Archive for The Black Cat

Years Later, Will Thousands Claim They Were At Wand’s Show At The Black Cat?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 16, 2015 by johnbuckley100

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About three times as many people claim they were at Nirvana’s winter ’91 show at the old 930 Club as could possibly have fit in that skanky room.  Last night, not too many of us were privileged to have been in the backroom of the Black Cat to see Wand, a band that thunders every bit as much as their precursors, while sharing their genius for melody and that genre-busting tightrope walk between metal and pop.  The 70-minute show was at times transcendent.

A year is a long time in pop music, but was it really just last fall that we saw Wand open for Ty Segall, leading us to discover their remarkably accomplished debut, Ganglion Reef?  Since then — all in calendar year 2015 — the band has released two new albums, each better than the last one, a progression of talent that shows great things to come.

The band is now a foursome, so that Cory Hanson has extra help on keyboards and guitar.  As the singer and principal guitarist, the clean-cut Hanson cuts a fascinating figure.  It’s fully to be expected to find him on a stage, but he looks less like someone who can ply the line between noise-rock and Power Pop than someone you’d see on a tech conference panel being grilled by Kara Swisher on why his start-up’s billion-dollar valuation is justified. Wand plays pretty melodies that stick in your head and then, on a dime, they pivot to chest-jarring fuzz-metal.  As the bandleader, Hanson seems as if at any moment he could turn and walk through a different door, and you’d find yourself listening to music in a completely different tempo, volume, and level of intensity.

Wand 2

But no take on Wand is complete without mentioning that Evan Burrows is a one-man nuclear power plant piston-pounding the drums. If drummers had world rankings like tennis players do, Burrows would be that phenom that went from number 128 to the Top 5 in a single season.  This is evident on the records, manifest live.

We have already stated our dilemma in determining which of Wand’s 2015 records will make Tulip Frenzy’s 2015 Top 10 List.  And honestly, we wish we could call 1000 Days and Golem a double album and be done with it.  But something else came to mind last night when watching this intimate show in which Wand just detonated on stage.  Hanson reportedly was Mikal Cronin’s roommate in LA, and Ty Segall has taken the younger tyro under his ample wing.  In the summer of 2014, Tulip Frenzy declared that we live in a Golden Age of Rock’n’Roll due to the output and sensibilities of Ty, Thee Oh Sees’ John Dwyer, and White Fence’s Tim Presley, and last’s night show by Wand simply confirmed the thesis.  But what also was clear that any listing of West Coast bands and figures leading us to this Periclean age has to include Wand and Cory Hanson.  Those of us who were privileged to be at the Black Cat last night know this.  And we fully expect that a decade from now, hundreds of DC hipsters will claim they were there too, and have known this all the while.

Wire Plays A Pearl Of A Well-Made Show At D.C.’s Black Cat

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 7, 2015 by johnbuckley100


Almost 40 years since creating the most intriguing, and in many ways, long-lasting debut of the punk era, Wire came to DC last night to play a show that was sinewy, powerful, and occasionally transcendent. From the opening “Blogging” — which kicks off their eponymous 2015 album Wire — to the gorgeous encore close of “Used To” from 1978’s Chairs Missing, Wire proved they are no oldies act.  This was one of the strongest shows we’ve seen in years, old masters comfortable in their skins, who can still show the young ‘uns a trick or two.

When you’ve been around as long as Wire, there are distinct eras, or at least clusters of albums connected by time and personnel.  What’s most delightful about the Wire of today is that, like Dylan on his great run between Oh Mercy and Modern Times, they’ve shown themselves at ease working within the construct that made them great as young men, while still putting out music more vital than most other working bands.  With 2011’s Red Barked Tree, 2013’s Change Becomes Us, and this year’s Wire, their output is, sure, not as “important” as 154 was in 1979.  But that’s like saying Love and Theft isn’t as important as Bringing It All Back Home.  Who cares? Wire’s most recent albums make the case for one of the most vital acts in rock music history, and it’s an exceptionally high quality output for any band, not to mention one formed in 1976.


