Long live rock, I need it every night

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Sort of Homecoming

These United States - w/ Wye Oak - April 13 2008, The Black Cat - Back Stage $10

I have been chasing this band for a bit. sacklunch first suggested that I would like them a while ago. I'm not sure where I was the first time he saw them play, but he came back saying that this was an act I would enjoy. sacklunch is good for that. He can be an observant fellow when he wants to be, and he'll give you the heads up from time to time. Though sometimes you can be speaking directly to him and he is completely oblivious. Like one of those semi-comatose guys from "Awakenings." Anyhow, for the past 5 months, I've been curious to see if sacklunch would accurately match my tastes to this act.

I think I managed to miss the second time sacklunch saw them play too. This is a theme for me. The same thing with the Gossip. I wanted to see them. I missed the show. It was "awesome," I am told. They schedule a return to DC, I buy tickets again, and they cancel the show this time. Such was the vibe with These United States (TUS). I had missed them a couple of times, heard good things both times, and decided to pay closer attention.

The next opportunity to see TUS was at the DC Auto Show at the Convention Center. I had never been to an auto show, that's not my kinda thing normally. But I was willing to shell out the $10 to see the afternoon concert that These United States were offering (as well as sneak a peak at the car of the future). So I made it down to the DC Convention Center in plenty of time to check out their 1pm show, but again was thwarted, this time because my date had to tend to a friend in crisis so we made a quick exit (thankfully before we dropped the $10). Oddly enough, having given up on seeing TUS that Saturday, I discovered they were playing at an art show that same night (a Meat Market exhibit at the corner of 14th & T). So my date and I reconvened to try again, and this time, we had no crisis and only had to endure the cold winter chill as this art exhibit was held in a vacant 4 story building without windows and without heat. Still, I had my first glimpse of TUS. It was just Jesse Elliott (and maybe Tom Hnatow) and I waited an hour in the cold before they played 3 songs and stopped. There were other musicians on the bill, and apparently they were taking turns, so that was all I caught. My nads were freezing, so we left.

Fast forward 3 months and when it came to picking a show for this week, it was a toss up between TUS and Dead Meadow. Since Jimbromski was enjoying Miami - complete with topless models sunbathing at the same hotel (so he says), and Jumboslice of course is in Texas now, it was just me and sacklunch. We settled on TUS, though sacklunch had seen them several times by then.

We found our way into a surprisingly full backstage at the Black Cat - surprising for a Sunday night any way. But it was the homecoming for some local favorites, so it should not have come as any real surprise. TUS had just returned from a road tour that saw them play 33 gigs in 33 different cities. According to Jesse, he managed to convince bandmates, Robby Cosenza (drums) and Tom Hnatow (bass/other) to join him on the road, sleeping on cold floors in strangers' homes, enduring strained personal relationships, and coming back with less money than when the left. "My two dumbest friends," Jesse said, as he described the "bitter-sweet" end to the evidently arduous tour.

When Jesse recounted the fact that they had returned home for the 33rd gig and that DC was the 33rd city on their tour, opening act Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner remarked that Jesus was crucified when he was 33 years old.... Jeesh. That's kinda ominous, no? Not so fast, said Josh Read (of Revival "fame") from the crowd. "He was 36." Hmmm. I googled this and most folks say he was 33, but Josh has this British-like accent that makes him sound smart, and I think most everyone left believing him (Josh is apparently South African for the record, and therefore not British, and therefore not smarter than we are).

I was excited to finally see TUS perform for real. I don't count the Meat Market show. For having just come back from a tiring tour, you wouldn't know it from their performance. Starting off a bit mellow, TUS found their groove mid way through and with vein popping enthusiasm, brought appreciative applause from the crowd. sacklunch was right, this is the kind of act I like. A bit of roots rock, hippie folk, and pop all mixed together and performed with sincerity. This is yet another band that I would want to play at my birthday party/pig roast/campfire. It's been too long since I saw this act to give you anything more specific.

Although there was an interesting point in the night (for me anyway) that I'll share. sacklunch referenced Hnatow's use of the lap & pedal steel, saying something like, "that thing is weird." And then I said, "not as weird as that instrument where the guy waves his hand in the air and makes the whooo-eee-aaa-oooo-urr noise." sacklunch was like, "huh?" And I was like, "ya know, I think the Polyphonic Spree have one of those." I obviously couldn't explain it very well, especially when there was a concert in full effect. And then, wouldn't you know it? Out of no where appears Arthur Harrison. And with a waggle of his hand, Art illustrated what I could not describe with simple words. I really didn't know that this was coming. It was a complete surprise to us both. Who is Arthur Harrison? I don't really know. But when I googled "electronic instrument hand wave," I found at the top of the list a link to an article about Arthur and the Theremin. Arthur plays with local band, The Cassettes. There are too many coincidences surrounding this crazy-assed pseudo instrument.

I nearly set my drink on this thing.


sacklunch said...

Very insightful, Mr. Potsy. That was a very nice recap of the evening.
Another funny thing that happend was when some chick was getting her coat and her bulbous head interferred with the Theremin. It let out this horrible noise and she definitely got the evil eye from Mr. Harrison. Good show, good band, good times....

Potsy said...

oh yeah. i forgot about that. It seemed like an easy thing to have forseen, too. I guess Art needs more than two orange construction site cones to protect his artistic integrity.

Potsy said...

also, Wye Oak were good. At least the one song I heard. I listened to their myspace page tonight, and I'd check them out again...