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Concert Review: The Whigs, Dead Confederate, Trances Arc @ The Black Cat (DC)

March 6, 2009

Nostalgia can come in many shapes, forms, and sounds.  Tonight, for me, it's in the shape of Leinenkugel bottles.  The first time I had Leiney's was in 2005.  I flew up to Milwaukee and saw Drody.  At the time, I was going through a rough break up, one that would stretch for two years.  Drody, some pitchers of Leiney's, and the summer breeze off Lake Michigan reminded me that beer, friends, and maybe a little baseball are all anyone needs.  Life cycles through ups and downs.  Recently, I haven't been happy at work or with living in Woodbridge, which has gotten me looking backwards in my life as much as forward.  I've needed a pick me up.

Anyway, tonight nostalgia is a Sunset Wheat beer from Wisconsin.  On Wednesday night, it was a rock show at The Black Cat in DC, and it gave me the boost I needed.  The tickets cost 12 bucks.  There were three bands.  If you do the math, then that's four dollars per band, not bad. The first band up was Trances Arc from Atlanta via Athens.  Before they started their set, I turned to my friend Russ, who I used to run cross country with, and said, "I feel for opening bands.  They have about a two song window to win over a crowd, and if they don't do it, then this show was a waste of their time because no one came to see them anyway."  After the first couple songs, I turned to Russ and said, "They have my attention."  Of course, them getting my attention may have been helped by the fact that Russ was falling in love with them, they're from Athens, and the conversation about time travel that commenced between Russ and myself during their set.  

Russ may claim differently, but I think the Pabst Blue Ribbons we were drinking were helping him to hear the band with drunk ears.  Many a guy has claimed that a girl appeared more attractive because he saw her with drunk eyes, so surely the same hypothesis can be applied to the sense of sound.  Don't get me wrong Trances Arc aren't a bad band.  They had some solid songs, and their closing number landed pretty high on the "This Song Would Make Me Play Guitar Hero Again" scale.  They harmonized well over some decent riffs, and the girls in the audience seemed to dig them, so Russ developing a crush on this band doesn't really seem like that big of a deal.  

Now, they're being from Athens sets up everything else I'm going to say.  I lived in Athens from preschool to the end of middle school, and there are times when I feel like there's a hole in my heart left from my family's move from Georgia to Virginia.  After Trances Arc's set, I went and talked to the lead singer.  He went to St. Joseph's and then Cedar Shoals High School.  When I lived in Athens, I played soccer and was in Cub Scouts with some guys that went to St. Joe's, and I would have gone to Cedar Shoals if we hadn't of moved.  In seventh grade, I wore a Cedar Shoals basketball jersey as part of Cedar's 7th and 8th grade team.  Quentin Moses was on this team.  The first football player I ever worshipped was Kiki Wright of Cedar Shoals.  His dad was the janitor at my elementary school.  Did I mention nostalgia was in the air?  Anyway, I got a free sticker from the Trances Arc singer, which at the time seemed like a more generous gift than it might actually have been.  Still, he was one of the most humble musicians I've ever met, which I sincerely mean as a compliment.  There were no pretentious notions of artistry about him, and he gave me a sticker.

So while Trances Arc was playing Russ and I began talking about time travel.  Maybe we watch too much Lost, but the conversation pretty much revolved around what age version of our self would we like to receive advice from.  Russ wants to have a conversation with himself five years from now, and I want a panel of my 4-year old self, 7th grade self, college self, and myself ten years from now to be around whenever I make important decisions.  Albeit, the only self I would listen to is my ten years from now self.  The others would just be around for their reactions.  As I told Russ, I was at the height of my obnoxiousness in 7th grade and the height of my drunkenness in college, so it would be good to hear from those guys.  Let it also be known that I hope Lost doesn't resort to characters getting advice from their future and past selves.  

Trances Arc had Russ and I delving into the past, which is weird because Russ and I used to run cross country together, meaning we used to chase finish lines and here we were talking about going back towards the starting line.  