Robert (Gotobed) Grey and Graham Lewis still have the metronomic precision of the Atomic Clock, and it was a joy to hear Lewis sing “Please Take” and “Blessed State.”  Grey looks like a beatific and elongated version of Jeff Bezos, closing his eyes in meditation as he directs the band with the certainty of a Swiss train conductor. Colin Newman has always done double duty as an effective punk shouter and a pretty pop singer; harder to do these days live, but all in, his voice was fine.  What was really fun to see was how young Matthew Simms can extend and augment Newman’s guitar playing, occasionally playing these John McGeoch-like leads, often letting Newman carry the song on his electric 12-string.

Many years ago, when assigned to review Document And Eyewitness for NY Rocker, and thinking that the band was kaput (they broke up in 1980, only to come back five years later), we said that Wire was at its most interesting precisely at the moment when its reach exceeded its grasp.  That was true then, but there’s little outside its grasp today.  Last night’s show at The Black Cat saw a band pulling off the hardest trick imaginable: playing a set mostly with songs from albums four decades into their run, leaving no room for nostalgia.

Capsula To Play D.C.’s Black Cat With Os Mutantes November 23rd

Posted in Music with tags , , on September 18, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Not confirmed by the Black Cat website.  But here’s what our gumshoes have tracked down.

Capsula has, over the past year, toured with Os Mutantes, the legendary Brazilian psyche band who trace their history in dayglo ink going back to Sao Paolo in the ’60s.

On the Capsula website, it says they are playing at the Black Cat on 11/23.

On the Black Cat website, it says that Os Mutantes are playing on November 23rd.

Not taking any chances, given how infrequently the Bilbao-based Argentines play the U.S. of A — and not wanting to miss, again, possibly the greatest rock’n’roll band on Earth — we’ve gotten tix.

So should you.


UPDATE:  From Os Mutantes:

Os Mutantes ‏@osmvtantes16h


 Retweeted by CAPSULA / SLR SCRTS

The Triumphant Return Of Deathfix, Or Tales Of Brave Ulysses

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 18, 2013 by johnbuckley100

It was only the return from a ten-day tour, not a Ullysean reunion in Ithaca, but the sense of relief and joy evidenced last night by Deathfix at the Black Cat was as obvious as the band’s enormous talent.  Coming back to D.C., their album available, and with cheers from the road still ringing in their ears, the Deathfix show was both a homecoming and an album release party.  And while both Brendan Canty and Rich Morel were a little ragged of voice, the fact that a young band could perform such intricate songs with beats missed only through premature enthusiasm, shows just how great these guys can be.

Live, it’s clear why Brendan would happily relinquish the stool behind the drum kit to Devin Ocampo.  We knew how aggressively he played from his work with the Mary Timony Band, but well before we got to the best song on Deathfix —  the immortal “Transmission” — Ocampo’s Aynsley Dunbar homage had us transfixed, maybe even deathfixed.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the equation,you would think that Brendan had spent his entire career playing guitar, for he seemed that comfortable doing so.

Seeing the band for the first time after wearing out the hard drive from our iPad listening to their eponymous debut through headphones reveals just precisely who passes off the vocal baton to whom on each song.  We’d sort of figured which song was Brendan’s and which was Rich Morel’s, but we hadn’t realized how vocal responsibilities are like a hot potato thrown from one to the other, within the parameters of various songs.  Yeah, that’s Brendan taking the verse in the radio-worthy “Better Than Bad,” and Rich stepping up with the chorus.  And so forth and so on, with Ocampo and bassist Mark Cisneros all doing their part, or parts.

They played the entire album, and only on the encore did they return with something new — a song called “Porcelain,” which was superb, another one of these multi-part opuses like “Transmission.”  When the newest song played may also be the best song played, high hopes are raised for the next record.

We called them a young band, and obviously by that we mean they haven’t been playing together all that long.  After all, when thanking his former partner in Fugazi, Ian Mackaye, and the crew from Dischord who were there, Brendan declared he’d been on the label for 31 years.  That’s a long time, not just for record-label monogamy, but to be playing music professionally.  And yeah, these guys are pros — adults with roots in punk rock and power pop, dance and hard rock, who somehow can concoct a prog nod to ’70s acts as disparate as 10cc and Big Star and pull it off.

