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Posted at 3:45 PM ET, 03/ 7/2011

Live last night: Dirty Beaches, the best band I saw this weekend

By David Malitz

dirty beachesDirty Beaches was the highlight of a busy music weekend in D.C. (Courtesy Windish Agency)

I saw a lot of good music this weekend. The efficient, no-frills garage-punk roar of Screaming Females. Some fast-faster-fastest hardcore from Coke Bust and Punch. Ready-for-primetime pop from Alex Winston. Creation Records throwback of Minks. Stately indie pop from Dum Dum Girls. But the best of the bunch was one dude who spent much of his 30 minutes on stage simply singing along to pre-recorded tracks.

Dirty Beaches was the first of three acts at the Black Cat Sunday night. It’s the one-man band of Alex Zhang Hungtai, and his sound is equally informed by swaggering ‘50s rock-and-roll and the bleak, minimalist drone of electronic music pioneers Suicide. Canned music is usually a downer but Hungtai writes desolate songs. He’ll almost certainly find himself a backing band someday soon, but for now the isolation feels right. At times he would strum along on guitar, adding a bit more rhythmic punch. Mostly he crooned exactly the way you’d expect a guy with a slick-backed pompadour to croon. Occasionally he let loose a vicious howl. The entire set had a faint sense of unease -- as if something truly sinister was lurking around the corner.

Dirty Beaches makes a quick return to the Black Cat on May 9.

By David Malitz  | March 7, 2011; 3:45 PM ET
Categories:  Last night's gig  | Tags:  Dirty Beaches  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: In concert: Smith Westerns at Rock & Roll Hotel
Next: Week ahead: Wild Flag's D.C. debut; "Gift"s from Chip Tha Ripper; reruns with Chuck Brown


Your excitement at this performer puzzles me. He struck me as a Chris Isaak wannabe, but more noirish and without a great voice. Being backed up by recorded music and playing very little guitar was rather boring, at least in my estimation. That said, the overall sound had possibilities - I'd be interested in seeing him with a band in the future.

Posted by: MyPostID27 | March 8, 2011 8:42 AM | Report abuse

I hear ya. The description of "Chris Isaak wannabe, but more noirish and without a great voice" makes me excited, so, you know, YMMV. I just thought it was strangely entrancing, both visually and musically, and all very minimal.

Posted by: DavidMalitz | March 8, 2011 2:04 PM | Report abuse

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