Category Archives: 9:30 Club

She Couldn’t Blame Us: Cat Power at the 9:30 Club, reviewed.

I’m sorry to say that Cat Power’s concert at the 9:30 Club last night was another heart-rending chapter in her sad history as a panicky, fragmented performer. It’s always agonizing to watch someone on stage who clearly doesn’t want to be there. I hope she’ll get the help she needs. The club was sold out, so clearly her fans haven’t abandoned her. Last night’s audience struck me as uncommonly respectful, sympathetic and forgiving. Continue reading

Julian Casablancas at the 9:30: Is This It?

The New York City that birthed The Strokes, fully formed and never better than on their 2001 debut Is This It?, was as bright and prosperous as the NYC of 23 years earlier — when Strokes singer/songwriter Julian Casablancas was born there — was broke, decadent, and dangerous. Their first album managed, improbably, to conjure both Blondie-era risk and pre-9/11 ennui. It’s lately resurfaced on just about everyone’s list of the aughties’ top ten. Continue reading

A . . . Masterpiece!

One of the things I lament about the steep drop-off in newspaper movie ads — aside from the obvious, which is that it’s hurt newspapers I’d like to see survive — is that we’re not seeing as many ads wherein studio publicists dig deep to find reliably nearsighted pseudo-critics whose endorsements of shit like Old Dogs or the punctuation-offending Law Abiding Citizen they can quote. I always wondered if the people putting these ads together actually believed that anyone inclined to plan their weekend around a screening of Leap Year cares what film critics have to say.

I like it even better when publicists take real critics’ words completely out of context. I’ve been pull-quoted myself once or twice, but wouldn’t you know it, my meaning has always been preserved intact.

Publicists practice context-ignoring pull-quotery all the time, I know. But to me, at least, it never fails to amuse. Continue reading

Viva Christmas! El Vez and Los Straightjackets at the 9:30 Club

Chestnuts roasting. Jack Frost nipping. Yuletide carols being sung by the self-described “Mexican Elvis,” and folks dressed up like luchadores — mask-wearing Mexican wrestlers. Isn’t that how that one goes?

Well, that’s how it went at the 9:30 club last night, where Los Straitjackets — an ace surf-rock quartet out of, um, Nashville, despite their custom of performing in those sharp Mexican wrestling headpieces — were the house band for a bizarro 90-minute Christmas party hosted by East L.A. novelty singer/activist El Vez, who made good on his promise to spread “Santarchy,” and James Brown-like front splits, to the masses.

You could even call it a traditional program of holiday fare, assuming the Burlesque is the tradition you mean. Continue reading

Live Last Night: The Gaslight Anthem at the 9:30 Club

The Gaslight Anthem

Look, Bruce Springsteen and Joe Strummer didn’t invent this stuff, either. The greased hair and the leathers and the overdriven takes of Mad Men-era rock standards already had a blanket of dust on them a generation thick by the time The Boss and The Clash got around to them.

Jersey pomade-punks The Gaslight Anthem are the most persuasive current exponents of this tradition, and they don’t hide it. Hell, they called their latest album The ’59 Sound. At a sold-out 9:30 Club last night, they ripped through that nostalgic long-player in its near-entirety, frontman Brian Fallon balling up his handsome face to yowl about Redemption and car crashes and good girls in trouble with archaic-sounding names like Gale and — of course! — Mary. Continue reading

Bigger than the Sound: Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the 9:30

Karen O at the 9:30 Club, 9.25.09

Karen O at the 9:30 Club, 9.25.09

DCist has my review of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Friday-night 9:30 gig, but the real attraction is the phantasmagorical photography of The Artist Formely (?) Known as Information Leafblower, Mr. Kyle Gustafson, who shot the hell out of the show like he always does.

I wish the YYY’s were opening for U2 tomorrow night instead of Muse.

Firecracker, Firecracker: Yo La Tengo at the 9:30 Club

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Last night was my first time seeing Yo La Tengo, the second-most-famous musical institution out of Hoboken, NJ. Head over to DCist for the review, with photos by Francis Chung.

Live Last Night: Son Volt at the 9:30 Club

James Walbourne isn't pictured.

James Walbourne isn't pictured.

‘Scuse me, son, but I haven’t seen you hanging around with Chrissie Hynde lately?

