The annual Sockets' Showcase is a bit like a high school reunion – that is, if your high school was known for producing some of the most innovative and diverse music in the Mid-Atlantic region. For the third year in a row, devotees of local music gathered at the Black Cat Mainstage for an assuredly well-curated night that celebrated the blossoming DC metro music scene.
The four-act bill began with a subdued air. Arlington-based Cigarette provided a sweet, dreamy soundtrack as the room swelled with the gathering crowd of both familiar and fresh faces. The six-piece includes a rotating cast of clarinet, trombone, and piano that exhumes an innocently earthy charm thanks to lilting lyrics, strumming guitars and bouquets of flowers tied upon microphones. Although the ambient set was overpowered at points by chattering and drink orders, the multi-instrumental group showed they're filling the void of ethereal melodies that DC has been missing.
DC veterans Buildings picked up the tempo with their fast-paced mathy instrumental numbers. Celebrating the release of their first full-length Everything in Parallel, the trio’s new material displayed a maturity while still providing billowing anthems but with a tighter and more edited feel. Every intricate guitar interlude and drum solo felt properly placed and served their overall sound well.
Following Buildings exclusively instrumental sound was art-rock powerhouse Imperial China, also celebrating the release of a new album with How We Connect. Known for intense live performance the trio did not disappoint as the large expanse of the stage allowed for spinning, jumping and other undulating movements of the sort. The primal urgency of the set was perfectly cumulated in a spirited, booming four-piece drum circle from help by local band Tereu Tereu.
The intensity of Imperial China’s set seemed to thin the crowd out a bit by the time tropically infused Protect-U (off of Future Times Records) took the stage, causing several to miss the pinnacle of “out-of-body, disappear into yourself” music for the night. The electronic duo has past described their sound as employing a “swimming pool” quality, which is without a doubt heard and felt in their minimal serendipitous beats. Kicking off my shoes and allowing my shoulders to fully relax, an air of community resonated in the closing minutes of the newly formed DC tradition of the Sockets' Showcase.