All photos: Katherine Gaines
Ash was one of those bands you wanted to root for. Not only did they have the songs but they never came off as a band just meant to take up space in NME due to drama or otherwise. They also never seemed to be a part of that failing push of a new “British invasion” that some American journalists were pushing in the mid 90s. Part of me was surprised that they were playing a place as small as DC9 as they still are a big deal overseas, but another part of me really wondered if anyone cared or remembered who Ash are. I mean let’s be real here, you have …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of “Dads” playing a few blocks away which was packed with single indie record collecting “30 something” dudes still holding on to that 10 Pitchfork gave that band ten years ago. Then you have Ash which ended up being packed with “30 something” couples who have real jobs, so for me, spending it with the responsible adults who are most likely the later seemed like the better choice.
Right away Ash went right into their opener, “Lose Control” from the criminally underrated 1977 LP. One of the things you notice beyond the fact that this band is as tight as they ever were is that there is a certain aggressiveness to the songs live that doesn’t translate in the studio. “Jack Names The Planets,” an early single, felt as fresh as it did back 20 years ago and displayed a certain kind of youthful energy that made Ash way more interesting than some of their peers at the time. Songs from the Queens of The Stone Age inspired LP Meltdown, such as “Orpheus” and “Clones” make you realize how open Ash is to trying new things, and live these songs fit seamlessly in the set. I always have felt Ash had more in common with bands like Mudhoney, That Dog, and even first LP era Veruca Salt more than the bands they were lumped with which seemed to range from everyone to Oasis to Weezer. Newer songs such as “Arcadia” and “Joy Kicks Darkness” reminded the crowd Ash’s best output actually might not have been in the 90s, as pretty much anything from the A-Z series rivals anything Ash has done before, not only in scope but also in quality.
What was interesting was how a band like Ash, which anywhere else they play outside of the USA is fairly big, play an extremely small space like DC9. For bands who are used to the festival/arena circuit, many might feel as though they might not have to work as hard or that shows like this don’t mean as much. Watching Ash on a small stage though is like watching a band just starting really work for it. This show felt more like a punk show then some 90s band reclaiming whatever glory they can. It never felt as though they were that “lost 90s band.” If anything it seemed their LPs have more validity now as opposed to even some of their biggest contemporaries in the 90s. Their sort of semi hit “Kung Fu” came off less as a “90s song you might remember” type thing and more of a “we’re going to prove to you how good we were and are today” vibe. You could tell throughout the set vocalist/guitarist Tim Wheeler was not only having fun, but realizing smaller bands that never got it’s due can make just as much of an impact in some and even better ways than any Oasis or Blur can. Sure this band started in the 90s but with this tour Ash proved that those who stuck with them should be prepared to rediscover them, and those who are just now discovering them might be witnessing one of those rare things where a band 20 years plus is in their prime.
- Dot Dash: