It was a busy music week: 9:30 Club Tuesday, Black Cat Thursday, 9:30 Club again Friday, tomorrow is Saturday, and Sunday comes afterwards... this same week, Washington City Paper announced their "Best of" for 2011 (Reader Poll), a list that included the city's biggest venue (exclusively for music) as its best, the area's only outdoor venue as its best, and in our opinion, the real best place to see live music listed as the best to see local music... a place I've never seen such a band.
Pursuant to the irony of such venue labels, this week we saw national artists Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears and Those Darlins at our best venue pick, the Black Cat. Our visit was a reminder that the venue itself is not without imperfections--namely, that people talk through shows. With cheaper prices for bands on the rise, it attracts a casual listener who goes because a friend bought an extra ticket, even in the case of completely sold out shows like that of Thursday.
That being said, it didn't matter much, because the initial let down was in spite of the venue, not because of it, and didn't last long. The main disappointment being the opener: all week I played Those Darlins on repeat, the Tennesee twang of earlier work ringing in my ears. But I'm two years too late, and the sharp country trio long ago replaced their cowboy boots with glitter bodysuits. Probably a case of bad expectations, but even the interview I read in the WCP gives a very different impression of the band that actually showed up on Thursday.
Then to my chagrine, Those Darlins soon after joined the crowd at Black Cat and proceeded to talk through Joe Lewis's set... hipster nonsense. Regardless, Black Joe Lewis & band shone through, per usual, with a crisp horn sound, sweet vocals from Joe, and in general a whole lot of fun.
Wish I hadn't seen a similar show in the past few months, though, because I noticed a few relative gaping holes. The same Joe Lewis I saw sullenly milling around the merch table taking pics with fans became the same sullen Joe I saw on stage. Which is to say in a few words that he lacked stage presence. Read my scorecard for more info, with the preface that my base for comparison is the party known as Kings Go Forth.