Bass Drum of Death Pummels The Black Cat in Washington, D.C.


Shark Week’s Ryan Mitchell performs at the Black Cat in Washington, D.C.

When John Barrett started Bass Drum Of Death, it was a one-man band. Barrett writes and records all the music himself. At live shows, Barrett would sing while playing guitar and a bass drum–hence the name. Over the past couple years, he has conceded to adding an additional guitar player and a drummer to his live shows. The band is currently on a headlining tour and pulled into the Black Cat Thursday evening.

Bass Drum Of Death and Shark Week at Black Cat

The Black Cat has been a fixture of the underground/independent music scene in Washington, D.C., for more than 20 years. The venue has hosted a veritable who’s who of indie juggernauts at the early stages of their careers and was a major hub for D.C.’s post-hardcore scene in the early 90s. While the nearby 9:30 Club may be one of the best venues in the country, Black Cat has a certain underground aesthetic to it that made a perfect setting for this show.


Bass Drum of Death

The first band on stage was the local standout, Shark Week. Having a solid local following, the venue filled up nicely by the time they took the stage–a rarity for opening acts in this town. The band’s set included songs off its first two EPs, but also featured a few from its upcoming debut full-length. Despite its lack of recorded material, Shark Week has built a reputation on its live show.

The band hit its stride during,”If You Want Me Stay (For A While).” Having seen Shark Week several times in the past year, this song is consistently a highlight of the band’s live show. Frontman Ryan Mitchell’s on-stage dramatics are captivating and convey a stage presence of a more seasoned performer, and that is never more apparent than during this song in particular.

By the time Bass Drum of Death took the stage, the crowd had nearly reached the 200-person capacity of the Black Cat’s “back stage.” Barrett and his two bandmates wasted no time, diving right into thrashers like, “I Wanna Be Forgotten,” “Bad Reputation” and “GB City.” The front half of the room spontaneously transformed into a mass of people bouncing up and down and into each other. A few people were hoisted up to crowd surf. It felt like a rock and roll show.

After playing two of the band’s slower-tempo tracks near the middle of its set, Barrett promised the crowd that it was all uptempo from there. “We literally do not have any more slow songs. Here’s some more fast ones,” he said.

As promised, the band went balls-to-the-wall for the remainder of its set. The night ended with band’s current single, “Crawling After You,” followed by its first single, “Get Found.” The latter of which is a perfect example of the blues-punk sound that has become synonymous with Bass Drum of Death.

More than anything, this show was a welcome reminder that rock and roll is far from dead. Though it has seemingly disappeared from the mainstream, bands like Shark Week and Bass Drum of Death are part of a much larger scene of bands keeping the genre alive. In an era where electronic music reigns supreme, it is super refreshing to hear nothing but distorted guitars, crashing cymbals and a big, thundering bass drum.

Don’t miss Bass Drum of Death when they hit your city and look out for more of our reflections on live music!

Article by Jason Schellhardt

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