Carah Faye and Jeremy Dawson. Copyright and Courtesy, CJ Lucero.
The Shiny Toy Guns rode into DC Sunday night on soaring symphonic sounds and pulsating waves of light that dazzled a sold-out crowd of very enthusiastic admirers at the Rock and Roll Hotel.
Actually, the Shinys literally rode into town in a tour bus dragging a trailer packed full of supplies for victims of Hurricane Sandy in Hoboken, NJ, where they were headed not only to donate those supplies but offer a cadre of fans a lift across the river to a Monday night show in Manhattan. And that’s part of the appeal of this four-member band, which was celebrating the return of original singer Carah Faye Charnow — they are such genuine folks despite their love of glam glitz and big gothy boots.
Carah Faye does more than sing damn well — she trades off on synths and bass with Jeremy Dawson, keyboardist, bassist and all-around mastermind. Carah was away for the band’s second album but now she’s back for their third, III, and the chemistry between her and the rest of the band was superb. Besides jumping onto the keyboards when Dawson rotated off, she meshed very well with her fellow vocalist Chad Petree, who also mesmerizes on the guitar. Drummer Mikey Martin, of course, ably supported all three of his band mates with delightfully glam percussion.
Shiny Toy Guns, the hard-charging new wave quartet from Los Angeles, return in fine form to DC with a performance at the Rock and Roll Hotel on Sunday, Nov. 4. The show is rescheduled from Oct. 29, when the cusp of Hurricane Sandy smacked the city and shut down everything.
Not only do the Shiny Toy Guns return but they return with Carah Faye Charnow on the heels of a new album, which came out more than a week ago. The new album III is a triumphant return to a good mix of inviting vocals and dramatic synths that marked their first album, We Are Pilots. (This critic found the band’s second album, Season of Poison, a bit of a miss after the hit of the first.)
The 9:30 Club informed fans on its Twitter feed that Monday night’s Grouplove concert would be postponed until further notice. The Black Cat took to Twitter to say that its scheduled concert for Bear in Heaven was completely cancelled.
On its webpage, The Howard Theatre announced that early and late shows of flamenco queen Buika were postponed Monday night to a future date to be announced.
The Rock and Roll Hotel remained silent about its plans early Monday morning, but Shiny Toy Guns announced that the band and MNDR were unlikely to appear on Monday night.
On its Facebook page, Shiny Toy Guns said, “[W]ashington DC show is most likely going to now be on Sunday night, Nov. 4th. [W]e just received this information now. our tour bus is moving quickly through the night to the city of Baltimore, where we will be standing by while Sandy makes landfall in Atlantic City and turns north. So B-more will be our home for a few days while we pray our NYC show isn’t moved around. Baltimore party time!!!!”
Shiny Toy Guns have embarked on a tour in support of their new album III, out today (Oct. 23) in the United States. Not only does the album mark the group’s first new record in four years, but it also heralds the return of vocalist Carah Faye Charnow, who was the female singer on the band’s first album, We Are Pilots. (Shiny Toy Guns recorded a second album, Season of Poison, without her.) In returning to Shiny Toy Guns, Charnow has reunited with male vocalist and guitarist Chad Petree, drummer Mikey Martin and of course keyboardist Jeremy Dawson.
Dawson took some time out on the road in New Mexico, where it is illegal to talk on the phone and drive, to chat with We Love DC about getting the band back together and injecting the drama of the ’80s into their music.
Mickey McCarter: How is it going?
Jeremy Dawson: Good! We are slowly creeping across New Mexico. We are moving our equipment to California. We were doing a YouTube thing and soon we will start the tour.
MM: I’ve had a few times to meet you in the past and I’m always struck by how authentic you guys are. I really mean this as a compliment. I saw you in Baltimore for the first time some years ago and my friends were getting pictures with Carah. You walked up and said, “There are beers in the green room. Want to have a beer?”
A bunch of local bands and DJs come together Sunday night to celebrate the life of KT Robeson, a wonderful lady who sadly passed away far too early in July, at the Rock and Roll Hotel. KT held several jobs in the nightlife industry and she made a lot of friends there, some of whom play in some very good bands in the DC indie rock scene. You can check out a lot of them at one time for a good price at Kizzlepaloosa, a terrifically goofy name for a showcase that captures the spirit and sarcasm espoused by the famously kindhearted Ms. Robeson.
