We're breaking new ground here at DC Rock Club. Last week saw our first vreview (pronounced vruh-view) and now we're introducing the Review-Preview. What's that you ask? Let me explain.
Now that I live in Austin I'm able to catch bands before they play Washington (or vice-versa). It's a way for our DC audience to know what to expect when the band(s) roll into town. We could have done this last week had I actually posted my review of The Oxford Collapse and Frightened Rabbit on time. Oh well. It left the door open for The Dutchess and The Duke and Fleet Foxes to take the honors.
I knew a little about The Dutchess and The Duke going into the show. A certain "Guru" posted a song on his July Mixtape. I knew they were signed to Hardly Art, a well respected label that's also home to DC's own Le Loup (that's French for "The Loop"). Upon seeing the heavy set (husky?) bearded guy paired with an attractive girl I immediately thought of Georgie James. They might look similar but there are big differences. As the set progressed I couldn't help but feel this is the musical chemistry Georgie James set out to achieve. For one reason or another they fell short on their last album. Also joining them onstage was a percussionist, playing tambourine, maracas, and bass drum. He reminded me of Joel from the The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Joel was my favorite part of the excellent documentary Dig. If you haven't seen it, add it to your Netflix queue (is that just a British word or can Americans say that as well?).
Initially I felt a strong 60's folk vibe from the duo. Not quite what you would've heard at the Newport Folk Festival though. Pete Seeger wouldn't have liked the electric guitars. Thinking of the typical folky boy/girl band probably conjures up images of the couple from the movie "Once". The Dutchess and The Duke are not The Swell Season. When they played "Reservoir Park" it showed a rawness and grit you don't see from typical folk duos. Hold on, time for a tangent...
I know we've bitched about this numerous times but if you're going to talk while people are playing either go inside or move to the back. If you're hanging towards the front to save a spot for Fleet Foxes then have the courtesy to Shut. The. Fuck. Up. I had to get that off my chest. Back to the review...
The Dutchess & The Duke have a simple but effective formula - guy, girl, two electric guitars and a funny looking tambourine man. I could be wrong but it seems the Velvet Underground is a major influence. The boy/girl combo singing was reminiscent of Nico and Lou Reed (especially on "The Prisoner" and "Back To Me"). The guitar work along with the single bass drum played with mallets (a la Maureen Tucker) also gave them a Velvet Underground feel. Another song, "Mary", reminded me a little of "Heroin". It lacked the slow build to a crescendo but it was relentless in it's driving repetition (in a good way). Each time he punctuated the line "And you..." it conveyed a bitterness, determination and hint of regret. All the things I feel after doing lots of smack.
What I liked best about The Dutchess & The Duke was they weren't a folk-rock group. They have an edge that sets them apart from the average folk duo. It wasn't folk-rock. It was folk-garage-rock which is much more fun to experience live. It might not be everyone's cup of tea and that's okay. If you like your folk on the lighter side, just head down to your local coffee shop or Potbelly (to paraphrase Jimbromski).
Rock Club Rating: 7.1
We first saw Fleet Foxes in the intimate setting of the Black Cat's Backstage. I knew seeing them in a mid-sized outdoor venue wouldn't be quite the same experience. Fortunately, the sound was great and it did the music and singing justice. They started the show with the lush harmonies of "Sun Giant". Definitely one of the coolest openers I've ever seen. The place was packed and once they started singing the crowd fell silent. Everyone was honed in on the band. Too bad an ambulance had to go by and disrupt the serenity of the moment.
The entire band is incredibly talented and their singing deservedly gets a lot of praise. But I was particularly impressed with their drummer. He's the least prominent guy but every beat and symbol crash was spot on (that's definitely a British only saying). Another highlight was the solo performance of "Oliver James". After he finished the lead singer explained why he was wearing long sleeves when it was about 90 degrees outside: he preferred to hide his "flabby" arms. Fine, but how do you explain the wool cap? That made even less sense than the long sleeves. I thought only Colin Farrell wore wool caps during the summer.
After the riveting shirt banter the lead singer mentioned a local Guatemalan restaurant and how much he loves it. His comments made me realize something. Mentioning a local bar, restaurant, or favorite tourist spot is the indie version of "Hello Cleveland!!". Potsy pointed out the Oxford Collapse referred to Ben's Chili Bowl in DC. At their Austin show they talked about their dip in Barton Springs. I guess this is meant to show the fans how much they love visiting their town? Who knows. Have you noticed other bands doing this? Maybe I'm just imagining the pandering...
"Ragged Wood" was warmly received as was "White Winter Hymnal". I thought the latter would have been a perfect closer but they opted for "Blue Ridge Mountains" followed by "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" as their one encore tune. Now, I may make fun of the wool cap and the talk of local hot spots but Fleet Foxes are an amazing band. Their music is not typically what I enjoy. I'll opt for rhythm or distortion over melody and harmonies any day. Fleet Foxes won me over because they produce a symphony of sound unmatched by others bands playing today. As the response from huge crowd last night confirmed - there's good reason for all the hype.
Rock Club Rating: 7.8
Thus concludes the Review portion of the post. For the Preview portion I'll simply offer a list of suggestions:
1. Go to this show. If you miss it you'll regret it as others talk about how good it was.
2. Get your tickets now!! They've sold out every stop on the tour thus far.
3. Arrive early to check out The Dutchess and The Duke.
4. See my earlier comments about talking during the show. Please.
5. Always drink plenty of fluids. That's just sound advice for anytime of the year.