“We have some Police fans in the audience…the band of course…”
By Chris White, Contributor, DC Music Live
So you’re one of those people that likes to write in public. You have to go somewhere that isn’t home to get something done. Plus, you’re in the city. Why not look at other people while you’re at it? They all certainly assume you’re already looking at them. I mean…look at what they’re wearing.
Coffee shops have been prime real estate for setting up shop, getting some work done, and getting your creep on. Now, with space increasingly at a premium, hotels in the DC area are trying to get in on the racket. To make themselves more attractive to potential guests, they have opened up their lobbies to the “consultant” crowd to come in and enjoy a comfortable atmosphere while they sponge off free wi-fi and bar snacks.
Bands playing in hotels aren’t anything new but Bravenoise’s performance at the Renaissance Hotel in Dupont Circle Wednesday is part of a broader strategy. Renaissance has begun an entertainment series called “RLife Live” where they draw on local talent from wherever the particular branch of the hotel chain is located to draw in guests looking for a feel of what the natives are really like. Nothing says DC better than nomadic suits plugging away at their laptops while alternating beers and cups of coffee to keep the mind limber. Playing in business casual, Bravenoise represented us well to the lonely wanderer but, with their distinct fusion of pop, rock, and bossa nova, I could have just as easily been sitting in a hotel in Brazil.
Some hotel guests were sitting around ensconced in mounds of deliberately-tossed throw pillows while squares like myself sat down at tables to start drinking after a long day’s work. The sound check was a simple circular melody with a tinge of Caribbean flavor as guitarist/vocalist Andrew Bell and bassist Garron Marsh tuned up. Everyone loosened their ties and sank into their respective cushions until Andrea Spadafora laid down some crisp drum slaps. People milling about the foyer and the coffee shop craned their necks towards the main lobby area as the trio jammed out an impromptu instrumental. Then the show began.
As they worked into their opening number, their skillful musicianship showed through the playful vibe of the tune. Both Bell and Marsh are steeped in the bluegrass tradition and that particular style of picking led to some exciting rapid-fire exchanges. At a couple points Bell laid into a spacey, almost prog-tinged solo (as an unreformed metalhead, I’m a sucker for solos) that caused one patron to request some Dire Straights.
Their next number paid homage to one of their biggest influences, The Police, with a ska-infused bounce and vocals evocative of pre-solo career Sting. Fittingly enough, just as I began to register the similarity, they followed up with a faithful cover of The Police’s “Walking on the Moon.” Bravenoise also gave the audience a liberal does of another of their major influences: Brazilian jazz. You could tell how much he must have worn out his record collection as a kid as he nonchalantly crooned in Portuguese to some sort of jazz/reggae hybrid.
It’s a testament to the band’s virtuosity that this grab-bag of styles didn’t sound forced or contrived. Closing out the first segment of the show, their original number “You Never Know When You Go Away” was a brooding highlight perfect for sitting over a beer in a dusky hotel lobby. The guys in town on business sitting over by the bar started loosening up and a cover of Gotye’s seemingly inescapable “Someone That I Used to Know,” ensured the band held the attention of the lounge’s transient demographic.
Bravenoise gradually took on the character of their environment as night fell. Their humorous stage banter paired with some of their slower, bass-heavy grooves gave them the feel of a lounge act. And I mean that in the best way. The strangest moment, though, would have to have been their reggae version of Bob Denver’s “Country Roads.”
Then, emerging from a dub-like zen, the band began playing a dance-y sort of funk rock as they were joined on stage by Baltimore spoken word artist Ad-Lib (aka Marvin Dobson) for another highlight titled “Set Up, Set Down.” A few people (locals by the looks of them) began taking advantage of the swank atmosphere and the up-tempo vibe to start dancing and, if I had about four more drinks and a date, I’d have joined them.
The band’s album “Everything Was and Everything Will Be” is available now and they are looking to start recording their next effort in the fall. One tour highlight worth mentioning is a stop at Arlington, VA next week where it looks like they’ll be doing a runway show with a lot of half-naked women around. Well, at least the Renaissance had bar snacks…