On their recent album, "Penumbra,'' Hume is a latter-day prog-rock band, playing extended, serpentine compositions that showcase Britton Powell and Peter Tran's guitars. But that Hume didn't show up to headline Saturday night's Sockets label showcase at the Black Cat. Instead, the D.C. group that performed on Saturday favored punchier material - seven songs in about 30 minutes - with a two-drummer format and frontman Powell on bass rather than guitar.
This surprise wasn't all that surprising. Hume has experimented with various lineups, and is the sort of band that has only one apparent concern about audience expectations: how to subvert them. "We've got a new album out,'' announced Powell with playful contrariness. "None of these songs are on it.''
In fact, the quartet did play one of the album's tunes, "Grip,'' albeit as an encore. This involved switching to a more conventional arrangement, with Powell on guitar and only one drummer. The shortest, most direct song on "Penumbra,'' "Grip'' was similar in structure and outlook to the set's other material, which emphasized Powell's boyish tenor and chant-like lyrics.
Hume didn't entirely disavow the tempo shifts and instrumental interplay of its longer pieces, sometimes with high-tech assistance: At one point, Tran played a lead-guitar solo atop a sample of the rhythm-guitar vamp he'd just stopped strumming. But such flourishes were compacted into pithy, jumpy numbers that took everything in a hurry, even leisurely asides. As Powell bounced up and down and sang anxious phrases - "I don't shake hands with anyone'' was one song's refrain - it seemed nearly impossible for Hume to have had the patience to record "Penumbra.''
The evening also featured three others Sockets bands, two of them from D.C.: the bluesy Laughing Man; New York's folk-jazz-rock Skeletons; and Buildings, who played fidgety post-punk instrumentals.