Author Archives: Richie Downs

TVD Live Shots: Sylvan Esso and Flock of Dimes at the 9:30 Club, 3/12

Electropop duo, Sylvan Esso invaded DC last Thursday evening and brought their beat-driven melodies to a sold out crowd at DC’s premier concert venue, the 9:30 Club.

Touring to promote their 2014 debut album, the self titled release has already hit some pretty major milestones. The album, well received among critics, has reached #39 on the Billboard charts and has broken into the top 10 on the Independent Album charts. The duo themselves were formed in Durham, North Carolina in 2012 and consists of Amelia Meath on vocals and Nick Sanburn on keyboards and producer credits. All 10 songs on their debut album came from sessions the pair recorded in Sanburn’s apartment from 2012-2013.

If a fast rise to stardom is any indication of talent, Sylvan Esso exhibit loads of it. Selling out the 9:30 Club is no easy task and as they walked on stage for Thursday evening’s performance, the pair acknowledged this to the crowd, asking “How many of you saw us at DC9 last year?” then added, “We’re so happy to be playing the 9:30 Club!” (DC9, a venue just down the street from the 9:30, has a great and very comfortable downstairs bar and boasts an upstairs stage that is incredibly show worthy—but can only host about 200 people.)

Since performing their single “Coffee” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last July, Sylvan Esso’s climb has been steady. Bigger things are certainly on the horizon for this humble yet, compelling duo.

Flock of Dimes was the evening’s opener.

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TVD Live: Bush and Theory of a Deadman
at the Fillmore, 3/3

Touring to promote their 2014 release, Man on the Run, Bush took the stage at the Fillmore in Silver Spring, MD to a sold out crowd of eager fans for Tuesday evening’s performance.

I am a little jaded about some things. The birth of the alternative music movement is something I look at with both affection and dismay. Having been a teenager in the ‘90s, my fellow music-fanatic friends and I had to watch as the punk rock and hardcore scenes that we cared about so much laid dying before our eyes. The bands we loved and held so very dear were now exposed to massive audiences in ways we had never dreamed of at the time. Our music was becoming popular culture. It could be consumed, dissected, and imitated by the masses. It was open to be exploited. New alternative acts were sprouting up almost every week playing faster, harder, and fuzzier. The lines between popular and alternative music had been forever blurred.

By 1992, alternative music was by no means a new entity. The Seattle movement was in full swing and the album that changed everything, Nirvana’s Nevermind, had been released in the previous year. Nirvana’s most commercially successful single, “Smells like Teen Spirit” hit the airwaves in late 1991 and boasted its significance as the shot heard around the world as for the impact it had the global music climate. A new genre had been handed to the world. Alternative music was born and music culture everywhere changed overnight. Alternative bands, especially grunge acts, had taken control of national airwaves and big record labels raced and competed to sign and break the next big alternative band. All over the country, national radio stations suddenly had artist rosters that previously only existed on college radio stations. As a result, a generation of fans had been exposed to a culture that previously only existed as a “sub-culture.”

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TVD Live Shots: Echosmith and The Colourist at the 9:30 Club, 2/26

Performing for a sold out and particularly young audience, Echosmith, the four sibling indie pop act from Los Angeles, stopped by DC’s 9:30 Club last Thursday night on a tour marking some of their biggest headlining shows to date. 

Signed to Warner Brothers Records back in 2012, Echosmith released their debut album, Talking Dreams in October of 2013. They received notoriety for their hit song, “Cool Kids” which rose to #13 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2104 their song “Surround You” was featured in the film Endless Love and the band was named MTV’s Artist to Watch for 2104. They toured the entire length of the Vans Warped Tour in 2014 as well.

On the road with The Colourist through March, Echosmith will have stops in most major cities in the northern US before they tour Europe from April until June, and judging by the audience response on Thursday evening, these kids—Graham, Sydney, Noah, and Jamie Sierota—are indeed alright.

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TVD Live Shots: Leighton Meester at
the Birchmere, 2/18

Touring to promote her brand new release Heartstrings, Leighton Meester stopped by the Birchmere in Alexandria last Wednesday night to play for a packed house of eager fans.

The night marked the first performance on her current tour that features nine dates in total, beginning here on the east coast with a DC area date, later Philadelphia and Boston shows, and then moves west, culminating in Meester’s home state of California.

With a full five piece band in place and an acoustic guitar in hand, Ms. Meester arrived on stage, her hair pulled back simply and dressed comfortably in a plain grey cardigan and jeans and couldn’t hold back a warm, gracious smile. The audience clearly had no problem expressing their love for her either with applause and warm sentiments. In fact, I think someone in the crowd shouted “I love you, Leighton” after every song. By the end of the show she joked, “Still?”

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TVD Live Shots:
Johnny Marr at the
9:30 Club, 11/09

Touring to promote his 2014 release, Playland, Johnny Marr kicked off an extensive North American tour at DC’s 9:30 Club with gusto—unleashing his groundbreaking guitar fury on an audience of fans who spanned generations, enthralled with Marr’s celebrated catalog of work.

