When it’s cold and rainy out, as is often the case around here in February, you can stay in, get cozy, and see what’s on Netflix or you can venture out into world in search of new experiences and live music.
Last Saturday I chose the latter and headed out to The Taphouse Grill in Ghent to catch a live band or three. Parker, the head honcho, and his hard working crew continue to change and improve the place making it a favorite venue to catch bands. The place was packed from the get go with a huge bar crawl crowd passing through, but once they moved on the bar was full of people ready to partake in the music that was about to go down.
First up was Broken Beaches. Hailing from the coastal areas of Virginia, where perhaps their name is derived, they have a very atmospheric punk new wave rock n’ roll sound. Not only did they bring the audio delights but the visuals as well. They had a projector to display cool test patterns and crazy designs which washed over them as played. Two guitars, bass, drums, and a synth; not to mention an array of pedals and effects, give them a sound all their own. Front man Saejin Choi does a great job of setting the mood with his guitar and vocals while getting the crowd going. He and guitar player, Charlie Paschall, play well off each other while cutting through the atmosphere and giving the tunes some punch. The rhythm section of Mike Digirolamo on bass and Nic Buchholz on drums, is super solid and they hold it down while Dan Rumain on the moog makes some melodic and atmospheric sounds that tie it all together. Their set had very good energy and ended with a jam that included Saejin putting his guitar down and rocking out on a pair of floor toms next to the drum set. Their EP is called Serial Coast and it is definitely worth checking out.
Next up was Deathhouse Blues, a band made up of members from the seven cities and beyond. They are always known to put on a good show. Though they no longer have a harmonica player, they made up for it by adding a new guitar player; Bobby Lust Jr. They have always been a lean, mean, blues rock machine, but on this night they took it up a notch. Coming out swinging was the dual guitar attack of Lust, Jr. and Gabriel Perry. These guys not only know how bend their guitars to their will, but they can keep solid time and throw shapes for days (throwing shapes, it’s a thing, look it up). Both are very skilled players who can hold it down on their own, but know how to work with each other to make a lethal sound. As if that weren’t enough to get you going there is still the singing of Emma Jean Tracy. She’s got what the song needs; she can be sweet and slow or belt it out in your face. She is the real deal. None of that would be possible without the rhythmic foundation of Josh Mistler on bass and Ryan Nixon on drums. Keeping a blues flowing may sound easy, but if you’ve actually done it, you know it’s harder than it looks. These two are solid as a rock. Their latest album is called Beer Battered Boogie and it is definitely gonna make it into your rotation if it isn’t already. They are also working on new material so keep an eye out for that in the future.
Rounding out the night was Washington DC’s The Mercy Alliance, a three piece band that makes a big sound. Each song is expertly crafted to elicit an emotion. They are gems of perfectly polished pop perfection. Alliteration aside, songs like “Washington” will leave you happily gutted in the best way. It’s poppy and easy to enjoy on the surface, but as you listen closer and dig a little deeper, you find there is more going on. Fronted by Joe Rathbone on vocals and guitar, he sets the tone for everyone to follow, with a humbucker Telecaster. He’s able to get the jangle and the shimmer, but add in the bite when he needs it. Holding down the bottom end is the rhythm section dream team of Matt Francis on drums and Dan Avant on bass, both formally of Feral Conservatives. Dan’s bass playing is silky smooth and really drives the songs forward while complementing Rathbone’s guitar work. He also provides backup vocals in the right spots to accent the songs and add to the overall feel. Matt Francis’ drumming is metronome accurate but can also slip and groove when the song needs it to give the texture and feeling that really make these songs stand out. They like to incorporate guest singers on live shows from time to time to give even more layer and depth to their already rich tapestry of sounds. On this evening it was Jessica Scheck who added some rich textures with her vocal harmonies. There are several Mercy Alliance and Joe Rathbone albums available that are worth a spin. They have been recording new music that should be out later this year along with a video. Keep an eye out for those when they are released.
Washington DC. Alt-Rock.
Virginia Beach. Rock.