Magic Man at the Rock and Roll Hotel

Eclectic up-and-coming Boston pop/rockers recently here, back in January. Photo: Rock and Roll Hotel

WASHINGTON, November 25, 2013 — The last time Magic Man performed in DC – in separate part of the city no less – there wasn’t really anything in the way of available material on the band. Sure. they had several songs in their repertoire. (It would be rather difficult to perform otherwise.) But there wasn’t any recorded material.

They were a new band at the time, living very much off word of mouth and a few Internet imprints here and there. That wasn’t even a year ago, which makes their recent show at the Rock and Roll Hotel an interesting step in the evolution of a young band.

Magic Man hasn’t really taken any huge steps musically over the past year. This is a band that’s still in the process of consistent touring. They’ll be back in DC in January, for example. But what this does say is the band is evolving in terms of visibility, which is evidenced by their ability now to get a show at a venue the size of the Rock and Roll Hotel.

When people talk about the evolution of a band, they almost always refer to how the band matures in a musical or sonic context. That’s something that’s usually not readily evident in a young band for a number of reasons. The biggest one: they have yet to garner audiences in sufficient numbers to signal to them any need to make significant changes in their sound, appearance, or repertoire. 

In other words, if Magic Man decides to add a harder guitar edge to their synth-pop sound, lighten their texture, or take any number of new directions, what would be the point, really? Numerically, at least, no one would notice the changes anyway. It would be change for change’s sake, an uncertain evolution in a total vacuum, which is ultimately pointless.

For that reason, everyone who caught Magic Man’s performance at the Rock and Roll Hotel is seeing a band much like it was earlier in the year. But a change has now occurred in terms of their public profile.

This time around they have an EP to promote, or at the very least make available to anyone in attendance—something they didn’t particularly push during their performance. But the point is, they now have an actual recording of their music that will start making the rounds that people can share and discuss whether they’ve heard the band live or not.

This is vitally important for a band like Magic Man. Their first time around, their performance was genuinely refreshing. It was a positive experience to hear an opening band, for once, that didn’t really have anything to push. They haven’t changed in that regard, but now, at least, they have a tangible recording on the books, one that people will buy and discuss.

Magic Man’s live show is caustically energetic, visually verging on the point of chaos. This seems to be in opposition to their actual sound, however, which feels mannered and calculated in a way that suggests a band that’s completely comfortable with their output and stage presence. Everything swirls around their synth sound, which creates a modern pop sensibility and the taut guitar and bass to support it.

Perhaps most interestingly, for a band that’s relatively new, the tightness and precision of their live performance here proved one of the most surprising things of all. This was entirely assured synth-pop, polished to the point where it feels as if Magic Man had simply materialized fully formed—something difficult to achieve for a young, newish band.

SEE RELATED: Review: The Greencards at Jammin’ Java

This why Magic Man’s nonstandard evolution both makes sense and is an absolutely necessary prelude to their next step. It’s almost a novelty to see a young band this put together, this confident and possessed of such a clear musical vision.

That’s the major reason why they’ve quickly risen to be able to headline a show at the Rock and Roll Hotel: it’s because they’re starting to make waves. They’ve moved past the point where they existed as just a “rumor band.” They are starting show actual concrete evidence that they are capitalizing and growing their distinct, energetic sound one step at a time.


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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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