In the annals of American music, some cities just stand out for the scenes they created. The Motown sound of Detroit. The psychedelic sound of San Francisco. The blues of Chicago and Memphis. Punk rock in New York.
Sadly, too often Washington, D.C., gets overlooked despite the thriving musical scene the city has always offered. Jazz legend Duke Ellington is from D.C., along with soul great Marvin Gaye, before he ditched the District to head up to Detroit. Mostly though, the D.C. music scenes, like hard-core (epitomized by groups like Minor Threat) and go-go have lurked under the radar. It’s sad too because there are a lot of great groups playing the clubs and bars around D.C., if you know where to look.
One of the standouts is the band Shutout. Formed by four D.C.-area residents, the band combines jazz, funk, soul, blues and rock into a tight and catchy combination that makes the band standout from the typical bar-band sound. Shutout draws equally from jazz, pop and blues in its songs. Often, the band will start to play a number you probably know but can’t name, like The Girl From Ipanema, one of their regulars. You find yourself nodding your head and smiling at the tune. Then the band will break it down into a tight free-form jam that expands without getting boring.
Frontwoman Jenny Cho has an amazing stage presence. Her soprano voice blends perfectly with the rest of the band without getting drowned out. On stage she throws herself into the music, dancing and whirling about while the rest of the band plays. Jam bands can be fun to listen to, but they can get dull. Cho gives the audience something to watch as well as hear.
Drummer Patrick Tiglao is rare because he can actually make drum solos interesting. All too often, they’re just pounding, look-at-me-and-how-fast/hard-I-can-play affairs. Tiglao keeps it interesting by changing up tempos, doing tricks and knowing just when to stop before the audience gets bored. One of the main strengths of Shutout is how tight they play together. Each member gets chances to solo before blending seamlessly back into the mix.
Shutout formed just two months ago and played their first public gig at the Georgetown bar, Petit Chou, earlier this month. Despite its recent debut to the scene, Shutout has a sound and level of professionalism that seems much more advanced then just two months would allow.
The band formed after Cho placed an ad in the Washington City Paper, a free local alternative-weekly, for Asian musicians. Cho said she placed the ad because there is a lack of Asian musicians in the D.C. music scene. Asians are not represented in every part of the music scene, including bands, radio and sound engineers, she said.
Even at shows, I’m usually the only Asian in the crowd, Cho said. That could be because of the shows I go to, though. But there’s definitely a racial divide.
Two musicians, Han Lim, on guitar, and Patrick Tiglao on drums, answered Cho’s ad. A friend of Tiglao’s, Jeff Denson, plays bass and was picked up by the band – making Shutout complete.
Each band member’s own influences and likes combine to help create Shutout’s catchy and distinct sound. Tiglao and Denson are jazz fans, Cho said, and come from that background. Tiglao is also a fan of funk and the local go-go music ( a kind of rap-meets-soul-meets-funk blend that D.C. is famous for.) Lim brings in a solid rock and blues background, with a little bit of punk thrown in the mix. Cho is a fan of soul, funk and bump-and-grind dance. Lesser known is her love of pop and ballads.
I like diva-wailing, Cho said.
Shutout has just gotten a regular gig on Wednesday nights at Petit Chou up in Georgetown, located on Wisconsin Ave., two blocks down from M St. When you’re up in Georgetown exploring D.C.’s nightlife, stop in and check out this band. You definitely won’t be disappointed.