Thursday, October 28, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #79: Gary Numan @ Black Cat, 10/20/10

Oh. Sweet. Mercy. For my 79th show, my friends, I got to see an absolute, certified, bona fide, hot damn Legend. In what was very probably the musical event of the 100 thus far, yours truly was witness to the one, the only, Gary fucking Numan. At the Black fucking Cat, to boot. Which means, for those who have never had the pleasure of a show upstairs at said venue, it was choc full of Numan fans young and old in a cozy space that made one feel oh so special for being there. In a way it was surreal, seeing such a performer in such a space. The good kind of surreal, of course. There was a strange, cosmic sort of serendipity about this show, but I'll get into that later. Give me a minute, friends, I think I'm still in recovery...

MINI RECAP: Gary Numan = He Is Legend! Overall Score: A

And now, for the serendipity. Numan's tour, in which he played the vast majority of the record, was The Pleasure Principle tour. This album was released on 1979. Also of note in 1979? Yours truly was born. And in the third piece of this little serendipitous triad, this show is #79. So already, even before things got underway, this show was destined to be quite memorable. As we know, this kind of tour has become quite the rage, especially amongst bands that perhaps haven't been in the public eye in a while. And so, to my delight, around comes Gary Numan, touring the heck out of one of 1979's most seminal albums (seriously, if you don't own it...).

This show could have been a little dodgy. By his own admission, Numan was dealing with some sort of vocal issues, and considered canceling the show. But to the delight of those present, he decided to soldier on, and I'm so very glad he did. Sure, the crowd picked up the slack on several numbers (which added a sort of loose, intimate vibe to the proceedings), but when Numan sang he very frequently sounded just right. Perhaps I was listening with ears prone to hearing just the good bits, or perhaps I was just so excited to see one of the most important new wave/synth artists of ever. Be that as it may, Gary Numan damn near killed it.

His supporting bandmates filled the room with song after song of Gary's trademark dark, sexy synth-laden sound. Hearing my trio of favorites from The Pleasure Principle was nothing short of breathtaking: "Metal", "Films", and "M.E." Each song was fantastic. When the notes of "Cars" inevitably began to waft into the room, along with a battery of strobes, there was an overall feeling of ecstasy within the walls of the Black Cat. Everything was working, the darkness, the nuances of the songs, the absolute synthy perfection...even when he abandoned The Pleasure Principle and pulled from later, more rocking records, Numan to me didn't miss a beat.

And yes. If you're wondering whether or not the man is still a fox, the answer is a resounding and very emphatic yes.

The man who helped launch a movement proved he can still play with the best of them. Had he not had a night of being a little vocally-challenged, this show would have been even more glorious, somehow. But as it stands, it was one hell of a night. Viva Gary Numan!

mp3: Metal (Gary Numan from The Pleasure Principle)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #78: The Henry Clay People/The Dig @ Black Cat, 10/14/10

So looking back, at this point in the year this week (10/11-10/14) of shows currently stands as the best of the best. Four straight nights, four killer shows. And I do mean killer. The last of these shows featured two bands straight outta Cali that I'd been wanting to see for quite a while, especially that group of rapscallions of The Henry Clay People. I've said it (many, many times) before, and apologies if you're sick of hearing it but I'll keep saying it til I'm dang near blue in the face: Bands from California just do it better, sometimes. And one of those times, wait for it, was this particular evening. It was pretty, it was rockin', and it was the finest of fine ways to wrap up the week of concert-going.

