Review – Imperial China, Caverns @ Lo-Fi Social Club

DC sent some of its premier music-makers to Baltimore this past Saturday. Imperial China specialize in a decaying, spaced and fuzzed out, tribal brand of post-punk. Some apt comparisons have been thrown about to Battles. I would challenge that they are a sight more intense. They played a ferocious set that was highly percussive. At times having 2 members on drums, their lines created a sense of anticipation and foreboding. Both front-men doubled duty on guitar and bass, switching frequently. This fed into the chaotic feel of the music and was topped by the twitchy guitar and bass work, post-punk flavored and coming down like sheets of rain. The entire set was utterly haunting and senses-smashing. They have some great musical ideas and it will be exciting to see where they take things.

And now, onto Caverns.

What can I say. These guys are 2 for 2 in my book. They absolutely destroyed. Their songwriting possesses perfect control of pacing and packs a lot of guitar, drum and keyboard depth into digestible and cohesive tracks. Guitarist Kevin’s energy was through the roof, frequently thundering down off the stage to romp around the floor amidst the audience mid-song, ax flailing and wailing. He even chased off a pre-set heckler within the first minute of the first song. But when appropriate he pulled back in a stunning showcase of his ability to not only shred but inject serenity and nuance into his playing. “The family that slays together stays together” is probably the best example of this.

Patrick’s keyboard work was lush and immersive, but almost overpowering. In fact, the whole sound was pretty damned deafening (as has been commented on before by Jeff the Taper). But the songs even held up in the din of induced tinnitis. I would have liked more clarity from the guitar in the mix, but nothing could be done on Caverns’ end of this. It was hard to pick out the drums most of the time, but when they came through they seemed on point. The thing I really appreciated this go-around that I overlooked last time with Say Hi was the electronics by Ira. Asking to have all the lights cut out, I realized they lug around their own lighting. And it does a spectacular job of accenting the music and setting the mood, simply with the colors amber and white.

Spectacular set, personal highlight being “This are Syntax”. It was also nice to hear the title track off their newest album, “Silk Scorpion.” Talking to Kevin after the set, he said that Caverns will be in the studio and pre-production for the album for the next month or so, emerging to play again with Imperial China at Velvet Lounge at the beginning of May.

Thanks to both groups for coming up. Good luck to Caverns in the studio. We can’t wait to hear some new material.

Crystal Castles @ Ottobar

Crystal Castles are another electronified duo out to take over the world. Justice: you are officially on notice.

I kinda think of them as the Faint and Justice mixing an 8-bit video game soundtrack. Their show tonight at the Ottobar should be quite the sick affair. Openers HEALTH, Space Mountain, and Thrust Lab. $10, 8PM doors.

Whet your aural whistle with some tracks from their self-titled debut LP which dropped earlier this month.

Crystal Castles – “Crimewave (vs HEALTH)”

Crystal Castles – “1991″

Crystal Castles – “Black Panther”


Pietasters skankalicious Saturday Sonar Show

DC/Baltimore-metropolitan area ska legends the Pietasters were the first less-than-national band I had ever saw live at the old Black Cat in DC when I was but a pup in the mid-90s with the Pilfers (side project of Coolie Ranx from the Toasters) opening up in the hey-day of third-wave. And though the third wave has long past ebbed, they still rank among my personal top 10 artists for quality, consistency and just plain fun.

Lead singer Steve Jackson and crew are renowned for their ability to play alcohol-fueled and inhumanly long, ferocious sets of diverse music romping around the realms of ska, dub, reggae, world and rock music to get the entire club skanking and bopping into a huge, frenzied mass of Brownian motion.

Do yourself a favor and unwind at Sonar in a sweaty mass Saturday night with myself and a packed house full of Baltimore and DC area ska lovers. Pietasters headline with Jah Works, Lionize and Dub Trio opening.

After the jump, there are some skankalicious tracks to whet your appetite. And to delve deeper, check out this interview I had with Steve Jackson about everything ska and good in the world.
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Review – Georgie James, Gary B & the Notions @ the Ottobar, Baltimore MD

While Stars were busy delivering their highly dramatized indie pop in downtown to a packed house at Sonar, the Ottobar crowd was relatively light for DC-based Georgie James’ alternate approach to the genre.

But given the quality of Georgie James’ performance and music, there should have been a more equal split between the two.
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Wye Oak in a Yaris at SXSW for Stereogum.

Our latest, Merge-signed hometown heroes Jenn and Andy of Wye Oak, get together with Stereogum and play “I Don’t Feel Young” in the back of a Toyota Yaris tooling around Austin at SXSW. Check the video here.

Maybe I can get them to play “Family Glue” in my Scion tC.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our interview coming in the next few weeks.

Content coming up this week…

Crystal Castles, Pietasters, Georgie James and more…


Starscape 2008: Nothing you haven’t seen before

Starscape, Baltimore’s electronic music festival, will celebrate its 10th year of existence this June 7th (though the graphic claims the 9th) at Fort Armistead Park. As widespread public interest in electronic dance music (EDM) has waxed and waned, Starscape has reliably remained the only event in the region able to draw top-notch DJs. The lineup was announced a few days back. The bill is solid, but not spectacular. One would have expected all the stops to be pulled for the 10th year party.
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Psychedelic mix – Captain Beefheart, Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators

As promised earlier, here’s a healthy dose of classic mind-bending psych/weird-rock courtesy of Captain Beefheart (Wiki, pictured left) aka Don Van Vilet and Roky Erickson (Wiki, pictured right), the Austinite 60s psychedelic icon who fronted the 13th Floor Elevators (Wiki).

Mildly related anecdote: I actually got turned onto this whole genre when I started getting mentored in tuba performance and music theory by Sumner Erickson (Roky’s brother, also pictured right), a renowned musician and former principal tuba of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Roky’s story of recovery is phenomenal and a testament to his brother’s love, dedication and tenacity. As well as the support of many other rock notables including the ever out-spoke Henry Rollins. I highly recommend you check out his documentary, You’re Gonna Miss Me.

Check after the jump for the absolutely insane video for “Ice Cream for Crow” and a few epic Roky performance clips.

Enjoy the MP3s, culled from the 2xCD Roky Anthology I Have Always Been Here Before, the 13th Floor Elevators Last Concert Live CD, the Roky Tribute Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye and Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica and Ice Cream for Crow.

Thanks to our newest contributor, J. Varrone for this review of Peabody’s performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

From March 12 until March 15, 2008, the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University performed Mozart’s The Magic Flute, held at 7:30pm each night in the conservatory’s Friedberg Hall. The entire opera was performed in German and featured students of the graduate and undergraduate level. With a sell-out performance each night I was glad to have purchased my tickets early, especially for Wednesday’s opening performance. Having seen several renditions of The Magic Flute prior to this one, I was eager to see Peabody’s take on Mozart’s renowned opera.
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Album Review – Colin Meloy Sings Live!, Preview @ 9:30 Club

Approach this preview and album review with caution, it is highly-tainted by personal bias. Let me explain.

I have seen the Decemberists (Wiki) at least 6 times that I can count (I have probably only seen the Pietasters (Wiki) more, somewhere around 12 times).

I have played their albums into the grave.

Their concert with the BSO (Wiki) last summer sprinted into my top five concert moments of all time, at #2 right behind Rage Against the Machine/STP in the pouring rain of an HFStival which is in the top spot. Even if Jeff Magnum and Neutral Milk Hotel continued doing their thing, I still think that I would pick Colin Meloy as the better song-writer.

Now that we’re through the disclosure segment, let’s get to the album after the jump.
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