Indeed. The pale, intense young fellow stage right at last night’s robust Son Volt gig at the 9:30 club was one James Walbourne, the British guitar prodigy whose serrated-edge leads make the current, boot-cut incarnation of The Pretenders so much fun. He’s even more valuable an addition to Son Volt, whose solid but often grayscale tunes — which aspire to be the iPhone era incarnation of Woody Guthrie’s dust-bowl ballads — tend to need the extra hooch more than Hynde’s do. Continue reading

Live the Night Before Last: Neko Case

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Neko Case’s anachronistic beauty might seem ordinary only measured against her elemental, once-in-a-generation set of pipes. At her enjoyable if slightly schizophrenic gig at the 9:30 club last night, That Voice had the capacity crowd on its best behavior. The only people doing much goofing around for the majority of the spectral 85-minute set were 1) Neko Case, campfire noir knockout, and 2) Kelly Hogan, backing vocalist/emcee/hype woman/song introducer. The duo sounds sublime when their banter eventually turns to singing, but there’s still something a little spell-breaking about the fact that Case essentially has her own heckler on the payroll.

“The next song is a spooky song,” she announced before the as-advertised “Prison Girls.”

“Spookier,” Hogan corrected her.
Continue reading

Live Last Night: Raphael Saadiq at the 9:30 Club

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He is the real damn deal. Reviewed for Post Rock.

St. Patrick’s Day at the 9:30 Club with the Pogues

Shane MacGowan, still upright on the second of three nights at the 9:30 this week.  Photo by Erica Bruce.

Shane MacGowan, still upright on the second of three nights at the 9:30 this week. Photo by Erica Bruce.

The world’s greatest wedding band, says I. Reviewed for DCist.

Live Two Nights Ago: Modest Mouse, or Please Explain It to Me: Modest Mouse (Live)

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Reviewed for Post Rock. I still like some of their records, but live, this band is just a headache that won’t go away.

Modest Mouse at the 9:30 Club, (the wee small hours of) Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Setlist

01 The View
02 Interstate 8
03 Dashboard
04 Here It Comes
05 Tiny Cities Made of Ashes
06 King Rat
07 Custom Concern
08 3rd Planet
09 The Whale Song
10 Black Cadillacs
11 Broke
12 We’ve Got Everything
13 Fly Trapped in a Jar
14 Blame It on the Tetons
15 Paper Thin Walls
16 Bury Me with It
17 The Good Times Are Killin’ Me

ENCORE

18 Satin in a Coffin
19 Satellite Skin
20 Parting of the Sensory

Live Last Night: Bettye LaVette at the 9:30 Club

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Sadly, Bettye did not wear that belt at the 9:30 last night. Reviewed for Post Rock.

Bettye LaVette at the 9:30 Club, Monday, March 9, 2009

The Setlist

01 The Stealer
02 Still Want to Be Your Baby (Take Me Like I Am)
03 Choices
04 Joy
05 My Man, He’s Loving Man
06 You Never Change
07 Let Me Down Easy
08 He Made a Woman Out of Me
09 The High Road
10 Souvenirs
11 Somebody Pick Up My Pieces
12 Your Turn to Cry
13 Talking Old Soldiers
14 ?

ENCORE

15 Close as I’ll Get to Heaven
16 Before the Money Came (The Ballad of Bettye LaVette)

Live Last Night: Lucinda Williams

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Any cover of an AC/DC tune is inevitably going to struggle not to taste like nonalcoholic beer or fat-free ice cream, but Lucinda came as close as anyone could to pulling it off. Reviewed for Post Rock.

Lucinda Williams and Buick 6 at the 9:30 Club, Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Setlist

01 People Talkin’
02 Ventura
03 Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
04 Circles and X’s
05 Pineola
06 Drunken Angel
07 Side of the Road
08 Everything Has Changed
09 Something About What Happens When We Talk
10 Overtime
11 Tears of Joy
12 Are You Down
13 Real Love
14 Essence
15 Come On
16 Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings
17 Honey Bee
18 Joy
19 Righteously

ENCORE:

20 Angel (Jimi Hendrix; performed by Lucinda alone)
21 Little Rock Star
22 It’s a Long Way to the Top (AC/DC)

The Band

Chet Lister – guitar, lap steel, keys, vocals
Butch Norton – drums
Eric Skimmerhorn – guitar
David Sutton – bass, vocals
Lucinda Williams – lead vocals, guitar

Live Last Night: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit at the 9:30 Club

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He’s good. Really good. Too good to stay in the Drive-By Truckers and sing four songs per night.
Reviewed for Post Rock.

