On Wednesday, March 20th, the Black Cat was teeming with a quietly excited, mature crowd that was eagerly awaiting the start of the sold-out show for the female-fronted folk rock band, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down.
The opening act was Portland band, Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside, another female-fronted band whose lead singer has an affinity for vintage dresses and quirky eyeglasses. The audience was engaged yet polite as the band opened up with just instrumentals, showcasing the band’s rockabilly feel. Then, they started with “Bad Boys”, a sultry and cheeky track from their latest album, Untamed Beast. Guitar in hand and shoulders shimmying, frontwoman, Sallie Ford, declared her tough-as-nail attitude in a voice that croaked and cracked in just the right ways. With heavy guitar licks and riffs, a steady bass, and an uncomplicated drum beat, Ford’s vocals perfectly matched the vintage rock and roll style that was kept modern by unapologetic lyrics. The audience was finally dancing by the forth song, “Devil”, and Ford also loosened up, interacting with guitarist, Jeff Munger, in a playful back-and-forth with their instruments. “Paris” was a delightfully charming song where Ford showcased her sweeter side – vocally – to the beat of a shaker and a plucked guitar line. Ford was a simple performer; she stuck to her music and snuck in the occasional skirt twirling, arm flailing move when she wasn’t playing her guitar. Her interaction with the audience was minimum – no anecdotes or interjections. Her focus was the music and that was good enough for them. Finally, the band ended with sex-charged “Party Kids”, effectively warming up the crowd for the main act.
It was another hour wait until Thao came on as people set the stage with a variety of different string instruments including a mandolin, a banjo, a lap slide guitar, and an acoustic guitar with f-holes. Then, members of The Get Down Stay Down entered first and started playing as Thao sauntered on stage, coffee mug in hand. She set the mug on a speaker after one last sip and smiled easily at the crowd. With her bright pink dress subtly swishing as she picked up her guitar, she joined the band with their opener, “Know Better Learn Faster,” filled with dynamic tempo changes and Thao’s fresh and detailed vocals. A native Virginian, Thao felt right at home with the DC crowd, telling lighthearted jokes and stories about once working around Chinatown. What was more impressive was Thao’s command of various instruments from rocking out on a lap slide guitar for “Squareneck” to whipping her hair with banjo in hand while playing crowd pleaser “Holy Roller”. She was energetic and her vocals were on point, harmonizing perfectly with the keyboardist for “Kindness Be Conceived” and “Every Body”. Thao was not only musically satisfying but entertaining as well, surprising the audience with a Ludacris rap during an instrumental break. She closed with “We the Common”, asking the audience to sing along as one of the staff filmed for a potential video. The crowd was overflowing with enthusiasm, feeding off Thao’s unending energy and lively band. After two encores, one of which was a cover of “Be My Baby” performed with Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside, Thao finally left the stage to loud applause.