Snowden – Washington – Black Cat, DC – 2006-12-16

Where: Washington – Black Cat, DC.

When: 2006-12-16

Drawing largely from its excellent album Anti Anti, Snowden toured with Forward Russia this fall. The tour ended in Washington, DC, where the bands played at The Black Cat club. While it wasn’t quite a full house, it was full enough and attendees certainly got their money’s worth.

Snowden took the stage unassumingly enough. The band doesn’t seem impressed with itself and doesn’t have that self-conscious indie-rock swagger that you find with a lot of bands, which was refreshing. But after a few songs, even the band-ignorant clubgoers had taken notice of Snowden’s understated but commanding presence. It was probably around the time Snowden played “Anti Anti” that the crowd really started coalescing in front of the stage. Playing their signature song fairly early in the set came as a surprise, as usually bands will hold out on playing such material as a way to keep the crowd waiting, anticipating. It seemed like a move of confidence to run through that song early on, and it sounded great.

Snowden played its songs faithful to the recordings. No big surprises or drawn-out noodling or anything to detract from the strength of the songs. Much of the stage-presence energy came from bassist Corinne. Her energy, as well as the full sound of her effected bass rig, contributed the most to the band’s live performance. The others played with a kind of focused energy and concentration while she bounced and turned and… well…just rocked.

Seeing the band live makes you appreciate just how much the bass drives and carries the songs. Even though there are two guitars, their input stands largely as near-minimal, melodic decoration which – perfectly suited as it is to the music – draws your attention to the other instruments. At times the mix buried the guitar playing, which was a shame because much of the songs’ moods don’t convey as well without those touches.

Something you might not notice from the album but becomes evident live is that drummer Chandler rarely uses his cymbals. And though many of his beats involve double-time on the high hat, seeing him play will make you aware of the way he uses accents to differentiate the beats. That plus the fact that he uses other percussive devices, as on “Filler Is Wasted,” which the band performed with aplomb. Perhaps the strongest song of the night was “Kill The Power,” as well done live as it is done on the record.

Snowden’s set closed with “Victim Card,” a slow, building number. After playing such a tight set, it was good to see the band let loose a little during the song’s climax.

Forward Russia followed Snowden and played manically throughout its set. The songs ran together in a rush of energy. The frontman waved and gesticulated wildly throughout the night. By the third song or so, he’d pretty much run through his repertoire of stage antics (including repeatedly wrapping his head and neck in the mic cord), but that didn’t keep him from continuing with them. Seeing these two bands play in succession, it was apparent that the one was the yin to the other’s yang. Where Snowden was largely composed and focused, Forward Russia lit up the stage with its sprawling ADHD sound.

The guitarist had a plethora of effects to choose from, and he made the most of them. At times, he would loop one guitar line so that he could play a new line on top of it, effectively doubling the number of guitarists in the mix. It takes a lot of skill to do this correctly, and he did. His playing was energetic and almost effortless it seemed. The drummer played the fastest beats of the night and did so with precision. Her hands were all over the place – from high hat to floor tom to cymbal to snare – but she always kept it tight. With a sound and approach like Forward Russia’s, it’s important to keep the rhythmic base solid. The rhythm section did just that. Forward Russia definitely delivers more in its live show than is apparent from the record.

Forward Russia’s set closed with its members and those of Snowden all joining together on stage to revel in the noisy finish. Clearly the bands got along well and must have had a lot of fun on their tour. When the bands left the stage, all that was left was Forward Russia’s lone guitar, strapped to a rafter over the stage, swinging and feeding back.