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.
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
courtesy of Tortoise
Indie-rock elder statesmen Tortoise played the Black Cat on Tuesday night and treated the modest-sized crowd to a set that was representative of their career modus operandi. Somehow their set managed to be simultaneously laid-back and intense in a way that was as mind-boggling as it was enjoyable. Covering the lion’s share of their latest album “Beacons Of Ancestorship” Tortoise once again displayed their utter mastery of genre collision and band member inter-play.
A lot of articles online hail Tortoise as the “godfathers of Post-Rock” and while I don’t particularly agree* I do recognize and enjoy the sea-change impact that they had on indie rock in the mid-1990’s. No one on the indie landscape does quite what Tortoise does in practice or in sound. They are the ultimate instrument playing genre colliders. Tortoise does with instruments what DJs can only dream of doing with an arsenal of samplers; Tortoise swallows difficult genres (Jazz, Krautrock, Prog-Rock, Dub, Punk, the list goes on…) and reconstitutes them into insane progressive mash-ups that evoke their influences in brilliant, discordant, and challenging ways. The fact that they can do all that and still lay down a deeply enjoyable jam is Tortoise’s own special brand of genius.