It was a triumphant homecoming.  May they leave and return, leave and return, for years to come.

Ty Segall Brings His Joyous Punkedelica To D.C.’s Black Cat

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on February 1, 2013 by johnbuckley100

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Leica Monochrom, 75mm Summicron, ISO 5000

To say that Ty Segall was the person last night having the most fun at his show in D.C. in no way diminishes what a gas it was for the audience.  It’s just that the Cali tyro lives for this, was born to do this, to hit us over the head with his Riceroni mix of SF punk’n’psychedelica, to bounce around the stage with his fine four-piece band, banging out songs from each of his three great 2012 albums.  The Ty Segall Band only released one album last year, and we thought it was weaker than what he produced in tandem with White Fence, and with his amazing studio band (Ty, by himself), but last night they did him justice.

We hadn’t realized how much he physically resembles Kurt Cobain — but a centered, joyous Cobain, who is thrilled to play his music for you.  And while  Ty’s songs can, at times, combine the same ingredients as Nirvana — punk rock dynamics, metal chord progressions, and enough hooks to land all the fishies off the Pacific Coast –the comparison ends there.  Except in one regard: he’s the biggest talent to hit American music since Cobain, or maybe since Black Francis — two songwriters to whom he owes a debt, while we get the benefit of the credit they extended him.

The show began with “Thank God For Sinners” and “You’re The Doctor,” which open up Twins, one half of the two-album duo (including Ty and White Fence’s Hair) that tied for second place in the 2012 Tulip Frenzy Top 10 list ™. And then we heard our faves from SlaughterhouseGoodbye Bread, Melted, even B-sides.  For a kid born in the waning days of the Reagan Administration, he’s produced an amazing body of work, which if his 2012 output is an indicator, is getting better and better.  There are lots of monuments in Washington.  Ty Segall’s on the right path to claim his own.

Wye Oak Blossoms With “Civilian”

Posted in Music with tags , , , on March 9, 2011 by johnbuckley100

Baltimore’s Wye Oak is a band so ambitious that it’s produced its (first) masterpiece while there are still no more than five rings around its arboreal trunk.  Civilian builds on 2009’s The Knot in unexpected ways, and reveals that The Decemberists choosing of Wye Oak as the opening act on its winter tour was recognition of a sapling now grown into a mighty tree.

We’ve never been big fans of two-person bands, from the Method Actors to the White Stripes, because live the sound of drums and guitar without the flaps tied down by the bass imperfectly protects the music from the buffeting of sonic wind.  But Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack aren’t just ambitious, they’re visionaries too, and rather than compromise with a third musician, they’ve come to the Centaur’s solution of having Stack play both drums and bass (keyboard.)  Um, at the same time.  At the Beacon Theater in January, when they opened for The Decemberists, we marveled at how well it worked, Stack holding down, if not a heavy bottom, at least a sufficiency of rhythm, one arm bashing the drum kit, the other stretched to the keyboard.  We’re guessing he’s also good at simultaneous translations of English to Mandarin, can program in C++, and never was bored as a child, since he could play catch without needing another kid to come over.

Wasner can also do circus tricks.  She can strum like Peter Buck and head into Distortionland like Thurston Moore.  On perhaps Civilian‘s most brilliant song, “The Alter,” Wasner embellishes upon Air’s “Surfing On A Rocket,” which itself was a take on Eno’s “St. Elmo’s Fire,with a sudden efflorescence into Frippertronics.  Wow.  We dare you to listen to “The Alter” and not go download this whole amazing album.  Wasner’s voice starts in Lida Husick alto depths, and can maybe range a little too far into Cranberries territory, but the effect of her singing, the mastery of  her guitar textures, and Andy Stack’s utility infielding should, with Civilian, introduce the proverbial wider audience to the charms of The Free State’s greatest gift to music since David Byrne.

Unfortunately their show Friday night at the Black Cat is sold out.  (Although for those of us with day jobs going to see Mary Timony play in Wild Flag Thursday night, maybe that’s a blessing.)  This isn’t the last chance we’ll have to see Wye Oak, though next time it’s likely them headlining at The Beacon.  Amazing.

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