Live Review: Phenomenal Handclap Band with Javelin and Bop Beetle at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington DC – 12 December 2009

By on Wednesday, 16th December 2009 at 12:00 pm

f-phb1I have mixed feelings about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel. It doesn’t have anything to do with the talent they book: I’ve seen several amazing shows there – Jack Penate / Miike Snow in September for example. The crowds usually aren’t as big or vocal (therefore the vibe’s not as great) as with other D.C. clubs, primarily because of the RnR’s location. It’s a pain to get to without a car and even if you can find a place to park, it’s the kind of place you’re worried to walk around by yourself late at night. But with the auspicious date of 12/12, Saturday night came round with a headlining gig by New York’s Phenomenal Handclap Band and I just had to be there. Before the PHB were two opening acts – unsigned Washington D.C. act Bop Beetle and two cousins from New York-by way of- Providence, Rhode Island, Javelin. I always have a soft spot for local acts that are thrust into temporary limelight as an opener for an out of town band, and I felt this for Bop Beetle. Javelin I’d seen before, as the opener for the Very Best in November at another small club, DC9.

a-bopbeetle1Considering they’re unsigned and I’m thinking most people had never heard of them before, Bop Beetle has nerve to develop hand gestures to a song of theirs, ‘Permanent Premonition’. The singer (who alternated between his guitar and a complicated synth set-up) thanked two women in the center of the crowd who “brought it” and were doing the hand gestures along with him. Both duos must be given props for putting on entertaining sets despite the low number of people who showed up before it was the Phenomenal Handclap Band‘s turn. Both acts were similar in that they relied on programming to make up for the lack of band members, and they both had a charming vocalist. But the percussion was different: in Bop Beetle’s case, the drummer was playing an actual drum kit, whereas Javelin’s “drummer” plays on an electric drum pad.

e-javelin3Of the two, I preferred Javelin, because the two of them are standing right in front of you with a table full of electronics and you’re wondering what music will come out of it all, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And their song lyrics are a lot funnier. I mean, who writes a song about a house cat (‘Oh Centra’) or one that’s titled ‘Lindsay Brohan’? ‘Vibrationz’ was introduced as a song about the innocence of young love and “middle school U.S.A. You know what I’m talking about.’ Yeah, I actually do. They ended with ‘Soda Popinski’, a video game-flavoured tune. I’m hoping for big things for this band and their album that will hopefully be released in March 2010 on Thrill Jockey. (And for those of you who like DIY, Pitchfork wrote an article about them recently offering to personalise a 12″ album jacket for you and will post it back to you with their next single, ‘Number Two’ inside – details here. The deadline for them to receive the jackets is 18 January, so if you want to take part, get cracking. Now just how neat is that?)

23.30 – time for the Phenomenal Handclap Band. Now I’ve written about this band loads because I really dig them. I’ve seen them several times and oddly, only one of those times was outside Washington (in New York with Friendly Fires). (I guess they must like us an awful lot!) A respectable crowd had finally assembled for the band’s last date in America this year, and the band arrived onstage to loud applause. ‘The Martyr’, with its Led Zeppelin-esque guitar work and Daniel Collás‘s falsetto, was fabulous live, as was ‘Testimony’, with Joan Tick‘s searing vocals. Even though we were in the middle of a D.C. winter, ’15 to 20’, with its skipping rope-style rhymes, brought out the optimism and sunshine of summertime. The band’s encore, ‘Baby’, sung by the mysteriously/humourously named Bing Ji Ling (whose name means ‘ice cream’ in Chinese…er…huh?), is going to be their next single. The song’s lyrics of “baby / I could rule the world / with a beautiful girl / like you on my arm” is actually pretty spot on what I predict is going to happen with this band. If their star keeps rising, they could very well be ruling the world, the beautiful people in tow, this time next year. Watch this space.

After the jump: set list and photos.


Bop Beetle Photos:



Javelin Photos:



Phenomenal Handclap Photos:




Phenomenal Handclap Band set list
The Journey to Serra Da Estrala
All of the Above
The Martyr
Give It a Rest
15 to 20
You’ll Disappear
I Been Born Again

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[…] touring with Yeasayer. I caught the duo and their engaging live show here in Washington at DC9 and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, and you can catch them in a venue near […]

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