Author Archives: Richie Downs

TVD Live: The Magnetic Fields at the Lincoln Theatre, 3/18 & 3/19

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | The Magnetic Fields has been known to write a whole lot of songs about one subject, the prime example being the epic 69 Love Songs that came on three discs and a boxed set in 1999. The 2004 album I had songs all starting with the letter i. Now, bandleader and writer Stephin Merritt accepted a more complex challenge from his record company. To mark his 50th birthday, it was suggested that he write one song for every year he’s been alive.

The resulting 50 Song Memoir, out this month on Nonesuch, was issued on five discs of 10 songs each. Its release is accompanied by a 12-city tour that brings all 50 songs, in order, over two nights at each city. Its second stop last weekend was Washington, DC, where nothing was going to stop the order of each evening—25 songs a night, no more no less. Even the death of Chuck Berry Saturday warranted only the slightest deviation from his scripted path, when he shouted “To Chuck!” before the planned performance of his sardonic “Rock ’n’ Roll Will Ruin Your Life.”

Merritt has been dabbling in stage musicals over the years—it’s a natural for his droll and melodic material. And the stage set up for 50 Song Memoir was nothing if not theatrical, with a pink-edged playroom with flowered wallpaper, festooned with all manner of toys, arcane instruments, tin doll houses, lunch boxes, robots, and animal creatures.

In the center, Merritt sits atop a red stool and reads from a music stand each confessional little reference to his upbringing. He played only fleetingly the occasional ukulele the first night, even fewer on night two, when he began with a percussive stick, affixed with bells, cymbals, a tambourine.

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The Winter 2017 DC Record Fair in Photos

Whether you’re actually in Washington, DC or following along at home, it’s more than evident that the nation’s capitol has evolved into an ever-ongoing protest hub—and you needn’t ask yourselves why.

Such was the case on January 29, 2017 as the winter iteration of the DC Record Fair set up shop at DC’s Penn Social. ‘Twas a bit of a police state out there–streets blocked off, men in blue, circling copters…oh, and a Chinese New Year parade as well made traffic all but impossible.

Despite all of this, 800 of you found your way to the Fair and to the crates, and while the DCRF is often criticized for its over enthusiastic (well, crowded) turnout, it seems if all things stay a constant in the White House, browsing will be a breeze—as it was that Sunday.

TVD’s Richie Downs captured the day for us in photos.

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TVD Live Shots: Bad Religion and Against Me! at the Fillmore, 10/4

Last Thursday night The Fillmore Silver Spring played host to the DMV stop of “The Vox Populi 2016 Tour.” From the Latin “Voice of the People,” the tour features one of punk rock’s most iconic names, Bad Religion. In tow, one of the genre’s most critically acclaimed acts in recent years, Against Me!.

LA based Bad Religion have been touring and pounding out quintessential material since their inception in 1980, and Thursday frontman Greg Graffin, bassist Jay Bentley, guitarist Mike Dimkich, drummer Jamie Miller, and DC’s own Brian Baker on guitar treated the District’s audience’s to their unique and distinctive brand of punk.

I’ve always enjoyed seeing Bad Religion play live, their super charged guitar chords speeding just above the tight and steady bass and drum section, while Baker’s harmonizing guitar work seems to command the direction and flow of the music as a whole. Graffin’s lyrics, though melodic and poetic, have always been the driving force addressing serious social, theological, and political issues.

The band’s last official release, 2013’s True North was their sixteenth studio album and they have been steadily touring through Europe and the US. The current “Vox Populi” tour kicked off after this year’s stop at Riot Fest and will run through November 3rd, reaching most major US markets.

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The Fall 2016 DC Record Fair in Photos

“When the nation was deeply divided by segregation, The Howard Theatre provided a place where color barriers blurred and music unified. Dubbed the “Theatre for The People” by The Washington Bee, it was the place where dignitaries like President Franklin D. Roosevelt gathered with everyday folks to see both superstars and rising stars – many of whom debuted at The Howard Theatre.

Along with Duke Ellington, greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday, Cab Calloway and Nat King Cole graced the Howard stage and made way for talents like Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gilespie, The Supremes, Otis Redding, Lena Horne and James Brown.”

Hundreds of you filled the Howard Theatre on Sunday for the Fall edition of the DC Record Fair, and it was quite the honor indeed to be on stage (literally) at the historic venue. TVD’s Richie Downs was on hand to capture the day for us in photos.

And while we’re at it—mark your calendars! The DC Record Fair returns on January 29, 2017 to Penn Social.  —Ed.

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TVD Live Shots: Built To Spill, Hop Along, Alex G at the 9:30 Club, 9/18

Sunday night the 9:30 Club played host to the Boise based, indie-rock outfit, Built to Spill whose pioneering sounds and style attracted DC fans who packed venue. 

For the performance, Built to Spill took a minimalist approach to their stage setup making colossal use of just two small guitar stations for both singer/guitarist Doug Martsch and bassist Jason Albertini while drummer Steve Gere was set up far stage left. Simply spare lighting and no frills—just the music.

As pared down as their production was for Sunday night’s performance, the band has a large presence. Known for their catchy guitar rhythms and clever songwriting, it was incredibly satisfying to see an act just deliver their material to an eager audience. Touring to promote their eighth studio album, Untethered Moon (Warner Brothers) which was released on Record Store Day in 2015, Built to Spill will be touring the US extensively through November.

