photos by author
At Monday night’s Black Cat show Thurston Moore dished out jokes about Dischord house, stories about Black Flag, Jello Biafra, conspiracy theories about Jimmy Carter, credited Reagan for the birth of Hardcore, and had a gin & tonic chugging contest with his guitarist. Oh yeah, and played some amazing music too.
Moore, frontman of the iconic experimental/noise/post-punk band Sonic Youth is on tour in support of his latest solo album Demolished Thoughts, released in 2011 on Matador. He brought with him fellow Matador recording artist Kurt Vile, as well as a band on his own label, Ecstatic Peace Records – Hush Arbors, which features his touring guitarist, Keith Wood. Continue reading
photo courtesy of The Sea and Cake
Catch Chicago’s The Sea and Cake tonight on the mainstage of the Black Cat. The quartet brings soft, jazz-influenced indie rock, blending ambient instrumentals and electronics with understated, dreamy/breathy vocals. The band is currently on tour of the US in support of their ninth studio album, The Moonlight Butterfly, released in May on Thrill Jockey Records. Check out their upbeat track “Up on the North Shore” from their latest album here.
The Sea and Cake
Black Cat Mainstage
I remember when M83 released their breakthrough album Dead Cities, Red Seas, & Lost Ghosts back when I was in college. M83 easily fit in my collection with groups like The Postal Service and The Notwist, yet the album had no vocalist to connect it with mankind. The occasional words were only samples; it was like a glimpse at a dystopian future, where maybe people weren’t even around anymore. I could imagine their core member Anthony Gonzalez in his French chateau, sitting at his laptops and keyboards, writing minimalist, electronic soundtracks for lonely bedrooms.
M83 has evolved tremendously since then; while their current music retains its electro roots, it’s all in all more varied, more approachable, more poppy, more epic. Their new material makes for a hell of a live show, too. They sold out two shows at Black Cat on Friday night; I stopped by the late show to see what they had to offer. The show had exactly what I want from live electronic music – infectious beats, atmospheric lighting, and an enthusiastic crowd.
photos by Sarah Jackson
London-based quartet Yuck rocked out at the Black Cat Wednesday night to a sizable crowd. The band is just finishing up their US tour in support of their self-titled debut, released in February on Fat Possum Records. This was their second visit to the Black Cat; the first was in May, opening for Australian psychedelic-rockers Tame Impala. I was at that show to see Tame Impala, and had the magical elusive fortune of experiencing an opening band that I hadn’t heard before blow my socks off. I became an instant fan. Wednesday night’s almost packed house proved that they have collected quite a few fans in the past year, and they were clearly pleased with the turnout.
image courtesy of Yuck
Head to the Black Cat tonight for young British noise-pop-rockers Yuck. Fans of Dinosaur Jr. or Sonic Youth will likely enjoy Yuck’s melodic, catchy, distortion-filled-fuzz-rock. Clearly reminiscent of the early 90s alternative noise bands, but with their own fresh take, Yuck’s live show is energetic, goofy and fun. Check out their catchy noise anthem ”Holing Out.”
photo by Justin Feller
A word to the wise: don’t try to relive the past- you will inevitably be disappointed. In the weeks leading up to The Lemonheads show at Black Cat last Friday I was excited. Excited at the thought of hearing the album It’s A Shame About Ray performed top to bottom by the dreamy pop-rock idol Evan Dando and whoever else he was calling The Lemonheads this time around. Excited to be momentarily transported back to 1992, and the happy state that album put me in. I first heard that album when I was in middle school, and got to meet Dando several times from then on at various in-store appearances, including Kemp Mill Records in Georgetown (R.I.P.) and Tower Records in Foggy Bottom (R.I.P.). (To the kids of today- there used to be things called record stores, and artists used to make appearances/perform/autograph in them for publicity while trying to promote their albums.)
So I was a fan from a young age, and saw Dando in his prime. He is no longer in his prime. (This has nothing to do with age, by the way) I think it is partly because I was a fan since I was 12 or 13, and had seen him up close (I have a picture of 13 y/o me with Dando), that I was so blown away and shocked by the sad state he appears to be in now. But I’m trying to write a music review, so before I address the crisis that is Evan Dando, I will talk about the music. Continue reading
courtesy of ‘ElfieTakesPictures’
Zach Condon breezes on stage before the sold-out audience with his shirt-sleeves rolled up and smiles as he takes his spot in the center. To either side of him are the five other musicians who make up the current line-up of Beirut, sharing amongst the six of them about a dozen instruments, but this one-time solo bedroom project remains clearly Condon’s band and he looks comfortable in the starring role.
