Author Archives: Tony Porreco

Live Picks! with Tony Porreco: These Future Saints @ Velvet Lounge

Live Picks! with Tony Porreco

TFS guitars

Who: These Future Saints w/ Alias Punch and The Dead Women
Where: The Velvet Lounge
When: Friday, September 27
Song You Must Hear Today: “Separation” 

TFS logo

These Future Saints are a band that connect with my power pop roots, the clean-cut stuff I gobbled up in high school from acts such as Sloan and Ash. Since then, my tastes have generally moved towards the brasher end of the rock spectrum, but that’s not to say I steer clear of groups like these. Rather, I liken this stuff to lemonade: Something sweet and refreshing that makes for an excellent palette cleanser when you might otherwise be all punked out, though folks might have a higher or lower tolerance depending on the level of sweetness involved.

Earlier this month, we featured These Future Saints’ “Black Jack” via our Fresh Tracks column in the lead up to their very fun EP release show at IOTA.  Said EP Ellerslie Ave represents a quality debut release that manages to come off as both breezy and streamlined. “Separation” (which you can stream above) is hands down the most exciting of the Ellerslie’s five songs: A saccharine-loaded ICBM of a guitar line roars over propulsive dance rock drums, which are subsequently swapped out for a verse of singer Andrew Gaddy’s clear-throated vocals and a skippy guitar arpeggio. Likewise, the song’s balmy chord changes and taut rhythms bespeak a band with noteworthy control of their craft.

“Come Around” and “Take Care” both feature a little more of an easy-going, classic rock vibe, with the former sporting a verse that’s melodically similar to Thunderclap Newman’s oft-covered flower-power anthem, “Something in the Air”. “Take Care” on the other hand, with its boom-chop rhythm and winding, picked electric guitars sounds like a more modern, well-mannered take on Mungo Jerry’s timelessly playful “In the Summertime”.

For some bonus TFS content, check out this video DC music enthusiast (and artist!) Kate Moran took of the band at IOTA in March, performing “Blackjack”, which, by singer Andrew Gaddy’s own account is about “making out in the back of a cab”. (GASP!) Also, that’s The WeatherVanes’ Jackson Edwards helping out on bass!

In sum, These Future Saints are a newer band with sunshine in the songwriting, even nimbler arrangements, and a vocalist who knows how to kill ’em. The band performs this Friday at The Velvet Lounge with The Dead Women, whose live show is a sure bet, and Alias Punch, who do a spooky brand of surf punk.

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Fresh Tracks! – Uptown Boys Choir / “One More Good Thing”

by Tony Porreco

de Souza Bass

Welcome back to Fresh Tracks, where we nudge the spotlight toward the very latest in noteworthy DC music. Today’s Fresh Track is “One More Good Thing”, the exciting new single from Uptown Boys Choir.

Multi-instrumentalist Kevin de Souza writes, records, and performs songs under the moniker of Uptown Boys Choir. If you find yourself at an Uptown Boys Choir show and find yourself wondering whether or not there’s a backing band, don’t be mistaken: There is, and guess what? You’re in it.

“The idea is that the audience is the choir. The goal is for everyone to be part of the show,” says de Souza. With a hollow bodied electric guitar and sparse percussion (only a raised wooden platform for stompin’, and a set of ankle bells affixed to his right leg), de Souza teaches the crowd the backup vocal parts to his songs. The effect of his approach forms a unique, inclusionary bond that functions to unite performer and audience.

We first featured Uptown Boys Choir on the Hometown Sounds podcast this past April with the quiet, contemplative track “This City”. In the months since, Choirmaster de Souza has continued write and record, in addition to getting out to play the occasional show and direct the masses in song. But now he’s ready to show you what he’s been working on, a new single entitled, “One More Good Thing”.

Uptown Boys Choir - One More Good cover art

Arriving at Sonic Sweets Recording (Beltsville, MD) last winter with just the first two lines of a chorus written, de Souza developed the song slowly from the bottom up over several months of scattered recording sessions with Virginia Coalition’s Jarrett Nicolay (guitar, piano) and Scott Robinson (drums, mixing, production), “One More Good Thing” is a true pop gem with a full-bodied, sparkling arrangement.

