It was surprisingly good for the first 45 minutes or so, but as the set entered its second hour it started getting very old, very fast. Like, in a 20-minute span it went from "Hey, I'm really enjoying this" to "Man, I really wish this was over." It seemed lots of folks agreed because there was a serious exodus during the set's last half hour. But the one thing that will be remembered about this show is the Great Dickie Peterson Story Telling Moment. It's been almost a couple of months, but I'll try to recreate the moment, and perhaps ZR can chime in with any additional memories.
So the new guitarist dude, who looked straight out of central casting for Guitar Teacher Who Almost Scared Me Off Of Ever Wanting to Play Guitar, with his mullet, leather vest, medallion, etc., broke a string or something, so there was a brief break in the set. New Guitarist Dude told the audience that Dickie should tell a story, because he has some great stories. So Dickie -- also dressed straight out of the '80s (what is up with that?) -- proceeds thusly. (This is a rough approximation of what he said, it was a while ago and maybe ZR can help fill in some blanks.
"So we're on tour in Japan. And we're playing with this Japanese band and they don't speak a damn word of English and we don't speak a damn word of Japanese. But their drummer was talking to Paul, our drummer, and they just kept talking to each other and they had no idea what each other were saying but finally the Japanese guy said, "Sake!" And then we just all started shouting, "Sake! Sake! Sake!" and had a bunch of drinks. Later that night we saw him on the elevator."
Brightblack Morning Light/Espers
In some ways it's good to write these things so long after the show because then I get to see what actually left an impression. What I remember about this one is that as I walked up the stairs at DC9 the first thing I saw was a dog. That's most of what I remember. OK, not entirely true. Espers were very good. Orchestral folk, long songs, tons of guitars, much, much hair. After about 25 minutes I thought I would have had my fill, but they certainly kept the momentum through the entire set. I was impressed. Still can't bring myself to play the record all that much, but then again it's not the greatest record to listen to while sitting in front of a computer.
Brightblack was decent. It's the whole one-trick-pony-but-a-pretty-neat-trick thing. Syrupy. I think it was decided that "syrupy" would be the word most often used to describe the band's sound. Those slow, druggy grooves are nice, but the songs don't really go anywhere, and it was even more apparent in a live setting. And the chick's vocals were just about completely inaudible and were indeed totally incomprehensible, which made it just silly for her to talk to us between songs. For a more professional and timely take on the evening, I'll just point you here.
We Are Scientists
Hoo boy this was painful. They mean well ... but you know what? I'm not even sure they mean well. They might just be really damn good at seeming like they mean well. I had to listen to their record a bunch before the show and they hit you right off the bat with that "My body is your body song" and man did that just give me a chill. Not a good chill, obviously. There was very little to enjoy about the show and they were a whole lot more late-'90s crap alt-rock than I thought they'd be. For once, I was wishing for more skittery dance-punk. For a more polite take,
It's hard to think of a worse idea than covering Neutral Milk Hotel, but I'll be damned if Adam and his band of two (yes, including saw) didn't pull it off marvelously with a fine rendition of "Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone." His self-titled album on High Two really is one of the best records of the year. It'll take you a while to get into because it is very long, with exclusively very long songs, but you'll dig it, trust me. Do people still listen to the Mountain Goats? If so, you'll like this record a whole lot more.
Camera Obscura/Georige James
Tracyanne looks so damn serious up there on stage. Singing these catchy, pretty songs and looking totally joyless while doing it. Not that that's a bad thing, it's just very striking. Played basically the entire new album, plus a couple of old hits. Nothing here changed my opinion that this is a very solid B+ band. The more upbeat tunes are the best, but if they were all like that, they wouldn't carry the same clout. They get the ratio just about right. Was pretty drunk for this one, so don't remember much else, except apparently Tony Hawk was there and got the boot, or something like that. Georgie James ain't the same without AB behind the kit.
