Get local news delivered straight to your phone
Support City Paper!
Falling somewhere between slack-rock, black rock, and alternative hiphop, Basehead’s Emigre debut, Play With Toys, came in under the radar in 1991. But when it was picked up the following year by Imago/BMG, it detonated all over critics’ year-end lists and made band mastermind Michael Ivey an underground sensation. His voice bristling with rage and wit (though it rarely rose above a hypnotic mumble), the Howard University graduate had crafted an unassuming masterpiece, a disc that sends you off to bed with headphones and a tumbler of bourbon but warrants mention in the same breath as There’s a Riot Goin’ On. Depending on the frame of mind Ivey had you in, the mouth of the empty bottle on the album cover could look like the eyepiece of a kaleidoscope or the barrel of a gun. The single, “2000 BC,” made Basehead one of few acts to cross the modern-rock-radio color line. Though there have been flashes of brilliance since (such as “A Day Off in the Life,” from 1994’s b.y.o.b quasi-side project), most listeners have found the music Ivey has made since his mid-’90s religious awakening less satisfying than the skewed sounds that put him on the map. In today’s D.C., Ivey may actually be better known as a community activist (via his Union of Vineyard Workers) than as a musician. It has sometimes been hard to tell if Basehead is a band or a one-man show, but the ad for tonight’s performance promises the “original line-up.” See what vintage Ivey & Co. uncork when they play with Train Wreck and Alternate Root at 9:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25, at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. $7. (202) 667-7960. (Glenn Dixon)