Archive for 930 Club

The Feelies Sill Play Crazy Rhythms

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on June 23, 2018 by johnbuckley100

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When the Feelies call one of their rare road shows “An Evening With The Feelies,” they mean it. For their third encore — not their last! — they played The Velvet Underground’s “I Can’t Stand It” and Television’s “See No Evil.” Going to see them, you know you’re in for a real cool time… even if fave “Real Cool Time” was one of our few favorite tunes they didn’t play in their 29-song double set.

It took a while to get things right in the first set, as Glen Mercer had some tuning and pedal problems. But once things gelled, it was a reminder of why, all those years ago, a group of normcore suburbanites who’d shlep in from the wilds of New Jersey were the coolest band in Downtown NYC.

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No band we know of has ever so wonderfully bridged the gap between Buddy Holly and Lou Reed, in terms of song structure and style.  And after all these years, they still play crazy rhythms, and not just on “Crazy Rhythms.” Stan Demeski spent some of that time after the Feelies broke up for the second time in the early ’90s playing with Luna, and there were moments when his motoric drumming reminded us of the latter band’s great moments with him.  In partnership with bassist Brenda Sauter and second percussionist Dave Weckerman, there were moments of polyrhythmic perversity and utter ecstasy.

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Since we first saw the Feelies — at the 1979 New York Rocker holiday party — to this day, the band has only released seven albums.  The Brian Jonestown Massacre has released nine albums since 2010!  The Feelies broke up and lost some steam between Crazy Rhythms in 1980 and the quieter The Good Earth, which came out in ’86.  And they were out of commission for roughly 12 years beginning in the early ’90s.  We still think of them as being on a 40-year continuum, because we’ve played their albums so continuously for almost all that time.

Fanatics have their favorites, but ours is 1988’s Only Life, which was a high point of that decade.  That 2017’s In Between not only was a great album, not only provided some of last night’s best songs — “Gone, Gone, Gone” and “Been Replaced” — but sounded completely of a piece with all that had come before, tells you something about the singularity of vision shared by Glen Mercer and Bill Million.  They’re an underrated guitar duo, we think, because unlike Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, Robyn Hitchcock and Kimberly Rew, the division of labor in the Feelies is almost, but not entirely, split between Million’s rhythm and Mercer’s lead.  Seldom do they fight for dominance.  They’re just two guys in a glorious band playing lovely songs for an entire evening.

Angel Olsen Burns Her Fire At The 9:30 Club

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on December 15, 2017 by johnbuckley100

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Angel Olsen’s voice is some kind of miracle, an 18-wheeler that, when conditions warrant, can park in the space reserved for a Mini.  She has a band that, on each of her two essential albums, can generate extreme heat at comparatively low volumes — think of the musicians on Joe Jackson’s Look Sharp, Scotty Moore backing Elvis I, the Attractions backing Elvis II — though in concert they bear more than a striking resemblance to Dylan’s combos on his 21st Century incarnations of The Never Ending Tour.  But the reason we would go out in the cold to see Angel Olsen play is the songs, those smoldering, sometimes accelerating explorations along the main trunk where folk, alt.rock, and alt.country get directed by the lineman across trestles and delicate bridges toward a destination this close to the left ventricle.

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If her song choices at last night’s gorgeous set at D.C.’s 9:30 Club seemed to segue effortlessly from one to the next, it may be because they were clustered in the order she’d already chosen on her best album, 2016’s My Woman, and that place where I first tuned in, 2014’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness. If “Give It Up,” “Not Going To Kill You,” and “Heart Shaped Face” are correctly sequenced on the album, why bother mixing them up on tour?  Last night she said the tour felt like it was about two-years long, and had added crows feet to her face.  But given that her sold-out Thursday set had forced an additional show tonight, long may this journey continue.

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Her band was astonishing, and it was a joy to hear them play outside the intimate confines of a studio.  Still, the reason Angel Olsen draws such an intense response is, of course, her voice.  When attempting to draw comparisons, the mind deviates from thinking about other women and instead finds Roy Orbison, Chris Isaak, voices that can jack into some mythic place where ’50s rockabilly and early rock’n’roll are setting a rural barn on fire.  It is true the voice isn’t for everyone — Mrs. Tulip Frenzy was not in last night’s crowd. But backed up as it was by a female singer with a correspondingly strong and subtle croon, when heard live, even at the end of a tour Angel Olsen’s voice was a reason to stand transfixed.