Sonic Sweets

The first element on the cut is de Souza’s reverbed voice, alongside the attention-hijacking chatter of short drum rolls played on improvised percussion and the light chop of some electric guitar chords. But 15 seconds in, the sounds that suggest a breezy reggae or beach rock number are deftly swapped out in favor of a stout rhythm section and crisp production.

What follows from the second verse onward is a truly delectable palate of sounds and instrument choices suggesting a cheerful stroll through a candy-coated aural landscape. Between the glockenspiel that dots the song’s progression and the pleasant quarter note thunk of an upright piano, it’s really the kind of song that wouldn’t feel out so of place on a quirky Fox Searchlight indie comedy.

When asked about the song’s lyrical narrative, de Souza provided an amusing take as to what’s going on in “One More Good Thing”. “

The song’s open ended, but it’s sort of a plea for someone to consider the potential of a relationship when they’re finding themselves soured on love. The way I’d describe it is of a girl whose dog has just died, and every day she walks by a pet store, where there’s this really cute puppy who’s always trying to get her attention. Then one night, the girl ends up getting mugged and the puppy breaks out of the pet store, transforms into a big German Shepherd, and rescues her before returning to the store. And the next day, she buys the puppy.

De Souza is hopeful yet pragmatic about where he’s heading with future Uptown Boys Choir material “I want to write songs that can work with one person on a guitar or an eight piece band… but I do hope that [Uptown Boys Choir’s] music is tied together by a more optimistic spirit than the music I wrote when I was younger.”

De Souza next next performs on Saturday September 28 at Foundation Gallery and Liveroom in Kensington, Maryland as part of Justin Trawick’s roving singer/songwriter series, The 9.

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Lens Flair – These Future Saints / M.H. & His Orchestra / Classified Frequency at IOTA (Fri 9/6)

Photos by Heaton Johnson
Written by Tony Porreco


Last Tuesday we brought you the Fresh Track “Blackjack”, from These Future Saints‘ new EP, Ellerslie Ave. In the spirit of following up, I made the short trek out to Clarendon’s IOTA to catch the band with Classified Frequency and M.H. & His Orchestra for their EP release show. Now, I’m not especially fond of show recaps; I think it’s far better to be there for the actual experience of the show rather than to learn about it via whatever vapid sludge I’m capable of churning out.

As such, we’re thrilled team up with the very talented photographer Heaton Johnson to bring you Lens Flair, a new photojournalism series documenting the DC show experience. There’s an alluring vibrance to Johnson’s stills that does a remarkable job of taking you “there” in lieu of hollow verbiage (or time travel).

So without further delay, the installment of Lens Flair!

Classified Frequency


These Future Saints


IOTA Club & Cafe


M.H. and His Orchestra


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Fresh Tracks! These Future Saints / “Blackjack”

Fresh Tracks! – These Future Saints / “Blackjack”
by Tony Porreco
TFS guitars
Welcome back to another installment of Fresh Tracks!, where we at Hometown Sounds present you early access to some of the best in soon-to-be-released D.C.  music. Today’s fresh track is a cheery little number called “Blackjack” from charming up and comers These Future Saints.

At first playback, you might be skeptical and regard the opening guitar riff as silly, but when the full band kicks in, it actually reveals itself as part of a fun set of interlocking machinations against the second guitar and drums, with a sound that quickly heads into the territory of some light dance rock. (Who new dance rock could be light?)

Singer Andrew Gaddy is actually one of the better vocalists I’ve heard lately from the DC scene: There’s a sweet, choirboy feel to his singing voice that’s really kind of adorable, which proves in keeping with his band’s somewhat softer approach to indie rock. Concerning the song’s lyrical content, Gaddy chronicles some tender escapades with a certain special someone.  (Additional props for the hometown imagery when he suggests, “Let’s take a trip to Logan Circle, we’ll get out of line”). Be sure to stick around through the end of the cut, as the number closes with a super fun coda that approaches the lively guitar pop of Phoenix’s early career, or some MDMA-enhanced Franz Ferdinand.

These Future Saints perform this Friday at IOTA (9/6) with Classified Frequency (who do some seriously layered, everything-but-the-kitchen sink pop punk) and our favorite army of genre-busters M.H. and His Orchestra. The event is also a release show for These Future Saints’ new EP Ellerslie Ave, available for purchase at the show or online starting Friday.

