One of rock and roll's finest live acts is giving us a couple of chances to check 'em out this week. If you're already planning on seeing Opeth, Holy F--- or (Lone) Wolf and Cub on Wednesday and can't make it to Jaxx, the Supersuckers will be back in the area Saturday, performing at Ottobar in Baltimore.
The National, Monday at 9:30 Club ... The National, a mellow rock band that blends alt-country, chamber pop and Britpop, is one you've probably heard of by now. I am convinced that these guys will be on a major label soon, though given their independent following -- three shows at 9:30! -- maybe that won't be necessary. This band is a grower. Over the course of releasing two full lengths and an acclaimed EP, the group's fan base slowly swelled. The 2005 release "Alligator" saw the band reaching new heights, albeit still slowly. It can take a while to appreciate the nuances and subtle brilliance. "Boxer" was an extension of the previous record. There wasn't too much different, but the band continued creating little, hushed rock anthems. It's been a while, though, so hopefully they've got some new songs ready for us. This is the last of three sold out shows in D.C.
The Jet Age, Monday at Black Cat Backstage ... Local boys the Jet Age wear their shoegaze (Swervedriver) and post-punk (The Clean) influences on their sleeves, but this is a more straightforward garage band, with some power pop and proto punk thrown in the blender. I'd compare them to the Who, as well. They've got the grit and adrenaline of "Nuggets"-era psychedelic rock in their veins. With Mobius Strip and the Wax Standard to benefit Compassion Over Killing.
Supersuckers, Wednesday at Jaxx ... Supersuckers ain't young anymore, but they haven't lost their edge and adrenaline. It's hard to believe frontman Eddie Spaghetti and the boys are celebrating 20 years together. A rockabilly-loving, garage-punk group that celebrates the seediness of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll (and, of course, Satan), Supersuckers add a layer of grunge to roots rock. This is a white wedding of country and punk with its sights set on the open bar at the reception. They apparently have an aversion to D.C., though, as they usually skip our area and hit Ottobar (last year's Ottobar set was the best show I saw on the East Coast in 2008). This time, they're hitting Jaxx. If we want them to consider coming into the city next tour, let's go out to Virginia and represent ourselves well. The four Supersuckers are childhood friends from Tucson who have a good time on stage, which is key, and if they've been able to tolerate each other for so long, you know it's the real deal. The fun-lovin' attitude matches their style of hard rock. But if you can't make this show, maybe you can make Saturday's at the Ottobar.
Holy F*** and Crocodiles, Wednesday at the Rock and Roll Hotel ... Obviously, Toronto electro-rockers Holy F---'s name shows that they don’t give a f--- about mainstream success, and the music follows suit. It is edgier and more experimental than most electronic rock but just as hypnotic as anything on the market. The group consists of two drummers and three keyboardists, and their self-titled debut was a largely improvised set of songs. Expect the same at the show. Crocodiles is the latest entry into the lo-fi noise pop resurgence, only a year old -- with their debut LP only a month old -- but the duo of Charles Rowell and Brandon Welchez have been playing together for years, so Crocodiles is a well-thought-out project. A white noise shoegaze haze of distortion is the canvas for their lo-fi nü-wave and nightmarish droning with guitars that recall Spacemen 3 and rhythms borrowed from Suicide. "Summer of Hate" is one of the best albums of the year.
Opeth, Wednesday at Nightclub 9:30 ... Forget the Swedish Invasion, Stockholm's Opeth has been bringing frighteningly dark metal to the States for about a decade and a half. Leave the pop to the kids and the proggy death metal to the vets. Opeth's released a consistently strong string of albums, the latest being last year's "Watershed," which again found the band turning a new corner -- always experimenting but never being anything less than metal. With Enslaved.
(Lone) Wolf & Cub, Wednesday at the Red and the Black ... If Opeth is too Swedish death, Jaxx too far away and Holy F--- and Crocodiles too electro for you this night, Chicago's (Lone) Wolf & Cub is a great option. Too bad they're not playing Tuesday night. The Chicago quartet's also pushing metal, but melodic thrash metal. Hook-minded songwriting, layers of guitars and punk rock pace. And they can ably slow things down and ramp up the intensity for contrast. With Jefferson Place Crash, Hex Machine and Drugs of Faith.
