When you tell someone that you’re from Washington D.C., you’ll often get a response along the lines of, “There must be a great punk scene there”. At which point, you’re forced to explain that while that might have been true 20 years ago, nowadays, punk bands are about as commonplace as honest politicians in the District. But every once in a while, D.C.‘s punk rock underbelly will briefly resurface, as old and young punks gather to celebrate the city’s musical history and keep the flame alive.
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There’s a clear current that runs through the work of Daniel Martin-McCormick and Jacob Long: an obsession with driving rhythms. As part of the explosive, short-lived D.C. post-hardcore ensemble Black Eyes, the pair played alongside two drummers who traded in the sort of tribal polyrhythms that have only recently become fashionable in indie rock. Now, as members of San Francisco’s Mi Ami (along with drummer Damon Palermo), they’ve largely shed the free-jazz leanings of their previous act in favor of a more aqueous, echo-laden sound. At the Velvet Lounge on Friday night, the band showcased the full range of its abilities, with a set that started out visceral before descending into a disorienting tangle of spaced-out dub. Just when it seemed like the Velvet Lounge’s PA system couldn’t possibly be pushed any further, Martin-McCormick applied a delay effect to the drums, resulting in a deafening wall of ricocheting rhythms. It was a tactic that hearkened back to Martin-McCormick and Long’s days in the District: when in doubt, just add more drums.
Heavy metal at The Opera House has become a tradition in Toronto, but the gathering of four metal bands all hailing from Finland was a rare novelty. Survivors Zero, Swallow The Sun, Moonsorrow, and Finntroll entertained an all-ages crowd on Monday night that made up in enthusiasm what they lacked in numbers. The appearance of each new band onto the stage was a theatrical moment which included apocalyptic entrance music and the hoisting of banners, like armies storming a battlefield. The effectiveness of the mood preparations was underscored by the fact that each band was given ample time to perform complete sets. The resulting steady flow of black metal infused with Finnish folk music had heads banging, hair swirling, devil horns pumping, and mosh pits in full swing even before headliners Finntroll had their instruments in hand. At the end of each set, fans feverishly chanted “one more song”, and thanks to the efforts of a highly efficient stage crew, gap times between bands were mere minutes. The Finn rockers clearly fed off the crowd’s energy and they willingly expressed their appreciation for the zeal. There were many highlights but the overall upshot of seeing these strongly unified metal bands was a bona fide treat.
Power to the androids! Self-proclaimed “thrival” Janelle Monáe recently descended upon New York City to preview The Arch Android, her forthcoming follow-up to 2008’s Metropolis Suite I: The Chase, which updates the story of Cindi Mayweather (Android #57821) and her adventures in Metropolis.
At Joe’s Pub, Janelle Monáe possessed even more drive and confidence than her 2008 debut appearances. Her typically epic opening medley was capped off with “Locked Inside”, which wafted over the audience like a salted sea breeze. It’s destined to be the “summer song” of 2010. If Monáe’s performances of “Cold War” and “Tight Rope” were any indication, The Arch Android might even surpass its predecessor as the mirror to Monáe’s genius. With a wink towards James Brown’s histrionics, Monáe knelt on the stage floor with a cape and stirred the audience to a frenzy on the latter tune. Call her The Godmother of Android Funk.
Girl in a Coma had the distinct honor of opening for indie-rock powerhouse The Wedding Present at the Bowery Ballroom last Saturday. If the preceding sentence just provoked thoughts of a bunch of indie sad-sacks, it’s understandable. After all, their name references a Smiths song, they were playing a Lower East Side landmark and opening for one of indie’s forefathers. Girl in a Coma surely consists of four prematurely balding but bearded young men who together have amassed the greatest sweater collection in the world, right?