These Future Saints, EP release show flyer


Fresh Tracks! – The Dead Women / Vier

Fresh Tracks! – The Dead Women / Vier
by Tony Porreco

Rock n Roll Hotel
Welcome to Fresh Tracks, a new column where we here at Hometown Sounds highlight the latest in noteworthy releases from DC artists.

For the first installment of Fresh Tracks we present Vier, the debut studio release from punk dynamos The Dead Women. German for the number “four”, the EP’s title embodies a clear reference to Vier’s four songs. But the word is pronounced “fear”, so we can only wonder if there’s any relationship between the way you say the album title aloud, and The Dead Women’s dark, nervous punk rock. Vier will be available for streaming exclusively here at Hometown Sounds for its first two days in the world, but will be available for download at the group’s Bandcamp page beginning on August 14th. Enjoy!

TDW Vier Cover

Recorded and mixed by Michael Dawson at Elohino Productions.
Cover art and photograph by Nancy McInerney.
Written and performed by The Dead Women.

1. “Trouble Breathing” 
2. “Arms and Legs” 
3. “Summer” 
4. “I Am Delusional” 

About the Album
All of Vier was written during ’11 and ‘12 (the first year following the band’s formation), but previously existed only in the form of rougher demos. Wanting to document some of their earliest material with a strong set of recordings, The Dead Women found themselves driving north to Lincoln Park, New Jersey this past April to work with Michael Dawson at Elohino Productions. (Mark Pry, drummer for The Dead Women, met Dawson during a period when they were both freelance contributors for Modern Drummer Magazine.)

begins with “Trouble Breathing”, a track based on a choppy, syncopated guitar riff and a brooding set implying a narrative of finding oneself pitted against the odds. The verse’s vocal melody and drums fit neatly inside the space carved out by guitar parts, resulting in a bumpy rhythm that achieves the sonic equivalent of rolling over bumpy terrain. It’s the number vocalist/guitarist Mark McInerney says regularly evokes the biggest response when the band plays the DC club circuit.

“Arms and Legs” and “I Am Delusional” both channel the aggressiveness and zip of punk standard bearers such as Bad Religion and Social Distortion, but with the twist of a sound that eschews these bands’ domineering guitar crunch in favor of tones with more fuzzy mid range.

The one real curveball on Vier is “Summer”, a lilting 3/4 ballad whose lyrics pair recollections of relational frustration with the observation of how the heat of the months can feel like an insufferable eternity. This unlikely pairing of experiences function as a poignant reminder of how simultaneously experiencing multiple life stressors can be so much worse than running into them independently of one another.

Despite its brevity, Vier is a release that doesn’t skimp on the details of a good recording, whether it’s the extra texture of the acoustic guitar that springs up in the verse of “I Am Delusional” or McInerney’s layered vocals (either doubled or harmonized), which are spread tastefully over the EP, and lend the tracks a distinct bite.


Concerning what’s next for The Dead Women, the release of Vier is really just the start of a continued flurry of activity for the band. They’ve booked studio time at Beat Babies Recording Studio (Woodstock, MD) for 8/31 and 9/1, where they plan to punch out a live recorded full length. On the subject of differences between the tracks on Vier and the songs the band plans to record next, according to McInerney, you can expect an even heightened emphasis on time signatures (one of the songs is in 5/4!), dynamics, and tempo. “[These] are all important factors in my songwriting now because I know we’re capable of doing it well. Earlier on it was more about writing a catchy tune.  And that is what’s reflected in this EP.”

A week after their recording session, they’re slated to perform at the 35th Annual Adams Morgan Day Festival alongside other prominent DC acts such as Ugly Purple Sweater, Asheru, and Paperhaus. In the more immediate term, catch them this Wednesday at DC9 with Möbius Strip, opening for Austin, TX indietronica act The Octopus Project. Also in the meantime, be sure to stop by AdMo’s The Black Squirrel on Sunday evenings, where the band curates and hosts an excellent and increasingly popular live music series.