Then again, maybe it was just me me delving into the past and Russ delving into the future, which is a rare combination, meaning that the music of the night was a throwback as well as a possible progression into the future of rock.  The second band up was Dead Confederate, a name that conjures up battlefields, graveyards, and double-barreled canons.  When I was in early elementary school, I tricker treated one year in a Confederate uniform.    

Russ and I both felt their set lasted too long, kind of like the after effects of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.  Their sound was familiar, like museum memorabilia.  They were a heavier, southern Velvet Underground, and while Information Leafblower just named them his new favorite band, I'm not sure exactly why.  They stood around on stage like Bubbles and his white friend from season one of The Wire, except there was distortion surrounding them.  The most interesting thing about Dead Confederate was trying to figure out if their lead singer was a guy or a girl.  It reminded me of the first time one listened to Rush and questioned the gender of Geddy Lee, or it was like discovering the reasons for the south's succession and then feeling a strange sense of guilt rising up one's spine, pushing all that Southern pride against the roof of one's skull.  The result after a few songs was a headache that seemed all too familiar, like the realization that a Confederate soldier's uniform may not have been the best Halloween choice.

Still, they did have one helluva a drummer laying down the beat for the ghosts of grunge music to march over, like Kurt Cobain became friends with Robert E. Lee in death, and all of Lee's defeats and inner battles somehow made Cobain's guitar heavier and more ferocious.

The bottom line for the two opening acts is this: Trances Arc sound better live than they do on their recordings, and Dead Confederate sound better on their recordings than they do live.  Let it also be known that the only reason I was able to remember Trances Arc's name was because their singer gave me a sticker.  I've used that sticker the whole time I've been writing this article, like a middle school yearbook or Facebook.  I keep looking at that sticker like I'm looking up old friends, which sometimes feels as arbitrary as holding onto Confederate money.




This week started off with a snow storm that swept up the Atlantic Coast from the south. It hit in Georgia, and it continued up into New York and New England. This tour, headlined by The Whigs, features three Georgia bands, and their route has them going as far north as Boston, where the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired (roughly). This tour was like seeing a successful invasion of the north. At the beginning of the week, we were buried in snow, I was sitting on my couch under blankets, and the temperature was in the 20s. Today I'm wearing shorts and the temperature is supposed to rise into the 70s. I think rock 'n roll is the reason.

It was my second time seeing The Whigs live in DC. The first time they opened for The Kings of Leon, and the show was at Constitution Hall.  It felt like watching a show inside of the Sandy Creek Nature Center's star globe, a tent that visited all the local schools in Athens, so that students could learn about stars and constellations.  This concert introduced me to The Whigs, and I thought these guys are going to be their own three-pronged constellation.

The Whigs were simply incredible.  Drummer Julian Dorio is a machine.  Guitar player and lead vocalist Parker Gispert is the intense artist on stage, and Tim Deaux is pure energy on bass guitar.  Seriously, imagine if Keith Moon and Mick Jagger had a kid and that kid played bass.  The interesting thing about Gispert and Deaux is that each of them also plays keyboard, and Deaux also unleashed an awesome guitar solo at one point during the show.   They're like Gemini twins that balance out one another--the sex and drugs on one side and the heart and soul on the other.  They also unveiled a new song, "Alabama Stars," which showed that Gispert is stretching his songwriting tendencies beyond their normal habits.  

The clear message from this band is that there are better days before them, and I'm sure Russ' self five years from now could tell us all about them; but I'd rather be surprised watching the present get unwrapped in person.  



The Whigs also brought baseball season with them. They came out on stage to the Tomahawk Chop, and there's nothing more nostalgic than the start of baseball season.  The Whigs, Dead Confederate, and Trances Arc, I thank you for ushering in a new season.  These Leiney's are for you cause we need music too, in order to clean the slate.

Atlanta's record: 0-0

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