Acid House Kings/The Legends
Acid House Kings were pretty hilarious. The dude talked for at least a minute in between each song, and I laughed at least once each time I think. Pretty fun set, too. Good decision to keep it to just around 30 minutes. A little over the top at times, but plenty catchy. The Legends were quite good and wholly derivative, and no, the two aren't mutually exclusive. The first album is still loads better, but the newer stuff wasn't bad. Stretch that out to 250 words and voila.
A month and a half ago ... I remember it being pleasant. And that the lead singer's dad (I think -- definitely someone's dad and probably someone's granddad) was there. And that the lead guitar lines reminded me of Neil Young a lot. I think the highlight of the show was that this was seen by a blog I like and gave me credit for what I thought was a pretty good line. Much better than the stupid lead angle. I actually Googled something like "Vetiver" + "I Love the 70s" to make sure nobody had made a similar reference and one of the first results read something like "Michael Ian Black hasn't been good since the original I Love the 70s" and I was like, "That person is totally right" and of course it was just SD.
Konono No. 1
The hottest show I've ever been to. It wasn't a particularly brutal summer in D.C., but there was a 2-3 week period in late July and early August where it was your classic, disgusting D.C. heat. This was one of those days, like 95 with that thick ass humidity. In other words, a pretty bad day for the Black Cat's air conditioning to break right before the show. The Konono folks didn't seem to mind, they still wore their flannel shirts and looked plenty comfortable. But it was just too hot up there to enjoy things. I couldn't stay upstairs for more than 15 minutes at a time, regularly going outside to enjoy the 85 and humid cool. It sounds like there are many more people in the band on the record than there are live. Which may very well be; I would guess it's pretty expensive for a not-really-all-that-popular-all-things-considered band from Congo to fly over to the U.S. and play indie rock clubs. I don't really partake in "physical activities" so to say it's the most I sweat in ages isn't all that revelatory, but still worth mentioning.
I was really sick this night. There's no way I should have gone out, I still had a 100+ fever, but I went anyway. Only stayed for 30 minutes of I guess an almost 90 minute set. I was too sick to really enjoy it, so I figured if I wasn't going to enjoy it, I may as well go home. PS and ZR said it was the most awesome thing since Pissed Jeans, but what else were you expecting them to say?
Good D.C. rock moment, though. Scene is outside the Warehouse Next Door. Homeless dude comes along, offering up some sort of Wizards bag for $1.35, or whatever bus fare is. And sure, that was supposed to come off all highfalutin. Anyway, no takers, what else does he got? Out comes a throwback Gilbert Arenas jersey. Not quite as great as it sounds -- I'm fairly certain it was the one that was a free giveaway at some game this past season -- but still, it's a Gilbert Arenas throwback jersey. (The '70s red, white and blue Washington Bullets one, not the even cooler late '60s Baltimore Bullets one that I have.) Homeless guy says he'll part with it for whatever. A clearly excited PV -- friend of SD, serious Wizards fan -- reaches into his pocket to see what he can he offer. But before he can do that, one Ian Svenonious, quick as a cat, pulls out a crisp Hamilton and acquires the jersey. And promptly gives it away. Not to PV, obviously. Oh, PV. Will you ever win? I doubt it, and I hope not. No offense.
Foo Fighters/Frank Black
I was plenty scared, I admit. I've seen Foo Fighters plenty of times, but this was the first time in nearly 10 years. Seeing them on that first ever tour, opening for Mike Watt at the Black Cat, that's a pretty cherished memory. Skipping the second half of the school day to go hang out at Tower Records for about five hours before they played a free show there in '97, that's a pretty cherished memory. Hearing "My Hero" hundreds of times in my life ... well, after that first year or so I always associated it with the Varsity Blues trailer so it made me go "Ah don't wownt yo-ur loff!!" So that could be worse.