MINI RECAP: The Dig = Royal Flush! The Henry Clay People = Full House! Overall Score: B++++

Band numero uno was The Dig. Despite the fact that their Myspace page proclaims their Brooklyn residency, the band introduced themself with a hearty "Hello, we're from California." Go figure. Is it that non-California bands want to be considered California bands? Whatever the case may be, I dug The Dig. This little foursome took you from being bathed in a really, really pretty wash of dreamlike reverie to being rocked like an earthquake. Y'all know how I like that juxtaposition of slow-motion magic and suggestive rock groovin', so me and The Dig, well, we got along just fine. I found a particular kinship in the lyric, "Only lookin' for a good time," because, well, I just did. As much as I enjoyed thier sweet moments of lulling bliss, I tended to appreciate their turning things up a few notches even more (think that sunshiney gloss of Southern California that's been dragged through a few all-night benders, perhaps). There was an ease to their set, an air of being uncomplicated but really quite good at what they're doing. At one point, I likened them to The Kinks, dragged through the Motor City and left wandering, dazed and confused, in the middle of Hollywood. Which means pretty dang fine.

The Henry Clay People is definitely a California band, both residentially and musically speaking. They claim they want "everybody to be a Henry Clay Person," and while I'm not sure what the rest of the general populace of the planet thinks, I'm definitely ready to call myself an honorary Henry Clay Person. I'd wanted to see them for what kinda almost felt like forever, and I must say, the wait was worth it. They laid it all out for us, friends, from those lively, bold vocals to the gnarly strumming of the guitar to the bulky heft of the rhythm section and of course, the ever-so slight possible nerdiness. It was all there, in the set, and it was all awesome. As was their cheeky sense of humor. When "everything broke" at the start of the second song, it was suggested that Jordan (i.e. pianist/vocalist) sing us some showtunes. It was an affable, fun moment, and Jordan took the cue and took on Bowie's "Space Odyssey," which, I tell you what y'all, was a damn fine improvisational cover. Well played indeed. Resuming their normal transmissions, The Henry Clay People hopped along a wide variety of touchstones from Weezer to the playful cheek of The Faces and a half dozen other stops in between. The radness was just non-stop from this band. Daggum, y'all, they were delightful.

It was one hell of a week, and these two bands capped it off something fierce. Do yourself a favor and dig The Dig, and let yourself become a Henry Clay Person. And GO SEE THEM BOTH LIVE. IMMEDIATELY. GO.

mp3: Switch Kids (The Henry Clay People from Somewhere On The Golden Coast)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Newsflash!: We're Throwing a Rock'n'Roll Party!

That's right, little darlings! Your favorite sassypants music scribes are helping to bring together some seriously spectacular bands for a night of live music fantabulousness! Those of you with the keen eye have probably already spotted this little event on our calendar over yonder, but to announce it all official-like, here goes. We're tingly all over just thinking about it, let me tell you.

We're pleased as punch to be sponsoring one heck of a doozy of a show, if I do say so myself. I guarandamntee the Velvet Lounge is the place to be on Friday, November 5th. If you've got plans, break 'em. A date? Bring 'em along! Bring your mama, your best friend, and your side piece for what will without a doubt be one heck of a show. For starters, Baltimore's (and DC's) Sister Ex will bring some rock to the table. Then, Boston's own Boy Without God will bring a little beauty to your life. To cap it off, we've finagled not one but two of our pet bands into playing for the enjoyment of each and every one of you: Seas (DC) and The Loom (NYC). See how much we love y'all? There is so much goodness to be had I just don't know what to do with myself. And all for the bargain bonanza price of $8. Seriously.

We hope to see all of your beautiful, shining faces on November 5th. We're looking forward to it immensely, and hope you will to, as you ink it down on your calendars/enter it into whatever iPhone app you've got for such occasions.

mp3: Narrows (Seas from Now My Home Is A Beech Tree)

100 Shows of 2010 - #77: Jeff The Brotherhood/The Woggles @ Black Cat, 10/13/10

It's funny, isn't it, how sometimes our friends can know what's best for us even better than we do. I owe this particularly blissful Wednesday evening to my friend Max, who was taken aback (i.e. horrified, scandalized, and on the verge of going into shock) by the fact that I hadn't been planning on attending the Jeff The Brotherhood/The Woggles show. So emphatic was his proclamation that I would have a killer time to end all killer times that I relented, and chose rock and roll over an early bedtime. And I'll tell you what, my sweet little rock and rollers, when it comes to the choice between rock and sleep, never, ever let sleep win.

