This night had three different bands, all with three different and distinctive sounds. Like the last show post, I'll leave this one up to Greg Ayers of DC Music Download for words and review of the show.
D.C. folk-duo Vandaveer delivered one of its last live shows for 2013 at the Rock and Roll Hotel on Friday night, and they were joined by alt-pop tunesmith Dead Professional and Americana stalwarts The Petticoat Tearoom.
Solo artist Dead Professional, aka John Harouff, delivered a competent set. He does write good songs and works his drum machines and loop pedals with ease. However, Harouff performance dragged after a while. One man working with a guitar and some machines requires a good amount of stage presence to sustain an engaged audience, and Harouff just didn’t have that kind of arresting presence. Working with a live band would go a long way towards giving his live set a sense of energy.
The Petticoat Tearoom, on the other hand, only knew one dynamic – loud. To their credit, the group has clearly worked hard to weave an intricate, three-guitar web of sound. Problem is, on Friday night their drummer stomped all over that web like a rhino in heat. What’s more, it was impossible to tell if the group’s harmonies were any good – Thomas Motta and John Twiford screamed nearly every vocal, strangling their melodies to death. They gave no room for the band’s music to breathe and stretch out.
The band’s set became so predictable, it was comical. After a while, you knew each song would feature Motta throwing his head back to yell another melody, and Twiford straining so hard to sing that the veins on his face bulged until they just about burst. There was no sense of dynamics or pacing in their performance, and the only relief was the quiet in between songs. Sometimes the best noise really is the sound of silence.
Alternately, Vandaveer’s Mark Charles Heidinger and Rosie Guerin blended their harmonies perfectly. J. Tom Hnatow accompanied the duo on electric and Dobro slide guitar, and (as always) his accompaniments were beautifully tasteful.
Vandaveer mixed originals with covers of old, traditional folk tunes, two of which, “Pretty Polly” and the “Drunkard’s Doom,” gave its set a charming touch. Heidinger engaged the audience in-between songs, explaining where certain songs came from, making jokes, and introducing Guerin and Hnatow while highlighting their accomplishments.
It was a gracious performance above all else, with the group giving an encore of two tunes to close out the evening. If this show is any indication, Vandaveer’s forthcoming performances in 2014 will definitely be something to look forward to.
The Petticoat Tearoom