I personally want to highlight the participation of hardcore punk band Supreme Commander, fronted by Crushing Boo, who worked closely with KT for many years around DC. Supreme Commander’s pounding guitars and booming vocals carry on the best traditions of DC hardcore in the fashion of Bad Brains and Government Issue. Meanwhile, Educated Consumers, featuring my lyrical pal Seez Mics and mixmaster Jay Bombbeat, perform surprisingly warm and wry rap songs in a style similar to classic hip hop bands like the Beastie Boys or De La Soul.
Tickets for this all-ages show at the Rock and Roll Hotel are $12. They are available online or at the door Sunday night. Doors open at 7pm; performances start at 7:30pm. Money from the door and part of the bar sales go to the ASPCA.
The most incongruous thing about Pip Brown, better known as Ladyhawke, is her look — the grunge aesthetics of flannel and t-shirts all the way — despite her sound — a catalog comprised of very accessible and danceable new wave rock gems.
The rest of it all comes together rather well! Sonically, Ladyhawke dwells in that space in the late 1970s when female rock musicians began to be backed by an increasing amount of technology, notably synthesizers. With many of those women, like Pat Benatar, the electronic edge remained just that — an edge. With others, like Kim Wilde, the synthesizer permeated the songs, tripping the wire that fuses guitar to keyboard and thus producing new wave.
Ladyhawke, as her adopted name from the 1985 movie suggests, is very much aware of how to produce that sound but she does it so easily and so naturally you are left with the impression that the music just happens that way. How could it sound any differently?
Well, with selections like her most popular song, “Paris Is Burning,” which she played to enthusiastic, thumping cheers toward the end of Monday night’s show, it could not possibly sound any better. Ladyhawke took the stage roughly half an hour late (par for the course at the Rock and Roll Hotel) and the audience instantly swelled from about 70 polite bystanders for her opening acts to nearly 200 enthusiastic dancers.
As synthesizers became more widely available in the 1970s, more and more European musicians adopted their use to various effects, sometimes leaving an indelible print upon their national music scene. Nowhere was this more true than with Italo disco, a synthesized extension of disco music to take root in Italy in the late 1970s.
The impact of the genre was significant, ultimately circling back to feed the cradle of the disco genre in New York City and clearing the way for the manifestation of mature new wave music — and especially New Romantic music. (There is not a New Romantic soul that does not absolutely adore the collaborations of Italo disco grandmaster Giorgio Moroder with disco queen Donna Summer.) In hindsight, Italo disco can be seen as building very important bridges across not only these genres but into Europop and Hi-NRG in general.
It is wholly welcome then that the spaced out dance beats found in Italo disco should continue to find acclaim and a home with the assistance of specific labels and projects. Perched atop this Italo disco survival is independent record label Italians Do It Better, out of Bayonne, NJ. One of the key movers and shakers in that label is Johnny Jewel, space synthmaster extraordinaire, who lends his talents to the bands Glass Candy and the Chromatics, among other efforts.
Sometimes, it’s easy to look at the lineup of a band, listen to a few tunes, and figure out pretty much everything about them — what sort of music they play, who their influences are, and what sort of people listen to them.
Then there are bands that are tough to pigeonhole. Take The Hundred in the Hands for example. They played a pretty rocking show at the Rock and Roll Hotel on Tuesday, June 19. Listening to their albums, you get a strong dose of icy dreampop, lovely, textured, but generally a little on the slow side. The cool voice of Eleanore Everdell over her own synthesizer chills yet thrills on the albums as the distinguishing feature of the band.
But in concert, guitarist Jason Friedman is a force to be reckoned with. He’s not on stage to play dreamy low-key guitar riffs. (Okay, he is there to do that occasionally, and he does so exceptionally well.) But he really seems like he wants to rock out non-stop at every opportunity and when he does so, The Hundred in the Hands become a full-blown dance project.
Brooklyn-based dream-poppers The Hundred in the Hands have a second album, Red Night, and they are touring on it at the Rock and Roll Hotel tonight. They have what I consider perfect symmetry: one man on a guitar and one woman on a synthesizer. And they appear to have added more layers and textures to their sound since their first album release two years ago.
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.
