Saturday, November 7, 2009

Them Crooked Vultures with Mini Mansions

9:30 Club
Washington, D.C.
October 14th, 2009

I'm not going to waste a lot of time talking about tonight's opener from Los Angeles, because this show was all about the headliner. To be honest, I spent the majority of the time Mini Mansions were playing trying to figure out how in the hell they managed to land this gig. The band is made up of three multi-instrumentalists, featuring Michael Shuman on drums (he plays them standing up) and guitar, Tyler Parkford on keyboard and guitar and Zach Dawes on bass and keyboards...all provide vocals. The band throws a lot of Beatles-esque harmonizing into their power-pop sound, which can be interesting at times. The highlight of the set was the tricked out version of Blondie's "Heart of Glass", which doesn't say a whole lot about the band's original songs. The crowd was subdued and frankly seemed bored when the openers were onstage. With very little crowd interaction and a somewhat bland sound, Mini Mansions wasted their opportunity to play in front of a sold out 9:30 Club crowd.

Them Crooked Vultures
If you haven't heard about this super-group, featuring Joshua Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal, Kyuss) on vocals and guitar, John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) on bass and keyboard and Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Probot, Nirvana) on drums, then shame on you. I've been to plenty of sold out shows at the 9:30 Club, but this one seemed extra sold out. The place was packed from wall to wall on the floor and in the balcony, with everyone craning their necks to see the slice of rock n' roll history that was about to take the stage.

In all the concerts I've been to, I have never before seen anything quite like this. Nobody in the room had a clue what they were about to hear because Them Crooked Vultures hasn't released any material to date. There would be no singing along tonight, no song requests shouted from the audience and no air guitaring to that familiar riff that everyone knows and loves. No, the people in attendance tonight were there because three of the most amazing rock musicians alive have decided to get together and try something new. They could have walked onstage and sang Christmas carols acapella and this crowd would have been in awe.

Fortunately, that's not what happened. When Grohl walked onstage, waved to the crowd and then took his seat behind the heavily sand bagged drum kit (yes folks, he hits them that freaking hard), the place exploded with excitement. Homme, Jones and rhythm guitarist Alain Johannes were right on his heels and the fun was about to begin. Grohl started with a nice, steady beat that got everyone's heads nodding and then...BOOM...he took off on a fast and furious rampage and the rest of the band dropped in right on time.

Grohl and Jones seemed content to take a backseat and allow Homme to play the role of band leader as neither said a word all night. About midway through the set, the frontman took a timeout to introduce the band. Of course, when Joshua said "ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Dave Grohl" the place erupted, to which he remarked "I know, I love him too". There was no louder applause all night however, than when Homme simply looked to his right and said "John Paul Jones". Not to be forgotten though, the singer very appropriately introduced himself by saying "and I'm your host, I'm Joshua...I think I've slept on most of your floors"...hahaha...this guy never fails to make me laugh.

If you're wondering what Them Crooked Vultures sound like, I'd have to say its a very heavy version of alternative rock. The band sounded amazing, playing songs like "Scumbag Blues", "Gunman" and "Mind Eraser, No Chaser" off their forthcoming album. Given the fact that Homme's vocal style is so unique, it's hard not to draw comparisons to Queens of the Stone Age. Grohl's hard hitting style carries the music to a different level however, discarding the laid back feel of Homme's other band. Although, during one particular cabaret-like number, Joshua removed his guitar, lit up a cigarette and strutted around the stage like a member of the Rat Pack...very cool (on a side note, Jones played a key-tar during that song!). And then of course there's John Paul Jones, who is like the father figure watching over the boys and keeping them in check. His rhythm on the bass and keyboards is the foundation for this heavy, groovy rock. I can't wait to hear the album!

It was obvious that the entire band was having a blast onstage, but Homme wanted to make sure they weren't the only ones enjoying themselves. At one point in the show, he asked "you guys having a good time?...I can't really tell...I am...I'm having a great time...I love being in this band." The crowds overwhelming reaction told Joshua all he needed to know, that indeed we were having a good time. Later in the set, he sympathized with the fact that none of us actually knew any of the songs, saying "it's a lot of new music...kinda confusing...kinda exciting too though, right?". He hit the nail on the head with that one, exciting is the word that best described this experience. I think I can probably speak for just about everyone else in attendance when I say that tonight, I felt like I witnessed something truly special. Whether this band is just a one off project or a full time gig, seeing Joshua Homme, John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl onstage together is an image, and more importantly a sound, that I won't forget. Amazing!

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