TDW DC9 Poster


Live Picks! with Tony Porreco: The Low Bends @ Velvet Lounge

Live Picks! with Tony Porreco

Arthur Sanzo, that shirt

Who: The Low Bends
Where: The Velvet Lounge
When: Sunday, July 21
Song You Must Hear Today: “Saint Valentine’s Rebuttal” 
“We have a poltergeist,” Arthur Sanzo notes casually as he we tour his Shaw residence.  And the first thing you notice about Sanzo (the singer/songwriter behind the aggressive, demented blues outfit The Low Bends) is that he’s kind of weird. I’m barely in the door, being vigorously sniffed by the house’s two dogs, and Sanzo dives headfirst into a slew of details about where he practices, showing me his living space (a segment of a basement hallway converted into what I suppose passes for a bedroom), and graciously offering me a beer. The experience is sort of like going over to your friend’s house, and the friend’s a parent with a little kid who’s dying to tell you everything.

I sought to interview Arthur Sanzo as a result of having discovered his compelling album American Alien, Success Story earlier this year on Bandcamp (released under the now discarded band name The Lippy Grins), and because I learned that he has a show with his full band The Low Bends on Sunday July 21st at the Velvet Lounge.

The album contains a full 11 tracks of well-structured blues rock, but with the delightful twist of featuring a wild vocalist whose performances can only begun to be characterized by concern-raising adjectives such as “deranged”, and perhaps even “unstable”. The songs’ topics are equally unsettling, which include narratives of workplace rage, the sexual perversions of the unattached, and the bloody conflicts of Pilgrims and Native Americans. In spite of the crazed vocal performances and curious source material, Sanzo’s gift for crafting well-organized songs with bizarre narratives shines through on American Alien, Success Story.

Sanzo’s story wasn’t easily ascertainable from a quick scan of his music’s web presence:  For a band with such a professional sounding album, The Lippy Grin’s Facebook page seemed a little undercooked, and was oddly littered with links to content for another band called The Low Bends. This second group certainly seemed to feature the same guy whose songs I’d been streaming, but the relationship between the two was acts was unclear.

I walked with Arthur to a nearby wine bar with the goal of learning about the twisted nature of his songs, his music’s fragmented online presence, and whatever other strange thoughts he might throw down.

Once you become accustomed to his unusual personality, the next thing you observe about Arthur Sanzo is the immense confidence he has in his craft. “I have the fucking talent to do any kind of songwriting I want.”  And there is enough variation on American Alien, Success Story to offer some support for this boastful claim. Tracks like “Praying Mantis” and “Dancing in the Street” are grounded in straightforward country rock while “The Lizard King” possesses a roaring, sludge-blues approach. There’s also some intriguing play with drum machines on two of the album’s numbers (“Porridge Brains”, “Two, One, Hang, Four”) which possess more of a junkyard pop/white boy hip hop in the vein of early ‘90s Beck.

Two of the album’s standout numbers, “Saint Valentine’s Rebuttal” and “Four White Walls”, while drastically different stylistically are indicative of a songwriter who can either leave you in stitches of laughter or feeling pangs of sadness. The former is a lively barroom blues number that hysterically chronicles the exploits of the erotically desperate on Valentine’s Day (prostitution, watching the Spice Channel, getting one’s rocks off in a seated theater), while “Four White Walls” is an exquisite breakup number told from the perspective of the heart breaker.

Arthur Sanzo, SOB

Below is some of the quoted dialog from our interview session (approx. 90 min):

Where does this kind of unhinged, unstable country personality of yours come from?

I guess I’m kind of a far out guy…I definitely enjoy writing in the more macabre, you know, finding beauty in places that maybe somebody else doesn’t see it, or does but doesn’t understand it.

Do you view your music as subversive?

In a way, yeah.  I’m not a Pretty Peter. I’m a fucking guy who’s going to go up there and play some fucking rock n’ roll songs. I don’t want to be that guy who’s playing your standard Top 40 radio hit. If I wanted to be that guy, I’d be that fucking guy… So, yeah, I do think it’s subversive. I am trying to challenge audiences, I’m trying to be in your face… That’s who I am and that’s what I do.

What’s it like being in a band with your brother (Two Alpaca’s Mike Sanzo)?

There’s fist fights. I’ve been in a band with my brother for 10 years. That’s a fucking long time to be in a band with anyone. 99% of the time, we get along great. But occasionally, about once every year and a half, we’ll get in a pretty serious altercation that will end in fists. That’s the way we settle our differences.

