Really solid. The room has filled out nicely as the back half of the set begins. Things slow down and take on a more psychedelic bent, before the three piece drum set begins. And seemingly out of nowhere another endless hook. Great set.
 photo: Geoff Tischman

Steve Gunn - Formally of Kurt Vile's backing band, The Violaters, Brooklyn based Steve Gunn is supporting his latest album Eyes on the Lines (his seventh release since 2013). I don't know if it is because I have read so many reviews of David's but I feel like I have seen Kurt Vile multiple times. So I am excited to see what Steve Gunn is all about. I wasn't expecting so much twang; the first piece has a lot of slide guitar that plays well with Steve's voice. It's a nice complement before the two guitarists battle it out. With the reviews read about his most recent release, I expected something a lot slower. I kept seeing words like contemplative, journey, direction and expected a slow trek out west; taking in each landscape with a cool, measured thought. The bass is good; not quite mid range, not quite low end, not exactly emphasizing every bump in the road but rather letting the shocks do their job. At times the guitars move at a blistering pace, shredding in between Steve and the drums. And considering how measured he is, I am surprised how loud they get. The earlier reviews also misled me as well. Kurt Vile's sets reminded David of early Pink Floyd and Velvet Underground. That’s not to say they were wrong, I just assumed Gunn might follow suit.  His pieces are much more up tempo. As if he were on a mission; racing through the south. While it isn't quite a madcap race to the end, it is certainly at least 10 to 15 miles above the speed limit; like an old pickup rumbling down dirt country road.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Split Seconds - Wild Love - More AM than FM -- Black Cat - Jul 7 2016

More AM than FM -- I last saw this Maryland trio 3 1/2 years ago and they offer the same powerful punk sound, but have even a bit more skill and confidence now. Instead of radio bands, I think 'More Agrro-Music than Finesse Music' is appropriate here. The throaty guitar licks on top of a strong rhythm section lays the table with classic punk rock meets blues rock sounds. The guitarist's voice can stay with it all with a ferocious edge that keeps everyone on their toes. The tunecraft is decent and again, it is the confidence to push the music to the edge that has these ladies at the top of their game. What is not to like about a band like this?

Wild Love - This local outfit has an Irish singer, noticeable more in the stage patter than his lead vocals or the musical style. They also feature a big strong sound, but unlike the first band, there is more a move to shoegaze, post-Radiohead rock, and older big rock sounds. I find it works best for me when they cut loose a little bit and inject some fun into their songs. The more introspective ones drift away from me some. But there is enough spirit and energy to make for a decent set. They cut a fine presence in the scene and should work well on many a bill around town.

The Split Seconds - This local twin guitar quartet is celebrating their album release with this show tonight. There is a sizable crowd here to join in on the fun, and the band delivers them everything they expected and then some. They describe themselves as classic pop punk band, which is exactly as they were for me. I kept trying to find the band that they have grown out of and came up with Generation X, which I see they indeed list as an influence. That seemed closest as the vocals had that melodic energy of early Gen X songs. But they add some bombs away abandon from even heavier later day punk bands, while never losing sight of good melodies. They even add some classic moves like instrumental surf songs and reggae-meets-punk rock combination cuts. And they are yet another band to cover 'Kick Out the Jams' with a guest vocalist even. Although I have seen the MC5 play this, I never get tired of the many cover versions that come my way. Although there were some heavy hitter national bands to consider tonight, I am glad I went with the locals as they had the energy and sense of fun that makes for a great summer night.

Cartoon grab of the Night:

Sunday, July 3, 2016

We Were Promised Jetpacks - Prism Tats -- Jammin Java - Jul 2 2016

Prism Tats - We begin the holiday weekend festivities amid a big crowd with an LA trio that I am guessing many have not heard of. I hadn't, so it started a little slow for me, but their sound was very curious. They combined smooth pop melodic moves with a wide vocal range and some vocal/synth effects on top of a grinding and simple rhythm section. The guitarist invokes some alternate pop moves or joins in with a menacing attack. Yet the vocals never attack. It is like Kirk Brandon playing with Hawkwind's rhythm section, covering some Nerves songs. This really gets quite good by set's end and I sense the crowd is experiencing it like I am, taking a bit to get used to the style and really enjoying what these guys come up with. It is always a pleasure hearing such familiar and catchy sounds integrated in unique ways.
We Were Promised Jetpacks - This Scottish band has a strong fanbase here due no doubt to all the classic reasons, writing really good songs, releasing albums regularly, and touring hard. The room is stoked even after a bit too long a delay (for me anyway) and the crowd is excited with every song and just about every move. The band does its usual subtle shifting around between pop, rock, postpunk, and shoegaze with a firm hand at the wheel to keep everything sounding rather majestic. These guys have that knack for making big sounds sound intimate, with dynamic shifts from loud to quiet that seem completely within nature. This is about the third maybe fourth time I have seen them, which is about the time I feel I have had enough of a band. But their fresh approach and strong songwriting has not tired me the slightest and I will quite possibly see them again on their next visit across the Atlantic.

Quote of the Night: Actually, a week ago or more, rather stating the obvious:

James Williamson - "Everybody's dead except for Iggy and I, so it would be sort of ludicrous... with only one Stooge in the band"