A Hawk & a Hacksaw - Dark Dark Dark - Pillars & Tongues @ Red Palace, Washington DC, Oct 4, 2011.
Pillars & Tongues - One of my former home towns, Chicago, sends us this intriguing trio. With a line-up of Harmonium/vocals, Violin/vocals, and Bass/drums/vocals, there is a natural musical progression to follow--drone. They do employ some drum machine beats and there are thoughtful compositions and vocals here, so it is far from a simple drone experience. It has a dreary Americana at dusk feeling at times and a bit of a Velvet Underground without the striking Lou Reed compositional flair. This is creative music, arty yet accessible, and not easily comparable to many of the bands I listen to. A pretty awesome beginning for the first of three out of town bands tonight.
Dark Dark Dark - Of course they are not as dark as I was expecting. Instead, they provide quality singer songwriter material with another twisted take on the Velvet Underground meets rural America that was also explored earlier. But the sound is quite different here. Female vocals lead the way from the pianist. Some male vocals come in mostly from the clarinetist who also plays some banjo. Accordions, guitars, drums and more fill out the sound.
This five-piece has three members switching positions, but the sound remains the same (aside from the instrument choices). There is a nice mix of good technical playing with careful soundscape construction which lifts the odd Americana indie folk-rock sound a bit higher than many bands manage. It still keeps a certain amount of roots and is not quite so weird as much of the New Weird America. The set might have been a tad long at 50 minutes both for this band and the headliners who lost a little bit of this large crowd due to it being a Tuesday night show.
A Hawk & a Hacksaw - It had been a long and successful night already and my legs and back are aching which is usual for me at this club, but I would soldier on for at least a half a set. Well, within a few songs that plan was abandoned and I played through the pain to get the full 55-minute set of this Albuquerque quartet (formally a duo with two guests on tour). One guy played bass drum and cymbal, another on accordion, while a third played trumpet, percussion and 2nd accordion. A woman did most of the vocal work when the work was to be done but also played a dazzling violin and a really cool horn-violin. She pulled strings through the strings of the latter instrument creating a really bizarre sound.
It did not take long to realize that three of these players had dazzling abilities to play with pace and feeling. The drummer was fine as well but did not have as much to showcase his abilities aside from handling the uptempo beats. I would be curious how it would sound with a full kit, but if they are happy with this, it works just fine. They remind me of Boiled in Lead when BiL did the fast gypsy music, plus the instrumentation looked similar. Well, also one of the songs had the exact melody of BiL's "Rasputin" where it is probably some Russian folk melody. Gypsy music, klezmer, even some mariachi sounds worked its way into this fun mix. I would say this band has more dynamic shifts and control than Gogol Bordello who plays with far more abandon. This music was catchy and easily induced a bit of dancing and hand clapping and more smiles than the previous bands. Fun music and a nice ending on a great night of music at the Red Palace.
First published @ dcrocklive.blogspot.com.
Photo Credits: (1) A Hawk & A Hacksaw (unknown).