Slobberbone If Neil Young had sung with the Replacements, it might have sounded like Slobberbone, which romped through a set of country-rock-metal-punk at Iota on Tuesday night. The band delighted the sizable crowd by alternating head-banging anthems with head-scratching ballads.
The eight-year-old Dallas-area quartet, supplemented for this show with a low-key keyboard player, veers across rock's lines of demarcation with all the slippery shimmer of mercury. Just as Slobberbone sparks your energy with punk-metal rockers like "Write Me Off" and "Butchers," it follows up with a raw-boned if sluggish grunge ballad like "Back."
And the fans love it. What holds it all together are singer-songwriter Brent Best's lyrics. They're smart and cynical, usually addressing clumsy relationships, wrong choices and stupid mistakes, sung with a voice that sounds as if he blew it out the night before.
Bassist Brian Lane and drummer Tony Harper forged a rock-steady beat for guitarist Jess Barr, who showed moments of flash without taking things too seriously. There were no melodies to whistle on the way home, but Slobberbone's fans aren't looking for that. The band's appeal is in its authenticity, and its ability to expose the dark side of life to the light, in both fast and slow tempos.
Opening the show was Mary McBride, a Louisiana-born, D.C.-raised singer-songwriter who has made a name for herself in the country-rock community of her adopted home of New York. Her soulful vocals, sung against a straight-ahead rock-and-roll beat, possess the organic power of the blues. If Tuesday's set was typical, McBride's star may be on the rise.
-- Buzz McClain
Rebirth Brass Band Aside order of crayfish gumbo was the only thing missing from the Rebirth Brass Band's show at the Velvet Lounge on Monday night. Well, that and another 500 square feet of room to accommodate the overflow crowd that was jammed cheek by elbow into the tiny U Street venue to see the veteran New Orleans group perform.
Begun nearly 20 years ago as a teenage answer to the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the band -- whose members are now into their thirties -- still plays second-line stomps and funky Crescent City jazz with youthful abandon and mischievousness. When the lights went out in the club during the first song, the band didn't miss a note. "You don't need to fix the power!" trumpeter Glen Andrews yelled out. "We like it with the lights off." And after their steamy cover of the Rolling Stones' "It's All Over Now," Andrews had more advice. "Are y'all getting hot in here? Well, take your clothes off, then."
Phillip Frazier on tuba and his brother Keith on bass drum held down an unshakable rhythm while the trombonists and trumpeters raised a joyful racket. There were plenty of hand-clapping, shouts and grunts on "Hot Venom," and the crowd joined in gleefully on the chorus of "Don't U Wish," the band's unofficial theme song. Singing "Don't you wish / you can be / like a Re / birth brother," those in the audience probably felt like honorary band members, if only for a night.
Though there was no room to dance -- fans standing near the stage risked having their front teeth knocked out by trombone slides -- Rebirth played party music like no other. All of the members are accomplished musicians who still manage to make their brand of New Orleans brass band jazz sound like the roughest and rawest out there.
-- Joe Heim Washington Musica Viva A little bit of the avant-garde came to Bethesda's Ratner Museum on Tuesday evening. The chamber ensemble Washington Musica Viva splendidly brought off a program of contemporary fare, including some pieces for the saxophone, an instrument rarely heard in classical music settings.
After bringing a dexterous, warm tone to Darius Milhaud's "Dance," saxophonist Rhonda Buckley and pianist Carl Banner gave a zesty reading of Libby Larsen's "Holy Roller," a tuneful musical depiction of a congregation's reaction to a ranting preacher. Buckley and Banner nicely elicited the alternating jovial, solemn and exultant moods of the work. They delicately negotiated the knotty phrasing and dynamics, while capturing the jaunty American flavor of the score.
University of Maryland composer Lawrence Moss was on hand to give an insightful introduction to his Six Short Pieces, whose emotional center was the mysterious "Chinese Lullaby." Buckley's ethereal tone floated on tinselly harmonies that Banner created with a piece a paper slipped between the piano wires. As the rhythms danced and the colors blossomed, the playing was subtle yet spirited.
Violinist Sasha Margolis and cellist Janet Frank joined Banner for Robert Schumann's Piano Trio in F, Op. 80, and Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel's Piano Trio in D Minor. The sheer sincerity of the playing and the chance to hear these luminous compositions more than compensated for occasional problems with ensemble and polish.
-- Daniel Ginsberg