The Setlist

01 Brand New Kind of Actress
02 Decoration Day
03 Seven-Mile Island
04 Chicago Promenade
05 The Last Song I Will Write
06 Never Gonna Change
07 Goddamn Lonely Love
08 Soldiers Get Strange
09 Dress Blues
10 Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)
11 Danko / Manuel
12 Try

ENCORE
13 Outfit
14 Hurricanes and Hand Grenades
15 The Assassin (Patterson Hood)
16 Coda

The Band

Derry deBorja — keyboards

Brownan Lollar — guitar, vocals

Jimbo Hart — bass, vocals

Chad Gamble — drums

Jason Isbell — vocals, guitar

I Spent My Weekend with the Drive-By Truckers at the 9:30 Club

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As the Paper of Record could not publish the title of “Buttholeville,” I didn’t even attempt to quote the following exchange in my review of the first of Drive-By Truckers’ two 9:30 Club shows this weekend. Group leader (or at least primary songwriter and spokesman) Patterson Hood, whom I had the sublime pleasure of interviewing last year, was sick with walking pneumonia, and had to skip both concerts.

Mike Cooley, halfway through his first (?) show as lead singer: “I do not need Patterson Hood anymore. I hope he sees this on YouTube and shits himself.”

Shonna Tucker: “He’s been shitting his pants all day, unfortunately.”

Get well soon, Patterson!

Here’s my unexpurgated review of the Friday show, with some additional commentary on Saturday night and setlists for both. Three . . . two . . . one . . .

“Just ‘cause I don’t run my mouth don’t mean I got nothin’ to say,” goes the line in Drive-By Truckers’ “Marry Me.” It’s one of the grizzled Alabama-by-way-of-Athens, GA outfit’s many superb numbers written and sung by second-banana frontman Mike Cooley, usually the laconic sideman to garrulous group leader Patterson Hood.

Cooley probably runneth more at the Truckers’ 9:30 Club gig Friday night than in his prior 20 years onstage. Hood was stricken with walking pneumonia, unable to perform, forcing Cooley into the mix as starting quarterback. The club had posted notice offering refunds to those unwilling to see DBT-minus-one. But most were game, and the reduced Truckers rewarded their faith with a sloppy but triumphant 21-song set, rich in the sort of Cooley slow-burners (“Cottonseed,” “Pin Hits the Shell”) that often get passed over in the whiskey-and-amphetamines crunch of full-strength DBT shows, and also in seminal rarities (“One of These Days,” “Panties in Your Purse.”)

The Truckers have long been blessed with excess when it comes to ace songcraft. After third-banana frontman Jason Isbell left two years ago, his ex-wife, DBT bassist Shonna Tucker, revealed herself as a singer/songwriter of no mean gift, contributing three topnotch tunes to 2008’s Brighter Than Creation’s Dark. She sang them all Friday, recalling Loretta Lynn in her prime. But the night clearly belonged to Cooley. Though less prolific than Hood, he’s pound-for-pound the better songwriter, and not just because all the most deliciously quotable lines in the group’s deep catalogue are his. Exhibit 794: “She woke up sunny side-down, and I was still thinking I was too proud to flip her over,” from “Gravity’s Gone.” (And there’re plenty more where that came from.)

Taking frequent pulls from the fifth of Jack Daniels making the rounds onstage, Cooley appeared to relishing his rare turn in the spotlight, soliciting requests — and lyrical aid, when he got lost in the middle of “Bob,” one of his wry character studies. “Oh yeah, it’s a country song!” he laughed, after an audience member gave him the cue, “Mama.”

Hood’s guitar and harmony vocals were missed on power cuts like “Women without Whiskey.” But guitarist William Tonks, an Athens musician who also performed with openers Bloodkin, joined in a third of the way through the set. He compensated for Hood’s absence modestly at first, but by night’s end he had made himself at home, even taking a solo on “A Ghost to Most.” And there were tributes to Hood: His mic remained set up center-stage all night, and Cooley actually walked out Hood-stiz at the top of the show, wearing a blazer and holding his arms out Christ-like, in a gentle parody of his friend’s typical entrance.

That neither Cooley nor Tucker attempted one of Hood’s songs was a little disappointing, but the fact that Cooley invited a surprisingly able punter on stage to perform “Buttholeville” made up for it. When the guy started singing “Life in the Factory” instead, Cooley & Co. fell in behind him, turning what should have been a karaoke novelty into the gig’s unlikely highlight. That this band can still deliver absent their key performer shouldn’t surprise anyone: Even city slickers know that a wounded animal is the most dangerous kind.

SATURDAY: Patterson was still on the injured list. But even taking his songs (which is to say, most of the band’s catalogue) out of the equation, DBT served up an acceptable level of variation. Another 21-song set included six not performed the night before, with two surprise covers during the encore: Spooner Oldham’s “Lonely Women Make Good Lovers” and Neil’s “Rocking in the Free World.” Friday was funnier but Saturday was tighter musically, on account of Cooley’s sobriety, probably.

