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Monday, April 30, 2007
Friday, April 27, 2007
But alas, when rock and roll duty calls, the Rockists show up in a big, red firetruck, with a huge ladder, bulletproof vests, gas masks, and potable water. Which is to say, prepared. So with sore legs and bloodshot eyes, what did we do? We got on over to Northeast DC to the Rock and Roll Hotel to catch the Whigs, the buzzworthy Athens, GA rockers. Here's what we thought:
GH: No complaints. Julian Dorio, the drummer, is a spazz back there, bashing away like Animal or Keith Moon. He kinda holds his sticks really casually, like they're almost going to slip out of his hands sometimes, but his playing is precise and rocking in equal measure. It's a testament to what a huge impact a drummer can have on a three-piece band. I also thought Parker Gispert was a pretty sweet guitar player; no wordy solos, but rather just furious strumming, with liberal fuzz and feedback. As for the songs, well, they're just fine. The best ones were the catchiest -- "Violet in Furs", "Technology", "Written Invitation" -- and I think that's because, when all the songs crackle with energy and buzz, simply having a little something to hook onto helps out a lot. But I did love the way they turned "Technology" and "Written Invitation" from acoustic pop songs to true rockers. To say there wasn't a down moment would indicate that I had a moment to think and recognize a moment as such. But no...it was nothing but unfiltered bash-and-pop rock and roll from the Whigs.
G.L.: Agreed, GH. I was on the verge of burning out there for a while (which is, of course, preferred to fading away), but I was damn glad to be seeing these guys. I had read a fair amount about The Whigs and they sounded exactly like what I love in rock and roll bands: poppy songs played at temple-busting volumes with a kick-ass drummer. Someone referred to them as Superchunk meets The Replacements. Honestly, I thought maybe more like Dinosaur Jr. meets The Replacements, but that'll do too. I really loved "Written Invitation" and the single(?) "Technology" was catchy as hell.
I'm looking forward to big things from these guys, but as you may have noticed, they haven't released an album since 2005's Give Em All A Big Fat Lip. Here's to hoping they get in the studio soon.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Hometown boys the Oranges Band opened up; their lead singer/head hauncho Roman Kuebler played bass with Spoon on tour a while back, so there was some history there. I've now seen the Oranges three times, and Roman once solo, and this wasn't one of their best performances. They've got something of a new lineup, with a new bassist (who is pretty good, but, as GL noted, less attractive than the last) but they appear to have lost their lead guitarist, reducing the band to a three piece. The extra guitar helped out a lot, and you could tell Roman was occasionally caught in the middle of playing a rhythm part and a cool lick or something. Still, they remain one of my favorite bands, and "OK Apartment" was good, as was the always-rockin' "Mountain". Surprising that they didn't do either "Open Air" or "Ride the Nuclear Wave" though, and I was really hoping to hear how "Jenny, I'm Sneaking Out" is coming around. But alas...
Spoon came on to a sold out, jam-packed Sonar -- the first time they had ever sold out Baltimore. There was some bizarre issue with the lighting, which appeared to be manned by a 14 year old downing a cooler of Mr. Pibb. They never really figured it out, which seemed to irk Britt Daniel, but it never really affected the band's performance.
If memory serves, the first song was a new one and decent, but "Jonathan Fisk" (the third or fourth selection) was where the band finally hit their stride. Daniel was all about his guitar and what kind of feedback-infused noise he could coax out of his amps. It all sorta started here and really took off: live favorite "Small Stakes" surged with that sinister, repeating keyboard part, "The Way We Get By" elicited a huge roar, and the band pushed the tempo on "I Turn My Camera On". They came back from the encore to do two new songs -- one was Daniel, solo and one nicked a line from Arthur Lee ("well the snot has caked against my pants / it has turned into crystal" from "Live and Let Live" on Forever Changes, for those of you keeping score at home). Included in this was Spoon's two minutes of pop perfection, "Anything You Want", and the blistering, thumping "My Mathematical Mind." The latter ended up being a perfect close to the night; as drummer Jim Eno kept his typically sparse and solid beat, Daniel ranted, yelped, and got down on his knees to pull just a little more feedback out of the amps.
