TVD Live: The Minus 5 and Dot Dash at the Rock and Roll Hotel, 6/25

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | The recovery from a stroke in 2017 remains a source of celebration surrounding rocker Scott McCaughey. He’s surrounded by musicians who have been friends of his for years, is writing slightly more reflective songs following his brush with mortality, and still rocking out with a verve that may surprise even him. Fronting the latest version of The Minus 5 at the Rock & Roll Hotel in Washington, he flitted between his band’s latest collection, Stroke Manor, some sturdy classics from the band’s past, and some choice covers.

Only last month he and three others from the current band were in town as part of another group, Corin Tucker’s pointedly political Filthy Friends. And here again, like a personal support committee, were guitarists Peter Buck and Kurt Bloch and terrific drummer Linda Pitmon. To them were added Joe Adragna on vocals (and a fourth guitar, albeit acoustic) and Mike Mills on bass. To back McCaughey’s sometimes thin vocals, everybody but the hangdog Buck chipped in with harmonies. Having both Buck and Mills—fully half of R.E.M.—on a small stage was a throwback to the early days of their famous Athens band (McCaughey was supplemental musician on a lot of their final tours so the pedigree went even stronger).

Still, who expected them to ring out a version of “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville” with Mills on lead vocals, to start the encores, a thrilling little rock moment in a club. It was one of a few very well-chosen covers of the night. They had been pairing the doleful “Beatles Forever” with that band’s “Nowhere Man,” which sounds pretty good live with Buck picking the 12-string Rickenbacker. But McCaughey veered from his planned set by adding the Kinks’ “Where Have All the Good Times Gone?” which took a minute for everyone to recall the chord changes.

McCaughey’s songs have of late taken on pop touches, with “bop bop” choruses the backing vocalists were happy to join in on. But there were a lot of crunchy, garage-rocking songs as well, from the opening “My Collection” to the main set-topping “Blue Rickenbacker.” For all the guitar power on stage, it was Bloch who took on most of the solos, though McCaughey added some stinging breaks as the set went on. Buck was content to provide solid rhythm and coloring, in his flowered shirt, occasionally breaking into those rock jumps and pivots that are by now to him innate.

The main set ended particularly strongly, with a series of songs from McCaughey’s five-disc Scott the Hoople in the Dungeon of Horror album that seemed to speak most directly to time spent in the hospital, effects of medicine, the cost of aging and contemplation of life’s end.

The night’s rock began with an engaging set by longtime DC power punks Dot Dash, a trio whose equipment (an eight-string Hamer bass, a Vox teardrop ) were as savvy as the songs. But they came in especially handy when, following Mills’ run at the R.E.M. hit, his own bass conked out, and Dot Dash’s lanky bassist Hunter Bennett volunteered his own—a super heavy instrument whose bigger problem for Mills was its lengthier strap. They fiddled with it as McCaughey sang his plaintive, oblique “Plascent Folk” before they all roared back to cap the great night with the requested “Aw, Shit Man.”

DOT DASH

SETLIST
My Collection
You Don’t Mean It
My Master Bull
Bleach Boys and Beach Girls
I’m Not Bitter
Well in Fact She Said
Lies of the Living Dead
Remain in Lifeboat
Beatles Forever
Nowhere Man
Ghost Tarts of Stockholm
Original Luke
Where Have All the Good Times Gone?
It’s Beautiful Here
My Generation
Top Venom
In the Ground
Blue Rickenbacker

(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville
Plascent Folk
Aw Shit Man

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