One source of continued frustration for Sanzo involves the difficulty in fielding a stable band to perform his songs. Sanzo is on borrowed time with his current four-piece line up: His second guitarist will be moving out of state in August, and drummer Michael Sanzo (Arthur’s brother) plays guitar and keys full time in his own band Two Alpacas. And despite the fact that he plays out acoustically at spots like IOTA with a fair amount of regularity, this doesn’t do it for Sanzo. “I don’t want people to come see me acoustic. I want to play loud rock n’ roll music in your fucking face. I want it to rear its head at you and bite you.” For these reasons, Arthur emphasized the importance of making his upcoming Velvet Lounge date with his full line up count before he’s forced to regroup and find some new players.

Interviewing Sanzo also illustrated the importance of having the willingness to put consistent effort into marketing a band. By his own admission, booking shows and reaching out to audiences isn’t Sanzo’s forte. In more than one instance, he likened a working band as a business having two parts, frontend (the public face, sales, marketing) and backend (product development, in other words, “songwriting”). He cops to not being great at the former, which accounts for his sporadic online updates. The change of his band name was actually a concession to one of his bandmates, who had elected to take on the frontend responsibilities. “If he’s going to be the one kind of being the frontend of the business, and I’m going to be on the backend, he should get a name that he feels confident selling.”

Arhtur Sanzo, shoulder

To sum it all up, Arthur Sanzo is a guy with an eccentric personality and some serious songwriting chops.  Things are gonna get weird (but in a cool way) when The Low Bends hit the Velvet Lounge on Sunday July 21st. Yo No Say and Grogan Social Scene open. I’ll be there cheering on one of my new DC favorites.


Live Picks! with Tony Porreco: Kitchen Noise @ Velvet Lounge

Live Picks! with Tony Porreco

Kitchen Noise band shot
Who: Kitchen Noise / The Lawsuits / Birthday Punches
Where: The Velvet Lounge
When: Thursday, June 27
Song You Must Hear Today: “All In One” 

Kitchen Noise, the musical project of Cory Foley-Marsello, makes sleepy music.  Easy now, this isn’t an insult. Rather, Kitchen Noise fits comfortably alongside the ranks of other excellent artists such as Megafaun and Marissa Nadler who drape their quiet folk songs in imaginative, dreamy textures.

According to Foley-Marsello, Kitchen Nose was started as a studio project and “the fruit of throwing lots of stuff at a wall and coming away with some songs.” Ceramics, the project’s sole release, appeared last August via Bandcamp. It didn’t receive much in the way of immediate attention, which is a complete shame, because this is a truly gorgeous and sprawling full length album. In the album’s first 20 seconds, organ chords meet a handful of dancing notes from an electric guitar before being shoved out of the way by a wild guitar riff, nimbly picked acoustic guitar, some backwards-looped sound effects, and a thumping rhythm section.

This formula of a song growing from modest beginnings (most often, a repeated guitar arpeggio) and towards a multi-layered soundscape is one that comprises much of Ceramics, and it’s a winner. Most of the tracks are grounded in gentle, contemplative folk rock, but there are plenty of pop elements (especially in the album’s first several songs), such as the friendly handclaps on “All In One” or “Brand New Names” with its stuttering, hypnotic drum beat.

I’m especially curious to see Kitchen Noise because this Thursday marks the act’s first show of 2013. Foley-Marsello has assembled a four-piece band who has steadily been working on adapting the Ceramics material for live performance, in addition to writing new songs.

How this is going to sound live isn’t easily predictable, so join me this Thursday at the Velvet Lounge for what easily promises to be the most intriguing show of the week.

Kitchen Noise Ceramics Cover

Live Picks! with Tony Porreco: Paperhaus / Shark Week / Young Rapids @ Rock n’ Roll Hotel

Live Picks! with Tony Porreco

Paperhaus band shot

Who: Paperhaus / Shark Week / Young Rapids

Where: Rock n’ Roll Hotel

When: Friday June 7, 9 PM

Song You Must Hear Today: “Corazon”

With Live Picks!, I make a conscious effort of tilting the spotlight towards DC bands with upcoming shows who might not necessarily be receiving attention they deserve. (Prior to 2013, did you know about DC’s nerdcore rap duo or multi-genre infused, crooner-fronted orchestra? Probably not!) In other words, I try to examine what other groups’ shows are happening concurrently alongside the region’s more prominent acts.

