Author Archives: Rachel Lange

TVD Live Shots:
Sabaton and HammerFall at the Fillmore Silver Spring, 11/3

For many years, I’ve had an interest in the study of World War I, “The Great War.” In just four years, that conflict sprayed carnage across the world, leaving millions dead, accelerated technological advancements, influenced the culture of a generation, and shaped an entire century. I’d read books and given speeches on why we should continue to have an interest, even as 100 years have passed since November 11, 1918. I’ve only ever been met with polite attention. I know now what was missing from my discussions, the thing that could generate sustained enthusiasm for creaky, dusty history: Swedish power metal.

This realization came to me when Sabaton (Joakim Brodén, Pär Sundström, Tommy Johansson, Hannes van Dahl, and Chris Rörland) marched through suburban Washington, DC this past Sunday night with support from HammerFall, blasting the sold out Fillmore Silver Spring, the last night of the US leg of “The Great Tour.” Sabaton are promoting their new album The Great War. Unlike previous albums that were built around a war-related theme—last stands, heroes, the rise and fall of the Swedish Empire—this album is built around World War I.

It was an impressive stage setup for a club venue—a war tank with the drum kit perched on top and mic stands in the form of helmets and rifles. After kicking off with “Ghost Division,” Sabaton tore through roughly half of The Great War, setting stories about the Red Baron and the Battle of Verdun to fist pumps and metal riffs.

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TVD Live: Hamell on Trial at Gypsy Sally’s Vinyl Lounge, 10/18

Tucked away at the end of K Street in Washington, DC’s Georgetown, snuggled next to the Key Bridge, is Gypsy Sally’s. On a Friday night, a sizable, but still intimate, crowd gathered to celebrate a birthday and welcome Ed Hamell, performing as Hamell on Trial, to the upstairs Vinyl Lounge.

It’s difficult for me, as a first time observer, to provide a complete illustration of the web Hamell weaves at his show. I did no prior research, no Google, no YouTube views beforehand. I only knew he was the friend-of-a-friend and a character, nothing more. Before his set, we are introduced. He’s alone and contemplating a new song of his, one about the things that allow us to survive in our Bizarro world political climate; I encounter a gentle, thoughtful man.

As Hamell warms up, the first thing I notice is the guitar. Hamell uses one guitar for the entirety of his roughly two-hour performance: a 1937 Gibson acoustic, immortalized in his tribute, “7 Seas.” Rigged with black tape and wired to an amp, the wood shows wear, she’s almost dust, and I wonder how much fight she has left in her. But she sounds incredible, warm and knowing, and I can hardly avert my eyes. Only the force of Hamell’s personality tears me away.

Hamell’s website describes him as a “New York-based, folk punk hero,” and goes on to quote people like Henry Rollins, name drop Ani DeFranco, and rattle off the comparisons to Bill Hicks, Tarantino, et al. It’s all true. It’s easy to get caught up in, and laugh your ass off at, the dirty jokes and the shit talk from the stage. Songs like “Pussy” made me blush and giggle. He teased me for taking a few notes during his set. We were all instructed to yell “Fuck you, Vicky” during his birthday serenade of a lovely woman celebrating her 50th. We obeyed.

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TVD Live Shots: Amon Amarth, Grand Magus, At the Gates, and Arch Enemy at The Fillmore Silver Spring, 10/13

The ticket said “The Raid of Silver Spring,” and that meant only one thing: Swedish metal giants were in town, bringing metal to the huddled masses of suburban Washington, DC direct from Sweden.

Going into the evening, I’d hoped to steer clear of the easy Viking clichés, but having a look around the venue, I saw fans wearing kilts and Viking helmets while carefully sipping beer from drinking horns. The bands on this Sunday night’s bill, headlined by the Viking metal behemoths themselves, Amon Amarth, traffic in the imagery, so I’ll join in. Indeed, the name of the tour, “Berserker,” is the name given to the fiercest of all Viking warriors, so anything else is pointless and not fun.

I’d need the strength of my Scandinavian ancestors to endure this assault; Grandma and Grandpa Swanson, help me out here. I’d argue it wasn’t so much a raid as recruitment, as the enthusiastic fans—packing the Fillmore to its chandelier-adorned ceiling—needed no coercion to board the ship.

Whetting our appetite for the plunder were Stockholm metal veterans Grand Magus. In a roughly 25 minute, five song set, the trio (Janne Christoffersson, Mats Skinner, and Ludwig Witt) stirred the masses with their doom/stoner metal sound, including a taste (“Untamed”) from their latest album, Wolf God, released this spring. A genuinely appreciative Christoffersson declared the Fillmore crowd the “loudest” they’d ever played for and suggested a residency right there, because who needs Vegas? The crowd roared in agreement and, during the last song of the set, sent Grand Magus off by chanting along with “Hammer of the North.”

