I never thought I would actually get to see an old school-style surf music band ever. Until I heard Laika and the Cosmonauts, a surf band from Helsinki, Finland, would be playing at The Black Cat in DC. So I made sure I got there and I wasn't disappointed: wearing matching shirts covered with stars and planets, they put on an incredibly groovy show that had every nodding to their music, even if they weren't familiar with it.
Lead guitarist Mikko Lankinen was the star of the show. His guitar playing would give some of the top guitarists today a run for their money. Not only was it fast, but it was also passionate and melodious. Complemented by the second guitar and the farfisa organ (Matti Pitsinki) that introduced a lot of dissonance, they not only played great surf, but also made it somewhat experimental. I've never seen anyone so efficiently use a tremolo and make it sound so good like he did. The drumming (Janne Haavisto) the bass work (Tom Nyman) was very tight and meshed well with Lankinen's wizardry. Songs they played included Delayrium, Floating, Tantrum, The A-Treatment (which has got some great middle-eastern melodies), The Ipcress File, Global Village, The Avengers, Exposè (which has a reggae feel to it), Cafè Equator, O.C.C.C., Get Carter, and Psyko.
It is interesting that surf seems to be making somewhat of a comeback (actually, it has been for a while). In my opinion, some of the first great guitar riffs and licks and tricks were first initiated by people like The Ventures and Dick Dale (who has made a huge comeback of late, given the popularity of the Pulp Fiction soundtrack). However, the surf music that Laika and the Cosmonauts put out isn't just rehashing the old stuff. They also incorporate folk and middle-eastern melodies and dissonance to enhance their sound. In this resurgence of surf, I think this places Laika and the Cosmonauts at the top.
Jet Lag opened and they were okay. They had a female vocalist who played power chords and screamed loudly ala Kat Bjelland of Babes in Toyland. The next band was Cut Throat and they were quite decent. The guitar work was better than Jet Lag's. Both bands played standard guitar-pop.
If you're into exploring surf, be sure to check out some of Laika and the Cosmonauts' albums and catch them in concert if they come to town!