I like seeing shows in different places…it reminds me of the old on-the-road days when you’d come into a venue all scopin’ it out, seeing the differences in the audiences – more collegiate or mixed in age, loud or reserved, polite or asinine, trendy or style-locked. After seeing Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in Seattle a few weeks ago, I was very excited to have the opportunity to see them again in Washington, D.C. last night. The 9:30 Club is a real rock n’ roll joint – not a thee-ahh-tahh, not a skanky dive, not a glammed-out place to see and be seen. It’s pretty much a small bar, a flat floor, a basic stage, and a big u-shaped balcony where people stand against the rails allll the way around to see some of the best rock acts that come into D.C.

I got there about halfway into the set from openers Alberta Cross. Their look was very hairy/southern rock ‘70s/Black Crowes, save for the keyboardist who looked like the banjo player from Deliverance. They certainly didn’t sound like that though – more shoegazery/psych. But like the Whigs who opened for BRMC in Seattle, I found them good, energetic…but I can’t remember a single song they played. Sigh. There are so many bands and they work so hard, love to play, and just need to find their great songs.

BRMC do have so many great songs, and the 9:30 Club crowd seemed most energized by the older ones like “Shuffle Your Feet” and “Six Barrel Shotgun” closer to the end of the their very generous set, which must have been close to two hours long. Like the Vampire Weekend crowd from last Saturday, these Washington, D.C. concertgoers were surprisingly un-assholish, happy, and at times a little quiet, most noticeably between songs. The 9:30 is an all-ages place, which I like as I think music is for all. I did feel sorry for the young teen in front of me with his buzzcut dad – the kid was completely exhausted and at times could barely stand he was so tired, and he looked miserable. Dad finally took him home at the encore.

Last night I seemed to see a switch in band confidence and nerves from the Seattle gig – this time, Robert Been at times was just a tiny bit off his game, which I don’t even know would have been noticeable. You see more stuff sometimes when you are spending the night taking pictures – kind of a hyperfocus, I guess. Drummer Leah Shapiro was even stronger this time out with no lag in stamina and only one rushed tempo, which was brought down and stabilized by Peter Hayes as he stood by her kit. Once again I had no luck whatsoever in getting any pictures of her, which is a shame because she is so lovely and whacks those drums like no one’s business. Some delicate little flower ain’t gonna be able to keep up with that massive guitar sound, I tell ya.

I was able to get a spot at the front but far left in front of a speaker column that was poofing my hair and realigning my heart's electrical charges, and this, my nemesis of the night: Meet Blindey McHeat, the robot stage light.

Bloody HELL. It was either hilarious or horrible that this servo-monster giving off palpable WAVES of heat was actually at times shining directly into the eyes of audience members a FOOT AWAY. This seemed fairly cruel, although I think the balcony folks must have enjoyed watching that extra entertainment from their relative safety. Because I know that BRMC play LOUD, I brought my very effective Hearos earplugs and I was quite comfortable while many others seemed to be cringing at times. I consider it a major triumph that I came away with intact eyesight, hearing, and a few decent leetle camera photographs. Some here, a few more on Flickr.

Usually, I would have some vids for you, but this time only a partial clip of “Bad Blood” from the new “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo” album because I DONE GOT THE SHOULDER TAP from security. Ah, well. Blindey McHeat was blocking most of the night anyway. You can’t win ‘em all.

My favorite song of the night was also a new one. “Aya” featured some incredible vocals from Peter Hayes, and the grinding sonic groove that BRMC does so well. A slowed, stripped “666 Conducer” was very cool, too – I think you could do that one with a brass band and it would still be sexy. The new close to the set was really gorgeous, a sweet harmonized version of “Open Invitation” with only two white uplights on Peter and Robert as they sang, and what seemed like hundreds of pinpoint green lasers projecting out onto the crowd like tiny spider legs, and resting on faces as little cool light dots. They stayed on for some time after the band left the stage, keeping the atmosphere going for just a little bit longer before the house lights went up, illuminating the inevitable rock mess of plastic cups and spilled beer.

Out onto the street after, in the semi-dodgy neighborhood, and a fellow fan let me get a cab before him, even though he could easily have taken it. He smiled in a not-creepy way and said to me as I crawled in the decrepit taxi, “Great show, huh?” I smiled back, and nodded, and said, “They are always great,” ‘cause they are. We sped away towards my hotel with the cab windows down on the still-warm midnight, glad for another show in a new town, while BRMC moves on to the next show in the next town and Blindey McHeat simmers the hell down.