I temporarily forfeited my DIY scene credibility Thursday night and went to a show at the DC venue, DC9. I went there to see the esteemed California US metal bands, Ludicra and Hammers of Misfortune. Long-time local NOVA grind heavy-weights, Drugs of Faith were supposed to open this one, but scheduling conflicts forced them to drop out at the last minute.
This marks the first time Ludicra has ever played the east U.S. coast (!). Ludicra has been around for a while, and plays a form of progressive, sludgy, blackened metal. I haven’t heard the band’s newest release, but the set was killer, caustic and brutal — with no real breaks between songs; each piece transitioned smoothly into the next, with a variety of elements in sludgy doom, fast melodic “buzz-saw” tremolo progressions, lead guitar shredding, and harsh dual vocal trade-offs. Their compositions are interesting in that they branch away from the contemporary emotional appeals of extreme metal, which are usually overtly violent, ominous, or melancholy. Ludicra does touch upon similar feelings, but strikes at them with hints of dark cleverness, fun and charm, rather than desperation (their logo is a good indication of this — a black metal logo shaped like a ‘roach).
Hammers of Misfortune plays catchy, well-crafted, epic songs reminiscent of ’70s proto-metal prog bands (Uriah Heep is the most consistent comparison people make). Their studio work is really excellent, though I found Ludicra’s live performance to be the more interesting of the two. Hammers of Misfortune is a very good band, but their set was more restrained and a bit formal in comparison to Ludicra’s. In other words, they sounded just like they do on their recordings (which does mean they were pretty awesome!). And I did really dig the extended harmonized jam sections, especially the ones using the Hammond organ to lead the melody, and the live set was very tight and smoothly meshed the vocal abilities of three different singers.
Both bands share their lead guitar player (John Cobbett), are fronted by female singers, and come from the San Francisco area. Together they headlined the first day of Filth City Fest at the Talking Head in Baltimore yesterday (Friday, August 14), which I meant to see, but ended up not making that drive at the last minute (I was totally worn out and brutalized by the Magrudergrind/Asshole Parade show and then fell backwards into a deep melancholy upon discovering a freshly pressed parking ticket on my automobile windshield). Both of these bands are pretty legit and I’m always glad when west coast metal bands take the plunge and tour the east coast. There’s been so much awesome metal coming from the US west coast in recent years; it’s really a shame we get to host so few of them for concerts.
The turnout was pretty light. DC9 (like sister clubs, Red and the Black, and the Rock ‘N Roll Hotel) cannot host a huge number of people, but the crowd was a little sparse for bands of this quality. Part of the issue is that the DIY metal and punk scenes generally do not support these three clubs, nor most clubs situated in the U and H street corridors, for the clientele they cater to, and the lack of all-ages shows. Indeed, this show was 18+ only (although for what reason I could not surmise), and as far as I could tell, the show wasn’t promoted very much.
The band members were all very amiable off-stage. Aesop (who plays drums in Ludicra) was super personable. Besides Ludicra, recently Aesop has been playing drums for the fantastic Portland-based metal band, Agalloch, and has also become well-known as of late for his amazing music blog, Cosmic Hearse. In fact, Cosmic Hearse is a little too good — it has gotten so well-known that little musical peckerwoods (such as myself) talk his ear off at every stop of the tour (and about his blog — not his band!). Oh well — such is the name of the game for a 21st century rock ‘a rolla man.
DC music scene-wise, I was happy to run into Beck (of Turboslut) and Dedman, as well as Rich from Drugs of Faith, plus once-local cool cat, Mikey T (of Tradition Dies Here). Mikey has been rarely espied for the past year, the duration of which he’s spent questing and leveling up in the world outside DC’s city walls. All the folks I got to chat with that night were super rad; kudos to them for deftly dodging the awkward strands of conversational spaghetti I hurled in their direction!
And so goes the story of how yet another quality metal show snuck through DC virtually unnoticed. Thanks for playing, guys! A handful of us appreciated it a lot. –CRM