None of the problems at last night’s show were actually The Cool Kids’ fault. Which is not to say there were none, of course, but they mostly fell under the categories of venue issues and a terrible opening act. The headliners themselves did their best to deliver their trademark style of hip hop to an upbeat and receptive crowd.
The show did not sell out in advance, but by a bit after nine when the openers took the stage, the room was mostly full. It was a diverse group – while still heavily male, there were rather more women than I used to see at the indie-leaning hip hop shows that I frequented during college.
The kids and the newcomers may not remember, but back then, in the mid-to-late aughts, one usually had to drive to Baltimore (uphill both ways, naturally) for a show like this. There were not as many mid-sized venues in DC back then, before places like Rock & Roll Hotel came into town. As much as I want to like the Hotel for filling that void, the place rarely manages to really work for me. On this occasion, the lighting was so bright, white, and clinical on stage, that the headliners had to practically beg to have them turned down to something a bit less squint-inducing and more party-appropriate. Similarly, the sound mixing was off such that the MCs’ vocals were not completely clear and the bass fuzzed out rather than delivering the desired resonant bounce.
Nonetheless, The Cool Kids carried on. From the moment they arrived on stage the crowd was enthusiastic. Clearly, these people remembered them from their EP and earlier mixtapes because as soon as they got to an older song, people shouted the words along with them, hands and mobile phone cameras held aloft. I was actually pretty surprised at the level of excitement people seemed to bring to the club with them given the hiatus the group had been on prior to the recent release of their first full-length, When Fish Ride Bicycles. The club must have felt like a claustrophobic and abrupt switch from the massive outdoor festival they had played just 36 hours or so before, but from their second song on, they seemed to fit into a comfortable rhythm on stage. Continue reading →
The smell of Cocoa Puffs crushed underfoot. Silhouettes of back-hair illuminated by a spotlight. Clouds of sweat puffing around the stage. Most of my memories of Fucked Up’s performance on Monday night at the Rock and Roll Hotel aren’t particularly pleasant. But who likes their shows ‘pleasant’ anyway? Yeah, it was kind of a sweaty mess at the front of the stage – a crowd five fans deep, jumping relentlessly up and down throughout the set. But Fucked Up supplied an undeniably, infectiously energetic soundtrack for us to go wild to.
Leading by example, Fucked Up’s Damian Abraham rushed on stage and proceeded to rip open a huge bag of store-brand Cocoa Puffs all over the audience. Okay, consider my attention grabbed. Damian was one of those frontmen that’s always doing something to keep your attention, whether he’s spinning his mic around by its cord, leaning into the crowd to yell about the Crusades, or just stomping around on stage. I enjoyed the show from start to finish; I can see why their live shows have gotten them so much buzz. They made the mostly-full Rock and Roll Hotel feel like a summer festival. Continue reading →
This Will Destroy You is one of my favorite groups in the post-rock scene right now. I feel like they’re creating music specifically for me. It has the pleasant, sometimes melancholy soft-loud dynamic of bands like Mogwai or Jakob. Yet they’ve taken a turn for the dark side lately. Their new material is ominous, ambient, less guitar-oriented yet still just as destructive. It’s the kind of music you can lose yourself in.
There were a couple great moments at their show at the Rock and Roll Hotel this Sunday, where I could feel the full power of their noise assault. But the show just wasn’t mixed right. For an instrumental rock band, nothing is more important than the sound; I was left underwhelmed. This was pretty disappointing, considering their show last year at DC9 was one of my favorites of the year, and I love the material they’ve written since then. Continue reading →
If you want some idea of what James Blake’s show sounded like on Sunday night at the Rock and Roll Hotel, do yourself a favor and listen to this broadcast of his SXSW set while you read.
I was beyond excited to get a chance to see Blake on his first US tour, at a venue as tiny as the Rock and Roll Hotel, at a show that sold out within minutes. He’s one of the rare artists who pushes the boundaries of popular music, creating something familiar but unclassifiable. (I’ll refrain from using the phrase “post-dubstep” in this review.) Blake is preceded by groups like How To Dress Well and The XX, who create dark, atmospheric, slow pop songs that use sparse instrumentation. This emptiness gives the songs enough breathing room that you can fill in the space yourself. After making a name for himself by producing dubstep, a dark, bass-heavy style of dance music from England, Blake mixed in his soul-singer-like vocals to craft his debut album last year.
