Tag Archives: power pop

Tomorrow: Buffalo Tom @ Black Cat

It’s strange when you grow up punk. Your musical tastes have to evolve eventually. At least a little bit. Three chords alone can’t sustain anyone forever. Over time, even the kid with the spikiest hair or the dirtiest pants will start looking to explore decidedly non-punk records, and those explorations can take people in some very different directions. HR, Daniel Higgs, and Tim Barry were all playing straight-up punk songs when they got their start, yet they’ve ended up scattered widely across the musical spectrum.

For us what came after punk hasn’t been such a long journey, we just went back to the exact same records we liked before we discovered punk rock.

Buffalo Tom *may* look significantly different from this photo when they play the Black Cat tomorrow. 9 pm Doors.

There were a few happy accidents that all occurred right around 1993 which led to our developing really, really good taste in music at a very early age. They were these:

  • CD’s were becoming wildly popular. They’d been around a couple years, but ’93 was when a critical mass of people finally owned CD players and everyone was collecting music voraciously. Programs like Columbia House were very popular nationwide.
  • Because of that, the music industry was actually putting out great records. It’s hard to imagine, but at one point major labels would seek out and sign indie bands and just let them continue to be great bands. It didn’t always work out for the best, but it was a damn sight better for everyone than the way the majors operate today.
  • Tapes were still in too. CD to tape dubbing was sort of revolutionary. People passed mixtapes hand to hand. They were serious business to make too, since they literally took hours to finish. No drag and drop. The quality was a reflection of that.
  • We owned the No Alternative Compilation and the Singles Soundtrack. Imagine being 13 years old and being able to know about all those bands without the benefit of the internet.
  • WHFS Was a thing. Anyone who is old enough to remember listening to HFS still misses it terribly. To this day we have trouble believing that there was a commercial radio station that was just that cool. They played Morrissey. They played Fugazi. They played the Replacements. Not late at night… at noon.
  • MTV Didn’t totally suck yet either. When you’re 12 you can’t really do anything cool. You ride your bike until dark, then watch 120 Minutes with your face about 6 inches from the screen. We never had cable at home, but at friends’ houses that’s exactly what we’d do.
  • We went to a very small school. When the school is that small, you get to hang out with kids who are a year or two older. Without the benefit of an older sibling, this is crucial for the development of musical taste.

Because of all these reasons, the first bands we were ever introduced to were actually some of the most incredible, creative, and influential bands in our lifetime. And as soon as we discovered the Misfits, all of that went out the window and we listened to nothing but punk for the next 10 years. Oi! Oi! Oi!

So once we reached a point in our own musical development where it became kind of absurd to keep listening to Jello Biafra make Ronald Reagan references, it was only natural to look back to some of these bands who, at 13, we knew about, but were ultimately way too young to appreciate fully. The Catherine Wheel, Dinosaur Jr, The Afghan Whigs, Pavement, Love Spit Love, Mazzy Star, American Music Club, The Breeders, The Lemonheads, and of course, Buffalo Tom.

Buffalo Tom is still a band. They’re not just ‘that band from My So-Called Life.‘ They’ve been a working rock band for a quarter century and what’s more, they’re as good as they’ve ever been. Some things never change.

Indeed, some things never change. They play the Black Cat tomorrow, and just like in 1993, we can’t go.

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Black Cat is at 1811 14th Street NW in DC. Mean Creek also plays.

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E. Joseph & the Phantom Heart, Poly/Western @ Windup Space Tonight

Back in January we had some pretty nice things to say about local trio Poly/Western. Now that it’s almost April, we’re gonna go ahead and double down on those statements.

At that time, we’d been vaguely aware of this band, but hadn’t had the chance to see them live yet. We expected them to be good, but we don’t mind saying that they were great. They reminded us right away of some crazy hybrid of the Twilight Singers, Sense Field, Tool and Big Black. While the rest of the country is just catching onto stuff like Beach House and Wye Oak, we’re here to tell you that Poly/Western is on the vanguard of local talent, and they’re what Baltimore needs to start paying close attention to right now.

