The Handsome Family
Art-rock legends old (Richard Lloyd) and new (Ponytail) lead to a weekend featuring a lot of dark and disturbing roots music.
The Foundry Field Recordings, Monday at the Red and the Black ... The Foundry Field Recordings is one of the most promising and pure young indie rock bands around. They're raised on mid-'90s college rock -- the heyday of indie -- remembering some of the heavyweights of that era -- Yo La Tengo, the Flaming Lips, Built to Spill, Pavement, Guided By Voices, etc. -- without sounding too much like any of them. It's refreshing considering the glut of angular neo-post-punk and nü wave out there these days. It's nice to move past the '80s again, even if it seems a little too soon. The Foundry Field Recordings mix Lips-style noise-pop experiments, GBV's wistful acoustic side, BTS-style guitar rock crescendos and the catchy lo-fi noise of the Velvet Underground as filtered through YLT and Pavement. Plus, they can tear through a dance groove better than those of the plentiful neo-post-punk, nü-wave and dance-punk bands they've set themselves apart from.
Richard Lloyd and the Sufi-Monkey Trio, Tuesday at Velvet Lounge … In Television, Richard Lloyd matched Tom Verlaine riff for riff, solo for solo, and helped kick start the punk scene at CBGBs. Seems almost criminal that one band could have two brilliant guitarists. It also seems criminal that Lloyd hasn't managed much of a solo career. As a songwriter, he is hit or miss, and he doesn't swing much, with only a handful of solo records under his belt, but he also proved his incredible value by helping Matthew Sweet launch his career and earn a rep for terrific live shows. When he isn't boosting someone else up, Lloyd is less power pop, less punk, less art rock and more traditional. He's a great blues rock guitarist. But only on 2007's "Radiant Monkey" did he show off consistently strong songwriting. His Sufi-Monkeys include Television drummer Billy Ficca. With The Moderate and Ottley!.
The Jet Age, Tuesday at DC9 … Local boys the Jet Age wears 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 the Wax Standard and the Interiors. Sonic Suicide Squad opens.
Tesco Vee and the Meatmen, Wednesday at DC9 ... The Meatmen were one of the most politically incorrect bands ever to record. Only G.G. Allin rivaled their scatological inappropriateness, and while Allin was a contemporary who surpassed the Meatmen's vile on-stage antics, it took him a few years to start dropping such controversial material while the Meatmen's first EP was titled "Crippled Children Suck." At the center of it all was Tesco Vee, a giant of a hardcore punk who'd fallen in love with bands like the Stooges and the MC5 when they came along in Michigan, his home. His fanzine Touch & Go spawned a label that still ranks among the most important and influential in underground music. Meanwhile, Vee and his ever-rotating cast of Meatmen recording the most tasteless songs they could conceive, with subject matter touching on bodily functions and insulting every group they could think of -- women, children, homosexuals, minorities and other punk bands. And while that's what they're primarily known for, it's a shame that it often overshadowed the music, which at its best stands up to any hardcore you can throw at it. With American Speedway, the Electricutions and Copstabber.
Ponytail, Thursday at DC9 … Baltimore's Ponytail is one of the most exciting new bands around -- something Baltimore is gaining a reputation before. The quartet's punk rock has ADHD and a sugar habit. It's fast, weird, exciting and surprisingly catchy. Elements of art rock, surf rock and ska are evident throughout, as is some jazzy guitar strumming, as long as you listen closely. Most intriguing about the group is vocalist Molly Siegel, who doesn't sing but instead yelps, screams, screeches, moans, hums, howls and growls. Occasionally she formulates words, but rarely are those words discernible. It could be a turn off to traditionalists, but it's impressive in its off-beat inventiveness. Definitely for fans of Deerhoof. With Imperial China and the Gagged.
