Picture Book & Live Review: Darwin Deez w/ Caged Animals and Me & This Army @ The Black Cat 4/5


Photos & Review by: Tommy Dingus

Me & This Army, Caged Animals, and Darwin Deez put on one of the most generous and amiable shows possible. Baltimore’s Me & This Army, fronted by Courtney Hargrove, kicked things off by making a lot of noise. Then she promptly apologized for it. Albeit half-heartedly, because that didn’t stop the three of them from rocking and raging the stage at DC’s Black Cat. Hargrove added an almost fangirl quality to her conversations with the crowd. Her excited rants were genuine and contagious, and she would later apologize for those, too.

New York’s Caged Animals quietly took the stage, and lead singer Vini Cacchione told us how the show was going to go. They were going to start out slow and then progress to the most sinister songs that we’ve ever heard. Joined on backup vocals by his sister and bassist Talya, and keyboardist Magali (Mag-uh-lee), the songs began with a dreamlike quality. Their doo-wop jam, complete with all the shooby-doo’s you can handle, was the turning point. After that, the punk rock turned up. Angel-faced and voiced Magali even interrupted a perfectly good song with a pterodactyl shriek that lasted longer than I thought a single breath could. That didn’t stop the Caged Animals from dedicating almost every song to someone, or group of someones. From New Yorkers, to DC and Jersey residents, to teens, to the headliners, to human beings, the Animals had everybody covered.

Tonight was a good night for New York’s Darwin Deez. Not only was it the last show of their US tour, but at midnight, only a few songs into their set, lead singer Darwin Smith turned 29. His parents were even there to help celebrate, and the Caged Animals brought a cake to the stage at the encore. Before that, though, there was a whole show. A show that included behind-the-back guitar-playing, choreographed dances and lights inside white boxes on pillars. Though Smith may look like Kip Dynamite meets Weird Al, he sings the most entrancing rock lullabies, and the ladies go absolutely nuts for the guy.

The stardust on black backdrop had the most effect during the song “Constellations” but it, combined with the makeshift soft lights, was a nice change of pace to the usual gelled canisters. It was quite a spectacle, every few songs, when all four band members assembled center stage to do an “MJ Dance,” or a “Birthday Dance.” Their moves were solid, and their instrumental skills were incredible. Guitarist Andrew even played with both the Caged Animals and Darwin Deez at this show. It was the kind of show that makes you feel like you gained something in the time you spent with the bands. And it makes you really want to dance.

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