But let’s be real, people: I would be totally remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Paperhaus’ show at the Rock n’ Roll Hotel this Friday as the show to get to this week. It’s really a triumphant homecoming for the self-described psychedelic-blues quartet, as they’ve just returned from a two month, 54 (!) date nationwide tour. Over the last two years, they’ve accomplished a tremendous amount, not only as a band, having recently released the exceptionally good Lo Hi Lo EP (more about that in a minute), but also as true community builders with their Petworth DIY show space. (During their absence, there’s been a comparative lack of DIY house shows, so it will be good to see them return to “business as usual”. Um, by the way, did you hear that the space is hosting Julian Lynch next week? Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn.)

Anyway, a bit about that Lo Hi Lo EP that I just got around to checking out tonight. Four tracks, but the brevity is irrelevant, as the first phrase that hit me was “well assembled!”. Having seen the band on several occasions, there’s less psych on display herre than there is mood-ambiguous indie pop. With intricate, heavily reverbed guitar arpeggios and peppy, straight ahead drum parts, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Wild Nothing come across as easy comparisons (minus the synths). I’m especially fond of the guitar interplay on “Corazon”, which incidentally, I snagged a video of last fall at the Red Palace, which has since been re-imagined as an Italian restaurant (so long tassels, hello pasta & bocce[?!]).

Concerning other reasons to attend, there’s also the absolutely absurd “supporting” lineup of Shark Week and Young Rapids. Some discussion on each: I haven’t actually seen Shark Week, so it’ll be great to see them do their naughty surf-blues thing in person. Then there’s Young Rapids, whose Daylight Savings is the album that gets played when:

1.) I’ve exhasuted my supply of the week’s podcasts (Planet Money, Freakonomics, The Moth, ya know, whatevs).
2.) Spotify isn’t working (UGH).
3.) I’m just plain stressed out.

I’m thrilled for the opportunity to hear new material from this band that creates music characterized by both patient grandeur and controlled mania.

If you’re reading this, you’re going. If you had other plans, that’s tough. Because now you have new ones.

Paperhaus flyer

Live Picks! with Tony Porreco: Drunk Tigers @ DC9

Live Picks! with Tony Porreco

drunk tigers
Who: Drunk Tigers
Where: DC9
When: Thursday May 16th
Song You Must Hear Today: “Photos of Sad Brokers” 

I’m about five months into writing Live Picks!, and I think I deserve a break.  So shoot me: I’m taking a “me” day on this one.  Forgive my candor, but Drunk Tigers is the kind of band I would write up every week if only I were a little less self-aware of my punk/pop roots, and was totally okay with becoming the guy who highlights exclusively punk-ish acts: The rhythm section is bold and brash, there’s intriguing yell/sing-y vocals, but in the end, the bulk of the real melodic action lies in the manic, adventurous guitar playing.  And that’s the connection between me and a lot of my favorite rock artists, this desire to stir up excitement via catchy, frenetic squalls of electric guitar.

Admittedly, I kinda rushed you there, so I’ll help you up out of my passion pit and let you clean yourself off while I cover some back story on the band.  Originally from Charlottesville, Virginia, Drunk Tigers formed in 2008, and released a small handful of EPs.  In 2012, following 2 years of “indefinite hiatus”, primary members Matt Bierce (vocals/guitar) and Zach Carter (guitar/vocals) have fielded a new rhythm section and are back at it this year, playing a number of local shows in the past two months, each in quick succession of one another.

Anyway, back to the music.  Drunk Tigers actually opened for my snot-rock heroes Cloud Nothings at a 2010 show in Charlottesville, and they certainly fit that bill.  The tunes are fast, straight ahead, and replete with winding guitar lines.  They’re also not afraid of the occasional abrasive change up: “Lessons, Hurricane” sports a section with a deliciously malevolent repeating chord change, and “Outer Banks Inner Peace” moves back and forth between a couple benign arpeggios and some great Pavement/slacker-stomp guitar freak outs.

