Shirlington, o Shirlington. The place I remember as being a small, not-too-crowded weekend movie oasis just off I-395 on the way to DC in the middle of a whole lotta nothing as a kid has grown up into a burgeoning yuppie metropolis. Fancy restaurants, fancy condos, fancy shops...and not much parking to speak of (and parking decks full of resident parking). However, in one of those fancy (yet awesome) restaurants, there was a show. And while not fancy, this here show, it was plenty awesome. It was a night of good company and good music, and damned if that isn't the best kinda night to have.
MINI RECAP: Small Mountain Bear = Strummerific! The Last Monarchs = Strumtastic! Overall Score: B
My friend Heather swears up, down, and sideways by Small Mountain Bear, otherwise known as Will Read. Will is a recent transplant to NYC, gives music away for free on the internets, and has himself a pretty nice little voice. In it you will hear shades of Cat Stevens, along with tones reminiscent of one of my favorite voices, local and otherwise, Mister Justin Jones. The sound at Busboys & Poets was well-suited to Read's one-man setup, though not so much for The Last Monarchs' more expansive sound (see below). The cover of Michael Jackson's "Black or White" was an unexpected treat, Read's voice and acoustic lending a whole new direction to one of Jacko's biggest songs. Thanks to the great parking hunt I missed a fair chunk of the Small Mountain Bear set, but what I heard I liked. Quite a bit.
The Last Monarchs, hailing from Alexandria, made their way onto the small stage and proceeded to play one heck of a little set. As mentioned above, the sound nearly did them a disservice, as I couldn't quite make out what the band said between songs thanks to muddy mics, but apart from that (and the drums being just this shade of too loud on occasion) their full band lushness was treated fairly well. Reminiscent somewhat of an old Richmond favorite, Mermaid Skeletons, but livelier and with more attitude, The Last Monarchs made me wonder just how I'd managed to miss the boat on them thus far. After all, Alexandria is pretty much my backyard. At times a little twang crept in, which while not your typical DC sound, sure did sound good to me. And again, it must be noted that violins and having a shit ton of people in your band both seem to be the new black, but I'm definitely down with both. Especially in the same band. And they covered "Folsom Prison Blues", which sounded great and won me over for dang sure.
Overall, it was a darned fine evening's worth of entertainment. I give both bands the ole thumbs up. Locals, make sure to check out The Last Monarchs. New Yorkers, put Small Mountain Bear on your radar. Everyone else, well, you've been advised to give both a looksie. They're both worth your while.
mp3: The Story of My Life (Small Mountain Bear - go here to listen and support)