The Music Snob
Your guide to D.C.'s live music scene

Music Snob's Weekly Concert Picks

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Pat Graham
    Frodus

    Frodus, One of D.C.'s best bands of the '90s, returns to the Black Cat stage Saturday.

    John Vanderslice, Tuesday at the Black Cat ... Vanderslice is an experimental power pop genius -- a unique, quirky songwriter who always finds the perfect musicians with whom to collaborate. There are some elements of classic Southern rock and prog in his music, but really, these are power pop songs played with jazz sensibilities. The songs are smart, bittersweet and earnest. He's never made a bad record and hit his creative stride with 2004's "Cellar Door." Vanderslice's 2005 album, "Pixel Revolt," was a revelation, the full realization of his highly-imaginative songwriting. "Emerald City" was a more organic (less electronic) an extension of "Pixel Revolt's" conceptual post-9/11 two-steppin'. May's "Romanian Names" fails to advance his catalog much, and as such it is a slight step back, but it's still in the running for best pop record of the year thanks to Vanderslice's idiosyncratic songwriting. With the Tallest Man on Earth.

    Vandaveer, Tuesday at DC9 ... Vandaveer is the folk-pop project of Mark Charles Heidinger, another member (my favorite) of the Federal Reserve Collective, a group of like-minded bands and musicians forging their own local scene -- one that impresses me more and more with every act I hear. His somewhat freaky folk songs are passionate, thoughtful and witty at once.

    The Aggrolites, Thursday at DC9 ... This is ska as it should be. The mid-'90s had bands trying to recreate the music of ska revivalists The Specials and The English Beat, but that was just pop borrowing from the first retro ska scene. The Aggrolites reach back and find Jamaica like no band in decades. But there's still a layer of grit and a party atmosphere keeping the sound fresh. This is as authentic as you'll find in the States these days.

    Future Islands, Thursday at Velvet Lounge ... Baltimore-North Carolina group Future Islands is destined for bigger things -- note their opening slot for Dan Deacon at 9:30 Club. Fans of nü-wave will love this. Others should, too, because it is weirder than most nü-wave, catchier than most nü-wave and better than most nü-wave. It is synth-first electro-rock with a great live beat.

    Huey Lewis and the News, Thursday at Wolf Trap ... This may be a guilty pleasures choice, but so be it. Of all the pop-rock bands of the '80s, Huey Lewis and the News was one of the most memorable, and deservedly so. Despite their suits and their '80s anthems, this was a blue collar band, a bar band. They played straightforward rock and roll born of punk and indebted to '60s R&B. "Sports" was one of the best albums to come out of the decade.

    New York Dolls, Friday at Nightclub 9:30 ... There is no arguing the influence of the New York Dolls on rock music, but since they've been touring recently, I've not felt any compulsion to see them. Three of the five band members are dead, but despite that, if all were alive except Johnny Thunders, who died about 15 years ago, it's just not the same band. All due respect to singer David Johansen, it was Thunders who made the band with both his style and guitar playing. Nevertheless, this is one of my favorite bands of all time, and a chance to see Johansen sing those classic songs is a chance that shouldn't be missed.

    Frodus, Saturday at the Black Cat ... The band that best kept D.C. kept hardcore relevant in the '90s was Frodus. In opposition to the pop-punk that exploded in the '90s after grunge, Frodus embraced hardcore punk but experimented with it for a sound they called spazzcore. Jarring and stuttering instrumentation played with frantic instrumentation backed singer Shelby Cinca's clear but shattering screaming, and the group never relied on straight punk, always blending multiple styles.

    Praxes Dudes Fest, Saturday at the Velvet Lounge ... Billed as an international collective of contemporary avante garde performance art, poetry and music, Praxes Dudes Fest features some terrific experimental artists from D.C., New York, Buffalo, Portland, Providence and England. And a special performance by Baltimore band Lampduck. For an outsider show, Lampduck seems like an odd choice considering that they aren't nearly as weird as the Wham City acts of their hometown. Their music is closer to the vest rock and roll and it's terrific. Think of the mid-'90s underground rock born of early-'80s American post-rock. And don't miss the set by local noisemonger Chris Grier. The guitarist makes beautiful experimental noise and has played with the like-minded likes of Thurston Moore, Mike Watt, Kohoutek and To Live and Shave in L.A.

    Camera Obscura, Sunday at Nightclub 9:30 ... Glasgow's Camera Obscura has been crafting the kind of indie pop that Scottish bands play better than anyone for a decade -- earning high praise from the late, great anointer John Peel in the early 2000s -- but it wasn't until "Let's Get Out of This Country" was released that the band started to make serious noise stateside. And that album, their third, was one of the best of 2006 -- an instant pop-rock classic. April's "My Maudlin Career" continues in that territory, but as it doesn't change things much, it doesn't rise quite so high. As do the like-minded Scots of Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura alternates wistfulness, joy, warmth, innocence and romance with lush instrumentation and the tender sweetness and (sometimes) heartache of Tracyanne Campbell's vocals. At the core is '60s California pop and cleaned up Motown R&B played with shambling dreaminess. With Anni Rossi.

    Buddy Guy and Susan Tedeschi, Sunday at the Wolf Trap ... Chicago's reigning blues king is a disciple of B.B. King, and while his style isn't original, Buddy Guy's skill and talent make him (possibly) the greatest blues guitarist of all time. Add to it his tortured vocal style and the Louisiana native offers a perfect BBQ of the blues. His fast-paced fretwork helped lay the groundwork for the '60s blues rockers who redefined rock and roll. Once known for high-energy stage shows, Buddy Guy is pushing 73, so I wouldn't quite expect the same excitement -- I wouldn't even expect the same frenetic playing -- but age shouldn't take away from his vocal style, so you should still feel the blues when you hear him sing. He's paired here with a relative young'n on the blues circuit. Though only 38, Susan Tedeschi sings and plays blues beyond her years. And she does it with sass that matches her sex appeal. Though she relies on R&B and blues covers, her originals stand up, and her gospel back ground is infused throughout.

    War, Sunday at the Birchmere ... You know War well, but do you realize what an odd beginning they had and how their continuation is even stranger. Following his acclaimed career fronting the Animals, Eric Burdon decided to turn to funk. With Danish harmonica player Lee Oskar in tow, Burdon searched L.A. for a band, found Nightshift and declared War. More eclectic than other funk bands, War blended rock, reggae, R&B and Latin rhythms into their music. But not long after Burdon put the project together in '69, he exited in the early '70s, but having already established the group and helped them find their groove, War continued to drop a string of hits through the '70s, from the novelties ("Low Rider," "Why Can't We Be Friends") to the chill grooves ("The World Is a Ghetto," "Slippin' Into Darkness") and no matter how cool their vibe ("The Cisco Kid") or epic their jam ("Tobacco Road"), they always remained socially conscious. It was an unlikely grouping but a smashing success.