Category Archives: Uncategorized

Double Dagger Tears Up the Back Stage

By Charlie Carroll

ArtsPost staff writer

Image Courtesy of Double Dagger website

If you were looking for a dance party that runs the gamut of dramatic physical expression, then The Black Cat was the place to be April 22.  Ranging from the synthpop style of Future Islands to the raucous punk mashing of Double Dagger, the Black Cat came alive for one of the week’s biggest and liveliest shows.

The first artist to hit the stage was Ed Schrader, an odd percussionist whose erratic screaming vocals and drawn out bass moaning stood out from the rest of the performers.  Using nothing more than a kick drum, a microphone and a lamp, Schrader rumbled his way through a number of songs.  He created a mysterious persona.  At first glance he appeared to look pretty anti-rock and nerdy with a striped button-down tucked into a pair of khaki pants.  But once the room went dark (save for a single light shining up on his face from the drum) Schrader pounded away on the drum, screaming and chanting.  While Schrader’s act is very unique, the music itself just felt loud, ill-fitting and at times uncomfortable.  At the very least, Schrader’s sound contains that rare quality where you either love it for its bold rejection of mainstream musical norms or you hate it for sounding like a crazy man with a pair of drumsticks in his hands.  Despite his strange act the crowd still seemed to enjoy the enigmatic figure that is Ed Schrader.

The crowd stirred up as Future Islands took the stage, turning the backstage into a fun dance party.  Future Islands takes the emotional vulnerability and synthpop sound of the classic new wave genre and injects it with a heavy dose of raw vocal power.  While the bassist and keyboardist stand still for their performance, the band’s whole show is centered on singer Sam Herring.  Herring pours his heart, body and soul into each song, weaving tales of heartbreak and introspection through the air like a Shakespearian actor.  At one moment, with lips quivering and arms extended, he asked the audience to open their hearts.  The next minute he then fell to his knees, beating his chest to force out his gravelly voice.

Once Double Dagger took the stage, the audience was ready to turn the Black Cat on its head.  The drum-and-bass punk trio from Baltimore exploded onstage in a whirlwind of cacophony, energy and destructively beautiful musical power.  As drummer Denny Bowen tore into his drumset I felt as if my ears were going to bleed from the sheer loudness of the snare and cymbals.  Bassist Bruce Willen threw his instrument around like a madman while singer Nolen Strals contorted his body and wandered in and out of the audience.  Don’t let the glasses fool you, these guys come to a show prepared to tear your face off.

Double Dagger has produced two full albums and several EP’s since the breakup of Strals’ and Willen’s former band League of Death in 2002.  The name Double Dagger doesn’t always get tossed around as much as it deserves, but once discovered will change your life.  Their live performance is nothing less than amazing and forces you to pay attention.  The group has received praise from a number of music critics and even toured with such high-profile acts as The Buzzcocks.

Only a minute into the first song the crowd was converted into one expansive and seething mosh pit, with fans running around and furiously punching the air.  The strength of the pit was especially surprising considering the small size of the room itself.  Strals strolled in and out of the crowd to join in the moshing community.  Whether he was grinding on some unsuspecting woman or wandering aimlessly with a blank stare painted on his face, Strals’ interaction with the crowd will remind you of the beauty of small shows.  Too often fans are forced to stand at a distance from a band in stadiums, concert halls and other venues.  The beauty of Double Dagger’s performance lies in the fan’s visceral connection with the band as both sides of the music experience collided in a celebration of life and community.

The Coathangers Can’t Stop Stompin’

By Charlie Carroll

ArtsPost staff writer

In the 1980s, D.C. was the home of a thriving punk scene that churned out such legends as Fugazi and Bad Brains.  While the capital’s rock scene has seen its share of ups and downs throughout the years, it remains ever-friendly to up-and-coming punk bands.  On April 21, in true punk tradition the Black Cat hosted Atlanta rockers The Coathangers along with Sick Sick Birds and (stop worrying and) Love the Bomb.

The night started with a short, yet fun and energetic set by the Washington punk band (stop worrying and) Love the Bomb.  The local group got the crowd riled up with their fast, battling punk guitar riffs and gritty screaming vocals.  It was a bit refreshing to see classic punk spirit and song structures alive and well, with all of its members showing a passion for the genre.  Beginning a number of their songs with the classic “1, 2, 3, 4!” countdown and strumming away with the occasional amp feedback, the group’s stripped-down songs provided a fun introduction to the rest of the night.

The crowd soon grew as Baltimore rockers Sick Sick Birds took the stage, providing their own brand of upbeat garage punk.  The band was riddled with technical difficulties, but as lead singer Mike tended to his guitar, the rest of the band traded clever banter back and forth with the audience about old television sitcoms like Coach and Cheers.  Once the guitar was completely in tune, the singer returned to the mic and busted right back into his excitement, jumping up and down and belting out lyrics with the perfect complementary vocals of his band mates.

Unfortunately for the headlining band, the crowd began to dissipate after the Sick Sick Birds left the stage.  The loyal, local following of the two opening bands translated into a severe loss for The Coathangers.  Although they played to a crowd that was probably no larger than 20 or so people, the all-girl four piece from Atlanta played their hearts out for the fans that stuck around.

Upon hearing their name, it is obvious that these four girls could care less about being prim and proper.  With songs titles like “Nestle in My Boobies” and “Suck My Left One,” these girls hit the stage with ferocity and high-squealing vocals that point a middle finger at anyone doubting their abilities.  The band got its start in 2006 after playing a joke show at a house party and released their first 7” in 2007.  Since that time they have produced two full-length albums, the latest of which was 2009’s “Scramble” on Suicide Squeeze Records.

As the band set up their equipment, it was hard to tell just how much energy they would put into the show.  Keyboardist Bebe Coathanger stood quietly behind her instrument, staring around the room, seemingly disinterested and in a daze.  However, as soon as the music kicked in she came to life.  Throwing her unkempt hair from side to side and contorting her face as she screamed into the microphone, Bebe danced and played her way through the set with explosive energy.  Bassist Minnie laid down her bass grooves in the back while guitarist Crook Kid bobbed up and down and drummer Rusty beat her drumset to death.

It’s almost impossible to define the sound of The Coathangers, minimalist in a lot of respects but energetic and chaotic.  The slower “Stop Stomp Stompin’” quickly transitioned into the fierce, garage sound of “Getting Mad and Pumpin Iron” in which the girls proudly proclaim that they’ll “break your f***** face.”  Their in-your-face attitude and lively stage presence resembles a persona closer to The Runaways than The Donnas, proving that an all-girl band can truly rock out with as much audacity and irreverence as any male counterpart out there.