Marr embodies the true English rock star persona with a sound that you hear from few artists these days, minus perhaps Marr’s pal Noel Gallagher, who recently joined him on stage during Marr’s set at London’s O2 Academy Brixton gig last month. Gallagher also recently announced that Marr will be featured on his upcoming March release, Chasing Yesterday.

With his signature melodies and his punctuated rhythms, Marr’s playing is part genius and part innovator. In my opinion, Marr is quite possibly one of the best guitarists of our time and with his incredible solo body of work and his brilliant legacy with The Smiths, Marr is certain to live forever in hearts—and on turntables—for ages. (NME “Godlike Genius,” indeed.)

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TVD Live Shots:
First Aid Kit at Lisner Auditorium, 10/25

Last Saturday gave way for the Swedish folk duo, First Aid Kit to bring their beautiful and mesmerizing sounds to a packed audience at the Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC. 

Touring to promote their third studio effort, the 2014 album Stay Gold, sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg played through their country inspired, indie folk set and couldn’t have been more well received by their DC audience. What struck me most about the performance was their beautiful and careful harmonies—the way both sister’s voices played off of each other was utter perfection, comparable to such acts as Simon and Garfunkel and The Milk Carton Kids.

It’s obvious the this Swedish duo has a long history of working together. Aside from their familial roots and breathtaking vocals, the duo—backed by a top-notch band that consisted of a drummer and a guitar /steel guitar player—had extremely well thought out arrangements and songcraft. While you can tell their roots are folk based, the overall sound was more of an indie band with a country soul.

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TVD Live Shots: Bombay Bicycle Club at the 9:30 Club, 10/19

London’s Bombay Bicycle Club played an electrifying set to a sold-out crowd at the 9:30 Club last Sunday night. Touring in support of 2014’s So Long, See you Tomorrow, the set was a solid mix of older and new material that easily had the Club kids enraptured, including “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep,” “Eyes Off You,” a fervent “Home By Now,” and a cover of Robyn’s “With Every Heartbeat.”

We sent ace photographer Richie Downs to the 9:30 to catch the first 3 songs in the set. (No flash, please.) —Ed.

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TVD Live Shots: Warpaint and Liam Finn at the Fillmore, 10/17

“Dream Pop” is not a term that you get to use everyday. For me, the term began to take shape in the form of a beautiful stage setting, complete with subtle strands of lights laid across the stage floor at The Fillmore Silver Spring when the well loved band, Warpaint took the stage. 

Beforehand however, the LA based Warpaint played host to New Zealand’s Liam Finn, the second opener of the night. Liam performed his experimental psych-rock for an enthusiastic crowd and led his band with tight rhythms, wild guitar fills, and sudden bursts of energy with his unexpected solos. The vocal harmonies were the big surprise of the night and could not have worked better with any other arrangements.

If you are not familiar with Liam Finn, he is the former frontman of the New Zealand band Betchadupa as well as the son of famed recording artist Neil Finn of Split Enz and Crowed House. Despite the completely different approaches to writing and performing music, both Liam and Neil Finn are both geniuses.

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TVD Live: J Mascis at
the Black Cat, 10/16

Sometimes it truly is an honor to see a great act in a very intimate, and personal setting. Thursday night at the Black Cat’s backstage proved to be one of those nights as indie-rock legend, J Mascis performed to a small audience lucky enough to have a ticket to his sold out appearance.

J Mascis needs no introduction. He could easily be labeled an indie-rock guitar god and the master-musician and guitar virtuoso behind indie pioneers, Dinosaur Jr., not discounting the incredible talents of Mr. Lou Barlow. Mascis has also been associated with acts like The Fog, Witch, and Deep Wound, and over the past 25 years Mascis has displayed his talents was a writer, performer, studio musician, and producer, and has even scored and has been featured on multiple soundtracks, notably 1992’s Gas Food Lodging.

Besides his work on his own material, Mascis has been involved with the countless projects of other musicians including Sonic Youth, the late, but intrepid GG Allin, The Hold Steady, Mike Watt, and Firehose.

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TVD Live: The Nearly Deads at the Treehouse Lounge, 10/15

Somewhere in the world there lies a perfect balance between pop and punk music. The Nearly Deads seem to have found this perfect mix and are taking it on the road to share it with the world, along with a splash of their own personalized zombie culture.

Two weeks into their current tour to support their recent album, Invisible Tonight, Nashville’s The Nearly Deads had a surprise stop in Washington, DC for a show at The Treehouse Lounge. It’s a real treat for me to get to see a band like The Nearly Deads at a smaller place like this one—it doesn’t get more intimate than watching a band perform their set five feet in front of you. You get to take in all the little nuances that you normally don’t get to experience on larger stages. Stuff like their whispers to each other in between songs as well as the breaths they take in-between vocal runs…really cool stuff, I love it.

With her bright, smooth voice and good looks, Theresa Jeane fronts this band with style and with ease. She certainly has all the necessary charisma and her amazing vocal range cut right to the top of the mix during Wednesday night’s performance. She has somewhat of this grungy-grit to her obviously trained voice that is really mesmerizing. As a band, The Nearly Deads fall comparatively somewhere in the realm of acts like The Distillers and Paramore, but with a fresh twist—a perfect mix of progressive pop and zombie-punk.

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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