Recap of Black Skies gig at the Cellar Door

This isn’t a full review but a fairly quick recap of the house show I went to on Tuesday the 6th of September 2011. It took place on one of a string of rainy nights at a DIY venue I had been meaning to get to for a while, the Cellar Door. This is not to be confused with the historic Cellar Door venue that was in Washington DC from 1965 to 1981. They have nothing to do with each other besides the name. The house in Annandale, Virginia that I was at did in fact have a cellar door and the bands used it to carry equipment to and from the basement area that they were performing in. I looked around a bit, the basement wasn’t very large but it was good enough for a house show. The walls weren’t really decorated down there, other than an old Dysrhythmia show poster hanging by one thumb tack on the wall. Upstairs there was a small bar that was covered in merch, which one of the houses’ resident cats was relaxing on. There was also a back deck area but I didn’t really go out there because I don’t smoke any more and it seemed kind of crowded. The people there were nice and even though I didn’t show up with anyone else I found plenty of people to talk throughout the evening between bands. They also had an interesting collection of books on shelves and stacked around the main living room area covering all kinds of subjects like art, fantasy, politics, science and other stuff as well. I didn’t really thumb through anything but I did see a few people doing so. A hat was passed around for donations to the bands. There was no official cover charge for the show, just an understanding that you’d throw in a few dollars to help support the bands. The people hosting the gig were cool and offered me a burger fresh off the grill and a beer from the fridge, though I had just eaten at Five Guys before the show. Had I known I would have skipped it so as to get there in time for the first band, Ancient Astronaught, which I missed entirely.

The second band to play, and the first I got to see, was Trade from Toms Brook, Virginia (that’s out west a bit past where 66 hits 81). They were a sort of rock/stoner band and I wouldn’t call them bad but they didn’t really stand out much to me and their songs didn’t seem to have a lot of variation. They were a good start for the evening though, and they gave me a chance to practice shooting in the close quarters of the basement.
Trade at the Cellar Door

The next band up was Black Skies from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. They’re a sort of sludge/stoner band and these guys had some crazy energy going. You could tell it was going to be a fun set when Kevin Clark started playing his guitar with his teeth during the first song! The three piece played exciting songs and the dual vocals from Kevin as well as bass player Michelle Temple worked really well. The basement got pretty damn hot while they played though and I had to put my camera away eventually because the lens was fogging up. Definitely my favorite set of the night.
Black Skies at the Cellar Door

The next band to play was the local act Akris. I’ve been meaning to catch them live for a while but for one reason or another I hadn’t gotten the chance to until this evening. They are also a three piece with a woman on bass, but the similarities pretty much ended there. For starters the drummer was more prominent in the band’s sound because there was no guitar player. The band’s sound was much more raw as well, but that’s not a bad thing. There also seemed to be a bit of a punk edge in there. And if you weren’t up front you might not have realized the third member of the band, Jon Simler, who was sitting on the floor fidgeting with various DJ tools. For the most part you couldn’t really hear what he was adding to the music, except during the occasional break between bass lines. The audience seemed to enjoy Akris a lot and there was even a semblance of a mosh pit in the crammed basement area they were playing in. Their set ended just before midnight and their performance was a great way to end the show.
Akris at the Cellar Door

This was the first time I’ve been to the Cellar Door. I’ve known of a few previous shows there but schedule conflicts have kept me from showing up in the past. After seeing such a fun show, and with the Corpse Fortress shutting down at the end of September, I wanted to write something here to draw some attention to this place, one of the few DIY venues in the area that will still host metal bands. The basement is smaller than the Corpse Fortress but the place isn’t trashed as much either. No, it’s not going to replace the Corpse Fortress but it is an example of someone else helping to keep the local DIY scene alive. You can be sure that I’ll post more of the Cellar Door’s upcoming shows on the Upcoming Concerts Calendar as I hear about them (you can also find info on the last Corpse Fortress show on Sept 24th there). For more info on local DIY venues and concerts (metal or otherwise) in the DC area I highly recommend regularly checking out Dirty City Shows at http://inyrbasement.tumblr.com. You don’t have to pay a $15 Ticketmaster fee on top of a ticket price to see a great metal show in this area. You might not get all the crazy stage lighting but you won’t pay $7 for a Budweiser either. Go out and see bands, not just the ones you are in or your friends are in, but check out new bands and see if you find something new you like. Get out and support the scene you’re a part of!

Review of Ilsa gig at Hole In The Sky

Sunday night, the 9th of January, I got to see my first metal show of 2011. The show was local death/doom band Ilsa playing with the lo-fi doom duo Olde Growth from Boston. There was another opening act, a new local band named Spirals but I didn’t get there in time to see them. I’d never been to this DIY venue in DC, Hole In The Sky, which just started hosting concerts in June of 2010. They seem to get more shows that are punk and hardcore, but they do get some metal too. Ilsa is a band that seems to bring metal to people who aren’t really the typical metal head. The audience was different than what you’d see at a typical Jaxx show, but a fan of metal is a friend of mine. The set up was interesting, you have to walk down an alley to find the front door which is rather nondescript, a small wooden sign above it lets you know you’ve found the right place. You go up a dark flight of stairs and open another door and you’re in what is basically the large common area of an apartment. Instead of a lot of furniture, they’ve got a nice open space set up in the corner for bands to play. The walls are covered in spray paint and other designs, and there’s a corner with a place to hang bicycles. They also have an outdoor rooftop that people can smoke on, but I didn’t spend a lot of time out there cause it was cold as shit. It’s probably much nicer in the summer though. There were a couple of the local neighborhood kids who had wandered in and were running around underfoot for a bit, even playing with some of the instruments between bands. A small table with merch was set up too. Someone came around asking for $5 donations to the show, but the exchange was very friendly. The place was pretty welcoming really, and while I didn’t really know anyone there, I did find a few people to strike up conversations with.

The first band to play was named Spirals, but as I said before they had finished playing by the time I got there. Olde Growth was setting up when I walked in, and I didn’t really know anything about them. Usually at these DIY shows there’s at least one touring band, and a couple local acts to help draw people to the show. Most of the money collected goes to the touring bands, even though the local acts tend to get the better draw. This might seem unfair, but ideally they are trying to help pay for those bands to tour, so people can see bands they wouldn’t normally get to, and ideally the local bands will be able to use the same network when they want to play in other cities. This show was no different, and since I didn’t know anything about Olde Growth other than what the flyer stated I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wouldn’t call them the best band I’ve ever seen but they were worth getting there early enough to watch. They are a very bassy doom duo. Their songs weren’t overly complex, but they did have a sort of epic feel to them. They really brought the tempo down to a crawl but still managed to bring things back up. The set seemed really short though, maybe the songs were long so it seemed that way, but I think they only played about four songs total. Still, it was a pretty entertaining set and they were a good act to play with Ilsa.

Ilsa was playing last, and they were the main reason I was there, and you could tell by the size of the audience that I wasn’t the only one with that sentiment. I’d been meaning to catch them for a while, glad I finally got a chance to. They’re called a death/doom metal band, but I think they’re more on the doom side of that with some sludge in there too. Whatever they are, they’re really heavy. They’ve made a name for themselves in the local DC scene, though they seem to be known more in the world of local hardcore fans than the typical metal circles. I think that’s starting to change as their latest album, Tutti il Colori del Buio, is starting to get noticed, and for good reason. The show was a bit different than their studio work. The songs are a bit dirtier sounding, and a bit more energetic live. The cleaner studio production gives way to a more raw vibe, and honestly I thought it was great. Plus really feeling that heavy distortion shake through you is just something ya don’t get from a recording. I enjoyed the songs that I recognized as well as the older material from their first album, which I don’t know. And while half the band had their backs to the audience most of the show, the crowd seemed pretty mesmerized by the performance. Really it’s not so much about the band’s stage presence as the sheer crushing sound they produce. Ilsa finished their set but they were talked into playing another song before calling it a night, which was pretty cool of them. It was a good show and I’m glad I made it out to see them play. They’re a great local metal act and I can’t wait to see them again, it was a hell of a lot of fun. If you haven’t seen them yet you should, they’re quickly becoming one of DC’s must see acts. I did get a few videos, posted below, one of Olde Growth and three of Ilsa, but they’re all pretty dark. The audio is decent, but Charred Resistors should have the audio from the entire show posted soon. I’ve got more pics on my Flickr page too. It was a great way to start off my year of metal concerts, a cool local act I’ve been meaning to check out in a venue I’ve never been to before. Lets hope the rest of 2011 is as fun.