Long live rock, I need it every night

Monday, December 28, 2009

Rock Machine: Max Levine

Andrew, our Senior Youth Correspondent is back! This time he reviews the Max Levine Ensemble.

Max Levine Ensemble
Wednesday December 23, 2009
Black Cat Backstage
Photos by Rachel Atcheson

When DC native David Combs (aka Spoonboy) is not busy spreading the word on grass roots anarchy movements or supporting local charities, he fronts the Max Levine Ensemble, one of DC’s best-kept musical secrets. The Max Levine Ensemble (MLE), a pop punk trio that follows a DIY ethic that brings to mind bands such as Fugazi, are something of a rare (relative) success in the world of DC underground punk-which despite what people say still exists, albeit not very visibly. While there is some similarity to the operation of 80s/90s Dischord bands in MLE’s anti-corporate stance and self-run, exhaustive touring of the country, they do it with a sincerity not seen in many “purist” DC punk acts.

Maybe you caught MLE at Fort Reno—they have played several summers over the past few years. The group plays super high-energy blend of pop punk and ska that incorporates politically and socially conscious lyrics. A sampling of tracks from the band’s handful of albums and EPs brings to mind Ted Leo and The Thermals. I caught MLE this past Wednesday at the Black Cat.

For a band that I had seen twice before and already knew I liked a lot, MLE still managed to put on a very entertaining show. The approximately 40 minute set saw the band pulling out new songs from a new cassette release entitled “Them Steadily Depressing, Low Down Mind Messing, Post Modern Recession Blues.” Well that’s just a mouthful! Lyrical content on those songs seemed to consist of pretty direct indictments of those responsible for the financial debacle of 08/09. The band played super tight and had a surprising fidelity to the quality of the recorded versions of their songs. Meaning they are a good live act, not that you’d be just as satisfied to stay home and listen to the records. Drumming from Nick Popovici was fast and furious; bassist “Bepstein” handled a fair portion of the singing, adding a nice change from Spoonboy’s lead vocal. Banter was at just the right level-enough to make the audience feel recognized but not so much that something stupid/annoying is bound to be said.

I think a big area of success for this band has been the accessibility of their music, especially to the younger portion of the DC scene (The band are in their mid twenties however). Upbeat, catchy pop punk is often written off as mall punk Hot Topic garbage—and often there is truth in that. MLE pair deathly serious lyrics and outlook with catchy pop punk in a way that, as mentioned before, comes off very sincere.. Sure, they have goofy nicknames and too long cassette titles, but these guys deserve some credit. They are a punk band that is still finding issues to comment on even after George W. left the White House. That plus the quality of the tunes is enough for me. Check em out!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I'd never steal from Santa, 'cause that ain't right

Sure, It's a Wonderful Life, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and A Christmas Story are great holiday flicks (I hear Elf was good too, though I have yet to see it), but often overlooked is the 1988 classic, and best-Christmas-movie-of-all-times, Die Hard. Don't believe me? I just watched it again while riding the Amtrak, and sure enough I'm right.

Besides all the shooting, explosions, and clever one-liners, let me remind you/inform you that within the first 10 minutes of this motion picture, RUN-D.M.C.'s "Christmas in Hollis" is featured - not too shabby a beginning, if you ask me.

Since it's Christmas time, I'll share with you, dear reader, a couple of youtube clips in keeping with the spirit of a gluttonous holiday. Happy birthday Jesus.

no time to watch all of Die Hard again?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monday, December 07, 2009

Zero-G Money Shot

I don't think it will come as a surprise to you, Rock Club reader, that we are a soft lot. When we last all met up, we were set to visit with the Big Pink at the Black Cat. But a late start plus cold weather plus Creedence Clearwater Revival on the stereo equaled a night in playing cards and talking stupid.

What began as a conversation about the difference between freeze-dried food (think astronaut) and regular dried food (think hikers) quickly spun out of control like a drunk with a hula-hoop and turned into speculation about how long it would take before someone would make a porn in space.

Key questions: Would it be straight porn? Would the Russians get there first? I hazard to guess that if the Russians got there first, it would be straight porn, but if the Americans were first, it'd be the gays to get it done. Lance Bass has already been certified by both NASA and the Russian Space Program after several months of cosmonaut training. So watch for him to emerge as a leading contender.

With all of that space talk, let's have a look at the ultimate in geek rock:

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Electric Metric

Dec. 1, 2009

Austin, TX

At last night's Metric concert a friend described the band as a "guilty pleasure". Saying they're a guilty pleasure implies you should feel embarrassed for being a Metric fan. You shouldn't. Sure, Metric sugary pop rock may lack indie cred but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy it without feeling shame. I rarely fall for anything with Top 40 appeal but with Metric I make an exception. I'm a sucker for their brand of electronic dance rock and new-wave.

Metric consists of three dudes and Emily Haines. Let's get serious though. No one gives a rat's ass about the guys. Everyone was there to see Emily Haines. The majority of the crowd were women which was a nice change of pace. Usually I'm at sausagefest indie shows filled with smelly bearded dudes (btw, what's the opposite of a sausagefest?). Thankfully, this was a no B.O. show. Just lots of lovely ladies dancing and singing away to their favorite songs.

Haines is a captivating front woman but not in a Beth Ditto or Karen O way. She has her own cute and endearing style. She's even a bit goofy. Oh, and did I mention she's dead sexy? Uma-esque even. She looked great in a her glittery dress that I'm guessing she stole from an Olympic Figure Skater. She's also a great singer and songwriter. Great dancer? Well, let's just say her dance moves were very...white. Perhaps Canadian is better description. She reminded me of a band geek turned hottie drunkenly dancing at her 10-year high school reunion. Some of the moves came straight from a Jazzercise video. It was cute and funny and only made me like her more. You can see some of her dancing in the videos below:

Throughout the show it was clear Haines was having fun and the crowd loving every minute. I was there to hear songs off the latest record, Fantasies, but the crowd was most excited for older hits such as "Dead Disco". Each song was greeted with loud cheers and dozens of cameras thrust high in the air to record the moment.

After a near perfect set the band performed a brief encore that included an acoustic version of "Combat Baby". I was convinced they'd return for the oh-so-rare second encore but it wasn't to be. The crowd certainly was ready for it, but Metric is like Costanza. They go out on a high note.

For more video and great pictures from the show, check out Ultra 8201!

For those interested, here's the set list:

Twilight Galaxy
Help I'm Alive
Portrait of a Girl
Satellite Mind
Gold Guns Girls
Gimme Sympathy
Sick Muse
Dead Disco
Stadium Love
Monster Hospital
Combat Baby

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

That's a Wrap

This Thanksgiving, I stayed put in our glorious capital city. No hassles. No road rage. It was great. There was no one really around, lots of parking spaces available, and a calm that usually only comes with a nuclear winter. It reminded me of being a kid and going to school after hours. Kind of invigorating. As was walking off with staplers and pencil sharpeners, and writing "Ted Levine pees his pants" on all the chalk boards. Hey, it was true.

Despite there being no one in town, there were enough people to fill the theater Friday night for the Washington, DC premiere screening of Tommy Wiseau's The Room at the E Street Cinema. Jimbromski is our resident earlier adapter and has written extensively about this masterpiece of a movie; see: "A View with A Room" & "Nice party, Lisa...".

In honor of our recent big screen viewing, we bring you The Room rap.