Beirut’s distinctively lush and exotically-influenced style is recreated beautifully live. One notices early in the set that Condon really, truly sings more than the average male indie vocalist – and when he does it is stunning. Presumably honed by years of projecting out over the massive crowds on the European festival circuit, he fills the Black Cat with his voice. When not singing, he alternates between six-string ukelele and trumpet and, at one point, switched to piano.
There is a sophistication to the whole band’s performance that set it apart. There is a trope in concert reviewing to describe musicians as having “raw energy” or “blistering power.” That is not Beirut. Which is by no means to say they lack emotional intensity or seem unenthusiastic about live performance. Instead, the band simply seems rehearsed – not surprising given the time they have spent with the majority of the night’s songs at this point – and genuinely musically proficient and talented.
The Black Cat is hosting a great evening of local music on Friday night that features singer-songwriter Brandon Butler opening for Modern Man and Shortstack.
After their performance at last month’s Sweetlife Festival, Modern Man is something of a We Love DC staff favorite these days. After the fest, our own Tom Bridge declared, “(Modern Man) really wailed!” When discussing Modern Man in his review of the festival, Andrew Markowitz described their sound as “similar to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s harder songs with a hint of outlaw country-rock sound,” and said that out of the many DC local bands Modern Man is one he would be happy to pay a cover to see again. Thumbs up from my WLDC colleagues is enough to convince me these guys are worth checking out.
If their endorsement ain’t enough for ya, consider these two tracks Modern Man kindly gave us permission to share with you:
My Annoying Tendencies
Did I mention this show is only $10 yet? Can’t really go wrong with this one folks!
w/ Modern Man & Brandon Butler
@ Black Cat
5/20/11 – 9pm
All images courtesy of Paivi Salonen
Bands using video projectors at their live shows can be hit-or-miss. At their best, you can have a band like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, who count their projectionist as a full-on band member. He moves back and forth between four(!) projectors, mixing up a series of dark images to add to the brooding feel of the music. At their worst, you might as well stare at the iTunes visualizer on your laptop.
As I arrived at Pinback’s show on Sunday night at the Black Cat, the first thing I noticed was the projector. I had mixed feelings about how openers Judgement Day used it; it seemed gimmicky to me at first, but I was convinced by one song, where their playing synced perfectly with their video track. It was sick, to say the least; it showcased their skills as virtuosic musicians with creativity beyond musical composition. Pinback, on the other hand, wasted an opportunity to do anything exciting with their visuals. They weren’t very dynamic as performers either, so their use of a projector felt like a crutch, just to try to make their show more visually appealing.
All photos courtesy of Paivi Salonen
I’m a pretty cynical guy, to say the least. It would be really easy for me to write off The Submarines for writing corny love songs. But I can’t.
I’ve seen plenty of bands that are too cool to acknowledge the audience; I’ve seen rock stars that act like gods. So it’s refreshing to see a band as humble and genuine as The Submarines. You could tell how excited the band was to play for us that night. They were pumped that they sold out the venue – the tiny, intimate Backstage at the Black Cat. I felt like we were the biggest audience they’d ever played for!
I mean, I’m sure we weren’t, considering their profile. The Submarines rocketed to fame by getting their songs into iPhone commercials, and TV shows such as Gossip Girl, Grey’s Anatomy, and Weeds. Their synth-infused indie pop provides a background of optimism, although the cheery vocals mask the heartache hidden in the lyrics. It’s hard to ignore their similarities to The Postal Service – bright, well-crafted pop songs with male/female vocals.
all photos by author.
Wire played at the Black Cat on Thursday night for an adoring crowd of older fans and hardcore music geeks. They are touring on their excellent new album, “Red Barked Tree”. The new album was featured heavily on Thursday night, but Wire also offered up a sampler of the many phases they have gone through in their 30+ years career. The show was an interesting blend of energy levels and quality as the many sounds of Wire don’t always fit neatly next to one another. This was my first time seeing Wire in concert; while I walked away satisfied by the show, it was not the knock-out performance I was expecting.