 

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This year Angel Olsen released Phases, a 12-song compilation of demos and b-sides, and even in the formal recognition that this wasn’t her best work, it was one of the year’s strongest records.  We look forward to her recording in 2018 a new set of songs, backed by her remarkable band, played at any volume she likes.  Any singer whose voice can align as hers does to the songs created just for it, who can produce two such great albums over just the final few years of her 20s, will be back to sell out other venues, bigger venues, as she burns her fire and is witnessed by millions.

The New Pornographers Play Their Best Album In Years At Their Best 9:30 Club Show Ever

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , on April 30, 2017 by johnbuckley100

the-new-pornographers-live-in-chicago-at-metro-april-2017-32Purloined photo with apologies and credit to Bobby Talamine of In The Loop Magazine

We didn’t need a reminder, but boy was it comforting to hear The New Pornographers play “The Laws Have Changed” early in their Saturday night 9:30 Club show in D.C.  Yes, in the real world the laws are changing, and not for the better.  Thankfully, in that 90-minute respite from our mad president that we spent seeing a favorite band play a delightful set, we learned The New Pornographers haven’t changed a bit, and are at the same time thoroughly new.

We didn’t miss Dan Bejar, though we recognize the blasphemy of these words.  As great as his songs are, as fun as his contributions have been, both live and on albums, the streamlined New Ps with just Carl and Neko keeping the bleeding heart show rolling worked wonderfully.  The show must go on, and backing an album whose thematic heart lies in “This Is The World Of The Theater,” it surely did. Joe Seiders had already proved himself to be a worthy replacement for Kurt Dahl on drums, and even on the Brill Bruisers tour three years ago we’d learned to relax; Seiders keeps the Niagara pounding going with no letup in its galvanic force, and has a few more tricks up his sleeve.  This was the best of the six or seven shows we’ve seen The New Pornographers play at 9:30 going back to 2005.

Which makes sense, since Whiteout Conditions is the best New Pornographers’ album since the by-now classic Twin Cinema.  It’s hard to remember that when that record came out nearly 12 years ago, it was bemoaned for how the band had lost the oddness and caffeinated sheen of their first two astonishing albums.  Now, of course, we recognize Twin Cinema as a high point in Western Civ (and we’re increasingly worried that 2014’s Brill Bruisers might be seen by future historians as its peak.)  Whiteout Conditions is a mix of everything we love about the band, bright and bouncy, profound when needed.  With songs like “High Ticket Attractions,” which we can’t get out of our head, and new approaches like “Darling Shade,” which sound like Martha and the Vandellas updated for the 21st Century, this Bejar-less edition of the band  flows like a lava tube off the edge of a cliff, powerfully smoking in the creation of new earth.

That The New Pornographers are one of our very favorite bands defies certain logic.  Ordinarily, we treasure the analog sound of Fender guitars played by punk bands and The New Ps feature keyboard-driven synthetic sounds polished to a high gloss.  They’re not exactly a guilty pleasure or a secret passion, for we play their recs all the time, but the pleasure we get from listening to them is a bit like wearing only natural fibers in everyday life, while enjoying the chance to dress up in polyester.  Carl Newman clearly loved songwriters like Brian Wilson and bands like ELO, and us, not so much.  But last night at the 9:30 Club this band — capable of the most intricate studio albums — played a wonderfully organic set with four-part harmonies intact, the songs building and building so that by the time we got to “The Bleeding Heart Show” encore, we could emerge from the club’s doors with a smile on our face, ready to face anything, up to and including all the laws that have changed.

Television, A Friend From Many Stages, Return To D.C.’s 930 Club

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , on September 7, 2016 by johnbuckley100

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Speaking of bands who’ve been around for 40 years, Television played at D.C.’s 930 Club, and to say they were in fine form understates the impact of the Platonic ideal.

With only one song from 1992’s Television — “1880 or So” — and none at all from Adventure, this set was Marquee Moon all the way.  Only it was like Marquee Moon from the inside out: no “See No Evil,” and we heard “Prove It” and “Torn Curtain” before “Venus.”  A special highlight was hearing the gorgeous “Guiding Light,” and the closer of the set, “Marquee Moon,” was as good as we have ever heard it — and our hearing it live traces back to New Year’s Eve 1976.

Richard Lloyd has left the band, but Jimmy Rip — who has played with Verlaine since his 1980s solo tours — filled in and then some.  Yes, it was a little odd to hear a stand-in play Lloyd’s lines, but Rip is such an excellent guitarist in his own right, it was like hearing a gifted Branagh fill in for Olivier as Hamlet.

