As both High Places and Dustin Wong demonstrated on Monday night, you don't always need a lot of people to make a lot of noise.
As Bob Barber announced in between songs, High Places have played almost 400 shows at this point, yet Monday night's performance marked only their second in Washington. That explains the small crowd -- roughly 30-50 folks were in attendance -- though those who did show up received a fine introduction to the Los Angeles duo. Despite the darker, more subdued tone of their latest full-length, High Places vs. Mankind, in a live setting, the band still employs the same bass-heavy rhythms, lilting vocals and pan-global flourishes that first caught the blogosphere's attention three years ago. Though the volume of the beats occasionally drowned out the finer nuances of the songs, it ensured that the new, more headphones-friendly tracks meshed nicely with the band's earlier work.
Opening up with a solo performance was Dustin Wong, guitarist for Baltimore art-rock ensemble Ponytail (and former Ecstatic Sunshine member). Using a series of effects pedals fed into a loop station, Wong meticulously crafted and layered a series of loops, using only a guitar. Thanks to both his skill as a guitarist and prowess with the effects, he was able to generate a wide range of sounds, ranging from warm, chiming notes to fuzzed-out drones. Even more impressive was the way that his songs bled into each other--though there were distinct boundaries between songs, his set at times felt like one continuous, evolving piece of music.