The Setlists

Drive-By Truckers at the 9:30 Club, Friday, February 20, 2009

01 Daddy’s Cup
02 Three Dimes Down
03 Panties in Your Purse
04 Women without Whiskey
05 I’m Sorry, Houston (Shonna Tucker)
06 Checkout Time in Vegas
07 Gravity’s Gone
08 Space City
09 Carl Perkins’ Cadillac
10 Bob
11 Home Field Advantage (Shonna Tucker)
12 One of These Days
13 Lisa’s Birthday
14 Marry Me
15 Cottonseed
16 The Purgatory Line (Shonna Tucker)
17 A Ghost to Most
18 Life in the Factory (lead vocal by random audience member)

ENCORE

19 Pin Hits the Shell
20 Zip City
21 Shut Up and Get on the Plane

Drive-By Truckers at the 9:30 Club, Saturday, February 21, 2009

01 Zip City
02 Home Field Advantage (Shonna Tucker)
03 Uncle Frank
04 Where the Devil Don’t Stay
05 Cottonseed
06 Marry Me
07 I’m Sorry, Houston (Shonna Tucker)
08 Lisa’s Birthday
09 72 (This Highway’s Mean)
10 One of These Days
11 Bob
12 Space City
13 Guitar Man Upstairs
14 Three Dimes Down
15 Self-Destructive Zones

ENCORE

16 Lonely Women Make Good Lovers
17 Carl Perkins’ Cadillac
18 Women Without Whiskey
19 The Purgatory Line (Shonna Tucker)
20 Rocking in the Free World
21 Shut Up and Get on the Plane

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Little Big Town with Zac Brown Band (or vice-versa) at the 9:30

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There’s something paradoxical about screaming the lyrics of a Buffet-esque ode to taking it easy at mellow-harshing volume. But don’t tell that the 1,200 or so militant back-kickers who packed at the 9:30 Club Wednesday night to declaim the chorus of “Toes” (as in, “toes in the water, ass in the sand / Not a care in the world, cold beer in my hand”) back at Georgia’s Zac Brown band. Y’alls have never been here before, have you?

Riding the wave of their No. 1 country single “Chicken Fried” — a slice of (literally) blue jeans and cold beer-venerating Americana that reads as reassuring and/or unbearably hokey in these waning days of empire — the group’s homespun sound is built around Brown’s warm, James Taylor-ific vocal timbre and Jimmy De Martini’s white-lightning fiddle. Fittingly, their 55-minute set opening for the country vocal quartet Little Big Town included a cover of the Charlie Daniels Band’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” though Brown later embroidered his wanderlust ballad, “Free,” with a few verses of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” as if to demonstrate he has influences other than just the ones you can hear.

The result seems to land in the sweet spot between the Dave Matthews Band and Kenny Chesney. Perhaps “sweet” isn’t the word everyone would use to describe that thar spot, but it’s a big tent with room for dudes in knitted caps (like the one sported by Brown himself), dudes in ball caps, and dudes in cowboy hats. Also, women! Brown’s tendency to bathe even songs about a divorced father’s estrangement from his kids (“Highway 20 Ride”) in soothing acoustic sunshine may guarantee him a lucrative recording career (well, unless his fans from the country sphere turn out to be as enthusiastic about file-sharing as his jam-band constituency) but stunts like the De Martini-Brown fiddle-guitar duel were what elevated the band’s live show above the level of their often-generic (if well-crafted) material.

The Foundation, the group’s major-label debut, has been lodged in the Top Ten on Billboard’s country albums chart since its mid-November release, and is currently No. 39 on the Billboard 200. The band’s current lineup has been in place since 2004, honing its skills in some 200 gigs per year.

After Brown’s opening set, the 9:30 crowd seemed to thin slightly, but Little Big Town still managed to defend their headliner status despite strong competition from the undercard. Their energetic 90-minute set included slick, faithful covers of songs by their most obvious influences — those would be Fleetwood Mac (“The Chain”) and The Eagles, whose “Heartache Tonight” brought the evening to a rousing, high-fiving close. The group uses the former’s two-man, two-woman composition and the latter’s close vocal harmonies to impart their derivative material with more than enough flash and verve to keep the train rolling.

