Author Archives: Richie Downs

TVD Live Shots: Clutch and The Steel Woods at the 9:30 Club, 12/29

So nice, we reviewed ’em twice.Ed.

Clutch, the mighty four-piece from Frederick, Maryland, performed to a sold out crowd at DC’s 9:30 Club to give 2019 a much-needed final kick in the nuts.

As tradition would have it, the band’s annual December run of mid-Atlantic shows (known to kids across the land as “ClutchMas”) has Clutch on a three show run that includes Washington DC, Sayreville NJ, and Philadelphia PA. For three days the band performs unique sets at each venue, delivering grit and explosiveness to the good little boys and girls with a lucky golden ticket.

This year’s DC stop was the 9:30 Club, and for those in the room who were not too drunk to notice (single digits, trust me) Clutch was in exceptionally good form. As for me, I’m always excited to see Neil Fallon and the boys play live, and as usual they never disappoint.

“You Can’t Stop Progress” and “Power Player” from 2007’s Beale Street to Oblivion got the evening up and running, and “Ghoul Wrangler,” “Gimmie the Keys,” “How to Shake Hands,” and “Book of Bad Decisions” from the 2018 album of the same name kept the evening festive. “Rats,” CCR’s “Fortunate Son,” and “Sucker for the Witch” were among my favorites of the night.

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TVD Live Shots: Smashing Pumpkins, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, and AFI
at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 8/17

Smashing Pumpkins singer, Billy Corgan fell ill right before the band’s performance at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday night. Luckily for those in attendance world-famous vampire, Nosferatu was on site to fill in for the ailing singer. If not for his long fingers, sharp teeth, and creamy pale skin, the vampire would’ve been an odd stand-in for Corgan, but things seemed to work out just fine as the crowd were none the wiser to have the doppelgänger center stage.

Buffoonery aside, it was 9:25 when the Smashing Pumpkins took the pavilion stage in the woodlands of Columbia, Maryland. Billy Corgan—the real Billy Corgan—and his re-united Pumpkins, (James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlin) must have been eager to play because I can’t recall any artist at the pavilion appearing on stage even one minute early for their set.

Prior to the Pumpkins taking their places on stage, the atmosphere had been set with dramatic stage props put in place; three striking Matryoshka dolls that stretched to the upper ceiling lights of the pavilion.

Reunited with guitar player extraordinaire Iha and drummer Chamberlin for this tour, the band is almost completely reformed. The only missing element is D’arcy Wretzky. the founding bass player, whose relationship with Corgan has been one of a “he-said, she-said” for as long as I can recall.

Opening their set with “Today” from 1993’s Siamese Dream, The Smashing Pumpkins played roughly a 90-minute set that spanned their catalog and of course showcased their many hits—”Solara” and “Zero,” with a sullen version of “Disarm” following. Later the classics “Ava Adore,” “1979,” “Tonight, Tonight” and “Cherub Rock.”

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TVD Live Shots:
Bryan Ferry and
Femme Schmidt at
the Anthem, 8/13

Bryan Ferry’s North American Tour landed at DC’s premier waterfront venue, The Anthem last week for what turned out to be a stunning performance from the prolific songwriter behind Roxy Music. 

After being inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame with his much adored band in December of 2018, it’s no wonder that Bryan Ferry is on tour. This run of shows is being billed as Ferry “performing songs from Avalon, his solo work, and Roxy Music” and the tour definitely leans heavily on Ferry’s Roxy days, except for his unique covers of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” (from Ferry’s 2007 release Dylanesque) and “Let’s Stick Together,” from 1976’s release of the same name, as the final song of the evening.

Ferry’s setlist did include the mega-hits: “The Space Between,” “Don’t Stop the Dance,” “Love is the Drug,” “More Than This,” and of course, “Avalon.” His performance was stellar—as to be expected—but for this show his band sounded particularly good. In fact, the best I’ve ever heard them. The bass was crisp and the melodies shined the way they do on the recordings. The sound engineer deserves kudos for balancing volume and tone and The Anthem’s acoustics shined brightly as well.

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TVD Live Shots: Aerosmith at MGM National Harbor, 8/10

TOP TWO IMAGES: ZACK WHITFORDAerosmith, the bad boys from Boston, brought their “Deuces are Wild” Las Vegas residency show to the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland for three dates which concluded this past Tuesday.