Richard Lloyd once famously said that with while some bands look to see whether they have the crowd moving, Television always judged its performance by whether the audience was motionless.  And yes, when Verlaine and Rip traded guitar lines, the crowd reaction was transfixion.  Verlaine was as loose as we have ever seen him, fronting Television or his own band (often comprised of a similar set of musicians.)  The volume was low, the torque was loose, and it was magnificent.

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The last time we saw Television play was at Georgetown, when they were pushing their 1992 eponymous  reunion album.  The playing then was a bit like this: quieter and more self-contained than those shows we saw as they were exiting stage left in 1978.  But then and now, there was plenty that was raucous contained at an adult volume.

We once had Tom Verlaine explain to us, while sitting in our apartment in New York for an interview for the Soho Weekly News, that Television’s two-Fender guitar sound was aimed at extracting the jaggedness of wild songs.  But last night, he and Rip convened a harmonic convergence — on the unreleased, and very long, “Persia,” the fusion music had the audience guessing where the Farfisa , violins, and synths were hiding, though it was only the two guitars.  And on that post-Bolero finish to “Marquee Moon,” the return to the melody was like a post-coital urge for more, unheralded by the drums.

Fred Smith, the Harvey Keitel of rock’n’roll, was his wonderfully understated self, and Billy Ficca proved anew why he’s the greatest jazz drummer to ever center a punk-era band.  But it was Verlaine, of course, who people came to see, and both his singing and his magically elusive guitar were a reminder that one of the greatest bands in history can still evoke the era in which we first saw them, all those years ago.

An Evening With The Brian Jonestown Massacre At D.C.’s 9:30 Club

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 6, 2016 by johnbuckley100
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On their 2016 tour of these United States, The Brian Jonestown Massacre are doing something they mostly avoided the last time we saw them — they are playing songs from Anton Newcombe’s fairly astonishing recent creative output, and going deep into the back catalogue.  It is as if Methadrone and Mini Album Thingy Wingy were recorded by the same band in the same year, not by largely different bands more than 20 years apart.

We’d largely forgotten “Never Ever,” which kicked off the set, but if ever you wanted to steep yourself like a mushroom tea bag in the Velvets’ Factory sound, yeah, good place to begin.  And what a thrill it was to hear them play “Goodbye (Butterfly)” or “Pish,” which rank among our favorite recent BJM songs, capturing all the magic of this greatest working band which, not that long ago, may have seemed like their best work was behind them.

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For the initiated, this was a marvelous show, occasionally crystalizing with shimmering layers of guitar, the emollience of the organ, Daniel Allaire kicking the drum kit no matter what else was going on.  And there was a lot going on.  Anton was as cranky as we’ve ever seen him, twice chiding Ryan Van Kriedt for playing acoustic guitar (on “Anemone” and “Prozac vs. Heroin”), even though in the latter case, Van Kriedt politely informed the mercurial bandleader that he’d actually told him to play it.  (“I don’t care, there’s a hole in the middle of the song when you play it.”)  Hey, at least he didn’t stab him, like he allegedly did Frankie Teardrop during the 2009 tour.

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Hearing the band line up with Anton, Ryan, and Ricky Maymi each playing 12-string guitars was a treat, a sonic treat.  Over the course of their long existence, BJM have grafted their own take on the Velvet Underground’s guitar sound atop Cure-era Power Pop, while somehow harkening to a Summer of Love psychedelic dynamic.  When you hear Anton sing and play guitar on a fairly new song, “Days, Weeks and Moths” from 2014’s Revelation, it brings to mind Blind Faith, or maybe Traffic, but nevertheless a band right on the back end of the ’60s.  And yet it is completely contemporary, if you’re an oddball like me who thinks psychedelic rock’n’roll is contemporary.

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There were moments when even Joel Gion grew a little frustrated with Anton’s temper.  But let’s cut the genius some slack.  Since quitting drugs and alcohol, since moving to Berlin and becoming a father, Anton has produced some of the greatest music of his career, which no one, circa 2005, would have predicted.  There were moments during last night’s near three-hour set that were magical, less like seeing a band perform than being inside the rehearsal studio when lightning was captured in a bottle.  Anton promised not one, but two new albums this year.  We can’t wait to hear ’em.

 

 

Hoarse Of Voice, At The 930 Club, The Dandy Warhols Still Have Much To Say

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 18, 2016 by johnbuckley100

Dandy's Rule 1Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s voice was shredded from the back-to-back New York gigs this weekend, part of the price we always pay in D.C. getting first-rate bands on second-rate evenings (Sundays or Thursdays.) With show-must-go-on enthusiasm and a decidedly low-key vibe, the set was still powerful, evenly drawing from the first three albums while — and this was most delightful — showcasing how good are the best songs on Distortland, their first really good new album in some years.