A Camp, Thursday at Nightclub 9:30 ... The well-pedigreed, decade old underground supergroup A Camp seems poised to take the summer of 2009 by storm. Featuring Cardigans' singer Nina Persson and Atomic Swing's Niclas Frisk on guitar, the experimental pop project has been more off than on since 1997, but their on has been warmly received in Persson's home country Sweden. With her husband, Shudder to Think's Nathan Larson handling the bass, their 2001 self-titled LP won four Swedish Grammys, but the follow up just came out in February. The buzz is all positive about it and word seems to be spreading fast about their quirky pop. As you'd expect from a Persson record, the sound is sweet, but it's by no means your typical sappy or over-produced pop music.
Gist, Friday at the Velvet Lounge ... Gist made a name for itself on the local scene with music falling somewhere between art-punk and post-punk. The angular sounds are reminiscent of mid-'90s Dischord, but Gist's rock chops are more classic in nature. Singer Nayan Bhula's vocals might be perfect for an emo band if it weren't for that terrific David Thomas (Pere Ubu) warble. On their latest album for Red Stapler Records, "Conversations, Expectations," the band opts for more alt-pop hooks, making it a more accessible record. They open for The Courtesans and Secret Pop Band at a Courtesans record release show.
Toadies, Friday at the Black Cat ... Fort Worth alt-rockers Toadies are back in town AGAIN. The group scored one of the better one-hit-wonders of the '90s, '95's "Possum Kingdom," which featured one of the best and most recognizable guitar riffs of MTV's buzz clip era. The band found itself opening up for some of the '90s most loved alternative bands. Soon, though, its angry-voiced post-grunge had vanished from the scene. The band reappeared with a second major label album in 2001, then disappeared again. But here they are in D.C. for the third time in the past year or so, making another run off their latest LP, "No Deliverance."
1990s, Friday at the Rock and Roll Hotel ... In the late '90s, Yummy Fur broke up, which led to the creation of Franz Ferdinand, who I'm sure you're heard of. Maybe you haven't heard of 1990s yet, but you've probably heard their single "You're Supposed to Be My Friend." That song was all over the place when "Cookies" was released in the summer of 2007. This trio came from the other half of Yummy Fur, though it took about five years to form. This band is more playful and more light-hearted than Franz but just as danceable. It's also less post-punk and more pop rock. The cleaner production of the group's second LP, "Kicks," is a disservice to their music. Sapped of its toughness, the band sounds more like sap. Hopefully that's just a problem in the studio, not on the stage.
Britny Fox, Friday at Jaxx ... Philadelphia's top entry into the Hollywood hair metal scene of the '80s came along just a bit too late. The glammy bar band stole Cinderella's style, moved to L.A., stole Cinderella's guitarist, scored an MTV hit with "Long Way to Love" and promptly melted away with rest of that fading scene in the late '80s and early '90s. But they're still at it. Don't know if original singer Dizzy Dean is with them or his imitator, Tommy Paris, or another imitator -- matter of fact, I have no idea who's left in the band -- but for a trip down hairsprayed memory lane, you could do worse.
Isis and Pelican, Saturday at the Black Cat ... Isis is probably the most unique alt-metal band on the planet, playing ambient metal with electronic flourishes. "Ambient metal" may sound like "metalvator music," which may be true, but that's an elevator I'd love to be stuck on. Expect a lot of long, monolithic songs with as much texture and soft, melodic atmosphere as sludgy metal riffing. These songs are dense, brooding, emotive and absolutely epic. April's "Wavering Radiant" is as deliberately plotted as most Isis records, a roller coaster in slow motion, and Aaron Turner continues to include more singing and less growling in his vocals, which are as sparsely and specifically placed on the album as ever. Pelican is the titan of instrumetal music. Guitarists Trevor de Brauw and Laurent Lebec are the driving forces behind this band, and their work gets better with each album. The rhythm section leaves something to be desired, but the guitarists are intoxicating. It is metal, but it is thinking man's metal, blending stoner rock, doom metal and art rock, and the band drops some really heavy melodies. "Ephemeral" is due in June. Get a preview.
Supersuckers, Saturday at Ottobar ... If you miss Wednesday's show at Jaxx, here's your backup plan.