Live Review: Black Cat 25th Anniversary Show — 9/14-9/15/18

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Ex Hex performs at Black Cat on Sept. 15, 2018. (Photo by Mickey McCarter)

“If it weren’t for the Black Cat, I wouldn’t be a working musician,” said singer-songwriter Ted Leo at the indie rock club’s 25th anniversary celebrations over the weekend.

Ted’s statement reflected the sentiment of musicians and attendees alike over the two-day 25th anniversary party, which hosted 15 bands and several DJs over Friday and Saturday: Thank you, Black Cat, for being awesome. The mood among concert-goers was particularly festive in recognition that Black Cat likely will be around for a long time still despite its plans to shrink in coming months.

If you don’t yet know, it became public knowledge last week that Black Cat will close its first floor and focus on its mainstage business. Business was brisk on the mainstage for two nights of anniversary parties, featuring Subhumans, Ocampo Ocampo & Watt, Ted Leo, Des Demonas, Dagger Moon, Scanners, Honey, and Work Ethics on Friday. On Saturday, the stage was seized by Ex Hex, Gray Matter, Hurry Up, Algiers, Hammered Hulls, Wanted Man, and Foul Swoops.

Going backward from Saturday, power pop trio Ex Hex impressed again a frenetic performance that inspired a very full house to dance along. Guitarist Mary Timony, bassist Betsy Wright, and drummer Laura Harris will soon release a second album by Ex Hex, and they performed terrific songs from their debut, Rips, including “Don’t Wanna Lose” and “How You Got That Girl” along with new songs (presumably on the next record) like “Another Dimension.” The trio always blows away the audience, and Saturday was no exception.

Check out Ex Hex at Black Cat on Sept. 15.

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Black Cat first opened in 1993, and it has continually operated under owner Dante Ferrando, who is the drummer of post-hardcore band Gray Matter. Although Gray Matter is no longer active (too bad), they often perform for events like Black Cat anniversary parties. Vocalist Geoff Turner, bassist Steve Niles, guitarist Mark Haggerty, and drummer Dante impressed with songs like “Retrospect,” “Chutes and Ladders,” and their rather surprising cover of “I am the Walrus” by The Beatles.

Here is Gray Matter performing at Black Cat on Sept. 15.

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Punk trio Hurry Up formed in Portland, Oregon, circa 2015, drawing together Kathy Foster and Westin Glass of the Thermals and Maggie Vail of the Bangs. They’ve got songs like “Kick ‘Em Out” and “Shit or Fuck.” Here are some pix of them at Black Cat on Sept. 15.

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Algiers, the Atlanta band drawing critical praise for their blending of gospel and post-punk stylings, also do not hail from DC, but theirs was one of the most blistering sets of the evening. Frontman Franklin James Fisher wailed and grooved with precision and power, backed by bassist Ryan Mahan, guitarist Lee Tesche, and drummer Matt Tong in songs including “The Underside of Power” and “Walk Like a Panther.” Here are Algiers at Black Cat on Sept. 15.

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Supergroup Hammered Hulls made its live debut at Black Cat on Sept. 15, fronted by Alec MacKaye. The band includes Mary Timony on bass, Chris Willson on drums, and rockstar Mark Cisneros on guitar (this guy is seriously great — he’s also in Des Demonas!). I don’t have any song titles to share (because they are too new to me), but they are old-school punks in the best possible way. Here are Hammered Hulls at Black Cat on Sept. 15.

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Rockers Wanted Man consist of vocalist Kenny Pirog, drummer Rick Irby, and bassist John Scoops. They cite The Band, Tom Waits, Led Zeppelin, and Miles Davis among their influences. They dropped a self-titled debut album in 2016 with songs like “Slow and Steady” and “Desiree.” In concert, bassist Scoops is a helluva lot of fun to watch — the guy is having the best time ever on stage. Here is Wanted Man at Black Cat on Sept. 15.

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Foul Swoops kicked off the performances on Saturday. Devin and Sean Connell, and drummer Jacky Majic (who you might recognize as frontman of Des Demonas also), blasted through catchy noise rock with numbers like “Shot in the Dark.” Here are some pictures of Foul Swoops at Black Cat.

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Headlining Friday, Sept. 14, UK punks Subhumans roamed the stage with nervous energy and rapid-fire lyrics, featuring longtime members Dick Lucas (vocals), Bruce Treasure (guitar), Phil Bryant (bass), and Trotsky (drums). The quartet, formed in 1980, was largely inactive after 1985 until reforming for good in 2004. From their five studio albums, Subhumans slammed into our ears with songs like “Apathy,” “Drugs of Youth,” and “Mickey Mouse Is Dead.”

Here are Subhumans at Black Cat on Sept. 14.

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Mike Watt, Devin Ocampo, and Renata Ocampo jumped into an act called Ocampo Ocampo & Watt. Devin hails from Dischord band The Effects. Bassist Mike Watt is a musician’s musician with a track record that includes Minutemen, Dos, Firehose, Big Walnuts Yonder, and Banyan. He also spent about 10 years with The Stooges! Here are Ocampo Ocampo & Watt on Sept. 14.

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Indie icon Ted Leo performed a few songs solo and then invited his band on stage of a set of covers, adding power pop kick to an entertaining evening. Check out Ted Leo at Black Cat on Sept. 14.

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Des Demonas are cool cats Jacky Cougar Abok (vocals), Mark Cisneros (guitar), Joe Halladay (bass), Ryan Hicks (drums), and Paul Vivari (organ). They sound pretty groovy with songs like “Sideways Man,” “Lies,” and “Tuff Turf.” Unfortunately, the band really like to play in the dark. So I tried to take a picture, below, to include them in this roundup on Sept. 14!

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Metal band Dagger Moon were once called Citadel. They were a bit of a surprise with their doomy, drony sounds! I rather felt like they performed one lone song for their whole set, but they were surely unique. Dagger Moon’s members include Joshy, Chris, Brendan, Mikey, and Steve EP. We know Steve from his industrial synth band Technophobia. Here are Dagger Moon at Black Cat on Sept. 14.

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Scanners consist of Carni Klirs (bass), Alex Attas (drums), and James Hatchwai (guitar). The trio play punk songs from their debut EP, Bogus Existence. Here they are performing at Black Cat on Sept. 14. Well, here’s frontman James, anyway.

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We didn’t catch Honey and Work Ethics — sorry, guys!

Let’s look forward to 25 more years of Black Cat.

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