Tag Archives: Washington DC

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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Rocky Votolato, Matt Pond @ Black Cat Tonight

So there’s a good show going on tonight. It’s Rocky Votolato and Matt Pond at the Black Cat.

But it’s Tuesday, which means you’ve got to ask yourself the same question you always have to ask when there are good shows in DC during the week, namely: Do I really feel like driving all the way down there on a weeknight? It can be a tough one. On one hand, you might have a blast and see a great show. On the other hand, you might have to wait around so long for doors that you get bored and go home before the show starts and get a parking ticket for your trouble, which happened to us when we went to see Grant Hart recently.

So instead of explaining the pros and cons of driving, and of these two particular artists, we’ve drawn up a handy infographic using some of the bands about which we’ve blogged previously. Using these bands as fixed graduations, you can find where any other band will fit in the scale, and determine whether they’re worth driving to DC for.

As you can see, we wouldn’t trouble to drive that far for a Matt Pond show, but we like Rocky Votolato enough to make the trek, so it’s a go for tonight. Being a west-coaster with a wife and kids in a time when singer songwriters are decidedly out of fashion, Rocky V doesn’t come around too often. We say catch him while you can.

And if you want to wear a knit cap and a knapsack and rock on your heels and tap your chest in the back and be reminded of that girl you were really into who dumped you during that crummy year back in community college, well, go ahead. We won’t tell anybody.

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The East Coast, Simplified

People from Boston are great…

    …until you get them talking.

People from New York are interesting…

    …until you get them talking about food.

People from New Jersey aren’t as bad as all that…

    …until they start talking about New Jersey.

Those corn-crackers in Delaware are nothing but a bunch of trifling toll collectors.


People from Philly are really awesome…

    …as long as no one mentions pro sports.


People from Baltimore are the best people on the face of the earth…

    …until you mention you’re from DC.

People from DC are delightful…

    …until you get them talking about their careers.

And people from Virginia are wonderful…

    …until it’s time to talk about the South.

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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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Lower Dens @ Kennedy Center Millenium Stage Today

We’re going to go ahead and call it right now: 2011 will be the year of Lower Dens.

Remember how Future Islands picked up 2010 by the throat and choke-slammed it? We think that’s exactly what Lower Dens is about to do to 2011. After spending last year releasing their well-received Twin Hand Movement and touring extensively in the US, UK and Europe, They’ve sown seeds which are bound to bear fruit in 2011. (And we know that’s a mixed metaphor, but what do we look like, a farmer or something?) Along with a spring release from Arbouretum and up-and-comers Secret Mountains, we think 2011 will finally be the year that people start describing slow, full pop as “The Baltimore Sound,” and we think Lower Dens will be at the forefront of it.

Lower Dens plays the Kennedy Center Today. 6 pm.

(It’s also worth noting that we’re not saying this just to say it, or just to be nice. We mention those three bands on purpose because we like them. There’s no shortage of other acts in Baltimore right now playing similar music who we don’t mention, because they’re, ermm, not as good as those three. This is our opinion.)

While you go to work at your job today, we’re going to take the day to walk around DC, maybe visit the National Portrait Gallery, and then head over to the Kennedy Center to see Lower Dens play a free show on the Millenium Stage at 6 pm. If you’re not as fortunate as we are to be able to go to shows at 6 pm on a Monday, you can still check out the set via the live webcast link on the Kennedy Center site.

Being that early will even leave us time for dinner and drinks on U Street before we had back. Let’s just hope DC people don’t do like we do and close every damn small business in the city on Mondays, just cause they’d rather pull a Garfield and stay home eating lasagna.

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Story/Stereo @ Bethesda Writers’ Center Tonight.

Well, you’ve got us stumped Baltimore. We’re looking around for something to do tonight. Sure it’s Fall and its turning cold and gray, and we had a big weekend last weekend, but come on, it’s Friday night, and we want to go out. So we’re looking around for something to do, and we had to look all the way to Bethesda before we could find something of interest.