That songs like “Search Party,” “All The Girls In London,” and the Cars-like “You Are Killing Me” more than held their own with faves like “Plan A,” “I Love You,” and “Bohemian Like You” is the best news we can deliver.  It has been a while since the Dandys’ new stuff sounded as vibrant as what they launched into space with during their late ’90s rise, and that Distortland has been on near constant rotation on our hard drive is as welcome news as spring’s arrival.

Dandy's Rule 3Courtney’s voice notwithstanding, the band played as well as they did when performing the entirety of Thirteen Tales Of Urban Bohemia here there years ago. There’s something remarkably sporting about a band that remains a foursome after all these years, with no calling in the supporting cast to deliver the goods. Brent De Boer remains one of rock’s great unheralded drummers, a timekeeper to be sure, but dynamic when it’s needed.  Peter Holmstrom is unflashy in his floppy hat, but hangs the wire holding up the canvas on which Courtney paints the songs.  Zia remains the heart and soul of the band, playing one-hand keyboard bass, leaving the other free for tambourine or keyboard frills.  If there is a single instrument in the Dandys possession you most want to hear, it’s Courtney’s voice, and though last night it was hoarse, he earnestly powered through.

Dandy's Rule 2Some years ago, in frustration, we wrote an obituary of sorts for what has been, and remains, one of our favorite bands.  We were struck by how, in contravention of the Dig! dichotomy, it was the Brian Jonestown Massacre that was thriving, the Dandys, on record at least, shadows of their former greatness.  Few things give us more pleasure than to report that, Yeah, Zia, you are still great live — and on record, showing new life, new possibilities, new things to say.

Ty Segall’s 9:30 Club Show And The Triumph Of Willful Perversity

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 26, 2016 by johnbuckley100

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It’s a little perverse when a brilliant musician, whose typically raw but highly polished albums feature him playing every single instrument, turns over the playing to a band of aces.  At this point in his career, though, Ty Segall knows exactly what he’s doing: his perversity is willful.

Ty is a once-in-a-generation inspiration, a revivalist of real rock’n’roll who has an impact on the entire West Coast punk rock environment, but he’s a primitive, right, so it’s okay if we don’t delve too deeply into the meaning of his baby’n’umbilical-chord persona with which he came out flogging his new album, Emotional Mugger.  It’s okay if we don’t accord him the depth of a Bowie, or even a Stephen Colbert, when he abandons the guitar and instead plays a character on the album and stage.  Let’s take this at the level at which we have always viewed him: pure rock’n’roll power, a character like Iggy Pop is a character, not on the level of Ziggy Stardust.

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The Muggers picked our pockets and left us bowled over on the floor, with Evan Burrows of Wand creating his own little breeder reactor on the drum kit, his fellow bandmate Cory Hanson filling in on synth and guitar, and King Tuff, looking like he’d just stepped off of a Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band photo shoot, laying down the leads that heretofore Charles Moothart (whose CFM was an amazing opening act), or Ty himself would have played.  Not having to play guitar left Segall able to tiptoe to the edge of the crowd, inspiring all manner of surfers, including one girl who safely was carried back to the sound booth, returning to the stage with a game face and no doubt minor bruises.

Ty 2016 TFrenzy-3The last time Ty hit the 9:30 Club stage, he was touring behind his most commercial album ever, Manipulator, which had Black Keys hooks with a sharkskin sheen.  Emotional Mugger is at once as ambitious as Manipulator but also deliberately repellant and obscure, but live — and with this stellar band backing him, baby head and all — the tornado force of the music was nothing less than fun.

Ty 2016 TFrenzy-6We don’t really pretend to know why, midway through the set, he went back into character with the baby head and all, just that by the time he played “Candy Sam,”the crowd would have followed him to pillage all the chocolate shops on U Street.

Ty 2016-2When he’d completed the full rendition of Emotional Mugger and we heard the familiar chords of “Thank God For Sinners” from Twins, still his best album, it was great to have him shed the mask, ditch the character, and get back to Ty Segall, the tyro of his age.  “Manipulator” and “Feel” from his last real album were a reminder of what this guy can do, especially when a drummer like Evan Burrows is banging a gong.  In this miserable political year we’ve witnessed one guy with blonde hair get crowds to respond to his manipulations in an ugly manner.  Great it was last night to see another guy with blonde hair whip a crowd into a frenzy with the benignity of the cathartic arts.

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