As a singer/songwriter/producer, James Blake’s set could’ve gone in several different directions. I was wondering if he would stick to solo piano pieces. Or maybe he would eschew his voice in favor of playing straight, rhythm-focused dubstep tracks from his early days. We ended up getting a good mix of songs off his debut and electronic explorations old and new. Oh, and it was one of the best-sounding shows I’ve witnessed at the Rock and Roll Hotel.
Over their 15-year career, The Appleseed Cast have slowly morphed from their emo roots into a dynamic and powerful post-rock group. I must say, I haven’t paid too much attention to the band since 2003’s Two Conversations. But Saturday night’s show at the Rock and Roll Hotel impressed me – I felt like I was discovering a new band. Their current sound has only sparse vocals, and rarely anything resembling a catchy chorus. It’s all about the swelling guitar lines – with three guitarists, they have plenty of flexibility to create intricate harmonies.
Post-rock shows like this are hands-down my favorite shows to see. I like my music LOUD. But post-rock brings a certain kind of intensity that goes beyond volume. I imagine the creative process for The Appleseed Cast goes like this: “that’s a nice melody you wrote there. Wouldn’t it sound better if we nearly drowned it out with slow, droning riffs?” And it does. It takes a little extra work to hear the melody, but the melody’s more powerful because you had to work to find it. It’s a diamond in the desert.
Das Racist went viral last year with their track “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell“. It would be easy to write them off as a novelty act, but anyone who dug a little deeper would find a rap group spitting intelligent, unique, stream-of-consciousness verses that demand your full attention. Last year, they put out two mixtapes for free online, completely bypassing any sort of physical distribution. They’ve garnered praise from critics at Pitchfork and NYTimes. So, do they give away their music for free, just to promote their live show? I had this in mind when I went to Rock and Roll Hotel last Friday to check out their sold-out show. Unfortunately, their show didn’t impress me as much as their mixtapes have.
It is always difficult deciding how to start a post-rock concert review. This massive, instrumental genre has no convenient entry-point for the uninitiated and for those who already are, the music is usually so personal that any attempt to describe a particularly beloved band will fall short of the high expectations. I say this as someone who both reads and writes a great deal about music, and happens to have some very personal opinions about my own favorite post-rock bands. It is with this in mind that I am challenged to review Sunday night’s spectacular Red Sparowes concert at Rock and Roll Hotel. So, I will take the easiest route and start from the top.
Some people may be inclined to warm up by a fire during the cold months, but if you’re like me, you prefer to get the feeling back in your hands and toes by dancing it out. Or at the very least, getting your mind blown by some amazing musicians (local and not) in the month of December. The Roots, Erin McKeown, and even some crazy kids who call themselves The Phenomenal Handclap Band will be gracing our city in the next 30 days, so let’s get to the preview!
Right at the beginning of the month, local musician Andy Zipf (and pfriends) will be celebrating the release of his new album, The Long Tail, at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse on Wednesday, December 2 ($10, $50 VIP).
Saturday, December 5The Big Pink is coming to Black Cat ($13). I have to admit, their name didn’t immediately ring a bell with me, but I recognized their song “Dominoes” as soon as it started playing, and I bet that will happen to some of you, too. If you like Matt & Kim, mixed with a little bit of Kings of Leon, and topped off with a British accent, perhaps you should check these guys out. Continue reading →
Kind of a light month music-wise in November, possibly due to the holiday. Also could be due to the fact that way more people are willing to venture out for a show when it’s nice outside than when it’s blistering cold, as November undoubtedly will be. Most of the fun stuff seems to be clustered toward the beginning of the month, with a few excellent shows right around Thanksgiving, including Peter Bjorn and John, Queen Latifah, The Mountain Goats, and more– so let’s jump right in!
Oh my, does October bring delightful things. It feels like fall, and that means not only that the leaves are changing color but that we’re in the magical yet short time where the temperature is just chilly enough at night to cool off some of those tiny concert venues a bit but not too cold to have to bring a giant coat.
Check out my completely subjective roundup of all the concerts I’m excited about in October, including The Bravery, Pinback, Colbie Caillat, and even Hanson and KISS after the jump. Continue reading →