MINI RECAP: The Woggles = Wickedly Wicked! Jeff The Brotherhood = Radically Rad! Overall Score: A

James Brown might have been the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, but the dudes of The Woggles are the hardest working I've seen grace a stage in a long, long time. Working on their third decade of rampant rock and roll, these four have more love for the music, more gusto, and more showmanship in their little fingers than the vast majority of bands out there. Guarandamnteed. Beyond my serious sartorial appreciation of their matching double-breasted uniforms, I was virtually rendered speechless by the sheer spectacle of their unbridled power. How I've never gotten into them before, well, is an oversight of the highest order. I can only apologize and promise to do better, for both myself and for you. There's a definite 60s-ness to The Woggles, a mix of the scuzz of the Motor City with the taut pop sensibilities of the British Invasion. In other words, this shit will get you moving like nobody's business. The bouncing! The howling! The hamming! It was non-stop, ridiculous awesomeness. Singer Mighty Manfred works the stage (um, and the entire room, particularly the counter of the bar and the floor) like a man possessed by the unholiest of unholy ghosts, writhing and wriggling and gettin' down with his bad self. He also tossed out banterous gems, the most sage being this: "No shy boy ever got laid." Discuss. This set took my breath away, plain and simple.

Before they began, I thought there was absolutely no way whatsoever that Jeff The Brotherhood, or any band for that matter, could hope to succeed at attempting to follow such a glorious set. After all, how does one top such a successful pairing of over-the-top posturing and fantastic rock? Turns out, it wasn't so hard after all. Two guys, drums and a guitar quickly and resoundingly proved me wrong. They laid down their driving, dirty rock and it didn't take long before I was diggin' their vibrations. There was bit of retro swamp rock going on, hints of CCR spending too many nights in Nashville perhaps, pounding bourbon shots and jamming with Black Sabbath. They were thunderingly loud, building layer upon layer of filthy splendor. If The Woggles had me feeling like I was livin' in the 60s, Jeff The Brotherhood fast-forwarded a decade later to the hazy, heady heydays of stoner, droner 70s rock. I was beyond pleasantly surprised by how much I liked them.

These two bands made a perfect pair, and the whole damn thing was just about a perfect show. What a night, my friends. What a fanfuckingtastic night. Please, go forth and welcome The Woggles and Jeff The Brotherhood into your lives. I promise it'll be worth your while. And definitely, unquestionably go see them live whenever you can.

mp3: Ragged But Right (The Woggles from Ragged But Right)

mp3: Bone Jam (Jeff The Brotherhood from Heavy Days)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #76: The Love Language/Lost In The Trees/Pomegranates @ Black Cat, 10/12/10

There are bands I’ve seen once and been quite happy to leave at that. There are bands, however, that happen to require frequent live observation. Bands that you can’t get enough of. Bands that you could see night in and night out and still crave more. I just so happen to have seen not one, not two, but three of this variety of band on one bill. Lucky, no? The bands in question? The Love Language, Lost In The Trees, and Pomegranates. Or, as you might wish to refer to them, Amazing, Amazing, and Amazing.

MINI RECAP: Pomegranates = Adorably Perfect! Lost In The Trees = Lovely Terrificness! The Love Language = Loves Of My Life! Overall score: A

When last I saw Pomegranates, they were playing a late late late show at a small boutique in the middle of Richmond. It’s been a while, and the band is definitely moving up in the world (and deservedly so). Their sound is even better than I had remembered, luscious and rich, playful and exuberant. The music this band makes is totally adorable, like the band themselves, yet with a subtle air of sophistication creeping in. It’s poptastic, yet they can put the pedal to the metal at a moment’s notice, squashing the fluff in favor of feverish noise. I adore the sort of dreaminess in their music, giving it a lighter-then-air feeling at times. And oh yeah. That smoke machine? Cutest thing ever. I picked up on some hints of the early years of The Verve in some of their songs, and y’all know that equates to winner winner chicken dinner in my book. However, for all their swirling lull, they can get the ole hips a-swayin’ no problem. They’re a lively bunch, those Pomegranates, and they are utterly, totally, ever-so completely delightful. Closing with a kickily rollicking rendition of “Everybody Come Outside”, the band shut it down on a high note. I had all but forgotten how splendid a live band they were, but believe you me I won’t be forgetting that again.

