Despite awful weather — a 40-degree drop from Thursday to Friday and a dramatic shift from cloudless sun to icy sleet — Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and Secret Chiefs 3 made it to Washington, DC last night to play at the Black Cat. Secret Chiefs actually didn’t get in until very late, so SGM played first, starting at around 10:15 (doors were supposed to open at 9, but I guess they were doing their soundcheck because the club made people stand out in the cold until almost 9:45). They played almost exclusively new material, with only “Phthisis” somewhere in the middle and then closing with a crowd-pleasing “Sleep is Wrong.” They opened with a song I recognized from when they played here two years ago that reminds me of Idiot Flesh — maybe this one is called “Companions”? But then they played something that absolutely blew everyone away, a chunky odd-time instrumental with Kihlstedt flailing away on violin against a dual-guitar attack, that really sounded like SGM’s version of “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part 2.” Seriously, this was a blistering piece that will likely be on the next album, out in late May.
The rest of the set was good but not transcendent. Nils was in full performance mode throughout, but also made time to banter a bit with the crowd. I dug most of the new songs, but am looking forward to hearing the studio versions; the sound in the club was surprisingly good (much better than the last time they were here), but most of the nuance got washed out by the odd-time heavy-metal riffing that seemed to dominate everything. The crowd absolutely ate it up though; there was a great turnout despite the weather, and band seemed to feel so good about their set and the audience that they did a clearly unplanned encore of “1997,” which I always thought was a vastly overrated song but which of course drove the crowd to a frenzy.
It’s nice to see that this band has evidently developed quite a devoted following. I think they’re one of the most innovative current bands out there, and the fact that they’ve made such a name for themselves pretty much by touring incessantly is great. Sadly, since they didn’t finish until 11:45, I didn’t stick around for Secret Chiefs 3, which apparently is my loss. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to catch them again in the near future, but as it was, I was happy enough just seeing SGM again.