completing a fancypants internship this past summer in Washington, D.C., I
just decided to stay in the nation's capitol. A new music scene is enough of a
bitch to immerse yourself in, especially when you've come from such a solid
environment as Athens, Georgia. However, having to learn how to get to venues
and figuring out when shit actually goes down can be equally as frustrating.
The District's quadrant layout is inspired in theory, but between multiple
roundabouts (why, why, why do these exist?), nearly identical street names,
and unclear signs, I've spent more than half my time making illegal U-turns
and desperately trying to find the interstate.
Such was the case driving into Falls Church, Virginia, what seems to be a
pleasant little suburb of D.C., and the reason why I missed half of Woven
Hand's set. However, when I walked into the rather impressive State Theatre,
all anxiety was quickly taken over for the deep, Gregorian drone track
underpinning "Chest of Drawers" from Consider the Birds: "Go into the
Lord's house / And go in a mile / The world will bow / The knees will be
broken for those who don't know how / He delights not in the strength of
horses / He takes no pleasure not in the legs of men." David Eugene Edwards,
completely focused on Woven Hand now that 16 Horsepower has officially
disbanded, sat solo on a short stool and slashed at his knees with an open
hand as he sung these words.
What struck me most about this performance was Edwards's connection with the
audience. Four years ago, I saw Woven Hand close out a festival on an Illinois
farmland – then accompanied by an organist and drummer – months before his
self-titled album was released stateside. Similarly, he sat on a stool
stomping violently with boots, but he played as if possessed. Almost paranoid
in demeanor, he'd whip his head around as if he heard voices and stare
dead-eyed into the stage lights. It was as alienating as it was intriguing.
Tonight he still stared into the ether but performed with an unfettered
inwardness that seemed to invite the audience. And despite his solo stature,
his unmistakable and resonant voice (and selected pre-recorded backing tracks)
filled the theatre with desperate urgency.
The much-warranted hype behind Norwegian band Serena Maneesh was met with a
small audience, but still, the sextet put on a show with a sound made to
reverberate the walls of a large auditorium. In fact, portions of the
performance reminded me of the stories I heard about My Bloody Valentine's
decibel-destroying volume heard streets away from the 40 Watt club in Athens.
(There you have it, folks, the requisite MBV reference. Happy?) Before
launching into the killer Stooges riff of "Sapphire Eyes," it was like
listening to a noise-rock band (Magik Markers strangely comes to mind) but
watching a fashion-forward frontman spitting up into the air before cooing
into the microphone. Okay, maybe the two aren't all that different.
The dynamic remained throughout the evening, even on the softer, more blissed-out
pop songs from the self-titled debut and escalated at two calculated "noise"
sections as indicated on a set list I grabbed. The first looped and reverbed
freakout came out of the two guitarists as the band patiently stood by, which
was a bit distracting to the visual, but their psychedelic Sonic Youth-like
explorations didn't disrupt the pace. The band was remarkably in tune with
each other. The sheer loudness of the set had the potential to obscure Emil
Nikolaisen's meticulous arrangements, but nearly every nuance came through
clearly. In fact, the closer, "Your Blood In Mine" – quite rhythmically
indebted to Confusion Is Sex now that I think about it – really warped
out the textured drone to great climax. The violinist sawed long notes while
the two guitarists once again explored every sonic corner of the theatre. One
by one, the band left the stage, leaving the second guitarist alone amidst
bubbles falling from the proscenium under lighted purple hues and the small
crowd roared appreciatively as he left the stage smiling a goofy Norskie
Selina's Melodie Fountain
Don't Come Down Here
Your Blood In Mine