Mecca Normal, Thursday at The Red and the Black ... Jean Smith and David Lester have forged one of the most abstract and fruitful musical partnerships of the past 25 years. Their minimalist noise folk is twee meets beat poetry. Basically, Mecca Normal gives you Smith's poetry spoken, sung and recited over Lester's cacophonous guitar, alternately jazzy, noisy, ambient and folky. It's as engaging as it is bizarre, and it serves as a sparse bridge between girl punks of the late '70s and early '80s like the Slits and the Northwest riot grrrl movement of the mid-'90s. "Dovetail" and "Who Shot Elvis?" are classic LPs -- the former finding the duo making some of their best thrashers and the latter for its change of direction into more acoustic territory.
Bowerbirds, Saturday at the Rock and Roll Hotel …Bowerbirds, a stripped-down, lo-fi affair, is the folk pop duo of Phil Moore on guitar and Beth Tacular on rudimentary accordion and percussion. It's just a bit too sunny to fall into freak folk, but it does carry that genre's combination of earthiness and eccentricity. With Bell.
Steve Forbert, Saturday at Jammin' Java …Folk-rock singer-songwriter Steve Forbert's career has stretched across four decades, but his only real chart success came in 1979 with "Romeo's Tune" (his only Top 40 single) and "Say Goodbye To Little Jo" (his only other charting single) from his second album, "Jackrabbit Slim," which went Top 20 itself. That album found a perfect blend of soft pop rock and Forbert's poetic songwriting, but he's been relegated to relative obscurity ever since. That hasn't stopped him from churning out some of the most underrated music around. In the years gone by, he's found a gruffer vocal style and is better off for it. Check out the mellow, rootsy Americana of 2000's "Evergreen Boy," or check out Forbert live in person at Jammin' Java for the release of the record "The Place and the Time Record."
Kurt Vile (Appearing at Day II of DNA Test Fest), Saturday at Velvet Lounge ... For me, the name that sticks out at the DNA Test Fest is Philly's Kurt Vile. He's not nearly as vile as his name suggests. He's a bedroom pop rocker, but he's devoted to some of the lowest of lo-fi recording -- muddy, hisses, vinyl-like pops, echoed vocals, bad mixes, lots of acoustics and instrumentals. It may sound juvenile, but the songwriting is strong. The fest shapes up like this:
?uestlove (DJ set), Saturday at Nightclub 9:30 ... Gotta believe a ?uestlove DJ set's gonna be hot. For some reason, the Roots drummer's live hip-hop band, one of the best hip-hop outfits around, is Jimmy Fallon's talk show band. Tired? Greedy? Who knows. I could ask ?s for days about the decision, but that shouldn't take away from the brilliant music they have put out. And ?uestlove is undoubtedly a music history scholar.
The Handsome Family, Sunday at Iota … Americana storytellers The Handsome Family are bringing their murder ballads back to Virginia. Married couple Brett and Rennie Sparks play splendid, down tempo alt-country, and their vivid stories are nothing but dark, some of the darkest songs around, and Brett's monotonous baritone is perfect for delivering Rennie's lyrics. There's nothing upbeat about this show, unless you revel in pain and tragedy, but it'll make you think and it'll make you feel.
Julie Doiron, April 26 at DC9 … Julie Doiron got her career in music going in 1990 as a bassist and vocalist for Canadian indie rockers Eric's Trip. When that group hung 'em up a little more than a decade ago, Doiron already had a host of acoustic material and quickly embarked on a consistent solo career. Her 2007 record, "Woke Myself Up," was almost an Eric's Trip reunion, with former bandmate Rick White producing and White, Mark Gaudet and Chris Thompson playing on the record. With their help, Doiron had a fuller sound, but it was definitely a Doiron album, not Eric's Trip revisited. Only White was involved with last month's "I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day," but it follows its predecessor's pattern of mixing gentle rock with ballads.
Russian Circles, Sunday at Ottobar … While Russian Circles is another post-rock band from Chicago, it's not just another post-rock band from Chicago. The instrumental trio is on the rockist side of the genre and almost approaches that cinematic epicness of groups like Mogwai and Godspeed You Black Emperor! Their sound features crazy, hyper drumming, heavy bass and guitar that varies from heavy strumming to prog noodling to soaring melody. With Sweet Cobra and Lichens.