Live Review 3-pack: Wye Oak, The Joy Formidable, Gold Panda

Hey all. Been a little while since I rapped at ya. Here’s a sampling of what I’ve been seeing lately. More posts to follow soon!

Wye Oak

Mar 11 / The Black Cat / Washington, DC

Baltimore’s Wye Oak make a squall of sound that suggests ample rehearsal space. Singer/guitarist Jenn Wasner confidently plows through her chorus-less grunge, letting up occasionally to allow the built-up noise unfurl, as she did that night, to an appreciative, mostly visiting Bmore crowd. Partner Andy Stack fills in the cracks with a right arm at drums and a left hand stamped down on various keys. It all pours into the wash of guitar and feedback, but without loosing too much definition. The NPR stream posted days later revealed a fairly hoarse Wasner at the mic, unfortunately battling a cold at the start of a large tour. We couldn’t hear her well enough to mind. Highlights included the title track from the new Civilian and the off-kilter, 11/8 jam “My Neighbor“.

The Joy Formidable

Mar 25 / The Black Cat / Washington, DC

Riding a wave of buzz including a Rolling Stone “Artist to Watch” feature and a prime slot on the NPR Music stage at SXSW, it was surprising that the upgrade in venue granted Welsh trio The Joy Formidable over last year’s DC show occurred within the same building (from Black Cat’s downstairs Backstage to upstairs Mainstage). But if spunky guitarist/vocalist Ritzy Bryan, bassist Rhydian Dafydd, and drummer Matt Thomas want to bring their winning brand of pulverizing pop to a capacity-800 bar just three months before they play to tens of thousands more at Glastonbury, then I’m there with bells on. Humerously working the back of the room (the coatcheck?) with emphatic between-riff fist pumps, Dafydd seemed especially anxious to take the festival stage. Bryan, who lived in DC onceuponatime, seemed more comfortable in front of the low ceiling-ed crowd, determined to build her stateside audience the honest way (outsized riffs notwithstanding.) Check out “Cradle“, “Austere“, and “I Don’t Want to See You Like This” from this year’s The Big Roar.

Gold Panda

Apr 2 / Red Palace / Washington, DC

A night of worldly dance grooves made all the more rare by the attic-like performance space at Red Palace: a NE DC bar that frequently hosts burlesque shows and has display cases of cat sculls and (faux) fetuses-in-jars all over the walls. Hunched over his laptop and sampler, Gold Panda spun a mostly continuous cloud of sound, the more headphones-y tracks from last year’s Lucky Shiner (Like “Parents“) nixed in favor of the meatier beats. Stuttering album opener “You” sure got the canned microbrew sippers moving, as did the sitar twangs of “India Lately“. For my money, I’d like to hear Gold Panda’s Eastern influence even more on record and in person. (He didn’t even play Shiner standout “Same Dream China“). But for an electronic DJ set in DC (Have you seen Dupont at 2:00 on a Saturday night?), this one felt fresh, inspired, and fun. (Great recent NPR piece on Gold Panda’s creative process here)


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