Saturday, January 29, 2011

Battles Musical and Automotive

I am still recovering from “carmageddon,” this past Wednesday’s horrific commute in a snowstorm that put the DC area into gridlock from mid-afternoon to the following morning. For myself, I got into my car at 4 pm, leaving from in front of Jammin’ Java, in Vienna, which I have tracked as being approximately eight miles from my home.  

I walked through my front door at 12:30 am. Yep, it took 8.5 hours to get home. I could tell you the whole story but I’m trying to get past my personal suburban version of PTSD, so we’ll move on. But first, a shout-out to Sully, the Brave Little Yaris, who made it home even while scores of other, bigger cars were left wanting.
Speaking of Jammin Java (did I mention that five hours into my commute, I was back in front of the club, having been twice turned around by disabled cars that made the previous roads I was on unpassable?! Oh, wait. I said I’d move on…)

Anyway, I wanted to put up the last photos from the Battle of the Bands in case any of the bands and/or fans who were there have come to the site, even after all this time, to get a little love…
(a few of the bands gave me CDs, so you’ll the O/CD Tally going up.)

HYE-TENSION opened the show with an engaging set that put me in mind of Elvis Costello and the Strokes, which is a very nice mindset indeed. (O/CD T: 20)

 CURBSIDE MANNER is a five-piece band that offered two lead vocalists and a violin player, who did a credible take of the Charlie Daniels’ chestnut, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” (O/CD T: 21)
BTW, the band's 5-track EP has a nice, Beach Boys-y sound, which was not fully in force during the live show. 

For just three guys, RHYTHM SECTION made quite a noise, including what they said was a Katy Perry cover, but I didn’t recognize it in the trio’s brooding style.

Ooops. We can't forget Nate Ihara, who hosted the night yet again and pimped out Close Personal Friend in every introduction. Here he is, introducing the fourth act of the night, Delta Rae...
DELTA RAE, a six-piece act from one of the Carolinas, is a country-tinged outfit with two female and two male vocalists. They did one nearly a cappella number that was extraordinary and won the night’s top honors with a set that was totally pro from start to finish. (O/CD T: 22)

An all-female quartet named IVY ROSE also had its act honed to a sharp edge. I love watching young women rock out and, like I said before, sometimes the scores come down to just a few minor points indeed. 

Again, the night ended with a band that went for the jugular, ONE CITY MILE, who roared through a hard, but polished, rock set. (O/CD T: 23)

Again, the winner this night was Delta Rae. They will return to Jammin Java on February 18,  along with the Chris Collat Band, Light Speed Rescue and the first night's winner (I wasn't a judge), The Silver Liners, to compete for the grand prize. I'm not sure yet if I'll be judging then - if it's snowing, I may just stay home and whimper - but from the bands I've seen compete, it's gonna be a tough call to pick just one champion.

Oh, and one more Battle of the Bands-related thingy. I got an email from Aaron Thompson, who competed on the night I didn't judge. He asked if I'd link to his video on the site and, since I think it's quite good, glad to do so. You can check it out here. 

And, as Aaron wrote in his note, "Be sure to watch the end. ;) "

Okay, now that I’ve caught up with that, we’ll return to our (ir)regularly scheduled blogging about other musical happenings.

Thanks for dropping by!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Back to the Battle

If anyone came to the site during its "down time" to see photos from the Jammin Java Battle of the Bands, held earlier this month, I'm sorry you didn't get to see them in a more timely matter. But now, without further ado, here's what went down on Wednesday, January 12th:

The first act to take the stage was the CHRIS COLLAT BAND, who set the bar very high for the night with an accomplished set that had a polished, DMB-style vibe.

Next up was I AM AVERNA, five young guys led by a singer with a monster voice.

Yet another young quintet. SUB-RADIO STANDARD, had the middle slot. (There were only five bands this night as one group, Starryville, was no longer in the lineup).

And now, a special guest star! While I was grabbing a drink between acts, I ran into another fine local musician VINCE SCHEUERMAN. Vince was just a teenager when he fronted beloved area band Cactus Patch, which morphed into Army of Me, and now leads a new outfit called River James. I told him I wanted to take his picture for the blog, but Vince vetoed a solo shot ("I feel like a farm animal," he protested gently) so here's a Facebook-style shot of me and him.
The penultimate (I told you I love that word) band was SKYLINES, a six-piece band that had lots of energy and a violin player to help vary its sound.

And the final band of the night, OH SO PELIGROSO, took us out with a fiercely compelling set that made the final decision a tough one.

Still, the winner was....Chris Collat and company. Sometimes, it really comes down to just a few points on the scoring card.

Which brings me to another, different kind of point. The last time I wrote about the Battle of the Bands, a few people left comments calling into question the judges' decision on Tuesday night. They complained that the band that won didn't have the same number of vocal fans as one that didn't. Just for the record, the judges work from a set of criteria that includes musicianship, style, songwriting and other factors, crowd support being just one of them. So, ultimately it's a talent, not a popularity, contest. The judges don't discuss the scores as we each write them down and the final tally is done by someone else working at the club. Hope that clears things hope.

BTW,  OH SO PELIGROSO gave me a copy of its full-length CD and I picked up two CD-Rs that other acts distributed to promote upcoming shows.
McTWIST - "So I'm Off"
BRIAN HUBER - 3-track sampler (including a song called "Snuggies" which is as scary as it sounds)
All of which makes the O/CD Tally: 19

Sunday, January 23, 2011

We Now Return to Our Regulary (?) Scheduled Blog

Ah......I exist again.

A little over a week ago, just as I was in the midst of judging the Jammin Java Battle of the Bands, where the CPF site was mentioned repeatedly over the course of three nights, leading to more traffic than I've seen here in quite a while, the site disappeared. This was the result of my renewing the domain name and, while doing so, transferring to a new domain service where I made mistakes in resetting the DNS. (And if that makes sense to you, you're much more of a geek than I am.)

I watched in horror (well, disappointment) as seemed to evaporate. I knew the bits (bytes) and pieces of it still existed somewhere on the web, but I couldn't get the URL to connect to the material. It's the first time that has happened in five + years of doing this blog and I was surprised to realize how much it means to me to have CPF out there where people (all six of you?) can see it.

I had resigned myself to another day of dealing with GoDaddy customer service (their commercials suck, but the people on the phone are lovely; I don't blame them for my error) but then, a friend who came to dinner this evening was kind enough to answer my call for help and found the key to making it all work again. Hurrah for Mark!

CPF is back, baby! Better late than never, I hope, I will post the remaining photos from the Battle.
In the meantime, here's my ballot for the Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll (I'll tell you more about my choices soon).

Thanks, as ever, for stopping by.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A View from the Judges Table

Last night, I was one of three judges at Jammin Java’s fourth Mid-Atlantic Battle of the Bands, and will be there again tonight and tomorrow night as we choose one band each night (it also took place Monday, but I wasn’t there) to compete for the grand prize - including $$, a headliner show at the club and a recording session - on February 18th.

This is the third time I’ve been asked by the club to be a judge, and it’s a lot of fun. I’m no Simon Cowell, and so I’m not out to dash anyone’s hopes of moving up in the music business, but there are definitely bands I’ve seen and enjoyed at past events - like Sing Me Insomnia, Escape the Armada and The Shields Brothers - that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. My favorites don’t always win, and there are bands I wouldn’t cross the street to see platy again, but everyone who takes the stage got there legitimately. Some don’t have what it takes - yet, or maybe never - but kudos for trying.

 The first band up was a group from local high schools, Friday Harbor, who didn't have much of a crowd due to snow delays, but made their moment count.
Next up was Grand Revival, whose frontman had the look of INXS' late Michael Hutchence and the vocal style of Eddie Vedder.

Nata Ihara, lead singer for a fine local band, We Were Kings, has been the host for many of the nights I’ve judged. He’s a fun, humorous flirt (tell him he’s “dreamy”) and keeps the crowd pumped. When he introduces the three judges, he usually calls me “freelance writer for the Washington Post,” but I haven’t contributed to the paper since they cancelled the biweekly local sections  (one for Arlington, one for Fairfax county) where my “Live!” columns appeared (for five years; it was a great gig while it lasted).

So, last night I told Nate to mention this blog and tell people I would be posting pics from the event. I had only my small point-and-click camera and didn’t want to leave the judges table to get close, so these are not quality shots but, hopefully, they’ll give you a sense of the event and let the participating bands know they were, indeed, being noticed.
The act in the next three shots is Light Speed Rescue. It was the third band to play but took the top spot, winning the night with a nice blend of rock, funk and hip-hop.

The only female on the bill was Robin Cook, who took the bold move of appearing solo, accompanied by a computer playing dance beats and with some cool lighting effects. She was mostly in shadow (sorry about the dim shots) and brought a disco vibe to the otherwise rock-skewed night.

Here's "dreamy" Nate, stopping by the judges table...

Nate took my camera up close to the stage to get a shot of The Elevators, a funk band who were fifth on the bill. That makes them the penultimate band. (Look it up; I love that word!)
 I took this shot of the band's lead guitarist, who played some tasty Pink Floyd-like licks during a longer jam - and yeah, I know Floyd's not technically funky, but it was cool.
And the last band of the night was billed as Scott Norris, led by the lead singer of the same name. Is it just me, or does he have a bit of a Justin Timberlake look? The sound, however, was more straight-on rock.

And finally, here's Nate again, announcing the winner. I can’t tell you how I voted, but suffice to say I think justice was served.
If you read this and you’re coming to any of the remaining Battle nights, stop by the judges table and say hello. And Nate is also giving away free copies of the new We Were Kings two-track CD, which I enjoyed listening to on the ride home. So come to the show and grab one while they last. (O/CD Tally: 15)

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Friday night, counting at the keyboard

I thought I was going to get to bed early tonight, but I just discovered, while looking to see if Bill Maher is on tonight (he’s not), that HBO is playing the Ricky Gervais stand-up, “Out of England 2” at 11:00. (HA! I just realized that his special is following a Mel Gibson movie, which is pretty funny itself considering how Gervais skewered the anti-semitic GF-beater at the Golden Globes last year.) So, while I enjoy the fang-toothed British wit with the endearing, contagious laugh, I will attempt to catch up with some of this past week’s musical acquisitions. 

With one exception (to be discussed later), it’s been an onslaught of digital downloads for this first week of the new year. Some are freebies I can share, like BLOODSHOT BEST OF 2010 SAMPLER, eight tracks from the respected Americana-skewing indie. (You can grab one at
There’s also a nifty gifty from Largehearted Boy, who hosts a great blog that offers free legal downloads on a daily basis.  ONE TRACK MIND  - The 10 Best Songs of 2010 includes Sarah Jaffe, The National and more. (Sorry, I went to the site to find the link for that particular collection, but I can’t find it.)
And then there were the zip files, sent from the publicists, for these new/upcoming releases:
AMOS LEE - Mission Bell
JONNY BURKE – Distance and Fortune
JJ – Kills
Soundtrack with 20 tracks from a new film, with contributions from Ben Taylor, Judy Collins. Bob Weir, Paul Brady and more.
TINA DICOWelcome Back Colour
Sent to me because Dico is coming to the area (but not real close) to play the Rams Head in Annapolis on January 30. The 2-disc album (if it were on discs) is a collection of her greatest hits (she’s big in Denmark) and five new tracks.
OBERHOFER – o0O0o0O0o 3-track 7”
That title is cool to look at a pain in the ass to replicate.
(Hmmmm….Gervais just did a bit about the pervert across the street who showed him “magic tricks” when his family went out. Not working. Back to the music….)
 ELIZABETH & The CATAPULT The Other Side of Zero
The album was sent in advance of the group’s show last night at Jammin Java, which will be an examiner story/gallery soon. (That's Elizabeth, above) I also grabbed the band’s Daytrotter Session (4 tracks recorded live). If you haven’t visited Daytrotter's site, it’s worth checking out for all the live performances, mostly from bands flying just below the radar - although I got one from MGMT this afternoon.
(So, adding in those 12 bold-faced new titles, the O/CD Tally: 14)

As a writer who often has to describe what I'm listening to, I appreciate anyone who can make me laugh while explaining a band's sound. While I don’t listen to metal as a rule, I greatly enjoy reading press releases for their often awful/awesome descriptions of the material. Like the one which came for a band called American Heritage, whose Sedentary comes out on March 1 (which just so happens to be my birthday, for those who want to start shopping early). According the press email I got, Anthem  magazine described the music as "...Wagner after a bottle of Jack Daniel's and some ludes.”  

Something else fun to share. Here are a few samples from a project where graphic artists reinterpret covers from their favorite albums.

Well, time to go to bed. Gervais is done and, although I still count myself a fan, I wouldn't recommend this particular special. He admitted early on that it was a work in progress and some of the stuff would be dumped along the tour as he saw what worked and what didn't. I would say about a third of it wasn't up to his usual standard. The encore piece was yet another bit on child abuse which left me cold, as did some of the middle bits, too. But, as they say, that's show biz...

Thanks for stopping by and especially for your patience with the crazy fonts and spacing (blogger's starting to get on my nerves; WordPress, here I come.)
G'night, all.

Monday, January 03, 2011

First Show of the New Year - The Shields Brothers at Jammin Java 1-2-11

I'm tired and I want to got to bed, but in keeping with my new commitment to blog often (dare I say everyday?), I wanted to toss up a few pictures from my first concert of 2011. The band above is The Getaways, a Baltimore-based pop/punk outfit that opened the show. I didn't see their full set, but chatted with guitarist Matt Higgins after the show and he gave me a copy of the band's most recent CD, "The Boldest Thought." (O/CD Tally: 2) Listened to it on the way home and think it might be something the girls might enjoy, being that they are fans of the style.

The rest of the photos here are of The Shields Brothers, a sibling band from a nearby small town here in Northern Virginia; the act that I specifically wanted to see. The guys had very much impressed me at a previous J2 Battle of the Bands, where their unflagging energy, goofy good humor and over-the-top showmanship made them contenders for the evening's top spot. They ultimately lost (as much fun as the Shieldseseseses were, another band had stronger original material) but I definitely wanted to see the trio do a full set sometime.

And so, despite being a bit draggy after a day's mall-hopping with the girls, I got myself to the show and had a great time. These guys really know how to put on a show. Above, you've got Devin Shields showing the audience how to do the dance that goes with the tune "Shark Attack."

Next, you see guitarist Tristan, who also sang lead on a righteous cover of Kings of Leon's "Sex on Fire," facing off with Devin. And next up is Rory, who drums not only with power but with style, adding fancy stick swirls to the big beat.

And this time around, the three bros played some new material that showed exponential growth from the last time I saw them. I'm telling you here and now, The Shields Brothers are a band to watch.

I'm going to post more photos and a more "formal" concert report on tomorrow, but I wanted CPF to get the first draft. 

And so, a good start to the year in live music!