Live Music Review >>
Upon Sketches singer Charlie Bernardoï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s first mention of local rock station DC101, something strange occurred to me. DC music has rarely been regarded on a national level as at all mainstream. The league of Georgetown punks of the early 80ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s, the emo progenitors of the late 80ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s, and rhythmic bitch-slaps like The Dismemberment Plan and Q and Not U have all well represented the DC areaï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s musical spirit and image through the end of the century. But we have to accept the fact that The Plan and Q are through (despite successful shows by Travis Morrison and Chris Richardsï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ respective new outfits in the past few weeks), and Fugazi has been on hiatus since 2001ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s excellent The Argument.
But as I fell headfirst into the straightforward music of quartets The Sketches, Monopoli, and Army of Me, I realized how this show was a veritable showcase of the three bands vying to be DCï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s next breakout. Considering how most of the areaï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s best-known bands are off the national hipster radar at the moment (Thievery Corp, and Medications notwithstanding), it would be strange but refreshing having Army of Me as the face of the District.
Despite not being the ruthless musical innovators that Fugazi and the D-Plan were, The Sketches, Monopoli, and Army of Me still have plenty to offer. All three bands have had some exposure on the ClearChannel pawn DC101, which speaks volumes of both their hard work and their radio-accessible sounds. In fact, Army of Meï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s dark, hooky single ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Come Down to DCï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ has been added to 101ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s core play list, a major accomplishment for a band not backed by a major label.
The Sketches kicked off the show with magnificent harmonies and generally solid songwriting from brothers Tony and Charlie Bernardo. Most of their set, including highlights like ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Fly Baby, Right Now,ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ maintained a mid-tempo flow until they sped up within their last few songs, concluding with a faithful, beautifully done medley of ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Bohemian Rhapsodyï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ with other 70ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s staples.
Monopoli, who played second, are probably the most interesting of the three bands. Their leader, Alfonzo Velez, sang while projecting both gloom emotional sincerity and utmost confidence. The group matched The Sketches with some pleasant harmonies of their own, especially on ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Loveï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ where the members of The Sketches joined them onstage for the songï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s Death Cab-style crescendo. Their set represented well their polished reverence of 00ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s indie rock and older post-punk.
By the time that Army of Me hit the stage at 8, most of the crowd had been filtering in and out. Army of Meï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s dedicated audience, while it is certain to grow rapidly over the next year, on this night constituted of drunken young professionals, musician buddies, other friends and scenesters, a few punks, middle-aged followers, and many high school kids who just couldnï¿½ï¿½ï¿½t wait to brag about how they were listening to Army of Me before they got big! At any rate, the Army played their set without any bells and whistles. Leader Vince Scheuerman and his bandmates have great stage presence and charm, though the songs they played on Saturday night didnï¿½ï¿½ï¿½t divert too far from one another in terms of context or creativity. Their live set didnï¿½ï¿½ï¿½t live up to the vitality of their studio recordings, but as they undeniably show great potential for an already well-established outfit.
Hipstersï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ attention will not be diverted back to DC from Williamsburg, Brooklyn should one, two, or all three of these bands hit it big. But the mainstream will, and thatï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s not really a bad thing, as far as DCenesters should be concerned. These three bands may not be as original or groundbreaking as some local progenitors, but theyï¿½ï¿½ï¿½re a hell of a lot better than anything on modern rock radio, and theyï¿½ï¿½ï¿½re all more than ready to walk all over it.