These United States w/ The Spinto Band & Greenland 5/8/09 @ the Black Cat - $12
What do folks think of The Roots being the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon? Steady work...not a tough gig. Sounds like a nice pretirement set up. But doesn't it preclude them from having any real future as a touring band?
If DCRC could swing a house band, I'd like to think that we'd change it up every season or two, just to keep things fresh. Statehood would've been the DCRC band in 2006/7, as we seemed to see them every other week. In 2008, we went in a new direction and These United States (TUS) emerged as the band de l'année. Deleted Scenes looks to be the front runner for DCRC house band of 2009 (that's probably bad news for them, sorry).
Since we've seen and reviewed TUS a number of times already, we decided to reach into the emailbox for one of dozens of shovel-ready reviews submitted by our faithful readership. I will serve as editor in thief and try to move us along [in].
From the desk of our newest Youth Correspondent, Andrew:
I found about this show on Thursday and decided to check it out because two solid local acts were on the bill, Greenland and These US. I went into this with fairly high expectations. Greenland has been a personal favorite since I first saw them at Ft. Reno in '06, These US always put on a great performance, and an impressive cursory listen to the Spinto Band seemed to indicate that I might not have to head outside of the club for a breather as I usually do with local shows. Although I was in a grouchy mood because the girl I was bringing to this thing [Andrew tells us a superfluous anecdote about being stood up Friday night - no doubt trying to win sympathies from our female readers] ...I entered the Cat feeling pumped for some solid rock.Not bad, Andrew. A few points off for referring to TUS as "These US;" for not mentioning TUS drummer Robby Cosenza (I didn't recognize him at first, either - he's got a 9 to 5 haircut now) and sometimes-TUS-member Mark Charles (aka Vandaveer), and his last second appearance on stage (and birthday?); for mentioning the Berries and Creme ad (I'm not a fan); and finally for all the typos I had to fix. Extra points for going solo to the show, your analysis of the bands and for your making it through your senior prom (let's hope you didn't get stood up for that one).
I got there a little bit after Greenland started their set, thanks to the parking spot I found which was about equidistant from my house to the club. I missed "Black Lightning", their opener which is not on the record and thus a rare treat. What I did hear was a mix of new and old tunes. A highlight from the new is definitely "Coffee", a forward moving, bass driven number that features the chorus lyric "It's getting serious, It's getting serious, It's getting serious, I guess I'll drink some coffee." This is great stuff which I think represents most D.C. 9-5ers jobs pretty accurately. That said, I don't know anything about "9-5." Old tunes that landed well with the crowd were "We Are Clipper Ships" and "Tiger Rug" off of the debut album Call Message. Although not too many people were there for Greenland, those that were seemed to be digging the reverb soaked guitars and stream of consciousness lyrics. Myself included.
[Andrew tells us of his jock sniffing banter with Greenland band members after their set] Not wanting to overstay any hypothetical welcome I had with the Greenlanders, I headed up to the stage to check out Spinto Band, who is from Delawhere? If you are reading this review, a pre-lecture question you might have had is "What was the Spinto Band like?" In a word, Hobbits. [Ironically, Andrew goes to great length to describe this band as being short.]
Anyways, the Spinto Band played quasi danceable pop music in the vein of OK Go or Shout Out Louds. More people were in the club now and the crowd was notably closer to the stage than during Greenland's set. They were a tight band and had a decent amount of stage presence, but I couldn't get over the Hobbit thing. Not to harp on appearances, but the lead singer who was not particularly Hobbit like (hence he is the front man) did remind me of that berry's and creme ad [shameless]. He had a very similar mannerism and repeatedly referred to the stage as "the bandstand." Weird I know. There music was original and seemed to appeal to the people dancing, but I couldn't help feeling I had heard it/read about it a year or two ago from some similar but better band.
Ok so they finished up and got off the bandstand. As I was staking out a primo spot for the headliner's set, I saw this woman staring at me. [In this part, Andrew gets hit on by a "strange example of a female" only to have her freak out by his juvenescence.] I finally escaped from this philistine by retreating to the back lounge area until These US started.
First thing I noticed was that the band had gone through some heavy changes since the last time I had seen them (last summer, Ft Reno). I was aware of their new Kentucky connection--the normally rotating cast of characters had been replaced by two new permanent members, a guitarist and drummer from Lexington, KY, and the band had recorded a record there recently. But of the five people playing in the band, only two (Jesse and JT Hnatow) were original members. The new (newer than KY guy) looked downright scary and had a haircut that was waaay two young for him. Highlights from the set included "First Sight", the closest this and comes to indie rock and a nice break from the usual array of southern fried rock the band specialized in. Southern fried rock highlights included "Honor Amongst Thieves" and "We Go Down to That Corner." The stuff sounded good in a slower Neil Young sort of way, but I missed the vitality and one two punch delivery of the band's set last summer. I was getting pretty tired as it was pushing midnight and I wasn't looking for another run in with that crazy chick so I headed home.
Greenland was awesome. They really did it for me. The Hobbits were trying too hard to be pop sensations. Yes, some hipster looking tweens were dancing, but if you actually watch the movies about the ring, the way to destroy the ring is by helping Frodo, carrying his stuff, and not trying to frame Golum. There is nothing about starting some twee Voxtrot wannabe band. Come on now, grow up! These US seemed tired. It's hard for an older DC band that has toured the hell out of the country (and Europe for that matter) and achieved only relative merit for it to stay strong. I also think the line up change hurt more than it helped. I saw a few people from the scene, most notably Randy from the now defunct but then awesome DC band Let's French as well as a guy from Bellman Barker.