Photo Gallery: Lost In The Trees @ Black Cat Backstage

I caught one of my favorite new bands of 2010 at South By Southwest on the first night: Lost In The Trees. If you knew about the horrifying childhood that inspired the works, you’d be incredibly surprised how joyful and celebratory the music actually is. And when you catch the band on stage, the humility, and endearing charm of front man Ari Picker is so big and genuine, you cannot help but fall in love with this band.

I decided to catch them again back here in D.C. Monday night at the Black Cat’s Backstage, where a full crowd of people were all captivated. NPR Music was there to webcast the show, so be sure to take a listen. (Also be sure to check out our Tiny Desk Concert with them from last year).

But in the meantime, here are a few shots I managed to take.

Photo Gallery: The Joy Formidable @ Black Cat

Despite being in Austin, Texas for South By Southwest, you’d be surprised how hard it is to catch a full set by any one band. With so much to see, you’re constantly shuffling around looking for the next thing to fit into the schedule. And when coupled with all the work I was doing as part of NPR Music’s SXSW coverage, it was easy to miss something really good. Such was the case with The Joy Formidable, who performed several times at SXSW, including a way too short set at NPR Music’s SXSW day party at The Parish (listen and watch that here). I was so busy doing work and meeting people that it was over way too quickly.

Which all brings me to the point of all this. I decided I wanted to catch more from that band, so luckily they stopped by D.C. on Friday, March 25 (after SXSW) to play at Black Cat. Sufficed to say, it was totally great: loud, distorted and full of 90s rock energy.

Here are some photos I shot (along with opener Mona, who were impossibly generic):

Photo Gallery: Lower Dens, Wye Oak @ Black Cat

Last night at Black Cat, I caught two of my favorite bands right now: Wye Oak and Lower Dens. It was an full-on Baltimore showcase as all three bands on the bill come from the city that has in recent years become one of the most vibrant and creative music towns in the country. I had just recently caught Lower Dens a few weeks back at a house show, but it was great to see them on a larger stage, filling the room with their brooding wash of distortion.

Similarly, in the year since I last caught Wye Oak, the band has put out a stellar EP, My Neighbor, My Creator, and followed it up just this past week with their newest album Civilian. And all I can say is that they just keep getting better and better. For whatever reason, I had to convince a few friends that while the band might seem sedate and folky, they are an absolute force live. They bring a raw power and blustery energy to the songs thanks to the exceptional layers of blown out guitar distortion of Jenn Wasner and the simultaneously performed keyboards and thunderous drums of Andy Stack. I can easily say this double bill was one of the top shows I’ve seen this year so far.

I brought my camera along and pushed up to the front and took a few photos of both bands, plus the opener, Lands & Peoples. Here’s a sampling of the best shots:

You can listen to both sets from Wye Oak and Lower Dens at NPR Music.

Best Song I’ve Heard All Day: Best Known Unknown Edition

The Antlers

(part 567 in a 1001 part series)

Last week I was introduced to a great new unknown band called The Antlers. The new album Hospice is a dark orchestral and electronic pop album that recalls Arcade Fire’s bombast and the quivering and mannered voice of Antony. The song that sold me was the opener “Kettering.” But this one below really blew me away this morning while eating breakfast and reading the news; it’s much more joyful and upbeat musically, though of course a hint of sadness in the lyrics.

“Two” by The Antlers

UPDATE 3/11: Just saw The Antlers perform live tonight at The Black Cat for probably 35 people tops. We were taping the show for NPR Music to put up at a later date, but all I can say is wow. Going in, didn’t know what to expect: For as intricate and full a sound they have on the album, I was curious if they would be able to recreate it live, or if they would adapt the material. Many bands like this often end up a tad underwhelming or pale in comparison.

But The Antlers — with only 3 members (guitarist\vocalist, drummer, keyboardist on a Fender Rhodes) — managed to capture the songs but expand upon them in new ways…usually in a wash of guitar feedback and heavily distorted Fender Rhodes fed through a myriad of pedals and a Korg mini synth. Although the set was quite short, it definitely was pretty great. They’ll be a really good band if they keep it up. I shall post a link to audio when the concert goes live on NPR Music.

Here is the one photo I took: