Districtly Business: Medications and Deleted Scenes at the Sidebar, May 24
Sometimes it appears there’s a generation gap in Washington, D.C. rock, one separating the postpunk old-guard represented by Dischord Records from the younger indie bands trying to make a name for themselves. But Monday’s bill at the Sidebar was a testament to the fact that there are bands on either side of that divide forming alliances and finding common ground. Medications, a Dischord band full of members of former Dischord bands, brought along one of Washington’s best younger bands, Pitchfork darlings Deleted Scenes, with them to Baltimore as part of a short run of East coast shows.
Deleted Scenes proved in a 40-minute set that they’re fully prepared to make good on the promise of their full-length debut, last year’s Birdseed Shirt. The band cherry-picked the album’s three best songs, the brooding rocker “Mortal Sin,” the atmospheric “Ithaca,” and the rousing, climactic “Fake IDs,” and sprinkled them among a whole bunch of new songs that build on their strengths. And for the first time I can remember out of several times seeing the band, frontman Dan Scheuerman actually didn’t break any guitar strings.
The new Medications album released last month, Completely Removed, represents a bit of a departure, with founding members Devin Ocampo and Chad Molter playing nearly every instrument and Molter sharing lead vocal duties for the first time. And while the results are more varied and adventurous than their previous records, the album lacks some of the bite and immediacy of the proggy power trio heard on earlier releases. So it was reassuring to see Medications take the Sidebar stage with the thunderous “Seasons” and assert that they are still simply a killer live band.
With a new quartet live lineup, Medications now feature Jesse Fox on drums, and Mark Cisneros juggling keyboard and guitar. Cisneros in particular gave the band a wider range of textures than it’d ever had before, lending organ to “Rising To Sleep” and piano to “Tame On The Prowl,” and joining Ocampo for twin guitar leads on other songs. And Fox was amply equipped to attack the complex time signatures of parts originally recorded by original drummer Andy Becker, or Molter or Ocampo (each talented drummers who played for Faraquet and Smart Went Crazy, respectively).
Their set was heavily geared toward the new album, but Medications made one well chosen detour with “Safe and Sorry,” the anthemic first track from their 2004 self-titled debut EP and still a strong candidate for the band’s best song to date. But they also proved that they can spin great performances out of even less promising material like “For WMF,” the inauspiciously low key opener to Completely Removed that closed the set, sounding much louder, longer, and more epic than on the album, leaving the Sidebar audience just about gasping at the band’s instrumental prowess.