Live Review: Cymbals Eat Guitars with Freelance Whales and Bear in Heaven at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington DC – 06 March 2010

By on Tuesday, 16th March 2010 at 2:00 pm

Cymbals Eat Guitars seem to be spending a lot of time in Britain, having played a series of dates in the UK in February in addition to opening for the Flaming Lips during Wayne Coyne’s band’s London residency last November. But earlier this month they started their first major headlining tour of North America in Philadelphia. The second date of the tour was a sold-out show on 06 March at D.C.’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel. (If you’re interested, I had a brief question and answer session with their newest member, bassist Matt Whipple, the first week of March, and you can read it here.)

The two openers for the night were fellow New York bands – the electro-folky Freelance Whales and the experimental pop band Bear in Heaven. I’ve had the misfortune of missing out on Freelance Whales twice – once, when D.C. traffic wreaked havoc on me and Mary Beth’s plans to arrive early for the Fanfarlo concert early last December at Iota (when FW was supporting the London folk pop band) and twice, they had sold out the smaller Black Cat Backstage floor when I was on the bigger, upstairs floor covering We Are Scientists.

This Saturday night, the Whales played to an appreciative crowd, many of whom knew and sang along to songs on their forthcoming, self-released debut album ‘Weathervanes’. The band is an interesting juxtaposition of traditional folk (banjo, accordion) and new-fangled instruments (synth and keyboard) as well as the unusual (xylophone, watering can used as percussion). Note: I thought they were great and the current hype around them is insane, you’d be remiss not to at least have a listen.

Bear in Heaven was the wild card of the night for me, not knowing anything about the Brooklyn band. I thoroughly enjoyed the combination of voice, guitars, synth, and drums coming together to create some atmospheric masterpieces that at times could be called rock and at times could be called dance. You would not have guessed this looking at the three men on stage displaying various stages of beard and mustache. Fun stuff like ‘Wholehearted Mess’ surprised me with the band’s brand of experimental dance. (Is that even a genre?)

When 23.30 rolled around and it was time for the headliner Cymbals Eat Guitars, I was feeling a little apprehensive. I hadn’t been in such a testosterone-fueled, excitement-filled room since seeing the Hold Steady at the 9:30 last summer. The quartet’s sound is tight, sounding better than ever. They powered through several of the songs like ‘Under a Hazy Sea’ (featuring Joseph D’Agostino’s emotional vocals and jangly guitar) and the jaunty ‘Indiana’ from their Memphis Industries’s debut ‘Why There Are Mountains’ and played some new ones for us as well.

I’m pretty sure they could have sold out the next biggest venue in town, the Black Cat, but my feeling is that the rock of Cymbals Eat Guitars feels right in a sweaty, packed place like the RnR. The band heads to South by Southwest this week and I’m sure they will wow the Austin crowd just like they wowed us here in D.C.

After the cut: more photos!

Freelance Whales Photos:

Bear in Heaven Photos:

Cymbals Eat Guitars Photos:

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One Response

[…] landscapes, but this quirky video might change your mind. And yes, the watering can I reported in my review of their gig here in D.C. on 06 March? It’s in here too. […]

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