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Sounds Like: Umphrey's McGee, Particle, Muse

With so many concerns about the global financial system, leave it to a trio named for one of this country's top economic rivals to pioneer a new method of maximizing resources: band members, in this case.

Hearing a performance by Imperial China could make you believe that the Mount Pleasant band consisted of more than just Brian Porter, Matt Johnson and Patrick Gough. They each play multiple instruments, as when, during a January gig the Rock & Roll Hotel, Johnson, 28, slung his bass over his back mid-song, grabbed a set of drumsticks and began assaulting an auxiliary drum kit throughout the band's hyperkinetic, 45-minute set.

"It makes for good theater, doesn't it?" mused Gough, the former drummer for '90s art-punk band Pitchblende, during a recent interview.

Imperial China's meandering compositions feature abrupt changes in tempo, spiraling grooves and pummeling percussion, with an arsenal of prerecorded samples and effects pedals accenting the sparse lyrics by the 30-year-old Porter.

"We all have short attention spans . . . so it keeps us all happy and not bored," Gough, 40, said of the band members' shifting musical responsibilities. "I get kind of bored when I go see a show and everybody's playing the same instrument and standing in the same place for 40 minutes," he added, describing a phenomenon so foreign to one of his band's shows that he might as well have been speaking Chinese.

Next Gig: April 23 at DC9, 1940 Ninth St. NW, 202-483-5000. (The band's March 13 show at the Velvet Lounge has been canceled.)

More Info: http://www.myspace.com/imperialchina

MIDDLE DISTANCE RUNNER

Location: Northern Virginia

Sounds Like: OK Go!, the Strokes, Doves

Even if the band is still shopping its upcoming album in hopes of attracting a record label, Middle Distance Runner has had no such difficulty selling some larger-ticket items.


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