A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from Ian Glinka of the Washington, D.C.-based indie band Middle Distance Runner. After finding me through some of my online writings, Ian was asking, rather earnestly, for me to help promote his band’s concert at the Meridian Coffeehouse this weekend. My immediate reaction? These guys must be desperate to contact a nobody like me. Almost insulted, I decided I might as well check out their website just for a laugh, figuring I’d hear the same stuff every Battle of the Bands loser across the country peddles. What I heard instead were the sounds of a band on the verge of breaking. It was like looking 200 yards out into the ocean and seeing a wave starting to form — the kind you can tell is gonna be huge. Now, flattered, I sit at my computer trying to do them the justice that a local band vying for a record contract (which, by all accounts, must be right around the corner) deserves.
p. These guys played in Williamsburg back in early September to a crowd of seven. Now, only two-and-a-half months later, the band has been scheduled for its first mainstage show at the Black Cat next week, a highly touted club venue in D.C. Middle Distance Runner is a name quickly climbing into regional stardom, appearing with blurbs in newspapers and magazines like Spin. It’s only a matter of time before their brand of indie pop-rock breaks onto airwaves across the country.
p. The band’s self-produced debut album, “Plane in Flames,” released this year, has drawn comparisons to “The Bends”-era Radiohead and The Strokes (when they were still good). The opening track, “Naturally,” is catchy and wry, featuring strong drumming, organ-fused keyboards, energetic clapping and sweet vocal melodies. Where have we heard this kind of stuff before? They’re the same elements that have made indie rock tracks of the last few years like Modest Mouse’s “Float On,” Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!’s “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” and The Shins’ “Kissing the Lipless” so catchy and irresistible. The cowbell on “Shoot the Shit” may seem a little silly, but your ear can’t help but be caught by the guitar hooks and harmonized vocals, while the clean banjo bridge proves the singer endearing.
p. What is most interesting about these guys is their personalities. Music bloggers from all over credit the band for their sly and whimsical marketing techniques: when sending out its album to writers, the band always seem to include one extra item as a gift. For one blogger, the album was packaged with a hilarious personalized note and a half-consumed pack of Dentyne Ice. Another received the album with a one dollar scratch-and-win Virginia Lottery ticket. Hey, couldn’t hurt, right? But for a budding band that desperately needs publicity to stay alive, these guys keep the mood light while working hard to promote themselves. Hell, they sent me a CD with a nice e-mail and look what it got them: a glowing review, a Facebook.com event posted by myself (even if only 17 people have RSVP-ed), and at least one more fan.
p. If you haven’t heard Middle Distance Runner yet, check out the band’s webpage, middledistancerunner.com, and go to the audio section. The band is playing Friday at the Meridian Coffee House on South Boundary Street at 8 p.m. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll be there, and when the band hits the bigtime six months from now, you’ll be able to say you saw them before anybody had even heard of them. It’s an exciting feeling. I know where I’ll be Friday.