This weekend was indeed an epic lesson in contrast for me. One night after seeing Matt & Kim play a packed Rams Head Live!, I ventured into a DC to see a show backstage at Black Cat, which I hadn’t been to yet after two mainstage shows. In a polar opposite from Matt & Kim, I found myself standing among 20 other people in a tiny room, but with still enough space to be very comfortable watching bands trying to make a name for themselves.
Local act Achtung Panda opened up with a set filled with short songs that mixed screamo with ambient extended jams and a Pixies cover (“Gouge Away”). I couldn’t get 100 percent into it, being exhausted as anything from two days of traveling and no sleep. It wasn’t the worst DC act I had ever seen, but it wasn’t the best either.
The band I was there to see, Family Portrait was up next. I interviewed frontman Evan Brody about Family P and Underwater Peoples for The Diamondback a few weeks back, and was pretty stoked to see them in action after all the good things I’d heard from Anna and Marc. “Mega Secrets” has been one of my favorite songs since the summer and I was really impressed with the demos that have been making the blog rounds over the past few weeks.
Family Portrait performed as a three-piece, with Brody on guitar, Ari Stern on bass, and Michael Mimoun on drums. They were joined by Stef from Young Prisms on the opening jam, but then settled into the tracks. Despite being from Ridgewood with contemporaries Real Estate, Ducktails, Julian Lynch and Big Troubles, among others, Family Portrait has more of a throwback rock sound as opposed to the distant, chill, relaxing beach vibes of the others. With songs like “Mega Secrets,” during which Brody broke his low E string, and “The Glide (Part One),” Family Portrait sets itself apart from the other Jersey bands in a positive manner.
Finally the headliners, Crayon Fields, who had traveled all the way from Australia, took the stage to a crowd of four people, plus the sound guy. Eventually the crowd grew as the set went on, but it was a weird experience to be in a basically empty room with a band. The Australians powered through their set of tightly rehearsed pop songs, with highlights like “All the Pleasures of the World.” Every song seemed practiced to perfection and the band was on each time. The four-part harmonies were spot on and awesome. I had to split a little early to get back to the Metro, and I was extremely disappointed to have to bolt before the set was over.
In another weekend filled with music, I got to experience both ends of the spectrum: sold out venues and an empty room. I got to experience a band making it big and bands trying to make it in a new country. A great experience, capped off by great people watching some great new bands.