Author Archives: Kerri Pinchuk

TVD Live: Hot August Blues & Roots Festival, 8/17

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | With a week left until Labor Day, the sun hasn’t yet officially set on summer—but I’m already feeling wistful for those perfect days spent with good people and great music, soaking in the sun (and moon) at summertime music festivals. The past three months saw some pretty solid festivals and shows throughout the DC region, but there was no better way to revel in end-of-summer denial than with Greensky, Galactic, and Grace during the bluegrass, New Orleans funk, and rock ‘n’ roll of Baltimore’s Hot August Blues.

The combination of the lush, green setting, the dreamy weather, and the honey-drizzled organic falafel could have been enough, but the festival, this year in its 21st iteration, delivered so much more. Every act had the crowd—face-painted kiddies included—singing and dancing along. You can tell from the way festival-goers greet each other that Hot August Blues is more than just another summer concert. It’s a local tradition that folks look forward to, regardless of the lineup, year after year.

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Brad Selko, festival founder and organizer, was especially proud of the variety at this year’s event. Named the city’s best music festival by Baltimore magazine, Hot August Blues has grown from a backyard picnic to an all-day, three-stage, peace-and-love loving blowout drawing about 5,000 people to Oregon Ridge Park to take in some of the biggest and best sounds in roots and blues.

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TVD Recommends:
Hot August Blues & Roots Festival, 8/17

In 1993, someone approached event organizer Brad Selko with a simple idea: “How would you like to have a picnic in your backyard with Charlie Musselwhite?” Selko, a long-time music lover, jumped at the opportunity to host the famed bluesman. “Every year it grew and grew,” Selko says. “And I don’t know how much bigger we can make it.”

Twenty-one years later, Hot August Blues is the region’s favorite day-long blues and roots festival—now boasting three stages, thousands of attendees, and a playbill of top bands that cover every cranny of the blues and roots genre.

Past years have seen headliners like Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov’t Mule, Justin Townes Earle, and Taj Mahal. The 2013 iteration takes place this Saturday, August 17, at Oregon Ridge Park (the fest outgrew Selko’s backyard a few years back) in Cockeysville, Maryland and will host 14 acts ranging from bluegrass bands to psychedelic DJs to a certain golden-haired siren who’s been known to sell out her own share of shows across the country.

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TVD Live: Jim James
at the 9:30 Club, 4/30

Jim James skips out onto the stage, bathed in a soft purple light. A huge LED-lit sunburst glows in a rainbow of colors behind him, illuminating the crowd. Hundreds of fans have gathered to see the scruffy My Morning Jacket frontman, who’s clad in a spiffy dark suit and his signature mess of a mane. James and his band break into their opener, “State of the Art (A-E-I-O-U),” and fans freak, stretching their hands out to touch index fingers E.T.-style with the singer.

For years I’ve heard friends and critics rave about MMJ, but, for no good reason, I had never spent time actually listening to the band. So in the days leading up to the 9:30 Club show, I naively prepped by frantically attempting to jump aboard the bandwagon. After jetting through their most recent albums, in addition to some Monsters of Folk, another of his projects, I felt fully ready and excited to see James in all his folky glory. I thought I had done my homework.

But standing in the pulsing crowd on that Tuesday evening, I had never felt so unprepared.

Within seconds I registered that, in fact, James’s solo work, most recently his album Regions of Light and Sound of God, is quite different. With a drummer, keyboardist and another band member on laptop, James’s solo work has a very prominent electro bent, neglecting the folk rock vibe altogether for layers upon layers of reverbed vocals and synth. Many songs seemed completely devoid of hook-and-chorus structure, instead stretching out into long and spacey jams.

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