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TVD Live Shots:
The Hu with
Al Lover at Baltimore
Soundstage, 9/29

On a warm early autumn night, music fans of all stripes piled into Baltimore Soundstage to witness the arrival of The Hu, fresh from Mongolia, embarking on their first tour of the US. Al Lover acts as support on the tour, warming up crowds with psychedelic electronica.

Los Angeles based Al Lover opened the gig with his psychedelic and experimental electronic music. Lover has, since 2013, released a variety of projects while collaborating with multiple artists and touring extensively. His latest album, Existential Everything, was released in February, 2019. The appreciative crowd bobbed along with the beats as Lover wove a sonic web during his set, setting the tone for the headliner.

It appears the last year has been a bit of a whirlwind for The Hu. In the fall of 2018, videos for “Yuve Yuve Yu” and “Wolf Totem” were released on YouTube; as of this writing the two have garnered about 43 million views. In contrast, the population of Mongolia is just over three million.

Mixing the modern and the traditional is what The Hu really excels at here. The band consists of four core members, standing shoulder to shoulder at the front of the stage, and are backed by a touring band who play percussion, bass, and a Les Paul guitar, as western music fans would all recognize. Less recognizable is the traditional instrumentation of the core members.

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TVD Live Shots:
Alter Bridge, Skillet,
and Dirty Honey at MECU Pavilion, 9/22

On September 22, Alter Bridge and Skillet kicked off their co-headlining, “Victorious Sky” tour at Baltimore, Maryland’s MECU Pavilion, with young rock upstarts Dirty Honey in the supporting role.

Leading off was California’s Dirty Honey (vocalist Marc Labelle, guitarist John Notto, bassist Justin Smolian, and drummer Corey Coverstone). With only an EP under their belts, they’ve already rubbed elbows this year with Slash on his tour with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators as well as made the rounds of the summer festivals. While the band’s sound will likely remind fans of anyone from Zeppelin to Guns ‘n’ Roses to current rock saviors Rival Sons, it’s clear they are not out to mimic anyone. Rather, during their six-song set, they demonstrated that they’ve arrived to carry the torch of their classic rock forebearers, but in their own young and modern way. It was the third time I’d seen Dirty Honey; they keep getting better.

Coheadliner and Christian rock stalwarts Skillet excited the crowd with their super high energy and exhilarating set. I’ll admit to being unfamiliar with Skillet; the term “Christian rock” makes the agnostic in me bristle and run for the hills. I like my rock and roll dark, dirty, and demon sprinkled, with squeezed lemons my preferred imagery.

However, Skillet’s style goes over well live as their songs are melodic and uplifting, the band members charismatic and skilled musicians. It’s great fun to watch and rock out to, especially when vocalist John Cooper strapped on what could only be described as fire extinguishers to his arms and blasted water vapor in the air, or when Seth Morrison and Korey Cooper got lifted on risers. Drummer Jen Ledger smiled for my camera as she sang and wailed on the drums. They were terrific.

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TVD Live Shots: Babymetal and Avatar
at The Anthem, 9/8

It was a theatric night with two contrasting bands at Washington DC’s Anthem, on Sunday, 9/08, as Babymetal, with Avatar, stormed the Wharf.

In Babymetal you have the perfect gateway act to the wider world of metal, and I’m glad they’re getting booked on some of the bigger American rock festivals. Judging by the crowd, their fans are more than just people who think they’re hot. To me, it seems like the obvious thing is less gatekeeping and more embracing. Besides, when was the last time your favorite burly dude band played Revention and tried to summon a dark god? Exactly.

From the moment the lights go dark and the band’s logo is projected onto the nearly bare stage, the room belongs to Babymetal. For the uninitiated, the sound is classic kawaii, a genre that features a mix of pop-ish vocals combined with thrash guitar. Leading on vocals, Su-metal is joined by Moametal and a temporary new member in impossibly intricate and impressive choreography.

Indeed, the choreography is what one notices first as the trio kicks off their set with “Megitsune” and what makes the performance so engaging to watch. The three young women barely appear to break a sweat during their hour and change set, which included “Karate,” “PA YA YA,” and “Gimme Chocolate.” This, on top of Su-metal’s impressive vocals and the skill of their backing band, all masked dressed in Grim Reaper-ish garb. Hanging back in the shadows, the musicians were not intended to be the main attraction here. Nevertheless, they killed.

While it may be easy to write off a band like Babymetal as gimmicky, the skill, talent, and hard work involved here is evident and deserving of serious consideration, as the fans present at the Anthem already knew.

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TVD Live Shots: dodie and Adam Melchor at the 9:30 Club, 9/6

YouTube superstar dodie, with support from newcomer Adam Melchor, thrilled a house filled with emotional young fans at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC on Friday, September 6.

