Dragonette are well on their way to finding a much deserved wider audience.
The band is about to put out its third record on Sept. 25 on the heels of a crossover dance hit, “Hello,” from their collaborations with house DJ Martin Solveig. The combination of Solveig and Dragonette has been nothing less than inspired, as the French producer has been able to write very catchy songs and sultry Martina Sorbara has been able to sing them with a now trademark sweet sophistication.
Dragonette has taken their lessons learned from collaborations with Solveig and others and applied them to their third album, Bodyparts, which really is a terrific dance record. They debuted those songs to Washington at the Black Cat Saturday with a sold-out audience that embraced the material new and old and left buoyantly as happy and giddy as the sound of the album.
So I went into last night’s show with some misplaced expectations (therefore you should read the rest of this review with a grain of salt). Punk Danes Iceage played unfortunately predictable hardcore while Taiwanese noise popper Dirty Beaches presented a surprising cowboy score that sounded like machines meeting nature.
I read some press, listened to a few songs, and counted on some familiarity with the catalog at the label What’s Your Rupture? to get me started with Iceage. And so I was anticipating a post-punk band with hardcore overtones but instead I got a straight up hardcore band with a bit of melodic deftness.
Certainly, hardcore kids Iceage are not to blame for my misplaced anticipation. The four young men from Copenhangen thundered through roughly 10 two-minute songs, whipping up a good old-fashioned mosh pit in a sold-out show in the backstage of the Black Cat on Tuesday night.
Iceage, a punk quartet from Copenhagen, Denmark, have been racing across the country and down the east coast since playing the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago a few weeks ago. The young Scandinavian rockers toured as a supporting act on their first album, New Brigade, last year but now they are back as the main feature this time around, showing up at the Black Cat Tuesday with three opening bands also likely to play short, speedy songs.
The press generally has praised Iceage for keeping the energy and aesthetic of hardcore punk alive. To my ears, however, Iceage has a wider sonic palette that draws more from a more acute post-punk guitar. Their label, What’s Your Rupture? of New York City, specializes in post-punk reissues, singles and now originals. The boys in Iceage aren’t afraid to speed it up and then slow it down a notch after a riveting verse.
They also aren’t afraid to stir up some controversy, as they have done with their use of fascist imagery in a manner similar to Joy Division and Siouxsie and the Banshees did earlier in their careers. Those bands matured and spurned their flirtation with those images. It’ll be telling to see if Iceage grows in the same way.
Laura Burhenn was a luminous fixture of the DC music scene for years. She performed as a solo songstress with her piano for years, and was half of the dynamic duo Georgie James, along with John Davis (Q and Not U). A few years back she left DC for Omaha, Nebraska, and since then has collaborated and toured with Bright Eyes, and formed a new band The Mynabirds. She’s on tour now with The Mynabirds in support of their second album, Generals, out now on Saddle Creek records. We Love DC’s Alexia got a chance to chat with her about her new band, her move to Omaha, touring with Bright Eyes, and more!
Alexia: You’ve been playing music a long time- when did you first start writing your own music?
Laura: The first song I ever wrote dates back to about age 7 or 8. There’s a Fisher Price cassette tape recording of it somewhere still around. There were a string of other little songs here and there after that (including a real killer pop jam called “In Your Life” I wrote for my all girl band in fifth grade, Black Leather Red Roses), but nothing really serious until I wrote “Fallen,” a song that I won my tenth grade high school talent show with. Ha. I also recorded it and put it on my first solo record when I was 17. Needless to say, I’ve been at it for awhile.
Alexia: Were there any specific artists or albums that first ignited your passion for rock music?
Laura: My first cassette loves were the Beach Boys, the Monkees and Wilson Phillips. But I’d say the three most influential albums of my teen years were PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me, Tori Amos’s Under the Pink (I caught onto both artists when their second albums came out and later went back to fall in love with their first albums), and a collection of greatest hits from Nina Simone. God, that voice! That swagger!
Alexia: You built a name for yourself in the DC area, with your solo work and Georgie James- what was the catalyst for your move to Omaha?
Laura: After Georgie James broke up, I decided I wanted to try out a whole different scene. I love DC and it’ll always be my home. But sometimes you need distance to get perspective in your life. The move to Omaha surprised some people, I know. (New York, LA or even Portland would’ve been more expected for a musician.) But I chose Omaha for the good friends I’d made through working with Saddle Creek — and the great arts scene that’s going on there.
Walk the Moon, a new wave quartet from Cincinnati, Ohio, comes to headline a sold-out show at the Black Cat this Friday, June 22, after passing through DC a couple of times already in the past year. They arrive on the heels of their debut album, Walk the Moon, available today. We Love DC caught up with Eli Maiman, the band’s guitarist, to talk about mostly other awesome bands like the Talking Heads and The Police, as it turns out, but also about appreciating dedicated fans and getting big fast.