*BONUS: On an unrelated note, Aquarium Drunkard has unearthed a Stephen Malkmus solo track that I always really loved. It was on the bonus EP to his sophomore solo album Pig Lib, and opens remarkably like a Cure song -- and also remarkably like Malkmus's former bandmate Spiral Stairs' song "Falling Away" (recorded by his band Preston School of Industry). Here it is:
Stephen Malkmus - "Fractions and Feelings"
Monday, April 23, 2007
Rob: Impressed is an understatement. As my fellow Rockists pointed out, there were a few technical difficulties. A few of Alex's solos were lost to a bad connection and some of the harmonies were hard to hear, but the show still rocked, literally. We love these guys, and not just because they rock, it's because they are genuinely nice guys that rock. Even though they were wrapping up a long, tiring tour, they were extremely animated on stage and grateful for each and every fan at the show. Hell, they even played my favorite song of theirs: "Hello Hello Hello" off of the EP Good to Know (but Hard to Tell). It may have been because at their previous show I would scream for it between songs... they probably just wanted me to shut up.
Just because their self-proclaimed "Cushy Tour" is over, that doesn't mean these guys are talking a break. While talking to the band after the show, we learned that they are filming a video to "All My Friends" this week with super special guests. You can be assured that there will be a special This Week In Video as soon as it comes out.
Friday, April 20, 2007
Up next were Page France with their infectious indie pop, repelete with xylophone interludes and tamborine shakedowns. I don't really recall too much of them now, except that they too had an attractive female member. Truth be told, as much as I wanted to focus on all the bands, I really came for one band and one band only: David Vandervelde and the Moonstation House Band.
Now, I know I've posted on Mr. Vandervelde before, so I'll spare you the bio information, but just let me say: he fuckin' rocks. Playing with what he calls the "Power Trio", they tore it up hard. They played most everything off their debut album, a few unreleased tracks, and - in what may possibly be the most rockist move ever - covered the Stones' "Cocksucker Blues". The unreleased Mick and Keith classic sounded pretty awesome and Vandervelde's extended soloing was on point. My favorite cut off their record, "Nothin' No", didn't quite do it for me in the live setting, though I thought "Feet of a Liar" and "Murder in Michigan" sounded great.
Why DV and the Moonstation House Band weren't the headliners I have no idea, but Richard Swift was up last. Knowing that he'd have trouble following the blistering set we had just seen, I decided to focus on sobering up and buying The Moonstation House Band on vinyl instead. I was successful on the latter, not so much on the former. Got the band to sign the album for me, which was cool and we also nabbed David's email addy, so there may be an interview feature in the works here at the Rockist Socety...stay tuned.
David Vandervelde and the Moonstation House Band: "Cocksucker Blues" (Daytrotter Sessions)
Last night was David Vandervelde with Richard Swift and Page France at Le Chat Noir. Judging by the stories of G.H. and G.L.'s hangovers, I'm assuming it was a pretty good show.
The Oranges Band - "OK Apartment"
Sunday night our friends The XYZ Affair are playing the Rock and Roll Hotel. I'll be at that show.
Monday, however, is a different story. The Whigs will be rocking NE without me in attendance. I'm not too sure if the balance of the Rockists will make it, either. After 4 shows in 5 days, they may be a little tuckered out. C'mon, give 'em your support... or at least buy them a Sparks.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
After numerous commercials featuring The National and Bloc Party, Saturn has released a commercial accompanied by The Apples in Stereo. While sitting in my hotel room tonight, eating the last white fish tempura roll, the acoustic major chords of "Energy" caught my ear. Although no lyrics were played, I kept feeling that Robert Schneider would chime in at any moment (note: none of the Saturn commercials play lyrics). There currently is no version of the commercial on the internet (at least that I could find), otherwise you could be assured it would be in This Week In Video. Well, let's hope they stick to this and stop running the "Mah Na Mah Na" commercial.
Lucky for you all, the Rockists have had it for a while, on account of some insider trading and a little thing called "imports." We're happy to announce that it sounds almost exactly like the last one, maybe with a little punchier production, but ultimately lots of boy-girl vocal trade-offs, harmonized breakdowns mid-song, and lots of tunes about falling in and out of love. You probably either missed or dismissed their first, self-titled album, but I found that one to be a real winner, and paired with a warm and engaging live show, they ranked amongst my favorite acts for a while.
To be honest, the new album runs a little long, but the first two singles -- or what should be the first two singles -- the cleverly named "This is a Song" and "Take A Chance" are pretty great. They're probably out there for listening somewhere. Oh, wait, look...they're right here. If you can hold out though, you can be celebrating your Independence Day with the best British brother-sister band of -- at least -- the last decade or so.