If Wire will be remembered for one thing, it will be that they always did things on their own terms. One of the most important bands in the punk to post-punk transition, Wire harnessed the energy of ’77 UK punk to fuel their strange creations. Along with peer-bands like Magazine and Joy Division, they helped herald in a new era of unconventional sounds. Never satisfied being pigeonholed by the critics as “this type of band” or “that type of band”, Wire shifted gears many times over the years. From punk to post-punk to pop to industrial and so on, Wire were and still are always in a state of flux. While this is the thing that makes Wire such a satisfying and exciting band to listen to at home, I’m afraid it held their live show back a little bit on Thursday.
Remember when there was that early to mid-00′s wave of pop bands masquerading as post-punk revivalists? Of course you do. Well, while most of those bands have already run out of steam, first wave post-punks like Wire have been going strong for over 30 years. Kind of puts the more recent generations to shame a bit, don’t it? I mean where is their commitment? Not to mention their innovation, experimentation, and/or stamina?!
Wire are one of the holy trinity of bands that mutated punk into post-punk in the UK back in the golden age and they have been mutating their own sound going on four decades now. Four! Their latest album, “Red Barked Tree” is phenomenal. During a conversation I had at the recent Gang of Four show, I said that Wire’s latest sort of had no right to be as ridiculously good as it is. I mean, c’mon guys, you’re making the kids these days look ridiculous. Where do you get off releasing an absolutely vital recording this late in your career? Put “Red Barked Tree” up against some of Wire’s earliest and best work and it doesn’t sound like they’ve aged a day. This concert is going to be fantastic!
@ Black Cat
4/7/11 – 8pm
all photos by author.
On Saturday night at the Black Cat, legendary Dutch post-punk group The Ex treated DC fans to an energetic run through of most of the songs off their latest album, “Catch My Shoe”, a Hungarian folk song they used to do with Tom Cora, and a cover of the Konono No.1 song “Huriyet”. The Ex have been a band for over thirty years and while their line-up has changed many times over the years (most recently with a change of lead singers) the band has always maintained core values of improvisation, collaboration, and blistering guitar action. It was this third value that was most prominently on display Saturday night.
courtesy of PMA PR.
Andy Moor, guitarist in The Ex since 1990, lives in the Netherlands; his adopted home ever since he accepted the invitiation from The Ex to join their ever-changing ranks. I have been a fan of The Ex since high school, which means I have been a fan of theirs for (ahem) quite some time. The Ex are playing at the Black Cat tomorrow night and I thought it would be a fine opportunity to interview Andy about one of my favorite bands.
The first time I tried to call Andy, he was sleeping off jetlag having just returned from Addis Ababa. The second time I tried to reach him, he was out for a bike ride. The third time, he was on a boat ride with visiting family. I guess that’s what I get for expecting a so-called “anarchist” to stick to a schedule! Andy and I finally connected via Skype on the fourth try and we proceeded to have an epic conversation about some of Andy’s side projects, The Ex’s rich history of collaboration, the recent departure of G.W. Sok (the group’s lead singer for 30 years), the band’s excellent new album “Catch My Shoe”, and that pesky “anarcho-punk” label that follows The Ex everywhere, much to their chagrin.
The show was sold out. A packed mainstage concert room full of hipsters, preppies, middle age couples and the like mixed it up, awaiting Fred Armisen of SNL and more recently, Portlandia, fame to take the stage. Taking place at the Black Cat, and heavily promoted by Brightest Young Things, the show was simply described as “An Evening With Fred Armisen,” and the event details were simply two YouTube clips of Armisen’s sketch work.
Given the billing and the performer, the audience was primed for a comedic show that would likely (and I say likely, because given the vagueness of the event’s details, we were all unsure of the performance’s format) include stand up comedy, skits, impersonations and, with Armisen’s background, some form of comedic musical accompaniment.
Unfortunately, when Armisen took the stage, the vast majority — if not the entirety — of his show was uninspired, lacked creativity and did not live up to his billing. Continue reading
All photos by Erin McCann
Broken Records may have been the headliners at Black Cat’s show last Sunday night, but DC locals US Royalty stole the show. Having recently sold out a show at the Rock and Roll Hotel, and launching a national tour in support of their self-released debut album Mirrors, US Royalty had no problem filling up the tiny Backstage. US Royalty channeled this rock ‘n roll energy straight from the 70s – bombastic and fearless. Despite their relative lack of experience, they came off as true rock stars.