Named after the track originally recorded for their 1989 album Pump, and not released until 1994 for The Beavis and Butt-Head Experience, the “Deuces” run includes 35 shows spread out among the MGM National Harbor in Maryland, the Borgata in Atlantic City, the MGM Springfield in Massachusetts, and finally the Park Theater in Las Vegas beginning in late September.

It’s hard to pigeonhole a band like Aerosmith. Not only has the band been a major player in the rock music scene from their inception in 1970, they practically define the genre for those of us who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s. The band up and ran with the baton passed from mega-rock predecessors like Led Zeppelin, the New York Dolls, and the Rolling Stones, and they’ve done a hell of a job reaching new audiences and a new crop of fans. Their music has definitely inspired generations, and icon status fits the band quite well.

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TVD Live Shots: Priests and Mock Identity at the 9:30 Club, 6/15

Touring to support their new studio album The Seduction of Kansas, Priests hit the 9:30 Club stage on Saturday night for a late, late show that was billed as a record release event. Along for the ride were the gritty fellow DC natives, Mock Identity.

Priests’ new record was released in April of this year on their own label, Sister Polygon Records. The album marks the band’s second full length effort following 2017’s Nothing Feels Natural. The new record has made mostly positive waves among music critics and judging by the support they have established here in DC, there’s nothing standing in the way of this band’s success.

Priests have been on the road now for the past three months playing shows scattered throughout the northeastern US and northern Europe, and the 9:30 Club stop was less of a homecoming than a kick-off to part two of their US tour. The band will now travel out west to California by way of the south.

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TVD Live Shots: Glen Hansard and Junior Brother at the Lincoln Theatre, 6/3

Touring to promote his latest release This Wild Willing, Glen Hansard brought his talents and his live show to the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC for an unforgettable performance this past Monday evening.

The performance marked Hansard’s last US stop on the current leg of his tour before European dates start on June 9th in Amsterdam. Hansard will play a few more US shows this year with stops in Chicago and a few California dates in September.

His album, This Wild Willing was released in April of 2019 to critical acclaim. This record marks Hansard’s forth solo effort and his third overall release in less than four years, including work with his more rockish project, The FramesThis Wild Willing is a departure from his most recent work and is perhaps Hansards most ambitious project to date.

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TVD Live Shots: DC101’s Kerfuffle with Greta
Van Fleet, Young the Giant, Tom Morello, The Revivalists, Shaed, and The Blue Stones, 5/19

DC101’s one day music festival, Kerfuffle returned to the woodlands at Merriweather Post Pavilion for its annual romp amongst the trees last Sunday. This year’s lineup featured a diverse mix of sounds ranging from electro-pop to straight ahead rock and roll.

At the top of the heap were the evening’s headliners, Greta Van Fleet. The four piece group from Frankenmuth, Michigan really added something special to the lineup. The outfit is made up of brother’s Josh, Jake, and Sam Kiszka along with drummer Danny Wagner. On top of being skillful musicians, the fellas couldn’t be more down to earth. We had the pleasure of taking them record shopping at DC’s Som Records in the midst of their US tour last year, and they couldn’t have been more humble despite their large scale success.

Although the band has been criticized for their retro sound, the truth is that Greta Van Fleet is making music their own way, garnering a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album in 2019 for From the Fires and an iHeartRadio Music Award for “Safari Song” in the same year. They also grabbed Loudwire’s ”Best New Artist” award in 2017 and rock aficionado, Eddie Trunk of SiriusXM’s “Trunk Nation” on the Volume channel has said “they’re an important band and they’re keeping rock alive!”

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TVD Live Shots: Judas Priest and Uriah Heep at The Anthem, 5/12

On tour to support their 18th studio album, Firepower, Judas Priest hit the stage hard at The Anthem in DC last Sunday night. Delivering a heavy metal assault upon the District’s audience, the UK metal masters proved once again that they are still reigning kings of the genre they created.

Rob Halford took the stage decked out in a long purple cloak, a purple jacket and top hat, with a blinged out skull adorned staff and his commanding persona for the set opener “Necromancer.” “Heading Out to the Highway” and “Chains” followed as they blazed through their set. Some highlights of the night were classics, “Killing Machine” and “Victim of Changes,” but the peak arrived with the band’s “Hell Bent for Leather” as Halford rode his motorcycle out on stage to thunderous cheers from the audience. Judas Priest finished their set with true classics “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight.”