Mickey McCarter: The first time I ever heard of you guys, I was here in Washington, DC, and I was hanging out at the Black Cat. And the band played a sold-out show at the backstage room at the Black Cat. All of your fans were going in there and I saw all of these young girls in the warpaint and the feathers. I was like, wow! That visual really left an impression on me and I didn’t even know who you guys were yet.
How did that come about? How did the warpaint get started?
Eli Maiman: The very idea of the facepaint occurred when we were working on the idea for the “Anna Sun” video. Our director, Patrick Meier, wanted to include some reference to The Lost Boys. The facepaint was his idea. And it became the central theme in the “Anna Sun” video. At our video release party, we had a facepaint station and people really took to it. They really enjoyed it, so much so that people started showing up at other shows in facepaint.
It’s evolved from there where people will come in facepaint and we will provide facepaint at shows. We’ll wear the paint ourselves on stage. It has really become this unifying element of the live show. It’s a visual expression of the community that we have and this group experience we all have together.
Earlier this week I chatted with DC-based Aaron Estes about his latest musical project Black Hills. Last night I got the chance to see the group play at Black Cat, along with openers Reindeer and The Fire Tapes.
I go to a lot of shows. I consider myself a music-lover. In my experience it doesn’t happen often that I am blown away by a band, especially one that is new to me. Last night Black Hills blew me away with their eight-song-set on the backstage of the Black Cat. Now, I wasn’t completely surprised that this happened- I was kind of hoping for it.
I first saw Estes and some of his musical cohorts perform at Run for Cover, a benefit show that has happened for many years at the Black Cat. The show featured all one-off cover bands, made up of DC musicians, to varying degrees of musical success, silliness, and spectacle. The acts Estes was a part of were far-and-away the most spectacular and musically spot-on, two years in a row: a C+C Music Factory cover band in 2010 and a Daft Punk group in 2011. After seeing him at Run for Cover I knew he was one to watch. Fast forward to last week, when I stumbled across the ad for Black Hills on the Black Cat website. After listening to the four songs he has up on Bandcamp, I was giddy.
For a frame of reference, there are a lot of musical comparisons that can be drawn to Black Hills. The influence of Air is apparent, with the lush synths/synth strings and the groovy bass, but at times I was also reminded a little of Genesis, and to make a more current comparison- Gotye.
Though Black Hills’ recorded music is produced by Estes as a solo effort, the live show includes four other very talented musicians. Estes plays synths and sings, and is backed by guitar, more synth, bass and drums.
The lush sounds heard on the recordings were brought to life onstage well, with added sparks from electric guitar, and extra bounce from groovy bass and drums. Highlights of the set included the beautiful “The Good News”, the infectious “In my Dreams”, and the celestial “Glass.” I must also admit that my heart skipped a beat (or three) when they played spot-on, gorgeous covers of Air’s “Run” and Goldfrapp’s “Clowns.”
The only disappointment was that they didn’t have any more songs to play at the end of their set. At least it gives me something to look forward to…
We Love DC Music Editor Alexia Kauffman had the chance to chat with DC-based musical mastermind Aaron Estes recently. Estes previously fronted the indie band Bellman Barker, but is now focusing on going solo with his dreamy-synth-pop project Black Hills.
Alexia Kauffman: So I never got to see Bellman Barker, but I became aware of you as a performer when I saw you at Run for Cover*, as part of my favorite acts, two years in a row.
Aaron Estes: Oh cool, which acts?
AK: In 2010 it was the C&C Music Factory cover group, and then in 2011 it was the Daft Punk group.
AE: Yeah, those were pretty fun shows. (laughing)
AK: They were so above and beyond awesome, not just the theatrics and visuals that went into them (which were both hilarious and spectacular) but really the music- it was so well done. Plus I’m a fan of anything that glows in the dark. So once I found out who you were I filed it in my mind that I needed to see what music you were doing. And time passed, and I just saw your picture up on the Black Cat website recently, that you’re performing as Black Hills, and I knew I had to check it out. I really dig the tracks you have up on Bandcamp.
AE: Oh awesome, thank you! Continue reading
The upcoming Poseurs club reunion set for Saturday, Aug. 4, at the Rock and Roll Hotel got me thinking that it’s a pretty good time around DC for dance parties featuring 80s music.
As a diehard new waver, I actually dislike the term “80s music,” because my genre is a growing one that started up around 1976 and continues to see new bands and innovations until this day. (New wave is indeed enjoying a major renaissance now.) Thaaaaaaaat said, everyone knows what I mean when I use the term and these parties build their set lists based on the idea that you know what they mean when *they* use it as well.