It was then time for the mysterious sandwich band with whom I was totally unfamiliar. Friends, that was a major oversight on my part. North Carolinians Lost In The Trees were intriguing, beguiling, and plenty of other –ings too. This massively nebulous conglomeration won me over immediately. I mean, who doesn’t love a band that starts their set in the middle of the crowd? And things only got better from there. The band is in possession of a slightly mysterious and spooky kinda sound, somewhat in the vein of the glorious Devotchka, but with more of that down home Southern thang goin’ on. They’ve got brass and they’ve got strings, but they are neither brassy nor stringy. Instead, they hover somewhere in the realms of haunting and enchanting, with a plaintive quality to their beautiful earthiness. To quoth my friend Bill, himself a North Carolina resident, there’s definitely something very cinematic to their music, being as expansive and grand as it can be. This music would have made a perfect accompaniment to my drive home from North Carolina a few weekends back, what with the glow of the sun hitting the turning leaves just so against a gentle blue sky. So very pretty. And so very highly recommended.

And on came The Love Language. When last I saw them, I was hithering and thithering with abandon down at SXSW 2009, and didn’t get to appreciate a full Love Language set. But tonight, on lead LL man Stuart McLamb’s birthday, that was put to right. And it was a superb little set, I assure you. After a slight delay for some birthday shots, McLamb & co. began to play, and I began to swoon. They somehow managed to sound even better than I had hoped, casting a spell with their sugar-coated heartbreak and all around loveliness. As the band played on, I couldn’t help my mind from wandering to the thought that North Carolina is a hotbed of good music possibly on par with the big boys of New York, LA, and Austin. I really am still processing just how very good they were. My one complaint about the set was that I wanted to hear more old stuff, but then, I’m just silly sometimes. But of course, hearing the jingle jangle swamp rock of “Lalita” quickly put everything right. As did this entire evening.

All I can say, ladies and gentlemen, is that these three bands are worth your time, and your eternal love and affection. I know they’ve all got mine.

mp3: 50's (Pomegranates from the forthcoming One Of Us)

mp3: Heart To Tell (The Love Language from Libraries)

100 Shows of 2010 - #75: Women/ DD/MM/YYYY @ DC9, 10/11/10

Upon seeing this here show, I’ve come to a conclusion, my sweetest of sweet loves. We could each and every one of us benefit from more Women in our lives. No, not women women. I mean Women, the Canadian ensemble full of much supreme awesomeness and an excess of sonic splendifery. Though, come to think of it some of you could probably use more women, too, but that’s neither here nor there. So let’s consider #75 here as the one in which two bands of northerly neighbors come to DC and lay down some seriously bitchin, spectacular noise. Mama like.

MINI RECAP: DD/MM/YYYY = Dashingly Thunderous! Women = More Than Women To Me! Overall score: A

I’d been curious about DD/MM/YYYY (aka Day Month Year, just so you know) for a little while now, and was exceedingly pleased with the live stylings of their befuddling, bulky sound. Wishing us all a Happy Columbus Day, they thrashed through a set full of goodies. I’d call it a mish mash of the bratty spittle snarl of Black Eyes (RIP), the dark synthy rhythms of Underworld, and the general jarring, angular dissonance of what the kids might call art punk. Whatever the ingredients, the finished product was a fine little nasty wallop, and I kinda sorta really liked it. In fact, this (and really, this applies to Women, too) was probably what Heather Chandler had in mind when she uttered the immortal words, “fuck me gently with a chainsaw.” Between the deafening waves of blistering attitude and the drummer with a major case of the spazz, I was totally enamored.

