Author Archives: Ian Signore

TVD Live: Shred Fest at Comet Ping Pong, 10/19 and St. Stephen’s, 10/20

Hex Ex-6

PHOTOS: KRISTIN HORGEN | Sure, there is a budding electronic music scene here in the District, but DC was chosen as the location of Shred Fest because it is one of those towns that will never let go of its punk rock roots that bury churches under reverberated screams and grab kids by their bootstraps and tie them to their guitar amps.

Put on by She Shreds magazine, Shred Fest finds itself in DC after years in Portland and Austin. The print magazine and the festival are about highlighting female musicians. Out of 15 bands that performed, about half were local and the other half had never been to DC before.

In School-5

The two-day festival took place Friday night at Comet Ping Pong and all day Saturday at St. Stephen’s Church in Columbia Heights. On the bill for the first night were Dudes, Cry Baby, In School, Mary Timony’s new project Ex Hex, and DJ Baby Alcatraz spinning lethal 45s all night. Day Two, I’d catch Doom Town, Mirror Travel, Jail Solidarity, Southern Problems, and Potty Mouth.

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TVD Live: Prince Rama’s Fame Factory at Artisphere, 9/21

PHOTOS: KRISTIN HORGEN | Last Saturday, Prince Rama, sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson from Brooklyn, took over the Black Box Theater at Artisphere for their all-day installation, a one-off, present-day rendition of Andy Warhol’s Fame Factory.

The space which Prince Rama had to work with was much larger than The Dunes in Columbia Heights, where I last saw them three months ago. They were in the theater all day setting up a “reflective utopian meta-environment where the construction of celebrity can be explored” before performing in the evening. With Andy Warhol’s Silver Clouds in full swing upstairs, it was the perfect coupling.

Rosslyn is a weird place in that it’s a suburb with buildings bigger than the city of which it’s a suburb. Before entering the equally weird Artisphere building, I walked around and took in a part of town that I rarely ever go to.

The tall reflective buildings coupled with the dark ominous sky overcast the area, as a downpour that would last the entirety of the day was about to begin. The heavy sentiments would remain, and the mood felt right for the day ahead.

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TVD Live: Potty Mouth at La Casa, 7/27

PHOTOS: KRISTIN HORGEN  |  If there ever was a ’90s band I could get behind, it’s Potty Mouth. Except, it’s 2013, and none of them were wearing flannel. (Okay, well, her skirt was flannel.) Either way, their punky noise pop fit the bill for a fun Saturday night, the Riot Grrl comparisons that they eschew be damned.

The show at La Casa, a church in Mount Pleasant, had three openers, all of which were much more intense and in-your-face in classic DIY fashion. Trudging through the ranges of ear-splitting screams—one opener was pretty much just back-turned-to-the-audience hardcore—was worth it to get to the night’s main event. Notwithstanding the barrage of shrieks, the audience was moving, and anticipation was rising. Seeing the majority of the room cut loose and thrash around was refreshing, especially during the first opener, messy girl punk, Lisa Drank. By the time Potty Mouth came on, I was dripping sweat on my phone as I tried to jot a couple of notes down.

Potty Mouth is raw fun. At times, they are just as intimidating as the openers, like when singer Abby Weems releases her loudest and most powerful lyric of the night, “Watch me crawl across the floor,” in the ruckus single “The Spins.” What’s great is at the beginning of this song, she displays her candor when she misses a note on her guitar and, instead of getting flustered, flashes googly eyes, smirks, and continues without missing a step. She delivers her lyrics with a wide-eyed snarl and seesaws into the most endearing smile throughout their thirty-minute set.

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TVD Live: Smith Westerns at the Black Cat, 7/23

PHOTOS: KRISTIN HORGEN | Can you imagine forming a band in high school only to have it be noticed by record labels who not only want to put out your music but slingshot you into the Hype Machine cogs?

It’s hard to believe that the system ever works, but for Smith Westerns, it seems to have had a positive outcome. I’ve seen them three times now, including a performance in their hometown of Chicago at Lollapalooza, and I have to say that their jangly pop has gotten tighter than ever. They took a breather after the massive support behind 2011’s Dye It Blonde and are back with their new album Soft Will. They were joined by one of my new favorites, Wampire, at the Black Cat on Tuesday.

“We have a lot of songs to play tonight. So I hope you like our band ’cause if not…this concert kinda sucks,” explains Cullen Omori near the beginning of the set. Obviously, he still has some of the snark left for which he is known, despite that he and the rest of the band all seem more mature, not only in attitude but also in their development as musicians and performers. Smith Westerns have become masters of the flow of their set.