My favorite track of all their offerings, however, is a number called “Photos of Sad Brokers”, which is a wild ride, start-to-finish.  Some nifty features include a nitro-propelled intro section, and an abrupt tempo U-turn at the start of the first verse.  Then immediately prior to the chorus, you get a guitar riff that rips off Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World” note-for-note, but the effect is delightfully familiar, rather than offensive.  There’s also the chorus’ lyric  “It’s not my birthday / It’s not my problem”, which I can’t make heads or tails of, but the disconnect between the two topics leaves me grinning nonetheless.

I plan on taking a second “me” day on Thursday to see them open for Arum Rae, who’s an Austin-based psych-blues songstress.  This is one of those shows where I want to know every song  and jump up and down accordingly.  My enthusiasm and I will be there.  You and yours should too.

Post script: Until last year, Drunk Tiger member Matt Bierce performed in another band called Infinite Jets, which (I hope!) is a pun on Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace’s awesome novel of epic length (it’s so long it weighs 5 lbs. [unless you have it on Kindle like me, in which case, I guess it weighs 10.2 ounces]).


Live Picks! with Tony Porreco: Bethany and the Guitar, Young Summer, and Owen Danoff / CD Release Show at IOTA

Live Picks! with Tony Porreco

bethany and the guitar

Who: Bethany and the Guitar / Young Summer / Owen Danoff

What: EP Release Show at IOTA

When: Friday May 3 / 8:30 p.m.

Song You Must Hear Today: “Trainwreck”

bethany and the guitar band photo

I first saw Bethany and the Guitar in the fall of 2011 at the annual H Street Festival in Northeast.  It was an accident.  I wasn’t really even into the local music scene at that point, that day I was just shoving barbecue into my face and killing time before Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! at the 9:30 Club that evening.  I don’t remember exactly what their lineup was, but I don’t really need to talk about their music: It was acoustic.  It was female-fronted.  A drum kit was eschewed in favor of a cajon.  There was some kind of short scale guitar involved.  (Maybe a baritone ukulele?)  All in all, it was kind of twee.

You read that word. And you might have rolled your eyes.  You might have gotten annoyed.  But hey, I like twee.  I like cute.  There was a sweetness to their act I wasn’t expecting to run into that day, and accordingly, I remembered them.

I’ve kept tabs on Bethany and the Guitar every now and again since then, just to make sure they still exist, and I was delighted to find when browsing IOTA’s calendar that they’re headlining an EP release show there this Friday.  It also turns out the new EP (entitled Songs for the Road) is already on Spotify.  (I was pleased to discover this so I didn’t have to hassle them for an advance copy in writing this piece.)

A review of their previous release, 2011’s Sparrow reveals that there are actually a couple different sides to Bethany and the Guitar.  There’s the previously described indie pop angle with its unusual percussion (e.g. steel drums, handclaps [SO MANY HANDCLAPS]), but also a pop-country angle that made up about half the album’s songs that I admittedly didn’t care for as much.

The new EP leans more toward more toward the latter, but this time around, the songs are stronger, and feature some really excellent arrangements and production. This is most evidenced by “Free”, which I could play for my tween Taylor Swift-obsessed cousin without objection, with the added bonus of being able to show her just how awesome fuzz bass is.

“Trainwreck”, the EP’s opener and standout track begins with a reverbed banjo.  Given Bethany and the Guitar’s both indie pop and country leanings, it’s sort of the perfect instrument for them to employ in some capacity, as it swings both ways, genre-wise.  The song features considerably more muscle and sheer momentum than previous offerings from the band, and includes some great piano and violin touches before the fantastic pop explosion at the 2:36 mark.

Perhaps my favorite element of are the wordless backup vocals that grace four of the EP’s five songs, with the only track without lacking being the out-of-leftfield cover of Passion Pit’s “Sleepyhead”, which transforms the tune into a cheery indie pop hoedown.

I am beyond excited for this show also on account of the bill’s supporting acts.  Young Summer’s “Fever Dream” might be my favorite track released by a DC artist so far in 2013 (sounds like Beach House after Victoria Legrand drank one too many cups of coffee), and I will conclude with some facts about opener Owen Danoff in list form:

(a.) His music is frequently charming (see “Never Been Kissed” from his 2013 The Strathmore Sessions).

(b.) We went to the same high school.

(c.) His dad Bill was in Starland Vocal Band (“Afternoon Delight”), and my bandmate took music classes from him at Georgetown University.

It’s gonna be a fun night; Imma see you there!