This week at the 9:30 Club

Thursday, Sept. 23 – The Walkmen

Legend has it the current incarnation of the Walkmen found its genesis when vocalist Hamilton Leithauser saw a different singer audition for the band and promptly informed him that he sucked. Say what you will for tact, but brashness seems to have paid off.

Every member of the band grew up and became friends in D.C., but the Walkmen oozes the cool of its adopted home in New York City. Previously hailed by critics and (almost) commercially ignored, the sophomore album Bows and Arrows should move the band past its status as ‘that band in the Saturn commercial.’ The production is magnificent, as atmospheric melodies bury Leithauser’s vocals in an ocean of euphony. On rare moments when his vocals break free, the effect is startling, like an exasperated yawp from a swimmer breaking the surface.

A step forward from its excellent (and excellently-titled) debut, Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone, the music is simultaneously dark, drunk and grand – a symphony from the gutter. When Leithauser slurs “I could take you out,” you’re not sure whether the destination is the opera or the opium den. Either way it’s an enticing offer.

-Jeffrey Parker

Saturday, Sept. 25 – Tragically Hip

Famous for its incendiary live shows, “the Hip” (so-called by fans) will bring a unique blend of folksy, gritty, vivacious indie-rock to downtown D.C. Since 1987, the Tragically Hip has been one of Canada’s premier arena-rock bands, having sold over 6 million albums and playing filled stadiums. As a result of infrequent tours and little exposure in the U.S., the band has yet to click with the mainstream American audience, relegated to small, intimate theaters and clubs. But this has not changed the band’s touring methods.

“We approach the small clubs just like we do the stadiums,” drummer Johnny Fay said. “When we play in the States the percentage of die-hards is much higher than when we play the stadiums. Most of them are just as rabid as our Canadian fans.”

The five-piece band of high school buddies from Kingston, Ontario, released its 10th studio album, In Between Evolution, this summer to tremendous critical acclaim. Recorded in Seattle in the midst of intense global discord, the Hip, along with producer Adam Kasper (Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age), created some of the most expeditious, concise and passionate music of its career.

“This is as straightforward of a record that we’ve made since our first (album),” Fay said. Highlighted by lead singer Gord Downie’s contemplative, haunting, poetic lyrics, the album bears resemblances to the Rolling Stones, R.E.M. and Pearl Jam, while being able to maintain a own unique sound of ‘Canadiana’ rock.

-Jordan Wolowitz

Tuesday, Sept. 28 – Keane

When one thinks rock music, he/she typically thinks guitars. But according to Keane, an emerging, U.K. rock band, it’s quite possible to rock even without them. Fusing drums, vocals and piano, Keane creates a rich listening experience. While you may feel compelled to draw comparisons to British piano-rockers Coldplay, don’t mention that to the band. “We just want to be known for being Keane and having our own sound,” said pianist Tim Rice-Oxley.

After signing with Interscope records, Keane released its first full-length album Hopes and Fears, which has attracted a decent sized fan base and earned airtime on VH1, MTV and alternative radio with their first single “Somewhere Only We Know.”

“It’s fantastic, actually,” said Rice-Oxley, referring to the amount of exposure the band has received thus far. “We’re really new and not expecting a lot of big things to happen, but it all takes up a lot of time with touring and whatnot.”

In addition to music television and radio, Keane made an appearance in New York on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

For its upcoming gig at the 9:30 club, music-goers can expect a solid show. According to Keane, playing live in front of a crowd is their favorite aspect of being musicians.

“I think that even people who have heard our record might be surprised by the kind of level of energy that we have when we perform,” he said.

-Brendan Polmer

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