Metal veterans, Uriah Heep served as the night’s openers and and set the tone quite ably. After 50 years in the music business, the road warriors’ musicianship is unmatched and their stage presence is a force all its own. Lead singer, Bernie Shaw lead their attack as they served the gathering crowd a big dose of—in your face metal.

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TVD Live Shots: Jawbreaker, War on Women, and Pohgoh at The Anthem, 3/28

If you had asked me prior to Jawbreaker’s show at The Anthem in Washington, DC last Thursday evening (3/28), I would’ve told you that I didn’t really know how to feel about it.

I’m sentimental, sometimes to a fault. I left Jawbreaker back at the old Black Cat in the ‘90s when everything about the band was perfect. The thought of seeing a band that I cared about so much at a huge, more commercial venue brought out the old punk-ish, snobby attitude in me. I mean come on, the band’s rich history includes all the hallmarks of DIY to their core, so it’s a little weird to see them at Anthem’s 6,000 capacity room—but what the hell, it’s happening all the same.

I really have nothing to bitch about. I am super fortunate that I was able to have seen Jawbreaker play numerous times in the 1990s during the height of their punkdom at clubs like DC Space, Black Cat, and even once at ABC No Rio in New York City. Thursday, I got to see them play DC again after more than twenty years since their last show here, and I’ll certainly take it.

Jawbreaker’s long hiatus was due to a falling out between bandmates Schwarzenbach and Bauermeister which led to a really ugly breakup, including a good old fashioned fist fight between the two during a tour. The dissolution of the band came at the oddest of times for Jawbreaker, just after they had signed to a major label and were earmarked for certain commercial success.

During their extremely long career pause, Jawbreaker never left the hearts of their core fans. Their musical and lyrical style is so unique to their genre, and it’s clear that they have influenced many bands that have followed—acts like Fall Out Boy, Face to Face, and My Chemical Romance to name a few. In 2017 Jawbreaker was announced as the headliner for the final night of Riot Fest in Chicago, and instead of a one-off reunion, Jawbreaker just started playing shows again leading to their current East Coast tour.

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TVD Live Shots: Maggie Rose and Them Vibes at U Street Music Hall, 3/16

Last Saturday evening, singer/songwriter Maggie Rose brought her soulful brand of rock to the stage at U Street Music Hall, along with fellow Nashvillians Them Vibes.

This show marked a homecoming of sorts for Rose. The now Nashville based starlet is originally from Potomac, Maryland where she began performing on stage at the age of sixteen with the B Street Band, a prominent area Springsteen cover band. Since then she’s made her way to “Music City” under the advice of Sony Records executive and music producer, Tommy Motolla.

Rose has since gone on to share the stage with some pretty big names. She’s served as tour opener for country music legends Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and has shared the stage with Sheryl Crow and Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead. Her current tour has her on the road with labelmate Kelly Clarkson, whom she opened for in Connecticut the night before her UHall show.

Just one song into her set I knew it was going to be a very good night. Her years of experience are certainly obvious on stage, but her talents as a songwriter couldn’t be more apparent. In fact, Rose has worked on several national ad campaigns that may have already seeped their way into your consciousness—the most notable being her version of “Old MacDonald,” juxtapposed as “a tribute to the women who are rewriting the rules of farming,” for Land O’ Lakes.

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TVD Live Shots: Interpol and Sunflower Bean at The Anthem, 2/15

Touring in support of their current album Marauder, Interpol made The Anthem their DC stop on this leg of their US tour and brought along with them the exuberant trio Sunflower Bean.

Sunflower Bean kicked things off both steady and sharp with punctuated guitar riffs in an ode to all things rock while fitting the evening’s bill perfectly. Front woman Julia Cumming’s bright and silky vocals paired nicely with the crisp tones emanating from Nick Kivlen’s guitar. The band’s newest release, Twentytwo in Blue on NYC’s Mom+Pop label is an addictively good listen as well.

When Interpol took the stage the venue was given a whole new persona. The disco ball that hung center stage become alive with white beams of light against a blue room. Singer Paul Banks seemed to subtlety hang over the crowd in the front row as well as the band opened with older selections “Pioneer to the Falls,” and “C’mere,” before they moved to the newer track, “If You Really Love Nothing.”

