LIVE: Sockets Records Showcase, Black Cat, DC

by Marcus K. Dowling

If Washington, DC is going to be a next wave indie powerhouse, it is absolutely necessary that Sockets Records be a dominant label. If an attendee at Saturday night’s Sockets Records showcase, there was significant sonic evidence to prove that the label’s acts  may quickly be making this the case. A nearly filled to capacity Black Cat approved of the performances of local bands Protect-U, Imperial China, Buildings and Cigarette. But a mere inkling of the talent released from DC resident Sean Peoples’ imprint, it was sound and fury that signified a desire for a whole lot more.

Headliners were live electronic duo Protect-U. 2011 single “Double Rainbow” is a sneaky surprise, funky, atmospheric techno that doesn’t break a sweat, but explores the recesses of the mind. The duo doesn’t record on the label, but both members,  Aaron Leitko and Mike Petillo have released individual projects with Sockets, so the connection makes sense. The heaviest hitters of the night? Quite literally the local trio Buildings, whose sound is best described by rock scribes as math rock. Unaware of what that means? Imagine an all-instrumental groove that alternates between exploratory and persistent melodies and is sometimes led by the pocket drumming of David Rjich. The latter is quite impressive, analogous to a man drilling you into blissful awe with a jackhammer.

Imperial China? The local darlings with the most anticipated set of the night, their latest album How We Connect a brighter and heavier take on the garage rock style defining so much of the post-punk movement. Latest single “Limbs” in the live element really stands out, each breakdown more impressive than before. Openers Cigarette? A whisper to a whisper, a nine-piece orchestral rock outfit that, as bunches of flowers adorned microphone stands, peaceably meandered through a delightfully ambient opening set.

For more information on Sockets Records, visit