I don’t know how it happened- again – but I managed to attend a slew of worthwhile shows but kept them all to myself for a myriad of reasons. Of course, we all know I can keep my e-trap shut for long. They once again reflect my all over the place tastes – if strictly limited to white guys and girls playing guitars this go round – haha. Let’s get caught up, shall we?
The first excursion was to see my beloved Caribbean (no conflict of interest, but I was on hand to select a song or two to be spun between sets with the joy that is Jon Meyers from the Vinyl District.) Showing up early, I was rewarded with my initial viewing of Baltimore’s masterful Small Sur. We will have more on them in the near future but it is fair to say that all in attendance were taken with their slow building blanket of warmth, like a starry night filled with echoes in the canyon. The Caribbean followed with a bit more bite and continued their string of strong performances on the back stage of the Black Cat. Noisier and more combative, they still showcased all the pop smarts and clever wordplay that is their hallmark.
Sneaking in a few songs from their upcoming Fall release on Hometapes, “Discontinued Perfume,” we were all left counting the days for it’s arrival. Even more striking was the continued reinvention of existing material, perhaps best displayed by a blazing tear through “Do You Believe In Dinosaurs?” The growth has been dramatic, coming from a band whose songs would often be hindered by returning home from touring with louder and faster bands, The Caribbean now show off a playfulness with their sets that confirms their place as a must see.
Catching another show at the Black Cat’s back stage (far and away my favorite room at the moment) I took in the ramshackle interplay of Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby. Clearly enjoying their time on the stage, they played for well over two hours, trading funny asides with their decades of rough-edged pop gems and the occasional cover from their newest release.
My favorite part of their show had little to do with the music, but said everything about their charm. Setting up on the stage, they managed to surround themselves with equipment (employing a drum track and keyboards on a few occasions) but most importantly, they made it so that they were literally side by side, playing shoulder to shoulder. When asked about it later, Eric couldn’t recall the number of times Amy had popped him in the jaw with her guitar, it was so high – nor would he have it any other way.
My second favorite moment was witnessing the reverential way in which Eric’s classic “Whole Wide World” was treated by the entire club. The paying crowd of supporters certainly perked up as expected and Eric gave an inspired performance – if he has tired of playing it after all these years he doesn’t show it one bit. More importantly was seeing the bar and door staff all sneaking around the back to watch from the doorway of the inside bar/merch counter, peering through to take in a true bon a fide pop masterpiece being strummed by the man himself.
Playing a less obvious psychedelic swirl, Pocahaunted allowed me to take in the in progress re-furbished DC9. The new entry way allows for a more open room and just plain makes more sense and I am excited to see it all finished off upstairs. That’s not to say that they didn’t continue their little sound quirks or that the long stretch from the back dressing room to the stage isn’t still awkward at the beginning and end of a show, but it is certainly an improving venue.
Also improving is the band; circling around the husband and wife duo of Britt and Amanda Brown, and now a full-time concern with Cameron Stallones, Ged Gengras and live focal point Diva Dompe. They have made Pocahaunted a live experience that is just as muscular and groove-driven as it is experimental. Building through long vocal exchanges and Amanda darting in and out of the front of the stage and the mix, the groove becomes the backbone for them to drape 60’s riffs and keyboard excursions over like the scares covering the lights and mic stands on stage.
The show built steadily and despite the obvious chance that it could fall into camp, with the full dedication to the aesthetics of what they are doing, it ultimately comes across as a stronger presentation. Bare feet and dried fruit necklaces only bother me when the music doesn’t back up the declaration and Pocahaunted more than back it up – and while playing with a mystical dub bent, don’t take themselves too seriously and seem to be enjoying giving the audience the full ride. Finishing things off with painted faces and full band chant circles means that they might have displayed more style than the other acts I had seen that week, but it was the substance of all three of the shows that I was really taken with.