Imperial China, Double Dagger, Zulu Pearls @ RnR Hotel

This is coming a few days late and will probably be a lot too short. But hey, take these pills of MP3 forgiveness and read on, intrepid music fan.
All photos: Beau Finley

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Zulu Pearls – If It’s All the Same

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Double Dagger – Luxury Condos for the Poor

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Double Dagger – Camera Chimera

This show had great potential. Musically, I thought for the most part the artists kept up their end of the bargain. Double Dagger and Imperial China killed it. Zulu Pearls, not so much, but they were earnest, I will give them that. But come on DC; you had 3 (4, but I missed B&W Jacksons) prime and distinct sounds to get down to and you mostly failed.

Imperial China, this being their CD release, did get the most people moving. But Double Dagger’s performance was pure electricity. But let’s start from the beginning (well, mine)…Zulu Pearls.
Mostly innocuous, described by one show-farer as an approximation of Interpol (an accurate picture live). But I’d wager without the charisma and ability to channel moods. I appreciate their energy, but for me the music was largely unremarkable and the showmanship a bit forced. There is potential, as evidenced from some solid recorded material, but a lot of refinement to go before it is realized live. The most distracting part of the performance was the lead singer, whose antics amounted to some inebriated stumbling around and emoting; it even seemed to irritate fellow band members, notably the guitarist who I thought was going to rip his jugular out with his teeth by set’s end.

Double Dagger followed and represented Baltimore in perfect fashion. The effectiveness of the minimalist 3-part(bass, vocals, drums) approach to their music cannot be overemphasized. They generate a punk and post-hardcore firestorm truly living up to and expanding upon the legacy of the ever-present genre influence, Fugazi. Bruce’s bass work was a frenzied, near-virtuosic technical display organically fusing the twitchy and up-tempo approach of punk with the more exploratory tendencies of any of the sub-sects of jazz. Unfortunately, Nolen’s highly interactive, classic punk approach to showmanship was not well-received by many in the crowd. I can’t count the number of people who commented they found it “creepy” or that he needed to back off.

I couldn’t disagree more. I truly believe that if you insist on maintaining this fourth wall between performer and spectator, you are not experiencing the performance to its fullest. You should be welcoming this amount of interaction. And here lies the big difference between DC and Baltimore crowds. People wouldn’t think twice about this in Baltimore, welcoming the chance to melt the experiences of performer and audience into one big, joyous mess; self-consciousness be damned. Fuck the person next to you, if you dig it, show some love and freak the fuck out. Thankfully the front few rows of the crowd seemed to be receptive, so my experience wasn’t ruined. Standouts from the set were the obvious, perennial favorite “Luxury Condos” and “No Allies.”

Imperial China bounded to the stage and immediately started pounding into the first track (“There is no translation”) off their, frankly, fantastic EP Methods. This being a CD release show, I will be making their evaluation a combination of EP review and show review.

For such a young band, formed only in fall 2007, they have a mature and developed sound as well as phenomenal live presence that is polished yet infused with that about-to-careen-off-the-rails energy and spontaneity necessary for a killer live show. The speak-shout vocals are a great topping, but their songs would work perfectly as instrumentals. They channel tasteful and expansive prog in many instrumental sections of their songs. Here, they wring some truly spectacular sounds out of their poor, unsuspecting instruments.

Watching this process unfold is engrossing: bassist Brian Porter twitches and pulsates, possessed with intensity, funneling it all into his frantic bass and vocals, guitarist Matt Johnson calmly yet intently picking a fiery guitar riff and Patrick Gough flailing away at drums, it just swallows you whole. They exchange times, styles and techniques of post-rock, post-punk, experimental noise and electronic, math-rock and a dozen other genres as fluidly as a banker exchanges currencies.

For primary evidence, you need look no farther than their always enthralling performance of instrumental track “Radhus,” where Porter and Johnson pull double-duty on keys/synths and drums, respectively; Johnson and Gough both madly going at it on the drums is an invigorating scene. The track is perfectly paced and layered with at least a dozen interesting musical voices and associated hooks. The establishment of the early drum cadence undergirded by a body-shaking low-range synth groove that belongs in some deep house or electro track, works you into a frenzy that is then carried by an extended passage of sharp and crunchy guitar work. The intensity then begins to break down as the guitar enters into a more sparse, post-punk punctuated style followed by the closing sequence of synth breakdown. As far as musical rollercoasters go, you can’t ask for much more.

The head-to-head of Double Dagger followed by Imperial China was one of the best-paired match-ups I’ve seen in recent memory. They are of a similar temperament, both musically and in performance approach, delivering captivating, rapid-fire sets with little breathing room and showing a truck-load of musical chops. DD may be a bit more intense and interactive, but they’ve been around the block a few times. I predict Imperial China will be there soon enough, completely demolishing the energy-sapping fourth wall right beside Nolen and the rest of DD; hell, they are halfway there on music alone.

Related posts

  1. Sound Off!: Imperial China CD release (Exclusive track leak!)Imperial China impressed us in their last outing @ Lo-Fi...
  2. Live Audio: Imperial China @ the Ottobar (2008.12.22)Imperial China The Ottobar Baltimore, MD December 22, 2008 Source:...
  3. Imperial China – Methods: EPEveryone welcome our newest contributor, Julia Conny!  Her first piece...
  4. Imperial China & Caverns play the Cat backstage, world burns in flames of awesome.Email us at auralstates@gmail.com or comment this post for a...
  5. Double Dagger finds more Thrills.Photo credit: Greg Szeto [Audio clip: view full post to...

Leave a Reply