Live Last Week: I Go To Too Many Shows
Oxford Collapse, Black Cat, June 30 - This is a band I had been meaning to check out for a while, mainly because they have one fantastic song and WaPo reviewer Patrick Foster made them sound extra great in one of my favorite reviews that's run in the paper over the past couple years. It was pretty much what I expected, and that was a good thing. Three normal looking dudes playing loud and sloppy songs. What's not to like?
Just one thing - when singer Michael Pace was telling us some Ben's Chili Bowl anecdote during the set, he said something about how it's Bill Cosby's favorite restaurant, and how he's the only one who eats for free there. Dude, we live here. You don't need to be dropping knowledge about Ben's. Maybe we should put that in the next installment of The Rules.
Psychedelic [Expletive], 611 Florida, July 1 - This one was sorta/kinda covered in our Tale of the Tape last week, but I never really said anything about the actual show. Psychedelic [Expletive] is a great band, but the sort of great band that plays for 20 people at a house show. The kind of band I like! They're on the periphery of this little lo-fi movement that's making minor stars of bands like No Age and Times New Viking, but, as I said in that Tale of the Tape, Psychedelic [Expletive] make TNV sound like the Cars. The noise is much more harsh. In Times New Viking, the keyboards provide melody. In P[E], the synths are there to duplicate the noise made over the last eight minutes of the Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray." Again, totally awesome, but with limited appeal. Both times I've seen P[E], the singer has been wearing the same raggedy P[E] shirt. That is amusing to me.
The Smoking Popes and the Oranges Band, DC9, July 2 - The Oranges Band is one of "my" bands - one of those acts that you love a little more than you know you should but don't really care that that's the case, because man, they're just so good! The most fawning, ridiculous review I ever wrote was for their 2005 album "The World and Everything In It." And I stand by it. They play very precise pop songs, not unlike Spoon, which shouldn't be a surprise since singer/guitarist Roman Kuebler did a stint as Spoon's bassist. And Spoon's song "My Mathematical Mind" - you know, that ubiquitous one from the car ad - is, let's say, a "tribute" to the Oranges Band's superior "My Mechanical Mind."
This show found the band in "rock trio" mode with new lead guitarist Doug Gillard (ex-Guided By Voices) unable to make it, so that made the already rhythm-focused attack even more ... rhythmic. It's easy to hear why Kuebler would write a song called "My Mechanical Mind" - the band's songs are like equations with lots of perfectly interlocking parts. Best part? The one-note solo on "I Live Alone," which Kuebler dubbed the best song in the band's catalogue. (Third best, if you ask me.)
I only expected to stay for a handful of Smoking Popes songs and ended up seeing the whole set. It's not that it was really great, I just really wanted to hear their irresistible mid-'90s pop-punk "hit" "Need You Around." It closed the set, of course. And it rocked. I always thought that song was a good representation of their sound, but the set on Wednesday was really grungy. Not as much buzzsaw guitar, more really thick guitar with distortion. In fact, it reminded me of another mid-'90s Chicago band with the initials SP. Needless to say, the Popes were much better than that other band was almost a year to the day.
Eef Barzelay, Iota, July 3 - Eef used to be frontman for Clem Snide, a band that I played almost weekly on my college radio show back in the day. Clem Snide did indie-rock that tilted toward the alt-country side of things with the standout element being Barzelay's clever lyrics and deadpan delivery. "Your Favorite Music" was actually my favorite music of 2000 but I lost interest as Barzelay's wry sense of humor gave way to overwrought earnestness on subsequent albums. His recent solo album, "Lose Big," was more to my liking and since he was playing just a few blocks away, I figured I'd check back in. And I was glad I did. Maybe it was the break-up of his band or a general lack of stardom that at one point seemed very possible, but Barzelay was back to being dry, sarcastic and, most importantly, pretty rockin'.
There were moments of poignancy and a couple of quiet, solo numbers - and that variety meant things were never stale. The constant was Barzelay's sense of melody and humor. My favorite moment was during a false ending when about five or six people started to half-heartedly clap and Barzelay put his hand and nodded up as if to say, "Yes, truly great, I know." A closing cover of Talking Heads' "Heaven" was especially nice.
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