In any case, this was an acoustic tour, and that was probably for the best. I'm sure that at this point a Foo Fighters rock show is a pretty over-the-top extravaganza, which just makes me very uncomfortable and angry. So this acoustic thing, with an eight-piece band was definitely over-the-top, but in a more tasteful way. And hey, Pat Smear was there, making his Pat Smear faces. Hard to go wrong there. Grohl's a funny dude. Maybe not quite as funny as he thinks he is, but I don't let that stop me, do I? And I got to hear a Nirvana song sung by the person who originally sang it. Never thought I'd be able to say that. Trying to sound smart.
Frank Black did a half hour solo acoustic opening set that was as good as that sort of thing could be. No talk, just song after song. Great voice, good intensity, a few Pixies songs, the perfect opening act for a show like this.
I know you're going to think I'm either kidding or insane, but this was certainly the best show I've seen so far this year and it will take quite a performance to knock it from the top spot. Now I'm not one of these people who complains about crowds, but I do believe that a legitimately hyped crowd can make a show better, and that was certainly the case here. It really did put things over the top. Rancid played almost all old stuff, maybe only half a dozen songs that aren't from the first three albums. This show was the night after Foo Fighters and it was like 10th grade all over again. How much Foo Fighters and Rancid did I listen to in 1995? A whole lot, that's for sure.
Anyway, it wasn't just fun, it was a great performance. Tim Armstrong just does what he does, but Lars really holds the fort down. Lots of hits from ...And Out Come the Wolves (would've liked "Roots Radicals," that's for sure, though) and Let's Go and even a couple of Operation Ivy songs. Not just Foo Fighters and Rancid on back to back nights, but hearing Nirvana and Op Ivy songs on back to back nights! Ah, nostalgia. More.
It is what it is at this point, y'know? The pope analogy that I used last year still holds, I just wish it didn't cost $50. That's like, 12 iced venti mochas. Anyway, this was the weakest of the three ballpark shows I've seen over the past few summers. The first two songs were ruined because his voice was just as bad as it could possibly be, and unfortunately those songs were "Maggie's Farm" and "The Times They Are A-Changing." It's hard to describe exactly what he sounded like, so I simply said he sounded like "something that has rabies." Not sure exactly what, but whatever it is, it's rabid. Voice got better as the night went on and the show was enjoyable. Got to hear "Positively 4th Street," which I'd never heard before, so that was cool. But no other real standouts. Bob, switch up the encore, please. I mean, keep "Rolling Stone" if you want but gives us something else besides "Watchtower," OK? As always, just about every other setlist on the tour looks better than the one I got.
Is it false hope to think that he might be playing guitar on the fall tour since he's playing guitar in that iTunes commercial? Probably, right? Whatever, I'll still go, duh. I wonder when he'll start playing stuff off the new record. Which is fine, by the way. I mean, I'm still going to listen to my Blonde on Blonde outtakes with much more regularity than Modern Days, but whatever. Also, I wish we got Kings of Leon here instead of Jack White, although the wispy moustache off between Dylan and White should be the premier event of its kind so far this century.
This kid gets more coverage than Steve Smith on 3rd and long. (No? You don't like that one?) And it's certainly a bit much. Good record, good sound (although he's hardly the only indie rock-ish type person taking cues from the old eastern bloc right now, that's for sure), decent show. A complete madhouse at the Warehouse, line around the block. Typical D.C. -- either everyone is into it, or nobody is. Let's not go there right now, though. First song was a total Neutral Milk Hotel dirge and it was awesome and it was probably the best part of the set except for that damn nifty "Postcards From Italy" song. I'll be honest, his voice got on my nerves. So affected, so put on. I mean, he makes it work on record, but it was hard for me to watch him do it. It's like that episode of Seinfeld with Mel Torme where Jerry says, "I can't watch a man sing a song." And Elaine goes, "What are you, crazy?" And he goes, "They get all emotional, they sway. It's embarrassing." And honestly, that's sort of how I felt. It's silly, I know. I'm silly. But it's fun to be silly.
OK, that wraps up this marathon edition of show diary. I left out a whole bunch of local stuff, I'll do a roundup one of these days, maybe. Right after those 24 rankings...