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

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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?

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Photos / Live Review: Frodus, Sick Weapons, Caverns, Solar Powered Sun Destroyer @ the Talking Head (2009.05.08)

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Also photographing that night: the inimitable Josh Sisk.  Peep his shots here.

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MP3: Frodus – The Earth Isn’t Humming

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MP3: Caverns – Dancing With the Scars

Solar Powered Sun Destroyer opened what was sure to be a memorable night. At first, I wasn’t sure if they were on the right bill or not.  Having not seen or heard them before, I didn’t know what to expect. They were good, don’t get me wrong, but they weren’t really what I was expecting. I guess seeing a show headlined by Frodus, I was expecting more of a scream-y band.

Now, I’m not making a case for bands that sound different not playing shows together. Their sound was post rock-ish, and compared to what I knew lay ahead, just didn’t really blow me away. Better suited to open a Mogwai show, I felt. I guess it was just the whole mood of their set which was much more hushed and restrained than everyone else who played this evening. The set started, ended and re-started abruptly because of a loss of sound, which I’m told was possibly due to their own lighting (awesome, by the way, pretty blues and whites in an otherwise completely dark Talking Head).

I missed Caverns at Aural States Fest. I had heard they were pretty active, and I wasn’t misled. It seems like Early Humans have been channelled by 2 of DC’s finest new bands: Imperial China and Caverns,  and I couldn’t be happier. What’s more, just like Early Humans, both bands are 3 pieces.  Coincidence?

Caverns play a form of instrumental and highly technical metal/punk augmented by piano. Guitarist Kevin Hilliard commanded attention, from the stage and the floor, for the duration of their set. Back and forth he runs like a madman. Into the crowd, back to the stage, hardly ever stopping except to heap praise on the night’s stars: a recently reformed Frodus. He utilized every inch of floor space he could find, and when he ran out he pushed his way into the crowd to open up an even larger hole. At one point he accompanied piano player Patrick Taylor with his foot (a welcomed display of histrionics). The band chugged along at breakneck speeds, propelled by Ross Hurt’s drumming. Several times throughout the show Hilliard paid homage to Frodus. “The best band ever from DC,” according to Hilliard. I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say “best band ever,” but definitely in the top ten. I reserve the best spot for Fugazi (speaking of bands reforming…).

Sick Weapons, I must admit I had never heard of, and I felt guilty because I got the feeling I’ve been a little behind the times. It was apparent that I may have been the only one there who hadn’t heard of them before. The crowd gathered much closer to the stage for their performance. Singer Ellie Beziat swigged from her bottle of Natty Boh, and even rapped a little, recalling a grade school project. It’s not the rap they’ll be remembered for, but the way in which they pumped everyone up for what was still to come: the gods of spazz, Frodus. Sick Weapons played sleazy Baltimore punk with no filler or frills, just the way we like it. Just like blue crab and Old Bay, that’s all we need.

Frodus is a band I that I’ve known about since their release Fireflies but had never seen live…until now. My expectations were high, and I was anxious to see them. Fortunately, they did not disappoint. I really never thought that I would ever see this band perform live, so the news that they were back together was so great to hear. The place really went apeshit for these guys and it’s easy to see why.

Drummer Jason Hamacher started things off with a little “deep tissue massage” on a willing member of the audience, just to loosen things up. Then on went his gloves, and for the next hour Frodus rocked the Talking Head. At one point someone asked Hamacher to try and kick him in the face. That never happened, but he did make his way from the stage mid-song, trading off drumming with guitarist Shelby Cinca.  Diving into the crowd, he was passed along the ceiling and then back to his kit to finish the song without missing a beat. This show may as well have been billed as “Frodus Karaoke” because I’m not sure who sung more, Cinca or the audience. It was clear that a lot of people in the audience knew this band, and knew them well. This was clearly who everyone was there for.

The evening ended with the  classic “Cha Chi” to which Cinca told the disappointed crowd, begging for more, “DC bands don’t do encores.” When it was all over I picked my jaw up off the floor and tried to clear the sound of sirens from Cinca’s bullhorn from my ears into the next morning. If Wall Street is reading this, your asses best be hiding right now because Frodus is back in a big way (and I think they’re gunning for you).