E. Joseph and the Phantom Heart play the Windup Space tonight. 9 pm Doors.

Those are some pretty bold statements for a band that has yet to put out its first full-length. We believe they’re warranted though. At the January show we picked up a free copy of their 3-song Orange ep, and it’s been in heavy rotation at the Chophouse ever since. We’d definitely advise you to check out the Poly/Western Bandcamp Page, where you can download the Orange ep, as well as the 3 songs that make up the Down Home Blizzard Demos. Giving a spin to either one of these brief recordings will easily have you wanting to play it again by the time it’s over.

Sharing the stage tonight and equally deserving of your attention tonight is Baltimore’s own E. Joseph and the Phantom Heart. The Phantom Heart is no small pill for the listener to swallow. On the face of it, this band makes pop songs. These songs, however, are not to be taken at face value. The artist page on their label’s site throws around the term “power-pop” pretty liberally, but we don’t quite think this does E. Joseph justice. A listen to their 2008 album All The Medicine In The World… will certainly remind a listener of the best of the 80’s, Duran Duran, Simple Minds and the like, but it also begs the question “What would have happened if U2 and Sting hadn’t fucked it all up for everybody?”

This is definitely some sub-genre of pop. Not power-pop, but we call it that because no one ever got around to naming it properly. It went extinct before anyone could. Only the Cure made it out of the 80’s relatively intact playing something close to this sound. It’s as dead as doo-wop. Dead as Latin.

If they’d been around 30 years ago, E. Joseph and the Phantom Heart are the sort of band that would have signed a multi-record deal on a major, been all over Vh1, and fueled many a post-prom heavy petting session from sea to shining sea. After the complete and utter collapse of the music industry though, they find themselves a perfect fit on the homegrown and very modern Beechfields Label. It’s no stretch to say that this band is revitalizing and reinventing pop music the same way that the Beechfields is helping to reinvent the music industry, and we’d urge anyone reading this to come out to the Windup Space tonight and support them both.

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Windup Space is located at 12 W. North Avenue in Station North. Survival Society and Me & This Army also play. Ages 21+

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Grant Hart @ Black Cat Tonight

When we went to the Obits show the other day, we mentioned that sometimes we’re too cool for things, and sometimes we’re too old for things. Seldom is it both, but if you thought there was any chance at all we were going to go back there tonight and see Das Racist, well then you don’t know us too well, do you?

The cool kids may eat it up with a spoon, but nope… tonight the Chop is both too old and too cool for school. We’re staying as far away from that as possible. So far, in fact, that we’re leaving Baltimore entirely. You mixtape and DJ set types can keep your Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bells. We’d rather listen to rock and roll.

Grant Hart plays the Black Cat tonight. 9 pm doors.

You don’t need us to tell you who Grant Hart is. Grant Hart is a fucking legend. Once or twice in a generation someone comes along and changes the game entirely… and those people are relatively unimportant. In our book, Grant Hart and Bob Mould invented the game. As far as we’re concerned, they’re right up there with Joe Strummer & Mick Jones, Keith Morris & Greg Ginn, Joey & Johnny Ramone, Brett Gurewitz & Greg Graffin, Ian MacKaye & Guy Picciotto, or Richard Hell & Tom Verlaine.

If any of those guys play within an hour of your house and you don’t go, well, you’re just not that cool. We’re saying that for the record.

Opening up tonight is Chapel Hill power-pop outfit The Venables. Just the fact that we describe them as “power pop” is a good indication that they learned everything they know from guess who… Grant Hart. Their most recent 7 song recording Grab Bag is also available as a free download on their bandcamp site. Two great acts for $12 on the back stage is as cool as it gets for grumpy old rockers on a weeknight.

Now get the hell off of our lawn!

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Black Cat is located at 1811 14th Street NW in Washington DC. Metro accessible from green/ yellow lines to U St/ Cardozo Station. Grant Hart’s website is granthart.com

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