Tag Archives: black cat

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.

A Bit of Abbey Road Mayhem

By Charlie Carroll

ArtsPost staff writer

While the Beatles are widely known as one of the most influential bands of all time, it’s fair to say that their music lacked that extra bit of gritty “umph” found in many harder rock bands.  Enter Beatallica.  Taking the general song structures and lyrics of Beatles songs and seamlessly blending them with demanding Metallica riffs and thrashing guitar solos, Beatallica creates a unique musical experience that will leave you craving for more mayhem.  Supported by opening band Borracho, Beatallica rocked the backstage at The Black Cat this April 19 with the epic power of Lennon, McCartney, Hetfield and Hammett coursing through their veins.

Borracho opened the show on a somewhat lackluster note.  For the most part, the band simply sounds like a generic and unfortunately uninspiring mixture of metal giants Down and Brand New Sin.  The Washington-based band first came together in 2008 when members of local acts Adam West and Assrockers came together to experiment with a harder sound.  The band released their first single, “Rectify,” on a 7” split with Adam West and has since then recorded a number of other songs for a release on the indie label No Balls.

The D.C. metal band opened to a small crowd (if one could even call it that) with two dedicated metalheads headbanging up front for their entire set.  Despite their hard and heavy sound, the band appeared lifeless for the most part.  With the occasional head nod and bounce the members showed little movement as they worked their way through their set.  The lead guitarist, who looked like a retired Viking, showed the most enthusiasm, yet the music itself left much to be desired.  Although the band marched through their set with general applause and approval from the audience, the crowd amounted to no more than 20 or so people who were simply waiting for Beatallica to take the stage.

Once Borracho finished, it was time for the real show.  Donning regalia reminiscent of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album cover, the band took the stage and headed right into the song “The Battery of Jaymz and Yoko,” a clever, hard-hitting mix of Metallica’s “Battery” and Beatles’ “The Ballad of John and Yoko.”  The lead singer Michael Tierney began bouncing up and down, belting out the lyrics in a voice that sounded eerily close to Metallica’s James Hetfield.  As Tierney bounced up and down, lead guitarist Jeff Hamilton stood nonchalantly to his left, effortlessly manipulating the guitar neck to produce intricately ear-splitting solos.

The crowd quickly grew and began rocking out, completely in love with the marriage of the band’s hilarious lyrics and appearance with fast and heavy musical prowess.  The dedication of their fans, affectionately known as Beatallibangers, explains how the band shot from obscurity into an international cult fan following nine years ago.  After getting his hands on a copy of the group’s debut EP “A Garage Dayz Nite,” a Milwaukee fan made a web site for the band in 2001.  The band gave the site its seal of approval the following year after meeting its creator and learning about all of the fan mail that had been sent to him.  The viral internet phenomenon led the band to international tours and the release of their debut full-length album, “Sgt. Hetfield’s Motorbreath Pub Band” in 2007.  They even recorded an album comprised entirely of renditions of the song “All You Need is Blood” in 13 different languages.  In 2009 they released their second album “The Masterful Mystery Tour.”

The band dominated the stage with songs like “Sandman,” “Revol-ooh-tion,” and “Leper Madonna.”  A few songs into the set the band members removed their jackets to reveal 1970s-style hippie dresses, with the bassist’s covered in marijuana leaves and the singer admittedly wearing one of his grandmother’s dresses.

Beatallica had the crowd singing along for such classics as the slow and brooding “Ktulu (He’s So Heavy),” and anthemic “Hey Dude.”  In addition to these songs, the band also played a couple of songs that failed to make the cut for “Masterful Mystery Tour,” such as the eternally metal, yet wholly politically incorrect, “Please Please Me or I’ll Beat You.”  Beatallica straddles the line of impropriety with their metal songs about partying and beer-drinking, but they do it successfully with a comical tongue-in-cheek style that is sure to ensnare and convert any music fan into a metalhead for a night.