Hole in the Sky is a new assisted living community and occasional venue in Northeast DC. It is populated mostly by refugees of the 3rd St. Co-op, an intentional living community / venue which housed some all-stars and hosted some good shows in its year of existence. The lease at 3rd St. was up, the piece was cashed, and the leaders of the new school accordingly found a happenin’ new spot. Hey!
The place they call HITS. is exactly what this Godforsaken town needs: HITS appears well on its way to becoming a perfect spot for bigger, but not huge, shows.
Basement shows at the CF and big shows at Saint Stephen’s are great, but this is a mid-range venue which could comfortably fit 200-250 people, or more (which is about the upper limit for a typical well-attended D.I.Y. show, anyway).
This was the new venue’s third hit from the show bong (or so I overheard while eavesdropping); I also heard some big hardcore shows are in the works for the space.
Backstage, HITS is delightfully appointed, and clean. There was some warm beer left behind by Alec MacKaye himself (or his associates), because HITS hosted an art event for an Alec MacKaye-affiliated group the previous evening (or so I was told). HITS normally doesn’t allow drinking during shows (or so I was told) – a smart move, without doubt – but at this show, everyone was drinking. I felt like I was at the U-Turn, ha.
The temperature inside HITS was not hellishly broiling, which was a nice touch.
I arrived during the Holiday Band’s set. This was the most indie act I’d seen in ages, and HB peddles the kind of indie I like: HBand sounded at times something like Sunny Day Real Estate or the Pixies, but mostly they sounded like Modest Mouse (more informed sources say they sound more like Built to Spill; I, of course, don’t know that band).
Anyway, like Modest Mouse, HBand offers varied, herky-jerky caterwauling, and they herk it and jerk it with skill, aplomb and with a barrage of understated hooks. They employ multiple vocalists. At one point they did a southern rock-style interlude, and I cracked a wry grin until I realized they were serious. At that point, they sounded kind of like Skynard crossed with Modest Mouse. Basically, if you’re intrigued by the idea of a band which sounds like the Best of Modest Mouse, or like Modest Mouse playing with John Frusciante or with Lindsey Buckingham, HBand is a solid bet. This band is from Bloomington, Indiana and features a member of Good Luck (or so I was told). B+
Chinese Telephones got the crowd moving. I counted the crowd during their set: a mere three dozen souls. The ’Phones, from Milwaukee, play pop-punk with a melancholy edge (which is also known as up-tempo alternative rock), and proffer some cool guitar leads and vocal harmonies. As previously indicated, this band got the audience dancing, and why wouldn’t it? Often, CT sounds something like the Max Levine Ensemble crossed with the Replacements. This band could have been huge in ’95 and hell, could even be big today (with, of course, the right management and attitude). One dude from the band told me afterward that he considers the project to be simply “pop music,” which, though accurate, is potentially kind of a cop-out (naturally, I didn’t say this to his face). Everything from Jay-Z to Frank Sinatra is pop music. Is there no other artistic or social movement with which he identifies more than “popular songs”? I guess I’ll never know.
The Guilt played last. I have seen the Guilt several times and I’ve been on cordial terms with James D, the band’s Johnny Ramone, since ’06 if not earlier. James has been in a few moderately locally well known bands (including Profound Brutality), is a native of the Tenleytown area, and is understated in his personal affect. At this show he was clad in a Pietasters shirt.
Due to their pedigree, quality, and consistency, the Guilt are at the forefront of the DCHC scene. They’re at the top of the heap. They’re the flowers in the dustbin. They’re the poison in the human machine. They come by it honestly, taking music seriously without trying to “make it big” or otherwise being lame. Their songs don’t have many “hooks,” but instead unload punishing volleys of complex, serrated, somewhat unique high-speed riffs (sorry for using so much technical musical jargon!): It’s basically a creative take on traditional hardcore punk reminiscent of everyone from the Dead Kennedys to Sick of It All (please make know mistake: I know those reference points only serve to demonstrate my woefully limited knowledge and insight); the singer, Danny Koniowsky, screams hard the whole time.
The other dudes in the Guilt are James’ brother Joey DB (Ex-Mass Movement of the Moth, current Ingrid), and, new to the Guilt, Alex Attas (Ex-Black Powder Fuzzbox, Ex-Fine Lines). AA is holding down the low-end for the Gs, replacing the dearly-departed Miguel. Miguel was a very good bassist. He will not be soon forgotten by true Guilt fans, or by the other members of the band.
This was Joey D’s last gig before bowing out of the Guilt (they are dropping like flies), and in typically understated Guilt fashion, they didn’t make a big deal about it at all: This show was not advertised especially well, it was at a new venue and the Guilt were somewhat out of step as a straight-up hardcore punk band on a bill with a bunch of pop acts. Because of such factors, there weren’t a ton of people at this show. In other words, this was a case where the Guilt’s preference for being low-key may have kept the band from achieving at a higher level. If the Gs had played with a few other happenin’ punk bands at the Corpse Fortress, for example, this show would probably have been sublime.
As it was, it was cool but underwhelming, because the Guilt performed in front of a few dozen people scattered around a very large room. I had plenty of space in which to mosh as hard as I wanted without jostling anyone at all as the Guilt smoothly cycled through a variety of hardcore punk sub-genres with dexterity and determination. At times I was impressed by how tough the Guilt sounded.
Danny K. was in fine form, shredding his larynx like Lyxzén and looking like a member of Brain Damaged.
Danny’s stage banter was appropriately nihilistic: “And I think the most, ah, whatever” (music starts again after a few moments) … A while later: “This is off our new EP that’s never going to come out.”
I don’t know why Joey’s quitting the band, but I can report that Ian Mills will ascend to the throne as his replacement.
The Guilt’s last song (a new one) started as the band’s usual speed-punk mélange, but then the meaning of James’ Superfuzz BigMuff pedal became clear, as they grunged it up and went deep. This tune went on for seven minutes, much of which was a sparse build. Grungy hardcore is one of my favorite sub-genres, so I was pleased. This song was heavy, slightly groovy, and reasonably fresh; the build part got a little repetitive, but I’m sure they’ll improve that with practice. The Guilt thanked me on their demo. A
Yes, Hole in the Sky is named after the Black Sabbath song.
From Spoonboy’s post on the internet:
THE GUILT (local hardcore puuuunk)
CHINESE TELEPHONES (milwaukee pop punk reunion tour!!)
TENEMENT (wisconsin pop punk)
HOLIDAY BAND (bloomington, IN – members of good luck)
JAKE LAZOVICK (local songster)
THE PROFESSIONALISMS (athens, OH dance pop)
6:30pm @ Hole in the Sky
(a warehouse in NE DC, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for address)
$5-10 suggested donation