Arts: Rollins Band, Modest Mouse play D.C. venues

The Rollins Band
9:30 Club

Henry Rollins may hail from the inner realms of the D.C. punk scene, but after almost 20 years in the business, he seems to have fully absolved himself of his roots. He has replaced his once-deviant spirit for an ironic opposite. This punk turned himself into a musclehead.

Perhaps this feels like an elitist assessment, but this was the painful realization that came over a crowd last Thursday night at the 9:30 Club as Rollins Band performed.

Rollins’ new back-up band, Mother Superior, opened the show, playing a set of its own originals without help from Rollins. The band’s sound followed a standard painfully composed of ’80s metal.

Dated tunes aside, the band was particularly lacking in the stage-presence and attitude necessary for such an act. The crowd was left with only the simple game of guessing whether or not the drummer was naked (they didn’t wear shorts that small even in the ’80s) as a source of amusement. By the conclusion of the set, it became clear that Mother Superior is less a current metal band and more a bunch of tryout rejects for Quiet Riot.

The emergence of Henry Rollins joining the band brought a sigh of relief to the crowd. Shirtless and muscle-bound, Rollins played from each Rollins Band albums. His vocals were harsh and intense, and his mannerisms bore the semblance of focused intensity. Despite his writhing, sweaty delivery, Rollins still seemed to be phoning his performance in.

Jumps and bends seemed calculated and uninvigorated. Tireless rants between songs were met with taunts from the audience. The intensity present even a few years ago in Rollins’ performance was largely missing from Thursday’s showing. It would be easy to say that Rollins’ performance wasn’t bad, just different. But the cold, hard fact remains that although he may be an experienced performer, this punk has lost his edge.

Modest Mouse
Black Cat

Popular indie-rock group Modest Mouse sold out D.C.’s Black Cat Friday and Saturday night, bringing in throngs of fans from all around the District, Maryland and Virginia. The kids came out to see the band’s innovative sound brought to life on stage, and nobody was disappointed. The band brought some friends – The Fruitbats and The Shins – both nights to share in the fun.

The Fruitbats opened both nights, playing a fairly uninventive blend of moderate and indie rock. The band was docile onstage, not moving or showing emotion. But the letdown was quickly forgotten as The Shins took the stage. The lead group for the infamous Sub Pop label, The Shins has an interesting sound that melds high-voiced vocals with indie-rock rhythms, complimented by an ever-present Moog keyboard. The Shins garners loud hoots and hollers each night from the audience.

Modest Mouse’s lead singer, Isaac Brock, is a madman straight out of the trailer parks of Washington state. Friday night, he brought his band out with a kind of anger and intensity that bit right into the core of the audience members. His sharp and guttural vocals caused the floor to erupt with bopping heads and smiling faces mouthing the lyrics. The band played a great deal of old material but drew the greatest response with tunes from its last two releases, The Moon and Antarctica and Everywhere and His Nasty Parlor Tricks.

Saturday night, the band played largely the same set. The backing screen played the same images from the night before. The crowd composed of returning fans and newcomers enjoyed the set all the same. Modest Mouse puts on a show that is worth seeing twice. Despite technical difficulties, the band managed to pull off a second crowd-pleasing performance.

Major label backing and moderate success have not softened Modest Mouse. The band played the Black Cat with unparalleled power and a truly remarkable presence.

Long Beach Dub All-Stars
9:30 Club

Everyone misses Sublime. The untimely demise of Bradley Nowell left a wound in the world of music. Former bandmates Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh have sought, for the past several years, to fill the gap, returning to the scene with the Long Beach Dub All-stars. The band’s Sunday night performance at the 9:30 Club showcased a group with an evolving sound, related but distinct from that of Sublime.

The band’s live show is composed of smooth, soothing tunes and wild punk anthems. Playing an eclectic mix from its first two CDs, the band presented a diverse and interesting set. A nearly-packed 9:30 Club bopped and sang along to each song and was left in an uproar every time the band broke into one of its several sing-a-long Sublime covers. Mixing old-school reggae and dub with speedy ska riddled with a layer of hearty reverb, the Long Beach Dub All-stars gave the 9:30 Club a shot of soul. Sporting an American flag onstage, the band roused the crowd with patriotic sentiments throughout the show.

The Long Beach Dub All-stars put on a light and exciting show. By resurrecting the Long Beach, Calif., sound the band managed to bring back happy memories to its fans.

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