Live Review / Photos: The Dutchess and the Duke, Medication, Nerve City, Toy Soldiers @ the Ottobar (2010.01.17)

Flickrshow will appear here.

All photos: Shantel Mitchell

All words: Shawn Breen

Have you ever seen that ONE band before, that you just totally love and you want to keep them to yourself forever? That feeling of not wanting others to embrace them for fear of losing them to the masses? I feel that way about The Dutchess And The Duke. It’s a love affair, I’ll admit it. This was one of those shows that you go to where there’s 3 openers you’ve never heard of and one headlining act that you love a whole lot and can’t wait to see. In fact, I considered for half a second not even going for selfish reasons but in the end my love of The Dutchess And Duke motivated me. Sometimes you just don’t want to sit through three bands for the payoff. That’s not to slag openers but let’s face it, don’t you ever wish you could just go to a show only to see that ONE band?

The show was opened by Toy Soldiers from Philly. Prior to the show I perused their Myspace and gleaned that they were a rather large band with a slew of instrumentation. I was hopeful that this was going to be a homegrown Arcade Fire. I was wrong. These guys were almost entirely bluesy. I’m not a big fan of blues music. Unfortunately, it grates on me. They were competent musicians, and for what it was it wasn’t bad, but I just couldn’t get into it. It seemed as though some of the smallish crowd at Ottobar was digging it though. Big Brother And The Holding Company light? Not my cup of tea. The band rolled out as soon as they finished their set to continue on their trek to New Orleans.

Next up was Nerve City, a sometimes 1 but tonight 2 piece (Guitar, Drums) out of Richmond, VA. I knew the name, but I wasn’t sure why. Maybe it’s because they have a 7″ on Hozac (Chicago) and I own a few of their 7 inches. Or maybe it’s because they are one of a slew of “lo-fi” bands that are being done to death right now. The current wave of lo-fi bands bores me a little. There’s some good stuff out there. I really like Woods. It just seems this sort of stuff is a dime a dozen right now, and it all sounds the same. Nerve City didn’t disappoint though. I actually could hear very mild similarities to Nirvana. Yes, Nirvana. They didn’t sound anything like Nirvana. I think it was a combination of the drumming which really moved me and had a “Dave Grohl” feel with the really heavy cymbal crashes and the sound emanating from the guitarist’s Fender Mustang which, if memory serves me correctly, Kurt Cobain utilized quite frequently. Beyond that though, I couldn’t quite draw any other comparisons. Their sound was replete with the overly reverb-y vocals that were almost indecipherable and the buzzzzz coming from his amp throughout the entire show. I ended up buying a 7″ and a cassette and they even threw in a patch, shook my hand and said, “I hope you feel like you got your money’s worth.” I did.

Following Nerve City was Medication, a 3 piece (Guitar, Guitar, Drums) out of Connecticut, and also a Hozac labelmate. Their name couldn’t be any more accurate as I felt like I was on medication listening to them, cough syrup to be more accurate. These guys also were doing to death the whole lo-fi thing with a slant, they slow it down and drag it through the muck a little. At times it felt like they might chug to a slow crawl and then a stop but it never happened. It just felt like it dragged a little.

After a short set by Medication, The Dutchess And The Duke came on around 11pm. I have seen them 3 times, but this was by far the most intimate. Seated in bar stools facing each other bathed under a soft blue light with acoustic guitars they began their set with “Scorpio,” the B-side off of their Hozac 7″ and also on their new full length Sunset/Sunrise on Sub Pop subsidiary Hardly Art. At times their set devolved into complete laughter, which was fun, but other times felt completely serious due to the subject matter of the lyrics (they tend to be a little dark).

The playful banter from Kimberley Morrison and Jesse Lortz made all the more sense when Morrison confided that she’s known him for 17 years. It instantly made sense why these two have such a connection musically, because they are basically best friends. They drew mostly on older material from the first record, which was welcome, veering towards their newer material towards the end. Lortz asked that the lights be turned way down before they finished with karaoke renditions of “I Am Just A Ghost” and “Armageddon Song,” inviting anyone who knew the lyrics up on stage to help them out. When Jesse Lortz sings, ” ’cause everybody knows it, baby, we’re all gonna die and it don’t really matter how, and it don’t matter why,” it has a way of stinging to the bone, that sense of everything coming to an end. In the end, the night’s payoff was great as it should be.

It seemed fitting that when I went to buy their new record, I got the last one they had. I just can’t believe that more people don’t know about this band but that’s OK. For now I’ll be happy to keep them all to myself. It really doesn’t matter how many openers there are because I think I’d sit through 20 to see them again.

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