The glorious insanity didn’t stop there, my friends. Oh no. For up next was the band I had been wanting to see since, well, the last time I saw them. Which, quite frankly, was far too long ago. Women, o Women. How much I love thee. “We’re gonna play songs now,” they stated, and play songs they damn well did. It was just what I had hoped it would be, the giant wall of noise tempered with the hint of melody here and there. The stark leanness of the older songs was balanced by the more structured, dare I say almost psych-influenced songs to be found on their new record. With the stridence came the loveliness, and it came as quite a pleasant surprise to hear this evolution. At times I felt as if my head might explode with the dazzling wonder of it all. Hearing my favorite of favorite Women songs, “Black Rice,” was the sweetest of cherries. The slightly sped-up, but no less killer, song is so rad to hear live that that one song pretty much made my night. These guys are straight up artists of the aural assault, turning the onslaught of noise into something almost beautiful. Having seen them a second time, I can confirm that
Women is getting better. And that is almost scary.

So guess what I’m gonna tell you kids? Go see these two bands live. Seriously. It’s for your own good.

mp3: Narrow With The Hall (Women from Public Strain)

Monday, October 18, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #74: Hammer No More The Fingers/Birds of Avalon @ Motorco, 10/9/10

I would hope my fellow DC kids would agree on this statement, that we’ve got a pretty daggum decent little stable of venues at which to take in some rock and some roll. On any given night of any given week, we can venture forth and see a good show at one of any number of places. And that’s a damn fine feeling. However, for those of us with the travel itch, it’s nice to hit the road every now and again and see what’s goin’ on in other parts of this fine world. Especially when a brand spanking new venue is involved. Enter Motorco: newest venue in the fabulous (and fabulously talent-rich) Research Triangle (Durham, to be precise). So new the paint had barely dried, but still a terribly good spot for a terribly good show. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly how it went down.

MINI RECAP: Birds of Avalon = Blazingly Amazing! Hammer No More The Fingers = Handsomely Noisy! Motorco = Motorific! Overall Score: B+++

I loved everything about Motorco immediately (well, save for the parking situation). It reminded me a whole lot of my first Richmond apartment, the loftiness of it and the exposed ductwork and the dark, friendly confines (yes, lofts can be dark and friendly. Trust.). However, my place had neither that fabulous wall of windows nor the great stage and sound. The place was packed with shiny, happy North Carolinians, reveling in this super new space, not to mention the cheap beer. But that wasn’t all, oh no. There were some pretty fine bands, too, to help ring in the official grand opening soiree for this here venue.

Birds of Avalon was the first musical treat I had the pleasure of sampling. I’d wanted to see them for a little while now, so I was way excited they were on the bill for the Motorco party. They immediately tested the sound barriers of the new club, spewing out pulsating wave of noise after pulsating wave of noise in an unflinching, unapologetic set. I’m not sure, but I might have left my body there for a little while during this set, so good was this band. The sound was a mess of things, swirls of shoegaze, the crunch of straight up bastard rock, and definitely delicious dashes of psych rock. This is a band that turns what could have been a disparate jumble of noise into a cohesive, unified wall of beauty. I could hardly believe it when they set down their instruments and left the stage. It was the biggest bummer of the night bar none.

But then, my spirits were lifted, because soon taking up where Birds of Avalon had left off were local heroes (and LET faves) Hammer No More The Fingers. Somehow this was my third Hammer show in as many cities this year. I was totally mystified by Duncan’s sartorial choice (a boiler suit), but less confounding was the band’s totally rad rock and roll. Feeding off the partisanship of the crowd, the trio (and friend on keys) stormed through a triumphant little set full of that ridiculously catchy 90s college radio rock they’re becoming known for. Between riffs there were much banter, and the tossing of many glow-in-the-dark bracelets into the happily inebriated masses. On their home turf, the band was that much louder, that much cheekier, and that much more into it. And friends, that’s a wonderful thing.