And if you're bored with all that, here's a cover the Numbers do of Beyonce's "Crazy in Love."
The Magic Numbers - "Take a Chance"
The Magic Numbers - "This is a Song"
The Magic Numbers - "Crazy in Love"
Thursday, April 12, 2007
It's an event/tradition I didn't appreciate enough while I was out there, but there's no sense in gushing over the thick green grass, ivy-covered walls, and incredible racing. I've never met anyone who didn't have a good time there, and it just so happens the entire Rockist Society attended last year's Bluegrass Stakes. And this year -- look out, here we come again, and we're bringing our friends. Ok, alright, ok, alright...
This is what happens when you spend too long listening to the same thing over and over again until you just cant tell anymore and you have to do something else instead
courtesay ov those genius bruvers vapour
Thom"A Wee Treap Doon Memori Lane"
As you may have heard, I was a little torn up by Field Music canceling their DC show last month. Apparently they did it so they could play on a BBC2 TV show... with Tom & Jaf... without Andy (wtf?)... and into the credits. They canceled two shows for this? That's lamer than Vonnegut's takes on the universal human condition. Too soon? (ed. note: may he rest in peace.)
Wait, I didn't know this song was new. Apparently Yep Roc thinks it is. Just kidding, Yeppie. We still love you.
"Aw Shit Man!"
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
March and April seem to be busy months for us Rockists. To many shows we have gone; to many shows we will go. The latest was at the Black Cat on Friday.
Rob: First of all, G.L.'s sangria was amazing.
Second of all, Black Cat's staff blows. While standing in line, a "bouncer" walked up and down announcing that if you just want to go to the Red Room, you can leave line and walk in. He also announced that he had announced that prior and that every time he does, idiots get out of line because they know no better. He then paused at the couple standing directly behind us and asked to "sniff" the lady's water bottle (which, by the way, was filled with a red liquid). He then confiscated the bottle, saying that she couldn't drink it out there. Story should end, right? Wrong. He kicked both people out of line and said they couldn't see the show. WTF? Did we suddenly get enrolled at Wheaton College?
As for the show, I was quite impressed with Catfish Haven (and not just because I have the same blue Levi's cords as George Hunter). They were strident and brash but had a soothing quality about them. I liken it to seeing a bulldog in a bow tie. Lucero's set was long, impressively long. They definitely put their all into it. It gave me flashbacks to a hot summer day, surrounded by my best friends with my stomach full of Busch Ice, watching DBT. Fantastic.
It's refreshing to see bands that could and would kick my ass if they were so inclined.
It's too bad the Black Cat attracts such great bands.
G.H.: Yeah, I mean, my distaste for the Black Cat is well-documented. And, to clarify, she was drinking red Powerade from a Powerade bottle. I've come around and decided that, besides that fact that the girl should've refused to let him have her bottle of Powerade, he was well within his rights to refuse her entry into the show. What that makes him for doing so, I'll refrain from saying.
The show itself was good and exhausting. You can see more about on DCist, but I'll focus on Catfish Haven for the sake of changing it up. This is maybe the first time I've ever seen an indie band I really felt like dancing to. They would make a damn fine party band, and I bet they could cover some old Stax numbers pretty well if they put their mind to it. They did say goofy stuff like "We're gonna heat this place back up, people!", "Spread the love", etc, and I could see their aesthetic feeling less, well, novel, at a jam band festival. And I was impressed with Lucero, too. Loud, kind of abrasive, but with enough tunefulness to hook my girlfriend. Favorite was "My Best Girl", which I'm pretty sure is about a guitar.
G.L.: While I too dislike the staff at the Black Cat (except for the bartenders, who have always been relatively civil), I do think the bouncer had every right to kick that girl out of line and deny her entry. I'm not saying I'm applauding him for doing so, but that girl is an idiot for being so non-discrete.
As Rob mentioned, we drank sangria beforehand (yes, I'm aware of the disconnect between sangria and southern rock, not to mention it snowed later that evening, but whatever) and I was wasted. That may have led directly to my enjoyment of Catfish Haven because I've gone back and listened to them since, and I'm not really a big fan. They did have some impressive energy for a three-piece though, I'll give them that. I really enjoyed Lucero. I did, I'm not just saying that. But after the show, deep down, I wished I had seen the Drive-By Truckers instead...
