So I was lucky enough to catch Youth Lagoon on Saturday, March 24, at Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington, D.C., along with my friend Travis (you might remember him as the pioneer of the Gaga Challenge) and our music-loving wifeys. The following Friday, our better halves proved that the “better” is short for “better judgement,” as both of our spouses decided to rest up in Richmond in preparation for the Monument 10K, while Travis and I espoused certain sleep deprivation and inflated race times by driving west to Charlottesville with my buddy Josh to catch Reptar at the Southern. Both shows were great, and there was something especially cool about seeing one up in Travis’ neck of the woods and one closer to Richmond inside of a week (OK, so Charlottesville isn’t exactly my neck of the woods, but ever since the Jefferson started stealing a sizable percentage of the good central VA shows, it’s starting to feel that way… but I digress). I thought a fun way to report back on this mini concert series would be for Travis and me to do some yearbook-style superlatives, so let’s dive right in…
You know what’s fun? Getting a sneak preview of something. There’s nothing like mixing exclusivity with instant gratification. Simply deee-vine. In just a second, I’m going to pass along a not-so-sneaky trick for getting your grubby paws on new tunes before they’re released, one that doesn’t involve going around the artist’s back and finding an involuntarily leaked copy.
Here’s the totally above-board trick… if it’s feasible, go see the band whose album you’re salivating over. Not only will you probably hear how the new material sounds live, you may even walk away with the album in hand. This happened late last year at the RVA Music Festival, when the Trillions were selling advance copies of their new album (which is fantastic), and it happened again his past Saturday night when I saw Dana Buoy open for Youth Lagoon at the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington D.C. During his set, Buoy proprietor Dana Janssen, who is also the percussionist for a group called Akron/Family, announced that even though his debut solo album Summer Bodies isn’t out yet (it won’t be until May 8), advance copies were available for purchase at the merch table.
What do the mountains of northeastern Afghanistan and proggy math rock have in common? For starters, they’re both wild places where seemingly anything can happen. They’re also both extremely rocky (sorry, I had to). Most importantly, they share an essential quality that largely defines them: inaccessibility. Just as the Korangal Valley in Afghanistan wouldn’t be so wild if it wasn’t a remote, mountainous deathtrap for invading armies, experimental rock wouldn’t be experimental if it didn’t push the envelope of what is conventionally considered possible and palatable. Avid enthusiasts of complex, time signature-shredding music may say, “Hell yeah! That’s the best part!”, but for bands who aim to make a good living playing this type of music, it seems like a tough line to walk. How do you keep pushing the envelope without pushing people away? How???
I had the pleasure of seeing that question asked and successfully answered when Battles performed at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. this past Sunday night. Battles is a very special band, boasting outsized doses of creativity, musicianship and precision, as well as one of the best drummers I’ve ever seen (please put seeing John Stanier in person on your musical bucket list — he’s nothing short of otherworldly), all of which help them construct songs that are unique and intellectually challenging. Think musical abstract (but not too abstract) painting. But throughout Sunday’s show, it became more and more evident that the band has a special knack for connecting with their audience, as well.