When you get right to it, my friends, I wanted to uproot Motorco and move it up north about 4 hours to this neck of the woods. Despite our venues here, I am insanely jealous about this space, and I might just have to make an effort to hit more shows down there in the near future. Especially if they keep up that whole Beatlestones dancenight thingie. Yours truly might be unable to resist that kind of tractor beam. But kudos to all involved with Motorco, and may it have many good years ahead of it.

mp3: Your Down Time Is Up (Birds of Avalon from Uncanny Valley)

mp3: Nobody Knows (Hammer No More The Fingers from Looking For Bruce)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #73: Gayngs @ Black Cat, 10/5/10

As I'm sure y'all informed little loves have already heard, Gayngs has been having a wee bit of trouble with their touring vehicle. And, well, their instruments. Hey, it happens. But before all that kerfuffle of confusion and all that silly, third-person statement-issuing, the conglomeration of super cute, super sassy Gayng-members rolled into DC, where yours truly and yes, best friend Laura, witnessed a night of hott rocks and cool jams. You know how we do. Needless to say, it was definitely one of the bestest, most ridiculous shows of the entire annum 2010. Fo sho, y'all.

MINI RECAP: Gayngs = Good Goddam! Overall Score: A

Gayngs, Gayngs, Gayngs. Where to start, really? There's about a million of them, as you know, but don't call them a supergroup. I like to think of them as a mob. A gang, if you will. Hey, they've even got their own gayng sign (involving middle fingers, naturally). Each one of the herd was delightful, with garb ranging from ghetto fabulous to indie chic. Which means there was a whole lotta sunglasses worn at night and super fly cowboy shirts. You know the drill. Special shoutout to Brad Cook (of LET faves Megafaun) for his fuzzy bear head accessory. Well done, Brad. The sound of Gayngs was slow jamz meets a wealth of indie quirkiness. In short, this was some hot diggity dog seriously ridiculous shit.

At times it was hard to tell where the line between joke and serious band began, but the music stands as a testament to what can happen when a whole lot of terribly talented music folk get together and start messing around. "We love you," someone from the audience lustily proclaimed, and got a "We love you guys, too" for their trouble. And I tell you what, y'all, damned if I don't love me some Gayngs. Any band that can make booties shake and touch your soul, well, they don't come along all that much. Oh, and a Sade cover? Priceless. Seriously. I can't explain it, but there is something unspeakably foxy about dudes who cover Sade. Bands, take note. Their sunglasses and dance moves cracked me up, but their music was the real deal.

Should you be lucky enough to ever have the chance to see this band, I can tell you only this: Do it. Do it. Oh, and, do it.

mp3: By Your Side (Sade Cover) (Gayngs from Daytrotter Session)

100 Shows of 2010 - #72: Foals @ Black Cat, 10/3/10

It seems that sometimes one has to be cajoled, coaxed, and very nearly dragged kicking and screaming to a show in order to be shown a good time. Such is the case of my best friend Laura and the Foals show at the Black Cat. Meeting with my dithering and waffling, she persisted admirably, and finally got me to leave the house. I know, meow meow meow rock and roll meow. Let me tell you, my darlings, that is a good friend. I can't even tell you how glad I am to have been coerced into this show, because it was one hell of a good time. To see Foals live is, well, unfathomably, splendidly, amazingly glorious.

MINI RECAP: Foals = Fucking Yes! Overall Score: A

I was pleased as punch to be at this show right from the beginning of their set. Foals has, somehow, won themselves quite a rabid little fanbase in DC, and I was pretty surprised by both the size and enthusiasm of the raucous revelers. Not surprised that Foals has so many fans, mind you, but surprised at how many dragged themselves out on a Sunday and were so very vocal. It's not often I'm part of such an excitable crowd these days, and it was rather refreshing. I'm guessing the kids dig that whole frenetic, whirling dervish synthy rock thing, quite possibly. I know I sure did.