England’s Dorothy “dodie” Clark, 24, began her career performing covers on piano and ukulele before moving on to write original material. Using YouTube as her platform, she’s amassed literally millions of subscribers since creating her first solo YouTube channel in 2011. Previous EPs, “Intertwined” and “You” were released in 2016 and 2017, respectively; dodie’s latest, “Human,” was released in January of this year.

It’s easy to see the appeal for the mostly (very) young, mostly female fans at the 9:30 Club. She has an accessible but somewhat ethereal stage presence, her entrance onto the stage punctuated by white lights that made her appear as if she were an otherworldly figure plopped down from the sky, yet she dressed casually and wore no shoes. Her soft voice, often drowned out by the sound of the crowd singing along with her, carries songs with relatable themes.

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TVD Live Shots: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Stonefield, and ORB at the 9:30 Club, 8/31

On Saturday, August 31, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, with support from fellow Australians Stonefield and ORB, made a stop at Washington DC’s 9:30 Club, playing for an absolutely stoked, sold out crowd.

The Melbourne, Australia septet is known widely for their incredible live shows. Indeed, at the 9:30 Club, they gave a focused, mature, and skilled performance, with a setlist spanning over twenty songs. The crowd, in contrast, lost its collective mind. In the photo pit, the photographers weaved around each other while also dodging club security as crowd surfers—including one dude in a Teletubby costume, the purple one—made their way over the barrier. From the balcony, the tightly packed crowd could be seen transforming most of the club’s floor into a giant mosh pit. It was barely controlled, joyful chaos.

King Gizzard are out making the rounds in support of its fifteenth studio album, Infest The Rats’ Nest, a thrash metal entry into the band’s genre-bending catalog. This just months after the release of the blues-rock Fishing for Fishies. It’s worth noting that, in 2017, the band released a total of five albums, demonstrating a productivity that warms the cockles of my Buckethead-loving heart.

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TVD Live Shots: WHY? and Barrie at U Street Music Hall, 8/25

On Sunday, August 25, WHY?, with support from Barrie, brought their headlining tour to Washington, DC’s U Street Music Hall, playing for the crowd gathered in the underground club’s intimate venue in support of the band’s new visual album AOKOHIO. The youthful audience was subdued but engaged and enthusiastic during the set, which was delivered with a dose of good humor.

WHY? is led by Yoni Wolf and was founded in 2004 by the Cincinnati, Ohio- based rapper and singer, who had been using WHY? as his stage name since 1997. AOKHIO is the band’s sixth album, presented as six movements constructed of two to four songs each. Struggling with the notion of releasing an album in the usual sense, one made up of a dozen songs and released at once, Wolf approached AOKOHIO with a different mindset. He completed one movement before moving on to the next, releasing the individual movements digitally for his fans. Wolf has described the whole process as taking five years. The concept is underscored with the release of an accompanying visual album, which features, in part, home movies from Wolf’s Ohio childhood.

At U Hall, the set list featured some of these new songs, but also some that were clearly old favorites, with fans rapping along right with Wolf. WHY? appeared to transfer the movement approach to their performance, playing three or so songs, some very short, before breaking to chat and joke with the audience, even answering questions from the crowd. With this unique approach and songs that examine one’s sense of self and place, WHY? gave an interesting and introspective performance.

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TVD Live Shots: Reignwolf and
JJ Wilde at U Street Music Hall, 8/10

On Saturday, August 10, Reignwolf, with support from JJ Wilde, brought their headlining tour to an intimate crowd at Washington DC’s U Street Music Hall in support of the band’s new album Hear Me Out. Stirring up fans with their charisma and blistering fuzzy blues rock, they tore through the roughly hour-long set of new songs and old favorites, leaving fans and themselves worn out and sweaty.

Reignwolf (songwriter/singer/guitarist Jordan Cook, bassist S.J. Kardash, and drummer Joseph Braley) released Hear Me Out, the band’s first LP, in March. Prior to this, Reignwolf had only released a handful of singles over seven years, developing an enthusiastic following while maintaining an air of mystery among fans.

This mysterious air was underscored in the darkened, underground room at U Street Music Hall. The band played shrouded in smoke and back-lit by bright white lights, allowing those in attendance to see Cook and Karsdash in silhouette, and Braley not at all. No matter, as songs like the ferocious “Wanna Don’t Wanna” and Gary Clark Jr-ish “Black and Red” were loud and energetic as the blazing fires of Hell. During those moments when Cook emerged from the smoke and could be seen, he revealed a look that calls to mind 1970s Bruce Springsteen or even a black leather-clad Cat Stevens, while the band’s sound could be compared to Jack White, the aforementioned Gary Clark Jr, or the barely contained insanity of Black Pistol Fire.

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