So without further ado, here is a brief tour of the major 80s parties going on in the District right now with an emphasis on what you can catch next.
About 60 people or so turned up at the Black Cat backstage Monday night to see what two well regarded Swedish rockers had to offer in combining their talents as We Are Serenades as they kicked off a US tour in DC. It turned out that indie rockers Adam Olenius of the Shout Out Louds and Markus Krunegard of Laakso were interested in making fewer fuzzed out sounds with their guitars and instead seek to build sweet harmonies armed with a largely twee-pop repertoire of… well, serenades.
The five-piece band certainly did not abandon guitars, however, as Olenius and Krunegard demonstrated the strength of their concept by trading off vocals and sharing guitar duties. But they were augmented by a keyboard, a synthesizer and drums as they offered up about 10 songs largely about being in love and appreciating nature. The two vocalists looked comfortable with their material and the five-member band seems poised for larger spaces. Olenius and Krunegard were easygoing and earnest and their vocals were perhaps the most crystal clear I’ve ever heard in the back of the Cat, making for a wholly pleasant listening experience. While all quite twee, their songs ranged a bit from familiar guitar rock numbers to more dance pop selections.
For me in their better moments, We Are Serenades get a little new wavey, almost sounding a bit like their countrymen in The Mary Onettes, although without the urgency and full-throated crooning that characterize the older band. We Are Serenade’s full-on dance number “Weapons,” for example, has a bouncy new wave synthline that makes for a pleasant distraction but it still politely invites you to come dancing rather than forcefully compelling you to do so. Their latest single, “Criminal Heaven” (which is the title track from their debut record), provides more opportunities for the duo vocalists to harmonize, which they do surprisingly well, and to generate more guitar pop.
A very sold-out show at the Black Cat Wednesday night offered two remarkably different flavors. I went into it with expectations that one band would be mediocre and the other band would be pretty good, but my expectations were reversed!
First, Denver-based pop band Tennis charmed the audience with its sweet sunny pop songs, evoking images of a journey through Americana. The sound of Tennis, made up at its core by husband and wife Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, completely recalls earlier times of simple lovesongs albeit set to Moore’s pleasing synths and Riley’s surf guitar.
I knew them as a band that tours a lot but I had low expectations. Boy, did they surprise me. The very look of the duo, even augmented by their band, evoked happy, retro feelings. Moore has a look about her straight out of an 80s high school yearbook and she sings with a lovely sophisti-pop air. To me, her voice contained elements of Kristy MacColl and Tracey Thorn, although she remained so chirpy that she would be completely at home on a twee pop mixtape with Heavenly.
Stockholm-based electronic duo Korallreven played their first DC show Monday night, headlining the Black Cat backstage. They were joined by openers Young Magic and Stout Cortez. Korallreven are currently on their first US tour, in support of An Album by Korallreven, out on Acephale Records.
Young Magic played an enthusiastic and energizing set. The trio, currently based in New York City is comprised of Australian ex-pats Isaac Emmanuel, Michael Italia, and Indonesian-born Melati Malay. They mixed dreamy vocals and ambient guitar with tribal-sounding rhythyms and hypnotic, thumping beats. Their performance and sound was fresh, intense, and engaging.
Swedish dreamy-electronic-pop duo Korallreven, aka Marcus Joons and Daniel Tjäder (of The Radio Dept) have announced their first US shows ever, with select East and West coast dates supporting their debut album, An Album By Korallreven, available now on Acéphale.
We Love DC’s Alexia Kauffman got the chance to ask singer Marcus Joons a few questions.
Alexia Kauffman: What music inspired you when you were growing up?
Marcus Joons: I remember getting touched real early by Velvet Underground, I must have been like eleven or twelve when I first came across their heroin romantic pop songs. Maybe too early. Apart from that I think that I, free from my mind, got the biggest kicks from Screamadelica, Spiritualized, everything by The Beach Boys and Daft Punk’s Homework. All of this has inspired me more to live and breathe than to make music though. Continue reading
Justin Trawick is a local singer-songwriter, band frontman, and musical entrepreneur. In addition to his exhaustive solo performance schedule he has created a series called The 9, that packages nine singer-songwriters into one show, joining their forces to create a theatrical and diverse night of entertainment. We Love DC’s Alexia Kauffman sat down with Justin to talk about his endeavors.
Alexia Kauffman: So first can you tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do, and what is on your plate right now?
Justin Trawick: I’m a musician in the area. I’ve been doing music full-time for about four years. I live in Arlington, and I play most of my shows in the Washington, DC area, and then I go out of town, a lot of east coast shows up and down from Boston down to Georgia. And I play in a lot of cities around the country via airplane- I go to Austin and L.A. a lot. Continue reading
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
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.
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.
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.
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.”