With the crowd hanging on every note and cheering heartily for every song, Foals ripped through a doozy of an intense, glowering glow of a set. "Are you guys having a nice time?" the band inquired, to which the kids shouted their affirmations loud and clear. The sound was great, and the boys of Foals turned it loose and unleashed quite a mighty musical beast whenever they damn well pleased, which, happily, was a frequent happening. There's more to their sound than just luridly loud, filthy noise, mind you. Serious melodies and structure can be found all over the place. Foals knows how to write a song, that's for damn sure. Their interaction with the crowd was brief, but the musical communique certainly made up for the lack of smalltalk. I was totally and utterly astounded by their brutal, beautiful sound.

Foals, o Foals. What a wonderful, adorable band you are. If you, friends, find yourselves in the path of their tour, be it now or sometime in the future, don't wait for your friends to twist your arms into going to see them. Do it for yourselves. And maybe bring along a few friends. I guarantee they'll love you for it.

mp3: Balloons (Foals from Antidotes)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #71: James/Ed Harcourt @ 9:30 Club, 9/27/10

I've tried and tried and tried to come up with a suitably reverential opening for this review. But even as much as I can foam at the mouth about how wonderful certain bands are, I don't think I can adequately express to you just how amazing, how sensational, and how breathtaking the James and Ed Harcourt show was. On the one side, you have a beautiful, haunting voice (Ed Harcourt) full of ethereal moments and seductive loveliness. On the other side, well, you have much the same in the frontispiece for James, Tim Booth. It's in contention for my show of the year, and was nearly a religious experience. For real, y'all.

MINI RECAP: Ed Harcourt = Elegantly Hypnotic! James = Jaw-dropping! Overall Score: A

Somehow, shamefully, I'd never seen the divine Ed Harcourt before. I know, shame on me. I really should have my head examined. Onstage were three easy pieces, Ed, his keys and guitar, a drummer, and a lady bassist. The richness of the instrumentation was the perfect backdrop for Harcourt's vocals; those incredible, pitch-perfect, honey-coated vocals with equal parts languid enticement and thoughtful sentiment. The sound of this trio was sheer magic, hovering in the starry realms of twilight fantasies and secret, sweet rendezvous. I fell in love over and over again, thanks to lyrics like, "I wish that I was fiction/I wish that I was fact," and "Are you cursed or are you blessed?". Despite the fullness of the band's sound, the songs had a remarkably intimate quality, leading me to feel like the songs were sung only to me (what a delightful notion). To me, Ed was at his absolute best in songs like "The Trap Door", a slight huskiness in his voice giving him a very tender, very sexy appeal. The combination of Ed's guitar strumming and that voice was brutally gorgeous. It made me melt. For some reason, I feel like there's a hint of nostalgia to Ed, as though he is not quite of these times. Which, my friends, is a very good thing indeed. It was a beautiful, beautiful set.

And then, it was James. Despite being another formative British band in my youth, I never had the joy of seeing the band live. The band took the stage to a deafening roar, and the surprisingly loud crowd didn't seem to stop cheering all night. I really couldn't take good notes, so in awe was I. They pulled from all periods of their long, wonderful career. But what got me most of all was my favorite trio of James songs: "Getting Away With It", "Say Something", and "Sometimes (Lester Piggott)". I'm pretty sure I teared up at one point. It was just plain spectacular. The sheer glory of the band, the sheer magic of Tim Booth's voice, and the sheer nostalgia of it all. And I had no idea Booth was such a crazy dancer! He writhed and whirled all over the place, all arms and legs flailing artfully. I got chills from the word go, and they didn't leave me for the rest of the night. As the band bounded enthusiastically through megahit (and Britpop dance night fave) "Laid" and feathers rained down on the floor from the rafters onto a sea of blissful James lovers, I thought to myself, does it get any better than this? The answer, friends, is probably not.

We Yanks don't get many chances to see the old guard. So I do hope you'll take advantage, my loves, when bands like James and Ed Harcourt come to town. Drop what you're doing, cancel all other plans, and prepare for one hell of a night.

mp3: Say Something (James from Laid)

Monday, October 4, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #70: The Acorn @ DC9, 9/26/10

Moustaches might be all the rage right now, friends, but some folks choose to keep it old school and stick with beards and shadow. And I'm an old-fashioned gal at heart, and I loves me some beards and shadow. The Acorn, some of my new favorite neighbors to the North, fancies it old school, too. Which, in truth, is but one reason to love them. Having seen them live, finally, I can assure you there's plenty more to become smitten with. Beardage is just the tip of the iceberg.