Which isn’t to suggest you could guess their every move. The group might have been dismayed by the 9:30 crowd’s refusual to quiet down for their a capella performance of “Lost,” but “Boondocks” — which pairs a hometown pride (or home-“town” pride) lyric to a made-for-the stage Appalaichain stomp — just about brought the house down. And opening their encore set with a cover of “Life in a Northern Town,” the mid-80s hit by the Dream Academy? You didn’t see that one coming.

A shorter version of this review appears in today’s Paper of Record.

Live Last Night: The Pretenders

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NME Music journalist turned Pretender-in-Chief Chrissie Hynde.

Reviewed for Post Rock.

No “My City was Gone.” Tainted by association with Rush Limbaugh, I guess.

Pretenders at the 9:30 Club, Monday, February 2, 2009

The Setlist

01 Boots of Chinese Plastic
02 Don’t Cut Your Hair
03 Talk of the Town
04 Message of Love
05 The Nothing Maker
06 Love’s a Mystery
07 Back on the Chain Gang
08 Rosalee
09 The Last Ride
10 Tequila
11 Stop Your Sobbing (Ray Davies)
12 My Baby
13 Don’t Get Me Wrong
14 Thumbelina
15 Brass in Pocket
16 Bad Boys Get Spanked
17 Tattooed Love Boys
18 Break Up the Concrete

    ENCORE:

19 Kid
20 Precious

    ENCORE 2:

21 The Wait
22 Up the Neck

The Band

James Walbourne – lead guitar

Nick Wilkinson – bass

Eric Heywood – pedal steel

Martin Chambers – drums

Chrissie Hynde – vocals, rhythm guitar

For the Coal Miner’s Daughter, a Family Affair

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Lucky me, I got to review her 9:30 gig for the Paper of Record.

The Setlist:

Ernie Lynn:
01 I Ain’t as Good as I Once Was
02 Feel Like Jesse James

Patsy Lynn & Peggy Lynn:
03 All I Gotta Say About That
04 Tulsa Time

Loretta:
05 Let Your Love Flow
06 You’re Looking at Country
07 When the Tingle Becomes a Chill
08 I Wanna Be Free
09 Here I Am Again
10 False start of “You’re Looking at Country” / You Ain’t Woman Enough
11 Blue Kentucky Girl
12 Portland, Oregon
13 Fist City
14 Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man (w/ Bart)
15 Feelins (w/ drunken Ernie Lynn)
16 Rated X (by her granddaughter, Tayla Lynn)
17 Coal Dust (In My Veins) (Tayla Lynn)
18 Honky Tonk Girl
19 One’s on the Way
20 The Pill
21 How Long (by the three dudes)
22 Man of Constant Sorrow (by the three dudes)
23 Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven
24 Who Says God Is Dead
25 Where No One Stands Alone
26 Coal Miner’s Daughter

Secret Machines at the 9:30 Club


This is a couple days old already. Sorry.

New York-based space rock-trio Secret Machines’ new, self-titled third album is strong evidence that in the studio at least, the group hasn’t lost a step despite the departure of guitarist Ben Curtis. His brother, frontman Brandon Curtis, has soldiered on with new axe man Phil Karnats, continuing to layer shimmering guitars and keyboards atop drummer Josh Garza’s bone-crushing, Bonham-esque rhythms, with a newfound focus on tighter song structures. This is good.

Secret Machines have played stadiums with U2 and been compared to Pink Floyd. Alas, at their funereal set at the 9:30 Club Thursday night, they seemed more like the Iron Butterfly of the iPod Age. And while everybody surely loves to hear all17-plus minutes of “In a Gadda-da-Vida” once a year (preferably in the fortnight before Halloween), the interminable new “The Fire Is Waiting” — the whole show, really — recalled that iconic, goofy tune in all the worst ways. Too often it felt like an unbroken, unbearably pompous 90-minute dirge, the luminous textures of the band’s albums lost in a muddy, drony, roar.

The stage was wrapped in what looked like strips of bandage —appropriate for an act that came off as humorless, hidebound and unable to connect. While a few members of the half-empty (well okay, half-full) 9:30 crowd were psyched enough to leap and wave during the chestnuts “Nowhere Again” and “First Wave Intact,” the audience was mostly a sea (or a pond) of heads nodding in solemn semi-communion as they fiddled with their cell phones. Dude, you should have been there!

Worse, some of the those nodding heads were on stage. Garza is fun to watch, mainly for the uncanny way he resembles Animal from The Muppet Show, but Curits was an inert presence. Before kicking off the encore with a (relatively) spare “Alone, Jealous and Stoned” that painfully exposed his vocal limitations, he murmured, “I’m glad you’re still with us.” It was a performance that must have felt like a rehearsal even to him.