Yamantaka // Sonic Titan at Union Stage
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan describe themselves as a "theatre company" as well as musicians. Obviously they put some effort into costuming, but beyond that each of their albums have a narrative arc. They even wrote a rock-opera a few years back. They're the kind of band which tells a tale through their music, like Tom Waits in operatic pop-metal form. That while wearing lots of makeup, which to be fair Tom Waits has also been known to do...
This was my first time at Union Stage and I have to say, I am very impressed by the lighting. It's a mini-Anthem in there! I'll definitely go back and shoot there again. Not a bad space in general either, though the no-cash policy is a bit weird and reminds me once again that I'm too old for this.
Time is Fire at Rock N Roll Hotel
Lemme tell ya' a story about this band. A year and a half ago Time is Fire were scheduled to play a house show but couldn't because the lead singer was sick. Three members of the band showed up anyway and played a couple of their songs as instrumentals. The result was funky, enough so that they got the audience to dance (a rare thing at house shows in my experience) and got a request for an encore.
This despite the fact that their music has too much gravitas to be "Get up and dance" funky. Of course the music is catchy but it is also a vessel for some pretty serious thoughts. Song titles include "Violence (Brings Violence)" and "Turn Your TVs Off". Political commentary from DC... okay, that's not new. What is new is the unique blending of international styles and perspectives. A Sufi poet from Iran working with the drummer of Gwar (yes, really) was not likely to result in anything usual. There are identifiable elements: some Afrobeat rhythms, psychedelic guitar work, a song with lyrics in Farsi (probably), but the emergent sound is definitely something original.
Starcrawler at DC9
In case you were wondering, yes Starcrawler's lead banshee and guitar tornado really are as wild as they appear in the photos. While Starcrawler is surely inspired by punk rock both musically and stylistically I cannot shake the feeling that this is as close to a hair metal band as I've seen recently, and not just because of the codpiece. A lot of early hair metal was aggressive and edgy (for the time) while also paying homage 70s glam. The cheesy ballads came later. Anyway, Starcrawler are like the DIY version of that. Definitely hard rock, definitely glam-inspired, but without the corporate slickness.
Puff Pieces at Rock N Roll Hotel
There seems to be a tradition of non-traditional punk in DC and Puff Pieces are very much a part of it, though their musical DNA might just include the band DNA as well. Puff Pieces's music is like rock performed by people who are in shock, or at least stunned by something (the world around them?) The singing is barely inflected but sounds distinctly worried. An anxious, almost mechanical guitar backbeat on most songs heightens the sense of paranoia to a point which is almost comical, or at least absurd (shades of Modern Times perhaps?). The lyrics, though, cover typical punk topics such as gentrification, the excesses of the greedy, and our over-medicated society. It just doesn't sound the least bit typical.
Not that they sound similar but Puff Pieces remind me of Protomartyr. Both bands need a couple of listens before you really "get it". Both bands are in clearly the intellectual/political universe of punk but are doing something more original musically. Oh, and it's hard to mosh to either one. Gee, between that and the backbeat Puff Pieces might just be an alt-Reggae band too...
Melon Farmers at The Sidebar
Melon Farmers are a Reggae-inspired band, not a Reggae band, which is an important distinction because (I believe) there are no mosh pits in Reggae. I can't even imagine a Reggae mosh pit happening unless somebody smoked the wrong thing. But there were definitely mosh pits at this Melon Farmers show. Not all of their songs are ragers, some of them are mellower, but sometimes the crowd did mosh.
This and the Canker Blossom set from before were my first photosets from The Sidebar in Baltimore. It's a dive bar with dive bar lighting. Protip: get a newer camera. This is exactly the situation where it would be nice to underexpose my shots and then push them 3-4 stops but older Canon cameras are not so good a that. Maybe someday...