Thursday, May 22, 2008
Urban Verbs Planting the Flag
This week when I talked with Roddy Franz, lead singer of The Urban Verbs , he mentioned the phrase "planting the flag" more than once. He was referring to grabbing this band from the mire of obscurity and getting it back on the DC map where it belongs. (Although I kept picturing astronauts on the moon, I know what he means.)
When Roddy returned to DC a few years ago, he was not happy to see The Verbs being overlooked in film and books about DC music. He feels their band was a precursor to the somewhat significant DC punk scene when they formed in 1978 and practiced in that gloomy basement of The Atlantis- later the 9:30 Club on F Street. (if you ever went downstairs at the old club- you know it's not a place you wanted to spend a whole lot of time unless you were getting stoned)
Back in the day, I don't remember another group around here sounding quite like the Urban Verbs. Roddy's haunting voice combined with the rich sounds of Robert Goldstein on guitar and Robin Rose's synthesizer drove their songs. Every day life situations about subways and love affairs and friendships gone awry became mysterious and lyrical in their hands.
The Verbs were not without notoriety in their own time. They were the first local band to play New York's legendary CBGBs which resulted in Brian Eno (Yes, Brian Eno!) writing them a two page fan letter. Roddy feels their music was both immediate and personal, and better experienced live. But the recordings of The Urban Verbs somehow managed to sidestep that dated eighties sound; their music still stands up. Many thought they were ahead of their time- and many still feel that way. Their sneak preview at Comet Pizza a couple of weeks ago managed to catch The Washington Post's attention and caught a rave.
Now Roddy is on a mission to see that this band is not forgotten, and Seth Hurwitz, owner of the 9:30 Club is supporting that cause by giving them a gig this Saturday night- back at the place where-if not geographically at least spiritually- the band was born. They will be performing mostly older materiel, but will also have three new songs to unveil. And Roddy's son, Max will be on drums. It's an early show- doors open at 6. Martin Royle (Roddy says think Jonathan Richman- only better) will be opening, and The Verbs hit it at 8 p.m. sharp so I'm told.
Something strange is the theme of the evening. It should be something to behold.