What we found though might actually be worth making the drive for and fighting all that Friday traffic. The Story/Stereo Series is set up for another installment at the Bethesda Writers’ Center tonight.

The Bethesda Writers' Center hosts Story/Stereo tonight. 8 pm.

The Bethesda Writers' Center hosts Story/Stereo tonight. 8 pm.

We had never heard of Story/Stereo before this week, and we’ve got to admit it looks like DC totally has a leg up on us on this one. We’ve grown used to Charm City being the place where innovative new formats take root, but the truth is that Baltimore has nothing to quite compare to Story/Stereo. The Writers’ Center brings in various and diverse writers of all stripes, both their own fellows and residents as well as others to read from their works, and pairs them with some of DC’s most talented and vital musicians.

Tonight’s program features Ugandan writer and former U of MD writer-in-residence Doreen Baingana as well as the poet Alison Pelegrin, both of whom will read from their latest works.

But perhaps the more interesting half of S/S is the stereo part. The series has previously landed some notable names in DC’s independent music scene, with past performers including Jon Davis, J. Robbins, and Asa Osborne. The organizers seem to have a talent for eliciting solo performances by musicians who have little to no experience playing solo, making for a unique experience for both the performer and the audience.

Such is the case with tonight’s featured musical guest, Devin Ocampo. When we saw Devin’s latest band, DC’s Medications earlier this year, it was a show we’d have to rank among the best we’ve seen in 2010, So we’re interested to see where he’ll go from there.

Getting artists together to combine their talents and try new things and then presenting it for free? Baltimore should be ashamed we didn’t think of this first.

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Of course, when there are cool things happening in Baltimore, you like to hear about them, which is why you should vote for the Chop in the Mobbies. We’re slipping hard in that Personal category, although we think of this as primarily a personal blog. We’re not quite ahead in the Music/Nightlife or Misfits category either, so help us out, ok? If we pull out a win, we’ll be sure to figure out some way to reward all of you Choppers who made it possible.

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Belle and Sebastian @ Constitution Hall Tonight

Yeah. You read that headline right. It’s Belle and Sebastian. It’s in DC. It’s tonight. And as Joe the Biden might say; it’s a “Big Fucking Deal.”

How big of a fucking deal are they? We bought our tickets months ago. We had to order them online from a primitive computing machine in the middle of the desert. We had to deal with Ticketmaster, break out a credit card, verify our stupid change of address and everything. It got us to thinking: this is the first real life, bona fide concert the Chop has ever attended. We’ve seen thousands of bands, and they’ve all been in small spaces where you pay at the door and get a hand stamp.

Belle and Sebastian play DAR Constitution Hall tonight. 7 pm Doors.

But Belle and Sebastian is such a big fucking deal that the last time they played the area was also at Constitution Hall, and we said to ourselves we said; “Chop, it’s a big fancy concert. It’s at DAR, where freaking Morrissey plays. Those tickets are going to cost a fortune and sell out and yadda yadda yadda.” And we were right. But when we found out they were touring again, and coming back to DC in support of their new record Write About Love, we said “Fuck it. They’re from Goddamn Scotland. When are they coming back again, eh?” Yeah. It’ll be a while.

For our money (and these tickets ran to money), Belle and Sebastian is the best thing to come out of Scotland since whisky.

If that sounds like we’re drinking the Kool-Aid, well, maybe we are. B & S are something of a cult band, and after a few good years of casual listening we are definitely in that cult. Not since that other cult band, The Smiths, has a group of musicians so elevated pop music to the level of high art. We’re sure that Ke$ha is going to come back and shit all over pop again any day, but for now, for today- October 14… pop is exciting, whimsical, and wonderful again.

Don’t believe it? Go ahead and stream the new album courtesy of National Public Radio and tell us if we’re wrong. (Hint: We’re not wrong.)

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DAR Constitution hall is at 1776 D St. NW in Washington DC. Tickets for tonight’s show are sold out.

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