ARCHIVE of District of Cacophony

February 25, 2010 | REVIEWS

Sockets Showcase @ Black Cat, 1/22/10

So last month I was waxing enthusiastic about the Sockets showcase at the Black Cat, and I went and brought a bunch of friends. And it was great! But I got a little burned out on all-Sockets, all-the-time music thinking, and so I’m just getting around to writing it up.

It was a solid show, all 5 bands were good, and the whole night had a lot of good vibes. There was a nice turnout and a lot of enthusiasm for the music. And I talked to members of several of the bands, discussed things with my friends… it was all that I hoped for, really.

(I didn’t take photos or anything, so I am borrowing/stealing a bunch of photos from flickr user Paul Frederiksen. You can see his photos of the showcase via flickr here.)

As for the bands, well, let’s see. Up first was Big Gold Belt. This was the band I knew the least about coming into the show. I thought they were pretty great, though. It was mostly electronic stuff, with a chick singing who dressed and pranced a little like a drag queen, and a dude playing guitar over the electronic noise, perhaps just to make it look a little more like live music. I was reminded vaguely of bands like Glass Candy & the Shattered Theatre, or ’80s electro stuff that I don’t know too well. I would listen to them more. I wasn’t sure they were locally based, but I said hello to the singer at some point in the night and she said they did live here. But then their myspace says Brooklyn. So who knows — they sound like they should be from Brooklyn, though. They were the least rocking band of the night but I think they went over pretty well, and it was nice to have them play as a change-up from the guitar rock. In some ways they were even the most interesting, but I am not a huge fan of watching electronic music live, even with an attractive/weird singer. So probably good that they were the opener.

Here are a couple of Frederksen’s photos of Big Gold Belt:

Big Gold Belt
Big Gold Belt

Second was Buildings, who were my favorite of the night. I think this is a pretty sweet band, though I didn’t think their performance was as good as the previous time I saw them. Also, they didn’t even play my favorite song of theirs that I know (it’s called “Now”). I’m definitely a fan. They are opening up for Magik Markers soon which would be a pretty rad show, though I think I’ll be out of town.



Then came Imperial China. They were playing for their record release, and they were all in the news around that time (and good reviews are still coming out for Phosphenes), so a lot of people were probably there to see them specifically. And they put on a good show. Since I had just been listening to their album a bunch of times that same week, I was comparing their live performance to the CD versions. Live, they seem a little more aggressive: the percussion is much more distinctive, and also fun to watch when different people would start pounding on drums. And live, the electronics were less prominent, and the vocals less problematic (live vocals get a lot more leeway than vocals on tape). So they were quite good. I think they deserve their hype and some success, and hope they continue to play a lot and get more press.

Imperial China:

Imperial China

After Imperial China came Hume, who were clearly the most divisive band among my friends. Actually, it was all my friends against me. I really like Hume! But all the friends I dragged along found them kind of boring pop music, and they kept saying the singing sounded just like Death Cab for Cutie. But doesn’t everybody besides me like Death Cab? Or didn’t they at one point? This is confusing. Maybe it also had something to do with singer/guitarist/mastermind Brit Powell’s perpetual grin. Anyhow, I thought it was a very cool performance. Hume remind me of other au courant bands like Real Estate, and it seems to me like they could ride the current “quirky beach pop” wave to some success if they wanted to. They were the only band of the night that I could really see fitting into the mainstream indie world of hip mp3 blogs and profiles on NPR. And sometimes that is ok. I like pop music.



Finally, the headliners of the diverse night were the Cornel West Theory. These guys were fun, but I think fatigue was setting in by that point, and I’m not sure they held the audience’s attention. This was the first time I saw them and I thought they were good, with lots of different singers and rappers and guest musicians. I mean, not exactly like a Thievery Corporation show, but it was good to see their ambition, and crossover appeal. One wonders what their fanbase is like among DC’s hip-hop scene. I enjoyed their show but was ready for the performance to be over by the time they were done. It is a lot of work to try to pay attention to 5 performances in a row.

Cornel West Theory:

Cornel West Theory

So overall — a resounding success. But a wearying one! Check out the Sockets website for links to some audio and video from the night. Let’s hope for another one in a year or so…