Author Archives: M. L. Rio

TVD Live: An intimate evening with Ken Stringfellow and Friends, Chevy Chase, MD, 9/23

PHOTOS: RACHEL LANGEThe time: 7:30 on a Monday night. The place: a private residence in Chevy Chase. Not the usual circumstances for a rock concert, but that’s the point—Ken Stringfellow’s solo tour is prioritizing “non-venue spaces,” including many private concerts and “secret shows” like this one. The fine line between public and private is a fitting leitmotif for Ken’s return to Touched, originally released by Manifesto Records on the inauspicious date of September 11, 2001. His second solo album since the breakup of the Posies, Touched is appropriately personal, and a fitting soundtrack for the deep disillusionment of 2019.

The concert is surprisingly lighthearted, despite the melancholy musical fare. Hosted by ELO alumnus Parthenon Huxley and his wife Helle, the event has the delightfully laid-back vibe of a grown-up house party—there’s beer and wine chilling on the back porch, while a fleet of folding chairs give guests who have already taken their seats plenty to look at it, whether it’s the record collection on the bookshelf or the eclectic collage of pop and high art on the walls.

At the front of the room is Ken’s improvised stage rig, which features “a real piano” (as promised by the tour webpage) against the tastefully space-age backdrop of a dark window to the backyard which reflects both the mood lighting in the living room and the neon violet glow of the WiFi router. Ken cracks a joke about this unexpected special effect between tunes—a moment which epitomizes the appeal of a private concert. There might not be much room to move, but there’s plenty of room to breathe, and Ken uses that freedom to great effect.

In addition to an impressive musical CV which includes not only The Posies but more recently R.E.M. and Big Star, Stringfellow has a sense of humor and he isn’t afraid to use it. Nothing is off-limits, either, and throughout the set he riffs on everything from Millennial entitlement to an audience member’s ill-timed sneeze. (Okay, I confess: it was me.) His performance turns out to be two parts music, one part standup routine, and sometimes both at once.

Because the guestlist is short enough that the main attraction can see who’s not here yet (“They’re a big group and they tend to travel in packs,” he remarks) the shows gets off the ground not with Touched but with requests from the audience and a new composition Ken describes as “one from the mental health files.” Nobody’s heard the song before but nobody minds, already absorbed by Ken’s uncompromising vocals and the artfully mixed metaphors which give his lyrics their distinctive bittersweet flavor.

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Posted in TVD Washington, DC | Leave a comment

Play It Loud:
Rock Legends and
Lost Opportunities
at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

It can hardly be coincidence that the Met’s Instruments of Rock and Roll exhibit shares a title with Brad Tolinski’s latest book, Play It Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound, and Revolution of the Electric Guitar. While there may be a few drum kits, keyboards, saxophones, and synthesizers in the mix at the Metropolitan Museum, it’s essentially an epic axe collection, including guitars picked by such diverse players as Wanda Jackson and Eddie Van Halen. With almost two hundred objects in the catalog, there’s something here for every music lover to drool over. In fact, it’s almost overwhelming.

The rooms are dark and mazelike, stuffed with so many musical treasures it’s hard to know where to start. The longer you wander, the more holy relics you stumble upon, and the clearer it becomes what the exhibition lacks: clever orchestration. It’s an ironic oversight, considering the website’s lip service to rock and roll’s emphasis and influence on style. While the website also provides a guide to the galleries, the design scheme isn’t at all obvious in the physical space, where instruments sometimes seem to be grouped at random or simply stashed wherever they’ll fit. The exception is the “Creating a Sound” gallery, which features four stage rigs and video screens where artists appear to tell the stories behind the instruments they’ve loaned to the museum. (Particularly charming is Keith Richards’s chuckle at the recollection of the acid trip responsible for the paint pen embellishments to his black Les Paul—the poster axe for the exhibit.)

Apart from the “Creating a Sound” gallery, the most effective presentation belongs not, surprisingly, to the “Creating an Image” gallery but to Jimi Hendrix’s “Love Drops” Flying V, which is mounted to align with Hendrix’s silhouette on the wall behind it, and the double-necked Gibson EDS-1275 and striking black dragon suit arranged on a mannequin in Jimmy Page’s signature pose from live performances of “Stairway to Heaven.” There’s no ignoring that artists are unevenly represented, but that’s beyond the Met’s control—some guitar gods are more munificent than others. Considering the long history of axenapping, it’s remarkable to even see so many storied guitars together, never mind the other instruments and gig posters and musical memorabilia.

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Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Bernard Fowler,
In-store with TVD at
DC’s Som Records

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | Bernard Fowler has been singing with the Stones since the ’80s and his CV reads like a Who’s Who of music legends. But this veteran rocker is anything but intimidating—in person he’s warm, charming, and full of great stories. Cratedigging with Bernard feels like cratedigging with an old friend, even if you just met him five minutes ago.

When we met up at Som, his most recent record, Inside Out, was up on the wall. It’s a collection of Rolling Stones songs, but instead of merely covering familiar tracks like “Sympathy for the Devil” or “Dancing with Mr. D,” Inside Out uses elements of free jazz, funk, and spoken word to completely reinvent songs you thought you knew. Nobody’s better qualified to do this than Bernard, with his impressive musical pedigree and years of personal experience with the Stones.

The day before the No Filter tour’s rescheduled stop at FedEx Field, I asked him what his favorite thing was about playing with Mick and Keef and Ronnie and Charlie. He’s got the best seats in the house, he said, with a laugh. What song would he add to the setlist, given the opportunity? “Dandelion.”

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Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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