Two months in and I’m just now hitting my first show of ’08 due to a lack of interesting show choices and a mammoth research project I’m working on.
Last night I caught a terrific triple-bill at the Rock and Roll Hotel. (Who by the way have recently installed a new, wider stage and a totally sick new sound system that makes RNR a venue to die for).
First up was Young Widows a noise-rock trio in the tradition of Jesus Lizard, Helmet, and Big Black. Imagine any one of those bands with a Fugazi-esque shared vocal set-up and you are pretty close to what the Young Widows sound like. Young Widows brought the fury last night, demonstrating a straight-forward, passionate racket that felt vital and necessary in the face of today’s genre-crossing indie climate. It was great to see this new band shred through a set of angst-shouted vocals set to noisey rhythmic rock, minus any pretention or posing. After their admirable set I am now praying for them to come back around on a tour with These Arms Are Snakes (man that would rule).
Ultra-heavy beat, hip-hop duo Dalek were up next. I’ve seen Dalek about five times over the last eight years. I’ve always considered these guys to be the perfect fusion of Hip-Hop and Digital Hardcore, but Digital Hardcore is a genre long-dead so I don’t really know how to describe them in a way that makes current sense. Dalek are much more than a relic of the late 90′s though, putting on suprising sets everytime they come to DC. Last night I was shocked to see that the duo had expanded into a quartet (adding an a live guitar player and a second DJ-type guy). Hip-hop alone is not a descriptor that does these guys justice. Sure the lead singer is one of the best MCs going, but the music to which he raps is such an intense wall of noise and beats that they really drift into controlled noise territory. The addition of the live guitarist took last night’s set to a whole new level. Adding a thrash/shoegazer element to Dalek’s traditonal noise barrage was a stroke of genius and put Dalek on top for best set of the night.
That isn’t to say headliners Russian Circles were slacking, not in the slightest. Falling somewhere between Post-Rock and Metal, Russian Circles tore into a set that for the most part abandoned their quiet-loud formula in favor of laying down some seriously epic head-bangers. I often consider Post-rock/metal shows to be art installations because of the way they inhabit an enviroment and make it their own (unlike any other genre except maybe traditional noise: ie. Whitehouse). Last night Russian Circles didn’t inhabit the RNR Hotel so much as they reenacted the World War II tank battle at Kursk with guitars and drums. It was a power performance that set heads banging and fists pumping, and left ears ringing (for what feels like will be days).