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TVD Live Shots: AC/DC and Tyler Bryant &
the Shakedown at the Verizon Center, 9/17

For the DC stop on their current “Rock or Bust” tour, legendary rockers AC/DC made the Verizon Center their home Saturday night with a fast paced set for a packed arena.

When AC/DC comes to town, they really go all the way. For DC’s largest indoor music venue, the band brought an ungodly amount of stage production that included a literal wall of Marshall amp cabinets, an enormous catwalk that split the floor of the stadium in half, enough lights and fog for ten more arena tours, and a giant set of Angus Young’s trademark devil horns that towered over the stage in a half circle of steel.

The most noticeable component to AC/DC’s current tour configuration is that vocal duties have been handed to Axl Rose of the infamous, hard-rocking Los Angeles outfit, Guns N’ Roses. Rose has essentially replaced the band’s long-time singer, Brian Johnson, for their current tour. Johnson, who is AC/DC’s third singer, took over vocal duties in 1980 and is not participating in this tour due to issues with his hearing.

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TVD Live Shots: KISS
and The Dead Daisies at Richmond Coliseum, 9/9

They wanted the best, and they got the best… The good people of Richmond, Virginia came in droves to get their KISS fix last Friday at Richmond Coliseum for the band’s “Freedom To Rock” Tour. KISS, the Gods of Thunder, did exactly what they do best—rocked everyone’s faces off.

While some folks have said that rock and roll is dead, they’ve obviously never been to a KISS concert to witness the madness first hand. In true rock and roll form, KISS bought their magnificent stage show to Richmond, yet it’s actually a combination of things that make a KISS show so special. It’s not just the make-up, the lights, the costumes, and the killer stage theatrics. Nor is it the on-stage antics like Gene spitting blood or breathing fire during “War Machine.” What makes KISS such a special band is their attitude, their graciousness, and their legions of uniquely die-hard fans who span generations.

Their sound happens to be as tight as ever and the sheer volume of opener “Detroit Rock City” was certainly enough to blow your hair back. While KISS is as solid as ever musically, the stage show is the life of the party and still full of energy after 40 years on the road. Truly exciting in every sense, for a photographer the band spoils with image ops. It’s a master class in showmanship. (See for yourself…)

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TVD Live Shots: Train and Andy Grammer at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 8/20

San Francisco rock outfit, Train brought their crisp, progressive tones to Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday night along with an energetic performance from opening act Andy Grammer.

Train’s commercial success dates back to the ’90s with the hit single “Meet Virginia” from their 1998 debut album. The band’s second release scored two Grammy Award wins for the single “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” in 2002, and Train’s third studio album, My Private Nation was certified platinum with the release of the hit “Calling All Angels” in 2003. Judging by the droves of fans that lined the grounds at Merriweather on Saturday, it’s clear that this band still touches the hearts of many who flock to see them.

While the band’s lineup has changed over the years, their core remains intact with band mates Jimmy Stafford and lead singer Patrick Monahan conducting this train. The current lineup includes Jerry Becker, Luis Maldonaldo, Hector Maldonado, Drew Shoals, and Nikita Houston and Sakai Smith on backing vocals. Live, Train’s sound is clean and refreshing and they are completely in their element on stage.

When Andy Grammer walked into the spotlight to get the night started he brought an overdose of charisma and charm that was matched by the sheer talent of his backing band. Grammer, a multi-instrumentalist, played the piano, trumpet, guitar, showcased his dancing abilities, and set the evening off with proverbial panache.

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TVD Live Shots: Shinedown, Halestorm, and Black Stone Cherry at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 8/10

Wednesday evening Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD played host to an onslaught of hard rock from some of the best bands in the business—of rock. Carnival of Madness, the annual hard rock tour that launched in 2010, brought their 2016 lineup to shake things up in Merriweather’s Symphony Woods.

Jacksonville, Florida based hard-rock ensemble Shinedown was the festival’s main attraction. Touring to promote their 2015 release Threat to Survival, the band served up a super energetic and dramatic performance whose setlist included “Fly From The Inside,” “Unity,” “Asking For It,” “I’ll Follow You,” “45,” “Sound of Madness,” “Creep” (Radiohead cover) and their famous rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.”

Prior to Shinedown was Halestorm, the Pennsylvania based outfit featuring brother and sister Lzzy and Arejay Hale. Lzzy—known for her amazing guitar leads and her huge vocal range—together with the band delivered a non stop barrage. Halestorm’s latest release, 2015’s Into the Wild Life is the band’s third studio album and was been acclaimed by rock critics upon its release. Since hearing “I Am The Fire,” “I Like It Heavy,” “Mayhem,” and “Amen” performed live, I can see why this album has been called earthshaking. Halestorm blew me away.

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TVD Live Shots: The
Go Go’s and Best Coast at the Warner Theatre, 8/5

For the third stop on their current “Farewell” tour, The Go Go’s choose the lovely Warner Theatre for a landmark moment—the band’s last Washington, DC appearance. In tow was LA’s Best Coast

38 years since their debut album Beauty and the Beat arrived, the LA based new wave outfit has had more than their share of success and are among a small club of musicians who can claim legendary status. The fact is, The Go Go’s have pioneered the way for countless all-female bands.

Their ’81 release sold more than 3 million copies and achieved triple platinum awards, as well as retaining the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 for 6 consecutive weeks in a decade full of great music. Their follow up album, 1982’s Vacation, was certified gold in the US and the album’s title track was another top 10 Billboard success. A year later Vacation was even nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Packaging for the LP’s iconic cover.

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