— Seth Meyers (@sethmeyers) February 10, 2014
On Monday, incoming “Late Night” host Seth Meyers tweeted a surprise: Former “Saturday Night Live” cast buddy Fred Armisen would serve as the new “Late Night” bandleader. (Looks like he officially won that drum-off with Questlove.)
The announcement may have felt particularly surreal to Washingtonians who frequented the Black Cat anytime during the Clinton administration. Indie enthusiasts remember Armisen as the guy who used to play the Washington rock club throughout the ’90s as the drummer of Trenchmouth, an adventurous Chicago group with strong ties to Washington’s legendary post-punk scene.
Roughly 20 years later, Armisen seems to have rounded out his bandstand with a few Black Cat regulars. Meet the gang:
Is he better at drums or comedy? The guy does an amazing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but because Armisen’s old band helped soundtrack my adolescence, I gotta vote drums. Trenchmouth was a Chicago quartet that toggled between furious post-punk and drippy dub reggae with true weirdo fearlessness. The band’s two strongest albums — 1994’s “Vs. the Light of the Sun” and 1996’s “The Broadcasting System” — are definitely worth checking out, but they seem to have fallen into some kind of digital black hole. They aren’t available on iTunes or Spotify, but there are some samples on AllMusic.com. A YouTube search also turned up the sixth-best song from “The Broadcasting System”:
Janney grew up in the D.C. punk scene and eventually became a producer for the likes of Jawbox and Brainiac and the bassist/keyboardist for Girls Against Boys, a band that recorded for Chicago’s esteemed Touch and Go Records throughout the ’90s. Here’s “Super-Fire,” the first track from the band’s 1996 album, “House of GVSB”:
Syd Butler and Seth Jabour
You might recognize these two as members of the indie-rock marathon team, Les Savy Fav. Like Janney, Butler grew up in the D.C. punk scene, but linked up with his Les Savy Fav bandmates at Rhode Island School of Design in the mid-’90s. Butler also founded the indie label French Kiss Records in 1999 and has since released music from Bloc Party, Passion Pit and others. Les Savy Fav is still at it, too, but in the spirit of the ’90s, here’s “Wake Up!” from the band’s 1999 sophomore album “The Cat and the Cobra”:
She’s the only non-punk talent Armisen tapped for the band. And while she’s not the same Kim Thompson who played in D.C. bands Cupid Car Club, the Delta 72 and Skull Kontrol, she still has a few local connections and some incredible talents.
Thompson is a jazz-funk-kitchen-sink kind of percussionist who’s made music with Washington jazz bassist Tarus Mateen and Kennedy Center’s Artistic Advisor for Jazz, Jason Moran. But she’s most famously known as Beyonce’s touring drummer. Wanna watch her play a drum solo? Sure you do:
A previous version of this story misnamed Rhode Island School of Design. This version has been updated.