The Orwells, and Shark Week at the Rock and Roll Hotel, 10/26

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a show like the one I attended last Saturday night on H Street. The good people at the Rock and Roll Hotel served up a triple dose of mischievous antics from bands near and far. I could blame Saturday evening’s happenings on the full moon hovering a little too close to the club that night, or I could just chalk it up as the last weekend before All Hollow’s Eve, when the powers of the strange and unusual are in full swing.

Anyhow, whatever the reason may be, I believe that without a doubt, we need more shows like this in DC. It reminded me of the old days when hardcore shows were not only fun and emotional, but they were an experience you would walk away from and still remember, which is rare these days.

On the bill for Saturday night’s line-up were three bands that certainly did their part to bring show-goers all the pulse-pounding action you could handle: FIDLAR, The Orwells, and Shark Week. All three bands did their best to mix a little bit of havoc into their sets and take the crowd for the ride of their lives, or at least take them to a nice and cozy place in their minds.

Along with quite a bit of good old-fashioned crowd surfing, stage diving, bottle tossing, water spitting, and instrument throwing, the onstage antics had accumulated to make for one messy venue by night’s end. Back in the day, from time to time, shows got a little rough, and that was expected. To see it now is almost unheard of, unless I’ve been going to the wrong places.

FIDLAR, who hails all the way from LA, is self-described as a skate/garage-punk band. The band’s name is actually an anagram for “Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk.” They have just played SXSW this year and have recently toured with Black Lips and The Hives. I’m always a little curious when I hear the term “punk” used to describe a band, and I have to admit, before this show, I was a little bit skeptical that any band could give proper credence to the term skate-punk or garage-punk these days.

Let me say now that I couldn’t have been more wrong: FIDLAR is the embodiment of the genre and the term. They are using the same formula of many great bands that preceded them. Simple rules: play fast, play loud, and have fun. Their heavy, yet melodic, set was streaming with fast-paced guitars and no moments of even the slightest bit of boredom.

Singer Zac Carper’s vocals sat just above guitar level and fit the mix very well. Carper even did an astonishing job with his cover of “Suburban Home” by one of the forefathers of their genre, the Descendents. During FIDLAR’s set, guitars were thrown at the ceiling and slammed on the floor. Drums were heaved into the audience by attendees, and microphone stands were knocked over again and again by the endless line of stage divers.

They brought tons of energy for the crowd that night, and the crowd was giving the same good energy right back to the band. The room was feeding itself. During their last song, the crowd over took the stage and left the place looking more trashed than I’d ever seen it. The drums were disassembled, mic stands were on the crowd floor, shirts and clothes were scattered, and empty bottles of Hennessey were all that were left. It looked like my place.

The Orwells, from Elmhurst, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago) have had a string of recent successes that includes being named one of the most overlooked bands of 2013 by MTV, playing at the 2013 Lollapalooza Festival in Chicago, and graduating high school earlier this year.

The charismatic yet seemingly nihilistic front man Mario Cuomo does properly own up to his role as the lead for this band, and somehow always seems like he’s in control of all the chaos that’s happening on stage around him. Cuomo addressed the crowd even before they launched into their set, asking show-goers to “do what they are supposed to do and have fun” and stating, “I want to see all of you crowd surfing tonight.”

Fans happily obliged, and from that moment on, one after the other, there were a steady stream of stage divers and stage wreckers. At some point during the last few songs of their set, Cuomo had pulled down the projector screen from the stage top and used it for a backdrop of sorts. When finished with that, Cuomo threw himself off the stage and was carried around the front of the room unharmed by hundreds of X-stamped hands.

DC’s own Shark Week had the honor of opening up the night’s festivities with the sharp and punctuated offerings of retro-rock that only they can provide. I do have to say, every time I see Shark Week, the band just keeps getting tighter and better. I haven’t seen them have an off night yet, and their sets are always fun with no dull moments.

Shark Week does their absolute best to entertain their fans, and it really comes through in their stage performance. My personal favorite part of Saturday’s events was the band’s cover of “Skulls” by The Misfits. I would like to personally thank singer Ryan Mitchell for doing an incredible job on Danzig’s vocal part for their cover. Before they launched into it, Mitchell simply said “We have a special Halloween treat for you guys.” In that moment, I knew it was going to be great. Glen Danzig couldn’t have done a better job himself. Well, maybe, but he’s Danzig for a reason.

The funny part is that because this was a younger draw at the venue that night, I think I was one of the ten people at the venue that had actually heard the song before. In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, and if I remember correctly, the last time I saw Shark Week perform at the 9:30 Club, they even threw Danzig’s “Mother” into their set. Hmmn. I suppose Danzig and Misfits fans do still Walk Among Us. Thanks for being awesome, Shark Week!




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