Longtime fans of DC nightclub Black Cat — and good indie music in general — were greeted by a surprise when we emerged from pandemic lockdowns a few months ago. The Cat’s founders, Dante Ferrando and Catherine Ferrando, and longtime bartenders, Al Budd and Laura Harris, had formed a quartet.
They called themselves The Owners and sharpened their songs in the Black Cat itself as a ready rehearsal space while it was closed to the public. The results are pretty damn catchy, as evidenced in their most recent performance in a sold-out show with Bad Moves at Comet Ping Pong.
Mind you, this is a band with a deep DC indie rock pedigree, Dante having made his mark as the powerful drummer for post-hardcore band Gray Matter. Less known to me was his wife and partner-in-crime Catherine, who serves an appealing and plucky lead vocalist. Al, guitarist, producer and all around tastemaker, shares vocal duties and stomps through riffs like no one else. And Laura, best known as drummer for pop trio Ex Hex, switched to bass to deliver a deeply rhythmic boot to the body.
This fearless foursome really could have gone any direction at all — but what makes it so winning is that they have landed squarely on a power pop sound that squares neatly with their individual resumes and DC’s indie music tapestry while also endlessly pleasing the ears.
The Owners stormed through seven songs at Comet Ping Pong on Dec. 9, beginning with “Still in This Together,” which immediately hooked the crowd with its hypnotic melodies and chirpy vocals.
Stream Live at the Black Cat (Pandemic Demo) by The Owners on Bandcamp:
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The sonic relay continued with “I’m Going Out,” another song recorded for the band’s initial demos. It’s no surprise that the triumphantly declarative tune was so catchy. What is surprising was that The Owners have a wealth of songs apparently from which to draw. The band added numbers like “Low Rent Paradise” and “16” to their set — completely fresh new tunes unheard from a previous appearance at the Cat, in which they also performed another round of unrecorded numbers.
The Owners aren’t afraid of doing the work, and they appear to be in this for the long haul!
As one might hope, references to everyone’s favorite nightclub — Black Cat — occasionally found their way into the lyrics. Closer “Red Room Nights” barreled off the stage with a chant that demanded you join a singalong in dedication to the Cat’s dedicated bar for after-show drinks.
I guarantee you cannot help but find something you love in this band whether it be Dante’s solid percussive backbone, Catherine’s clear-as-a-bell vocals, Al’s punk guitar chops, or Laura’s deep versatility.
Here are some pictures of The Owners performing at Comet Ping Pong on Dec. 9, 2021. All photos copyright and courtesy of Ben Eisendrath.