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TVD Live: Small Black with Go Cozy at Rock & Roll Hotel, 6/25

I recently started thinking that they were one of few bands that really have shone brightly in the 10-year absence of synth pop’s crown jewel, so Small Black’s new album, Limits of Desire, was the perfect ride home from seeing The Postal ServiceFast-forward a week, and I’m seeing them live at Rock & Roll Hotel.

Go figure… Opener Go Cozy arrived late. I kid, I kid. I really like this band. I saw them open for Twin Sister at the backstage of the Black Cat recently and was impressed. Apparently, Twin Sister’s Andrea Estella was impressed, too; she designed the cover for their forthcoming EP, Moonroof. A couple of their songs have the same cadence as Twin Sister’s, so it totally makes sense. Self-described dream poppers, their sound live had more of a ruckus flare to it, especially in the drums. Perfect for the hot summer night. Singer, guitarist, and total character Homero said at one point, “I’m dripping sweat of joy… Who wants to sweat?”

Then, I don’t know if it’s the time spent on the road or what, but the beanie-wearing chubby dude who bounced around in the middle of the stage when I saw Small Black previously at The Ottobar had been replaced by a leaner, cleaner-cut Josh Kolenik. “DC is our home away from home,” announced Kolenik near the beginning of their set. They started things off with a New Chain song, his hand shaking above the sampler, before they delved into new material. Things started to feel comfortable and really begin to mesh by the third song, where the added emphasis on guitar started to become clear.

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TVD Live: Javelin at the Black Cat, 3/28

The now defunct Red Palace hosted Javelin the last time they passed through town. That was a night to remember for me… It’s too bad I don’t really. 

I remember wearing suits with a couple of friends (because why not) and dancing hard. I remember there was a girl whom I had just started talking to who didn’t talk to me again after that evening, and I remember sprinting in the night at full force. Not really sure how that last one came about, but it was an epic evening to say the least. Having Javelin come back to play at the Black Cat’s backstage felt sobering and also filled me with excitement. Their new album Hi Beams is a departure from their previous sample-driven music and is way more pop album proper.

Nearly every beat that Javelin hit signaled a floor strobe light! George Langford was a human drum machine surrounded by pads, sequencers, a snare, and a cymbal, crashing the shit out of all of it. Meanwhile, Tom Van Buskirk, aside from being a super smooth diva-voiced bearded man, played bass and reverb kazoo. They also had an interesting pink instrument from a Brooklyn-based peddle manufacturer that was described to me as a bass synth. Van Buskirk held it in front of him with both hands and fiddled with buttons reminiscent of an accordion. For how tight they play together, you wouldn’t know it just by looking at them. Energy poured out of Langford and bounced off the cool from Van Buskirk, creating another level that soared beautifully.

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TVD Live: Unknown Mortal Orchestra with Foxygen and Wampire at the Rock and Roll Hotel, 2/27

My first and only exposure to Unknown Mortal Orchestra was two years ago at CMJ, where I saw them on two different occasions. The first was in a tall glass building in Manhattan. I had to take an elevator to the umpteenth floor, and I was dumped out in a lounge room that was full of weird shrubbery. It was a dinky stage plopped down in the corner of the room, and the sound system was shit. UMO came on, and I couldn’t really form a valid opinion. Their sound was dense, but I felt better speakers were required to properly hear their muddled guitar dirges.

The next day, I raced through the subway to get from mid-town to Brooklyn Bowl with the intent of seeing Gotye. I got there right when Gotye was supposed to start, but UMO was on the stage instead. The set times had been switched. Having seen them the previous day, and being kind of blown about my needless rushing, I made a game-time decision to leave after their first song or two to check out someone I hadn’t seen yet. Fast-forward two years, and I’m going to see them again, mainly due to my interest in openers Wampire and Foxygen.

I received an e-mail from my friend who would be attending the show with me about what had taken place at the previous two Foxygen shows. The first was a review of the Chapel Hill show in North Carolina, written for Speakers in Code, which described Foxygen’s set as “a hot, and disappointing mess.” There was also a forwarded e-mail with a personal account from a mutual friend who had attended the following night’s Baltimore show, describing it as similarly disappointing and weird, mentioning all kinds of mishaps and shenanigans. I like to be surprised at least a little when I go to a show, so I quickly shut my laptop because the details were too thick. I ventured to Rock and Roll Hotel expecting a full-on train wreck from Foxygen as I gave a half-hearted second chance to UMO.

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