Saturday, August 14, 2004

The Velvet Teen @ DC9, 8/13/04

... so I finally put aside my fear and disgust of crowds and people in general and made my way out in the cruel cold world - but not before another wonderful weekend METRO IS OPENING DOORS experience, sitting on concrete benches, watching a skinny bespeckaled, ah, gentleman harass girls (and get harassed by the metro cops), tick, tick, (the green line will arrive in 19 minutes)...tick, tick... oh, look someone thoughtfully left behind a 1991 Bronco Auto manual, that took all of two seconds to hold my interest... oh, wait, what's happening, the car is being packed in like sardines at Chinatown with people clutching Prince Musicology CDs. Oh, it's 1130 and PRINCE has left the building and so have several thousand suburbanites.... get up and offer my seat to the senior citizen PRINCE fan and then roll my way through the crowd of PRINCE FANS (who totally seem like they just got back from a Ernest movie, very blase') - sorry folks, I'll think I'll wait until he shows up at my doorstep selling copies of The Watchtower but WAH let me out, now!

.... finally, I'm at SHAW... ah, wonderful gentrifying SHAW... where a turn up the wrong alley could mean a roll in the shattered glass or an offer of a spliff. I'm totally disoriented and first start heading into Slumville and then turn around once I realize my mistake (seeing an ominous cigarette glowing in a shadow out of a corner of my eye)... I head UP 9th street through narrow sidewalks until I finally reach the bottom part of the whole U STREET scene (which, on the whole, is probably the best part of town on a weekend - just for sheer diversity of things to do), count off addresses and there's DC9, a venue characterized by a dark (and I mean dark) smoky bar on the first floor (with a huge, and I mean huge, digital jukebox) and then you go through a curtain to the second floor which is about the size of a two-bedroom apartment where the band is just starting.

OK, why VELVET TEEN and not, say, A.C. NEWMAN (whom I believe is in town) and obviously the cool kids dude of choice? Well, I wanted something a little smaller, perhaps more chill-out material - it's been a bad week. Boss on vacation for second week and me playing bartender (i.e., temporary boss) to the borderline sociopaths, cranky old farts and temperamental geniuses at my workplace AND we're in the middle of a complex and frustratingly difficult demonstration.

So after perusing their website, I settled up on these boys and this venue as the closest to giving me something different and without all the 930/Black Cat crowded to the gill with scenesters drama. Ordered a beer, lucked upon a booth being vacated so I even got to sit through their 90 minute set of mostly Dreemo, lush open piano petal type stuff - didn't get to see much of the band but I usually close my eyes anyway and enjoy the "you-are-there" sound. VT are a three piece - drummer, bassist and a pianist/guitarist/lead vocalist - it seems like for their newer songs he plays piano and their older songs are guitar. Some of their songs are VERY good, tight - complex, with surprises here and there. Other songs are, well, not so memorable. I suppose there's a line, not a particularly fine line mind you, between this lush/dreemo Cutie sound and say groups like schmaltz-rawkers Nickelback or say original emo-boy Michael Bolten and occasionally Velvet Teen take a nosedive towards said line.

Not to say they don't play hard at the "pent-up emotional outburst" sections, and provide some good aural heroin to more than make up for the $8 cover... they've also found themselves a great new drummer, by the by, who plays on one of those '60's styles 4-piece, 2-cymbals, 1-hi hat set-ups and still makes it sound new and different each show. And the muscular confidence of their set suggests they aren't some Califahnyah emo-boys (or as the Govenator says "girlie-men") as some have made 'em to be. I'm not sure I'm what you would call a fan but they got my interest and are more energetic live than their MP3s from their latest Elysium make out.

By the way, according to Velvet Teen Judah "The Americas [who opened] were fucking awesome."

Here's a quick link to some of their better MP3s:

A Captive Audience

The Velvet Teen

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