The lineups of the Ladybug Transistor and the Essex Green, two New York indie-pop bands, have long overlapped. To judge by the bands' appearances Wednesday night at DC9, full convergence can't be far away. The Essex Green performed most of its set without percussion, but when the drum kit was occupied, the two bands were but a single player apart.
The one distinct member of the Ladybug Transistor was vocalist Gary Olson, who also occasionally played trumpet, keyboards and guitar. In his slightly flat baritone, which suggested Jonathan Richman, Olson sang mostly of sadness and loss, using such well-worn images as "soft rain" and colors that have "turned to gray." The sound was a bit loungey, with hints of country laments. Yet such songs as "Choking on Air" were sprightly, even effervescent, and many of the quintet's tunes built to mildly raucous trumpet or organ codas.
The Essex Green employed three lead singers, including guitarist Chris Ziter, the one musician exclusive to the band, and keyboardist-flutist Sasha Bell, who also harmonized in the Ladybug Transistor. Without brass instruments and (usually) percussion, the quartet had a lighter, airier sound. Most of the songs were charming, but a few were all-too-effective simulations of drippy late-'60s folk-pop.
Opening was a local band, the Positions, whose music could hardly have better complemented that of the visiting groups. The quintet, which featured a female singer and a trombonist, played loungey pop-rock whose tempos were just a little brisker than the melodies seemed to require. This twist on the genre, though modest, was surprisingly satisfying.
-- Mark Jenkins