MINI RECAP: The Acorn = Totally Astonishing! Overall Score: B++

Ambling onto a stage that felt more like a lakeside living room than a DC stage, thanks to some lamps and actual cabin walls imported from Canada for the tour, The Acorn demonstrated that a band can actually look like they sound. That being rustic and lovely and just a bit woodsy (hey, there was some plaid present, after all, not to mention all that rugged facial hair). Their sound took me to the land of big skies and piney woods and crystal lakes, at times ever-so dreamy and lulling and always, always beautiful.

"Crooked Legs" was possibly the highlight of the night for me, the breathtaking delicacy eliciting scenes of firefly-lit nights serenaded by nocturnal animals and lit by starlight. While it might seem impossible, the live version of this, and probably every song they played, was even lovelier than the recorded version. Something about this band, friends, something about them is just bewitching. But of course, it wasn't all arch perfection. No, no. These Canucks know how to get a little raunchy, launching into "the sex vibes" with a song "about our collective genitalia." I was pleased to note the band can also bring a little rock, too, proving more than idyllically one-track ponies. And nothing earns points with a DC blogger like favorably comparing and contrasting DC crowds with Philly crowds.

But to me, The Acorn is at their best when carefully and delicately creating bucolic gems full of pretty, pretty sounds. The result is all sorts of glorious goodness. And really, this is a band that should be experienced often and regularly. You can interpret that however you want, you dirty bastards.

mp3: Crooked Legs (The Acorn from Glory Hope Mountain)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #69: Field Music @ Rock'n'Roll Hotel, 9/25/10

I'm sure y'all will know exactly what I'm talking about when I say this, but I have this group of bands that I just for one reason or another have cruelly, and rather unjustly, not given enough due diligence to. I've talked about it before, I'm sure. The bands that, sure, you've heard of, maybe heard a song or two and pretty much thought it was rather good, but just haven't quite managed to make a staple in your listening rota. Well, add Field Music to this list. My lack of anything other than complete and total adoration for them has been, truly, remiss, especially when you consider that a) they're English, and b) know how to grow some mighty fine mustaches. So when my friend Carolyn offered up her extra ticket to this show, I thought it best, prudent, even, to take her up on her kind offer and venture out for what ended up being one surprisingly excellent show.

MINI RECAP: Field Music = Fucking Magic! Overall Score: A

The band, resplendently-mustached (well, half of them), threw out a set of incredibly well-crafted, interesting songs. Dynamic and angular, yet with a certain hint of pastoral sensibilities. In my notes I equate them to a much less cynical and abrasive Young Knives (who, if you're not familiar with, amend that immediately). There was keyboard goodness! There was jauntiness for days! There were even hints of some golden, funky 70s rock that crept in every now and again, adding even more to a sound that already offered so very much to love.

It didn't take me long to realize that I had been oh so shamefully negligent when it comes to Field Music. Not only was their music astounding, but they won serious points with their banter. They went on about Sunderland being near Washington's ancestral home, and having never played a Washington, be it city or state or ancestral home. It became a recurring joke betwixt songs, and caused many a chuckle from the crowd. They're punchy, those Field Music lads. They'll sing you a song in a cheerfully droll tone, with the accompanying guitar riffs so angular and lean they cut right through you. It was like watching a finely-tuned musical machine, so on-point was this band. And think of it like this: Spiky guitars, a kicky little drum beat, and the occasional falsetto. What's not to love??? Not a damn thing, that's the correct answer.

This is a sophisticated band, with quite a lot of texture to their songs. But when you get right down to it, friends, Field Music fucking rocks. Simple as. Go see them!

mp3: Measure (Field Music from Field Music (Measure) )