Teen Mortgage at Rock N Roll Hotel
I caught Teen Mortgage at something called the "Brodown Throwdown". That has to be the worst name for a show ever but it is a nice (free!) showcase of new-ish local bands so I'm done complaining about that.
Teen Mortgage are one of those bands who sound garage-y but not like 60's rock, kind of punk but they're obviously not punks, and with a more than a little grunge influence. The resulting sound is somewhere in the the vicinity of Thee Oh Sees and Bass Drum of Death. It's the kind of music which is energetic without getting totally out of control.
They're less than a year old, or rather the band is less than a year old, and they're still a bit sloppy, which is to say that the musicians in the band are a bit sloppy but not like 1-year olds are. When the guitarist broke a string during Is It and they just sort of said "whatever" and finished the set with a broken string... that sort of thing. The songs are definitely solid, though. Best to think of them as a new band which is off to a good start and should keep going and write more songs, which is of course exactly the sort of thing they're showcasing at the Brodown Throwdown.
Bat Fangs at Rock N Roll Hotel
A Supergroup playing hard rock in the style of the late 70s-early 80s (aka the era of the Supergroup), Bat Fangs formed just about a year ago and are already super tight. This of course is the great thing about Supergroups, or at least the ones which aren't just a blatant cash grab which this one... obviously isn't. Take some experienced musiicans, perhaps who have jammed together before, and they can go from bad to badass in no time. Now all Bat Fangs need to do is record more than one single so everyone has not yet seen them play live can grasp just how thoroughly and consistently they rock.
Den-Mate at Milkboy ArtHouse
Den-Mate started out as a solo bedroom recording project but they've massively expanded their sound. Going from one musician to five (and fomerly six!) will do that, of course. Singer/songwriter Julia Hale has said in interviews that she wanted to add a punk quality to her sound. Well, she certainly did that... and has been known to fling herself into the audience and mosh with her fans.
Not that Den-Mate are s punk band mind you. They actually remind me of some of the darker New Wave bands, especially Siouxsie and the Banshees without the vocal harshness. While the songs are often contain foreboding lyrics and melancholy chords they also have enough pop catchiness and punk urgency that they feel upbeat on the whole. Think of The Smiths, who write surprisingly peppy songs about hitting children and the like, but less lackadaisical. Julia Hale is a better candidate for the American Morrisey than Lana Del Rey is, that's for sure.
I should add that once in a while Den-Mate performs solo. Confusingly "Den-Mate" can refer to either Julia Hale solo or the full band. Mostly she performs the same songs, though there are a few which are specific to the solo shows. That's quite a trick performing the same songs both on solo guitar and with a five piece and making it work so well both ways. I suppose it's not unheard of, though. Peter Murphy has a somewhat similar sound and he does acoustic shows, right?
Did you notice that I just compared Den-Mate to a bunch of British bands? I get the feeling they might be operating in the wrong market. Hey British people, do you want to be hipper than your friends? Of course you do that's why you're reading my blog (heh). Anyway, write up Den-Mate in one of your U.K. music rags and break this band in England and you will be the coolest person ever, I promise.
Canker Blossom at Milkboy ArtHouse
Canker Blossom are not just energetic on stage, they're trying to impress upon you how energetic they are. They put on a show like they're already superstars. I think the only reason they stop between songs is so they don't physically catch fire. Oh yeah, their shows are definitely fun.
Lala Lala at DC9
Lala Lala specialize in songs which sound like they should be the last song on the album. You know how some albums end with a particularly portentious song? That song which adds emotional kick to the work by leaving you with the impression that there is some unfinished business? Think All Apologies or Glory Box. Well, a whole lot of Lala Lala's songs sound like that last song on the album.
Lala Lala are also big on lyrics perfomed like chants: a little bit psychedelic, a little bit shoegazey, and totally hypnotic. This is not to suggest however that Lala Lala never rock out. Some of their songs are basically garage-rock with more vocal effects. So yes they do have the occasional high-energy, headbanging moments. Disclaimer: those moments make for the best photos and may be over-represented in the gallery above.