Ash at DC9

British rockers Ash bring their 20th anniversary tour to DC9 in Washington, DC.

WASHINGTON, December, 5, 2012 —Brit-pop was the predominant musical movement in the ‘90s in England and an incredibly influential genre as well. It dominated the British pop charts for most of the decade, even if it made little impact in the US. Even so, with the reputation of bands like Oasis and Blur gaining some prominence, the genre’s impact was still felt across the Atlantic. As in most influential genres, the prominent bands faded away, but the spirit of the genre never really went away because its principles and style were appropriated in some fashion or another by most guitar driven British pop bands as the decade progressed.

Although the bands that were Brit-pop’s most prominent—the driving forces behind the genre’s heyday—have mostly disappeared, some still make half hearted attempts to re-form and remind people of their relevance to a now bygone era. Of course there are some bands that just decided not to go away and keep on performing. Ash is one of those bands.

When Brit-pop first started to become a thing, Ash was right there on the spot. When the band first got together, each member had only just arrived at the tender age of 15. Out of all the Brit-pop bands in the ‘90s, Ash was viewed either as the young upstarts of the bunch or the kid brothers of the rest of the crowd. Ash released their first album, Trailer, in ’94. Their second, 1977, was released in 1996 and eventually hit platinum status in the U.K.  While they never quite achieved the same heights afterward, they’ve been mainstays in the British music scene ever since.

This all leads into their recent show at DC9. The current Ash tour celebrates their 20th anniversary together as well as the end of their seven year hiatus from touring in the U.S.  This is a concept that seems a little bizarre when you think about it, as they’ve been actively producing music for the better part of those 20 years; and it’s a bit of stretch to say any of the three members of Ash are even pushing 40.

Ash was the manifestation of Brit-pop that became known for its youthful exuberance, and this attitude was easy to see in almost all their songs. They were the Brit-pop band that appropriated a more pop-punk flavor to their output than the rest of their contemporaries, which served to accentuate just how young they were, and tended to emphasize their youth-centric tendencies.

That kind of attitude can be expected to change the longer a band stays with it, however. Band members can’t stay in their teens and early 20s forever and eventually have to “grow up.”  After a while, a band stops seeming like a lark or a hobby and turns into something that’s more professional.

And that’s what made Ash’s show at DC9 such a revelation. Despite playing together for 20 years, and performing most of their songs countless times during that timespan, Ash played with plenty of verve and a high energy level before an excited crowd, albeit a smaller one here than they’re probably used to in England. That said, they still managed to fuel their pop-punk roots throughout their entire set.

One has to expect that they learned long ago how to keep their energy level dialed up to max. But it’s hard for anyone to fake the kind of fun they looked like they were having on stage.

Just recently, Ash released a 62-song career retrospective entitled The A to Z Series, which signified how energetic they were as they relived their past. Their show here was likewise an excellent encapsulation of their 20 year history, covering all of the band’s high points and even showcasing some unexpected gems along the way.

Despite having a much larger following in the U.K., Ash still brought an exhilarating pace to their show at DC9.  It was a great show, proving that even 20 years after their debut, they still embody the same ideals they started with back then. Here’s hoping they won’t go seven years between their current American tour and the next one.

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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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