Monday, April 9, 2007
As for the reasons why he quit, message board rumors are suggesting Isbell and DBT bassist Shonna Tucker are in the process of a divorce. He joined in the middle of the Southern Rock Opera tour, and Tucker joined for some of the Decoration Day touring. The Truckers have always pursued solo acts to some degree, and, however you slice it, it doesn't seem like he's leaving because of disagreements with Patterson Hood or Mike Cooley, but who knows. We're behind Isbell wherever his career should take him, and his new tunes (especially "Dress Blues") reveal an unaltered musical trajectory.
To read Patterson's heartfelt letter of explanation, go here.
Jason Isbell - Various Songs (stream)
Friday, April 6, 2007
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Our joint reviews seem to elicit a disproportionately large (read: any) response from our readership, so we're back at it again. The Rockist Society members went to the Rock and Roll Hotel on Tuesday night to check out The Broken West (again) and the Long Winters. Here are our thoughts:
GH: I hope I'm not stealing everyone's thunder by being the first to claim this as the best show we've seen this year. Or to be more specific, the best headlining set. The Broken West did not impress me. I really like a number of their songs, but they are sorely lacking in charisma and stage presence. Which became only more glaring when the Long Winters had it in spades. Lead singer John Roderick is one of the few indie band leaders to seem genuinely enthused about playing live and taking his songs on the road. And what excellent songs they are too -- lots of good lyrical nuggets (my favorite is from "Hindsight", their penultimate song of the proper set: "But I'm bailing water and bailing water / 'Cause I like the shape of the boat"), soaring voices, ample guitar. Maybe a couple of the piano songs dragged on a little (I never really liked "Blue Diamonds") but other than that, no room for complaints. The Long Winters just got themselves invited to one of year's most elite parties: an entry in my facebook "favorite music" section. Congratulations.
Rob: Still feeling betrayed by the cancellation of Field Music on Saturday, I was looking for solace in The Broken West. Unfortunately, they didn’t supply that. Although they did play “Hale Sunrise,” it definitely didn’t stack up to their last show with The Walkmen.
Feeling a little dejected and a little drunk, I hoped that The Long Winters could fill the void in my soul. I now have a new favorite band…
Looking like a Jim Henson creation with his mustache and long sideburns, John Roderick immediately drew a smile on my face with permanent marker. I am in awe of his presence. As G.H. points out, he does look like he’s having an amazing time onstage. Throwing his head back while he turns his drawn out “R”s, you can’t help but fixate on him. I don’t know much about their music since I only own The Worst You Can Do Is Harm, but my favorite song was definitely “Shapes.” The main riff sounds like something you’d hear at a moe. concert. I loved everything they played, even though I only recognized 3 of the songs. Fantastic.
G.L: While I love the Long Winters, I had relatively modest expectations for their show at RnR. Being a big fan of their albums, I figured it was probably worth the 12 bones to see 'em live, especially because they were playing with another Rockist favorite, the Broken West. I didn't think the Broken West were as poor as GH and Rob seem to suggest, but I do think they suffered from crappy sound and some unfortunate equipment problems. Speaking of sound, the RnR - though still a toddler in the DC music scene - has already earned a reputation for spotty sound. But apparently they got things figured out by the time John Roderick and friends took the stage because the Winters sounded excellent.
And back to the Long Winters. They were great - the aforementioned banter was entertaining, they sounded crisp, and, hey, they've got some pretty great songs. They played some of my personal favorites including "Carparts" from their underrated debut, The Worst You Can Do Is Harm. Unfortunately for me they also played one of my least favorite songs...ever. "Cinnamon" might be the worst song I've ever heard. Seriously, after three and a half minutes of "...her skin is cinnamon, her skin is cinnamon..." ad nauseum, I think I have diabetes. But whatever. One blemish on an otherwise awesome set is fine by me. Set closer "(It's A) Departure" brought the house down with one of my favorite stanzas in recent memory, "I like the old days/but not all the old days/only the good old days", with everyone in the place screaming the last line. Let's hope they come back soon.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
So, it's fitting that they've recorded a very special version of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" for the Minnesota Twins. If you've heard Craig Finn and Co. before, then you'll pretty much know exactly how it sounds, but it's still kinda fun.
Video: The Hold Steady "Take Me Out To The Ballgame"
*photo courtesy of MTV News