Broken Records, with their melancholy, indie-folk style, couldn’t live up to the energy of the preceding set. They occasionally hit their stride, with the entire group working together to create something large and beautiful – but after US Royalty’s set, I just wasn’t excited by most of their songs. They sounded like a band still trying to figure things out, rather than a band with two full-length albums behind them – and a band once praised as the Scottish Arcade Fire.
Who is Arcade Fire? Beats me. What is Scotland’s answer to Arcade Fire? According to NME, that would be Broken Records, a six-piece indie folk group that’s playing Sunday night at the Black Cat Backstage.
…Okay, so NME may be guilty of exaggeration. It takes more than just pianos, horns, and strings to be Arcade Fire. Plus, there’s a world of difference between the tiny Backstage, and the Merriweather Post Pavilion filled by Arcade Fire last August. But an intimate venue like this will be perfect for the melancholy tunes spun by Broken Records. I enjoyed their debut album “Until the Earth Begins to Part”, which was filled with sad-sap songs about failing relationships. The strings and horns (plus lead singer Jamie Sutherland’s accent) add a distinctly Scottish flavor to their tunes. This will be their first date on their first US tour, in support of their new album “Let Me Come Home”.
This band should be a good pairing with DC locals US Royalty. If you haven’t caught these guys yet, now is the perfect time – their self-released debut album came out just last month, and they’ve garnered attention from the likes of NPR and Washington Post. Their recent show at Rock and Roll Hotel ended up selling out, so I imagine many of their fans will come out for this one as well.
with US Royalty
Black Cat Backstage
Sunday, Feb. 20th
all photos by author.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed but Sweden has been producing a ton of great new bands lately. So many, in fact, that I’m inclined to agree with Chris Richards of the Washington Post when he recently declared Sweden as the epicenter of emergent pop music for the new century. Lucky for DC music fans then that our city seems to be one of the friendliest frontiers for Swedish music in the United States. DC is virtually guaranteed a tour date from most of the Swedish invasion acts because we always give them a very warm reception. One of the finest examples of the new wave of Swedish pop is Little Dragon, who played a phenomenal set to a sold out Black Cat on Saturday night.
All photos by Michael Darpino
Obviously, last week in DC’s music scene was all about Dismemberment Plan. Except for on Thursday night when a hundred or so dedicated metal fans packed the backstage at Black Cat, oblivious to any legendary reunions, for one of metal’s best new bands. Kylesa brought a set full of huge metal anthems that would’ve been large enough to entertain a festival-sized crowd.
Kylesa are one of the bands at the forefront of a new style of “sludge metal” that’s emerging from the South. Sludge metal takes elements from doom metal that were once too grim and frostbitten for the average listener, and adds the styling of psychedelic rock to create something more fun and exciting. You get dark, brooding riffs cranked up loud combined with bright melodies and screaming lyrics instead of demonic growls. Also, everything is played faster – fast enough that only the truly talented can crank out the riffs with such speed. Bands like Baroness, Black Tusk, and Mastodon have been doing this for awhile, but Kylesa has perfected the craft over their ten-year career.
As a huge metal fan, I’m always looking out for the rare “crossover” show that I know I’ll love, and will appeal to someone who’s not versed in metal will also enjoy. Tomorrow night, Kylesa are bringing their Southern blend of sludge metal to the Black Cat Backstage – a rare chance to see these guys in a small, intimate venue. Honestly, their sound is so huge that they need two drummers, so I don’t know how the Backstage is supposed to contain them.
“Sludge metal” lies somewhere on the spectrum between psychedelic rock and doom metal. This means on Thursday you can expect some huge, looping riffs played on fuzzy guitars combined with the kind of bass you can feel in your bones. The vocals are angry and loud, but not gothic or growly like most doom metal. If you’re a fan of any other Southern sludge metal groups like Baroness, Black Tusk, Torche, or (dare I say?) Mastodon, you probably already know that you belong at this show. For a taste of what’s in store, be sure to check out my favorite track “Running Red” on their myspace page.
Fellow Georgians Zoroaster and New Jersey’s Fight Amp round off the bill for what should be an epic show. Both these bands are really solid, so I’m looking forward to catching them. Don’t miss it!
w/ Fight Amp, Zoroaster
Black Cat Backstage
Thursday Jan 20th