Interpol sounded wonderful from top to bottom. The band seemed revitalized delivering their new material, but ironically their set list consisted of mostly earlier songs with only a few tracks from Marauder. However, I was happy to hear their new single “The Rover” live, and also “All the Rage Back Home” from 2014’s El Pintor.

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TVD Live Shots: The Struts and White Reaper at the 9:30 Club, 10/8

UK rockers The Struts played to a sold out crowd at DC’s 9:30 Club on Monday night in what turned out to be a riotous evening of fun, dancing, and a big dose of the band’s new material.

The Struts’ newest release, Young & Dangerous (Interscope) is due to hit record stores on October 26 this year, while the band has already released advance singles “Bulletproof Baby,” “Primadonna Like Me,” “Fire (Part 1),” and dual versions of “Body Talks”—one of which features a really enjoyable collaboration with singer, Kesha.

I’ve seen them play live a handful of times now and any evening with The Struts is a wild ride. Their last round in DC was during the band’s two-year tour stint with the Foo Fighters performing at the 9:30 Club’s bigger and newer brother, The Anthem. A few years before that I watched them blow the roof off the Rock & Roll Hotel during a promised make-up date—both fantastic shows. Presently The Struts are a bigger and badder presence then ever before, yet with the same intention—to entertain their audience to maximum levels.

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TVD Live Shots:
The National and
Pheobe Bridgers at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 9/28

Continuing to tour on the strength of their latest studio effort, 2017’s Sleep Well Beast, Cincinnati based rockers The National gave a passionate performance to their DC area fans in the Woodlands at Merriweather Post Pavilion among what turned out to be a monstrous two hour-plus set. 

Sleep Well Beast marks the seventh studio album for The National and along with critical acclaim from just about every major music publication, the release took home a Grammy Award for “Best Alternative Music Album” in 2017.

Their performance drew heavily from the latest record including “Nobody Else Will Be There,” “Day I Die,” “Guilty Party,” and “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness.” The National touched upon earlier records with material from 2013’s Trouble Will Find Me LP including “Don’t Swallow the Cap,” “Sea of Love,” “Graceless,” and “Slow Show” off 2007’s LP Boxer.

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TVD Live Shots: Car
Seat Headrest and
Naked Giants at the
9:30 Club, 9/20

Indie-rock outfit, Car Seat Headrest brought their sonic talents to the 9:30 Club in DC last week to revisit a moment from their past with a newer and more ambitious interpretation. What emerged was music that is impossible to walk away from. 

In 2011, Car Seat Headrest’s frontman Will Toledo—a DC area local from Leesburg, VA who is now relocated to Seattle, WA—released one of his most admired albums to date, Twin Fantasy, later re-titled Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror). The original album marked Toledo’s sixth solo album and was recorded in the classic low-fi, DIY fashion that Toledo has become known for.

The album was made when he attended school at Virginia’s College of William and Mary and is said to be the first album he viewed as a true full length effort. Twin Fantasy is a genius collection of songs—lyrically it immortalizes a relationship that Toledo was in at the time and touches on issues like depression, love, and homosexuality.

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TVD Live Shots: Dinosaur Jr. at the
Black Cat, 9/21

Since the cancellation of a joint tour with Mastodon due to “a critical situation in the Mastodon family” via an announcement on the band’s website, noise-rock titans Dinosaur Jr. thought it would be a good idea to make a go of it on the road themselves alone. Among dates that include stops throughout the midwest and a few cities in the northeast, DC fans were treated to an evening with J, Lou, and Murph on the main stage of the Black Cat

Literally pioneers of the noise-rock genre itself, Dinosaur Jr.’s sound is made distinctive not by “noise,” but by J Mascis’ rich chord progressions and lead work on guitar, along with Lou Barlow’s melodic, full, and fuzzy bass guitar sounds. The overall tone of the trio is set by Murph’s hard hitting drums—and the sheer volume of the three together on stage. Dinosaur Jr. remains one of the loudest bands I’ve seen to date, and it’s nice to know that they’re carrying on the tradition without a hitch.

For Friday’s performance the band played through newer material and some classics, starting their set with the loud epic “Thumb,” then working their way through “Going Down,” “Lost All Day,” and a few more including their more commercial “Feel the Pain.” Things got really old school after that with “Little Fury Things,” a version of “The Wagon” featuring an additional drummer and guitar player for a fuller sound, then onto  the beloved “Kracked” and the muddy “Sludgefeast.”

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