all words: Mitchell London
photos: b&w Chris Digiamo, color-Mitchell London
If you ever get a chance to go to Goldleaf Studios – either for an art show or a concert at the “Red Door” – do it. The space might not be the tidiest in DC, but it has more character than a Mr. Show sketch and is overstuffed with bizarre artifacts (A Godfather fanfic painting? A velvet fedora? Yes and yes, please). So what the venue – a converted band practice space/ hangout – lacked in square footage, it made up for in charm. It was an apt home for the three bands that played Thursday night. Each of the three bands’ default position on the indie rock dial was “homesy charm” – and though each one occasionally detoured noisier and harsher roads, they all reliably made their way back home.
It should also be noted that the show was free, plenty of folks generously brought more beer than they personally could drink, and everyone in the audience seemed to know – at minimum – forty-five percent of the rest of the audience. And if you can’t pull a good night out of those conditions, you are beyond help.
The law of DIY show probabilities states that at least one of the three bands on the bill is going to suck. Somewhere, there is a bill with two godlessly bad bands on it to make up for the solidity of this lineup. New Orleans’ Giant Cloud is heavy on sweet, practiced harmonies from the Robin Pecknold school of contemporary indie, but unlike the Foxes, Giant Cloud has no problem stepping on a distortion pedal and lengthening its stride. Striking an equitable balance between its male and female lead singers, the band sounded loose and comfortable tackling songs that ranged from twee-folk-like numbers to rambling rock. And despite the amateur sound system – which I think Ben Usie stole from a homeless shelter – Giant Cloud sounded full, together, and in their element.
As Svetlana aptly wrote in her Brass Bed Listening Party last week, Brass Bed fits comfortably alongside earnest 70’s left of the dial rock bands like Big Star. The songs often start in tightly constructed pop structures, but append woolly, distorted monster interludes and codas more often than not. Obviously tempered by years of grinding on the road and in the studio, Brass Bed is able to change gears with ease. Like their labelmates Giant Cloud, Brass Bed drinks deeply from the well of vocal harmony.
Brass Bed has been working the small venue circuit for years, churning out solid material on respites from the road. Like many meat-and-beans, hard-working bands, Brass Bed seems constantly on the verge of breaking through to a wider audience. Based on the quality of their recently released Melt White and the tightness, the power, and the professionalism of their live act, its highly believable that their sunshine is not far past the horizon.
As a personal friend of the band, I’ll recuse myself from a Frau Eva write up, but even the most impartial judge will tell you that they’ve been taking their blend of astral folk jazz rock to the next level. With the addition of a very capable bassist and steadier rhythms, Frau Eva is moving ever closer to approximating their version of a groove.