Musicians were flying blind at the Cellar Door last night. "Torturama," said guitarist Tom Principato, referring to the monitors on stage which alternately produced silence and feedback and little else. Fortunately, the problem didn't prevent Principato and the Mary Blankemeier Band from turning in a strong performance. Both Blankemeier and Principato are veterans of Washington club circuit and in many ways they're kindred spirits. Before teaming up, each consistently displayed a true affection for blues forms and that same feeling is evident in their work together. A husky contralto, Blankenmeier cut a convincing path from the mid-'20s blues of Ida Cox to the '60s soul of Aretha Franklin and Fontella Bass to the immediacy of contemporary funk. For his part, Principato, always something of an archivist, exhumed neglected tunes by Ernie K. Doe and B. B. King. His playing was typically fast but tasteful, a tenor saxman Al Williams gave the tune, as well as several others, the hard edge it required.
The opening set by Race the Rat was nearly ruined by the sound system. When the mix was right, however, the sextet showed a knack for writing and performing imaginative, textured and quite accessible rock.