Review: Shark Week and Bass Drum of Death at the Black Cat

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Concertgoers had no doubts whether or not Shark Week and Bass Drum of Death would deliver on Friday night. Simply, the DC locals and the Mississippi garage rockers tore the roof off the Black Cat Backstage. The crowd was so dense, in fact, that BDoD proved themselves more than worthy of booking the renowned Black Cat mainstage in a year or so following their next album (we’re crossing our fingers for that record to come soon)

Shark Week are some seriously stylish people. They rock a unique brand of bluesy punk that few national bands match, let alone any regional acts. Lead singer Ryan Hunter Mitchell rocked a ’70s-fab groovy shirt and vest that rivals your dad’s high school photos. Shark Week are what the Black Keys might sound like if they went to an all-boys school and hated everything about it (and also had a bassist). Solos abounded, drums were in danger of destruction and Mitchell treated fans to a number of guitar tricks. It’s no wonder that at the end of their set, the audience shouted for more. Don’t miss this band—they’re poised for a rapid ascent. Catch them before the tastemakers do.

Bass Drum of Death took to the stage relatively wordlessly. They’re not exactly chatty cathies, but the audience didn’t seem to mind. With a satisfying balance of tracks from 2011’s GB City and 2013’s self-titled album, they ripped through their set list. However, after the plodding ooze of “Spare Room,” frontman John Barrett did take a moment to say, “We only have, like, two slow songs. Sorry.” before shooting off again.

…As if he even needed to apologize.

Between the storm of distortion, the rain of sweat and beer and all-encompassing badass atmosphere, the crowd didn’t lose momentum for even a minute. Photographers were safely perched to avoid the slamdancing, but the rest of the audience was a sea of nonstop power from the first stroke of a power chord until the last. Friends were launched from one side of the room to the other. Items were flung from pockets. Eyeglasses were (eventually) safely removed. And through it all, Barrett and Len Clarks’ shaggy heads never lost focus of the performance. If rocking is a job, they’re some dedicated, efficient workers.

That’s not to say that they’re in any way pedestrian, though. “Leaves” was an especially noteworthy performance. On the record, it’s a (relatively) loping, dissonant song with an almost offputting shift between vocal registers. But live, it took on a new life. Singer John Barrett made it shockingly sensual, as if he was talking dirty to the microphone. Which, really, is the best image to describe a BDoD show: It’s sweaty, it’s loud and it’s fun. Finishing up with “Get Found,” a favorite from their first album, no less than a third of the crowd left soaking with sweat. We didn’t even have time to get cleaned up before asking for more.

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