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Another dispatch for the indie-pop-is-dead file: The Cannanes show at the Black Cat last Thursday night was supposed to be a barn-burner. The Australian love rockers had been worshipfully supported by the local fanzine Chickfactor and labels like K Records and Ajax. Their albums, like the shimmering A Love Affair With Nature, were deemed classics. But a show that in the not-so-distant past would have brought out a load of K-kids and the rock intelligentsia was instead a complete washout.
The Cannanes suffered through their set before a tiny audience; Dante Ferrando, the club’s owner, counts about 50 people who paid that night. By the time the band took the stage at 11:30, they were playing for 20, most of whom kept their distance from each other and the band. One guy danced alone on the floor aimlessly, in circles, but otherwise, things were dull. The guy working the door outside sat quiet and sullen.
The poor turnout will likely make the Black Cat more gun-shy about booking acts that may strike D.C. as too exotic. Ferrando says while he never expected the Cannanes to draw huge numbers, he thought at least 100 people would show up. But bands that drew big crowds five years ago may not today, he adds; thus, he’s had to turn away some well-known performers to hedge on losses. He recently declined to book Pere Ubuthe band has a large following in many markets, but he couldn’t see D.C.’s conservative concertgoers flocking to the show.
Casual despair hung over the night. The band members smirked at each other, rolling their eyes as if to ask how they had ended up there. The lack of a crowd made every move more heightened. Singer Robin Miles sang a wistful version of “Vivienne” and a cheeky song about Bill Clinton, but her hands scarcely left the pockets of her black blazer. She walked directly off the stage when her numbers were over. It was that kind of night.Jason Cherkis