Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What A Show!

Finally have a chance to sit down and share with you Sunday night's fun in Washington DC.  A venue I'd never been to before, one band I have become an absolute fanatic of, and one band whose material I'm just getting to know but am being blown away by - those are ingredients for a fun evening, and that's exactly what I got!

In my many years of seeing shows, I had never before actually seen the same band twice in a row.  The closest I had come was in 2010, catching Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine on a Friday night in Philly and a Sunday night in Baltimore of the same weekend, but that Saturday night I had seen Gorevette and The Donnas. What a weekend that was!  Well, check back-to-back shows by the same band off my bucket list, and the honors go to One-Eyed Doll (natch, if you've been paying attention lately)!  My last live show was One-Eyed Doll and Orgy in Baltimore last month; this weekend, I was lucky enough to see the dynamic Doll duo again, this time playing with the simply astounding Peelander-Z in DC at a cool little hole-in-the-wall called DC9.

My brother and I headed south early for the show, knowing we had a little over a two-hour drive and wanting to leave enough time to find the club, grab something to eat, and give ourselves enough of a buffer for unforeseen traffic issues (that 695 beltway can be a beast at times, even on weekends).  As it turned out, we pulled into DC with almost two hours to spare, and quickly found the block where DC9 is located, or should I say "hidden."  We circled the block at least five times, knowing that we had to be in the right place because we spotted Kimberly and Junior from One-Eyed Doll busily unloading their equipment.  Finally we located the club - a tiny, nondescript storefront tucked in among other businesses on 9th Street.  A few more circuits around the neighborhood helped us find parking, and we decided to just set up camp at DC9 for beers and burgers before the show.

When I describe DC9 as a "hole in the wall," I mean it in the best sense.  It doesn't look like much at first - in fact, with its dark interior and minimal signage, it almost looked like it was closed.  Right inside the street-level opening is a bar; on past it were about half a dozen old vinyl-upholstered booths.  The place looked straight out of the 1960s - there was even a working old-style cigarette vending machine (the kind where you pulled out the knob for the brand you wanted, for those old enough to remember when those machines were standard issue in bars and restaurants.)  My brother and I pulled up seats at the bar and enjoyed some really good sandwiches, fries, and fried pickles - a first for me.  There were two more levels to the place.  Our bartender, Jessica, told us the bands would be on the second floor, which she said was rated to hold up to 200 people (more about that later); there is also a roof-level deck, which we headed up to just before the show.  A nice enough place - I've certainly seen shows in less well-kept establishments!

At the point they opened the doors to the second floor for the show, my brother and I were two of four people waiting.  Junior had come out to say hello, and joked that "if it's just going to be the four of you, you'll get a great all-request show. We just need you to create a mosh pit in front of the stage." 
As it turned out, it was a small crowd.  I did a quick head-count at one point and there were about 30 people, but sometimes those smaller crowds lend themselves to better shows.  In the case of One-Eyed Doll, it really allowed Kimberly to interact with everyone throughout the set:  bringing one person on stage to sing "You're A Vampire" to him, dressing two more in costume for "Fight," having us vote for which song we wanted to hear by doing an odd running-in-place dance, and spinning us around to stare at the sound guy while she "surreptitiously" made an on-stage costume change (Kimberly: "La la la, nothing going on back here, keep looking at the sound guy, la la la...").  Throughout their set, she spent as much time in the crowd as she did on the small corner stage, and she seemed energized by the interaction.  Other than doing the standard opening with "Comitted," we got a completely different set than we did in Baltimore a month ago.  One-Eyed Doll continue to simply amaze. 

Now, I am going to try to describe Peelander-Z to you.  If you are familiar with the Japanese "Action Comic Punk Band," you already know what I mean when I say I will try to describe them: their show simply has to be seen - er, experienced - and even then you're left bewildered.  But, you're also left smiling, exhausted, and wanting more.  You want insanely catchy high-energy music?  They deliver that in bulk.  Sunday night they stormed through Peelander-Z standards like "So Many Mike," "Taco Taco Tacos," "Get The Glasses," and "S.T.E.A.K." at top speed, never missing a beat.  You want costumes?  They took the stage in Rezillos-esque space suits; band members and associates appeared dressed as masked Mexican wrestlers, giant squid-like monsters, and bowling pins.  You want crowd participation?  They had the entire crowd - literally every last one of us - take part in a massive simultaneous limbo beneath a rope held by people in tiger masks; they handed tin bowls and sticks to random fans to keep rhythm; the guitarist walked across the crowd's hands from the stage to the bar on the other side of the room and back; there were sudden baseball and bowling games; there was great celebration of those who, like me, were wearing glasses.  At one point, they pulled people up on the stage to take over for band members on guitar, bass and drums.  Then they wrapped up the whole night with an utterly unexpected but wonderful cover of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."

30 people (by the end of the night the number had grown to maybe 60-65) may sound like a low turnout, but honestly the second floor was not huge. Had there been many more it would have been uncomfortably crowded.  I can't imagine how the place could hold 200 people, regardless of what the bartender said!  But where many bands might have been discouraged or might have given half-effort performances given the small crowd, both One-Eyed Doll and Peelander-Z gave their all and made it a party-like atmosphere.

This was the kind of show that reminds me why I'm willing to travel to see a show in a tiny venue two hours away from home.  You can see a thousand and one wanna-be arena-rock bands who charge exorbitant ticket prices, tell everyone to "put your hands in the air," ask if you're "ready to rock," and run off the stage and hide in their dressing rooms never actually meeting their fans, much less interacting with them.  You can pay your money and sit in a seat and clap along politely, but for all that you might as well just listen to the CD at home.  But when you leave a show revved up, excited, exhausted, and chattering away about what you've just experienced; when you've actually been a small part of the show itself; when you get the chance to meet and talk with the bands and get the sense that they are just as eager to meet you as you are to meet them; and when you can do all that for a $10 ticket - well, why wouldn't you?

As always, I insist that you go see One-Eyed Doll when they play near you.  I also highly recommend experiencing Peelander-Z.  Easily two of the most fun bands I've seen in a long time.  As always, check the Facebook page for more pics from the show, and if you haven't already, please consider "liking" the page as well.

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