I was kind of depressed and busy for most of March, but I'm starting to feel better and less stressed now, so I've finally written up a summary of most of the shows I went to in March. The last two, which were both yesterday, actually have their own reviews.
Wimme - 3/9/13 at Millennium Stage, Kennedy Center, Washington, DC
Wimme Saari is a singer from Finland, who was performing as part of Kennedy Center's Nordic Cool festival. Wimme performs joik, a kind of traditional singing or chanting among the Sami, the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia and Finland. I first heard of him about ten years ago when someone gave us a "Nordic Roots" sampler of Fenno-Scandinavian folk music and folk rock. I hadn't really followed or gotten exceptionally interested in Wimme over the years, but I remembered his songs being pretty good - energetic in a flowing sort of way - and was interested to see him live. Besides, since he was performing on the Millennium Stage, it was free!
I got to the Kennedy Center a little early, perhaps fiften minutes before the performance was to begin, but the seats in front of the stage were already full. Luckily, I was at the front of the standing section, although I had t move back later when two friends arrived. And then people filtered out as the performance went on and other Kennedy Center performances began, and we eventually made our way back to the front of the standing section and might even have been able to get seats if we tried.
The performance started out very low key, and I thought it would have been better in a dark, closed space - the light and noises around were distracting and made it difficult to get absorbed in the music. Overall, the songs were slow with rather jazzy instrumentals, not as energetic or primal I remembered. It seemed Wimme had changed his style a bit since the Nordic Roots days. Accompanying him, he had a percussionist, a wind/brass guy (clarinet, saxophone) and a strings guy (guitar, mini guitar/mandolin, banjo). In the middle of the set, he did some solo joiks, which were a little more lively and depicted animals. After that he did a sort of remix of a song that sounded familiar, perhaps "Bierdna" (The Bear), which is actually a collaboration with Swedish/Finnish folk rock band Hedningarna, or "Bieggajorri" (Weathervane) (which I can't find online), and then finished with a long song that, although also pretty slow, built up to pretty high intensity.
Even though I was disappointed to find that Wimme's style had changed so much and incorporated so much jazz, I was still glad I went, simply to have the experience of seeing someone with such a distinctive singing style.
Soilwork, Blackguard, Bonded by Blood, Hatchet - 3/12/13 at Empire, Springfield, VA
I had to take my daughter to dance class before going to the show, so I missed Hatchet.
I got to the venue just before Bonded by Blood came on. They were fast, with a hammering sound. In spite of their awesome thrash sound, there was almost no one on the floor. I pushed S around the floor, and fell and twisted my ankle while shoving another friend.
Of this line-up, I was most looking forward to seeing Blackguard. They're one of my favorite bands to listen, see live and mosh to (so it really sucked about the twisted ankle, but it was feeling ok by the time I started, and I braved the pit, and lived to walk out of the venue at the end of the show). They used to play fast, black-ish folk metal with violin, harsh and fast vocals. Their last release changed to Children of Bodom style melodeath with an epic twist. They plan to release another album this fall, and the new songs I've heard are in the same epic melodeath vein, but with more clearly melodic guitar bits. They just toured Europe with Kamelot, and seem to be on the verge of getting big, so I'm pretty excited for this band's future.
However, when they started their set with "Firefight," it sounded like a mess. They got better as the night went on, although I don't think they sounded as dynamic and together as they did the last two times we saw them. They played two new songs, one being "In Dreams" which they performed for the first time ever at Empire last time we saw them there. The news songs sounded good - epic guitars, the usual intense vocals - though the melodic bits were a little lost in the mix. Unfortunately, there was not much of a pit - two heavy guys sort of wandered back and forth in the middle of the floor, and I bounced off them from time to time. There was a bigger and more energetic pit the couple of time that Paul actually called for one, but otherwise most people seemed content just to crowd around the stage.
I don't know Soilwork very well but thought they might be worth checking out, based on a few songs that S gave me, which were pretty heavy and a little melodic. They were enjoyable enough that I stayed for their whole set even though I was really tired and had planned to leave early. The venue was pretty full, but almost no one came to floor for Bonded by Blood or Blackguard - and even for Soilwork, a large part of the crowd hung back. There were a decent number of people on the floor, though, and a huge pit that was quite entertaining to watch, as well as a number of energetic individuals whose antics were also entertaining. Soilwork sounded good.
KMFDM, Legion Within, Chant - 3/18/13 at State Theatre, Falls Church, VA
I was a bit stressed out about life when I went to this show and that impeded my enjoyment, as well as making me irritable to my friends :( But it was worth it - KMFDM put me in a much better frame of mind, and was a fun time besides.
The first opener was Chant, a two person industrial band from Texas. They were interesting to see live, but I don't think I would listen to their recordings. Their sound involved quite a lot of percussion, with one guy on the drums (including some unusual drums) and shouting vocals, and another on what seemed to be a synthesizer (and who also banged what looked like a big barrel when really booming drumming was needed). Besides the music, their get-up and stage show held my attention - the drummer/vocalist's buckle-covered leather outfit, with brown and black paint smeared on his face and arms, the variety of drums and intensity of his drumming, and the flashing lights behind him all made the experience much more intense. I don't think a recording would capture much of it, not even the intensity of the sound.
The next band, Legion Within, started out good, with an energetic pop-like vibe that reminded me of bands like Deathstars, but then they declined from there. I was not a fan of the cabaret-like half-speaking, half-singing vocals that the singer used for most songs, and the instrumental portion of the music was not fast, heavy or intense enough to hold my interest either.
KMFDM, of course, were great like always. I am pretty sure they played most if not all the songs from their new record, some of which were great, and some just ok - although ok for KMFDM is still far beyond most other bands. The crowd went wild for "Kunst," with almost everyone jumping or taking part in the pit. There was a pit for almost every song, and I regretted wearing my huge baggy bondage pants which would have tripped me up in instants if I tried to join in. I hadn't thought there would be pit for KMFDM! So I had to content myself with dancing and headbanging, which was still pretty fun.