Author Archives: Richie Downs

TVD Live Shots: Hot Snakes, Duchess Says, Suicide Pact at the Rock & Roll Hotel, 11/15

Wednesday night is a hard sell for any venue. In DC, it takes a band of great strength to lure mid-week concert-goers to any hall. Although when the right act shows up, rooms fill elbow to elbow just as they did last week as a sold out Rock and Roll Hotel hosted San Diego’s Hot Snakes, and with them some very impressive opening acts.

Hot Snakes are touring to support their upcoming 2018 release which, along with their entire back catalog, will be released on Sub Pop records next year. The new release has been highly anticipated and will be the band’s first since 2005’s Thunder Down Under. Their current nine stop November tour has included dates in San Francisco, Seattle, LA, Boston, Philly, and Washington, DC before the band jets off to Europe in January. It’s been five years since Hot Snakes played a show in Washington, and Wednesday’s crowd was primed with excitement before the band took the stage despite a painfully long set change between bands.

While the star of the show for many is Reis’ crisp guitar tone, it serves as the perfect punctuation for his longtime band mate Rick Froberg’s (Obits) more steady, open guitar lines and distinct throaty vocals. Hot Snakes’ rhythm section consists of Gar Wood on bass and not one, but two separate drummers—Jason Kourkounis (Delta 72) and Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket From The Crypt, Sultans)—both behind the kit for the specific songs they recorded with the band.

Just prior to Hot Snakes’ performance, John Reis leaned down toward the front of the stage where I was standing. He was plugging in guitar cords when he looked over at me like a werewolf before a full moon. “I’ll be sweating and falling all over you—you may need to pick me back up.” “It’ll be okay,” I offered. “I’ve got you—but I move around a lot too.” “But seriously,” he insisted, “you might wanna tell the people behind you—I’ll be all over here.”

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TVD Live Shots: Evanescence at MGM National Harbor, 10/31

Few people in rock music have the pipes of Evanescence’s Amy Lee. Her soulful tone and distinguished sound are as identifiable as they are unique. Belting out tunes like “Never Go Back” and “Lacrymosa” at the opening of her performance at the MGM National Harbor last Tuesday night, it was clear she was not only there to sing—she came to rock.

Performing with a 20 piece orchestra to reflect the direction of the band’s forthcoming album Synthesis, the show was far from a classical recital and leaned more toward the operatic. As usual Lee’s vocals were unearthly and soared beautifully above the mix. Fan favorites like “My Heart Is Broken,” “Bring Me To Life,” along with the more reflective “My Immortal” and “The In-Between” spanned the band’s catalog through several line-up changes and Amy Lee’s own solo projects.

Lee was quoted in 2013 saying, “I am Evanescence. I am the only original member. I have basically hired the band. Evanescence has become me. It is mine and it’s exactly how I want it to be.” (And rightfully so.) Their current line-up includes Tim McCord on bass guitar, Will Hunt on drums, and guitarists Jen Majura and Troy McLawhorn. Whatever change in personal the band may have undergone through its various incarnations, Lee’s vocals are the bedrock for their loyal fanbase.

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TVD Live Shots: VetsAid featuring Joe Walsh, Zac Brown Band, Gary Clark Jr., Keith Urban at Eagle Bank Arena, 9/20

Last Wednesday night EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, VA played host to the inaugural VetsAid Charity Benefit Concert sponsored by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and multi Grammy Award winner, Joe Walsh. As if the Eagles guitar-man wasn’t enough, Walsh recruited a virtual powerhouse of guitar talent that included Keith Urban, Gary Clark Jr., and The Zac Brown Band as support for the evening.

VetsAid is a non-profit organization whose annual concerts will support veteran centered charities that provide physical and emotional care to soldiers and their families. A Gold Star family member himself, Walsh is no stranger to the trials veterans’ families face, having lost his father in active-duty when he was only 20 months old. Over the years, veterans charities are something that Walsh has kept close to his heart, supporting various organizations and even having visited Walter Reed Medical Center offering free guitar lessons to wounded soldiers.

Working hands-on with his new project, Walsh has reviewed numerous organizations and picked the following as beneficiaries of the inaugural performance: Semper Fi Fund, TAPS, Hire Heroes USA, Warrior Canine Connection, Operation Mend, Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, Stop Soldier Suicide, and Swords to Plowshares.

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TVD Live Shots: Blondie, Garbage, and Deap Vally at Wolf Trap, 8/3

When legendary new-wavers Blondie conjure a co-headline tour with ‘90s alt-rock heavies Garbage, what you get is exactly what’s spelled out on the marquee, “Rage and Rapture.” Last Thursday evening their new tour mantra couldn’t have rung any truer, even under consistently stormy skies. In fact, fans outfitted with rain gear and umbrellas saturated the lawn at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap to watch 2 of the most prominent female voices in rock music perform, back to back.

The joint tour has carried Blondie and Garbage through most major US cities from California to New York since its start in July, and perhaps this tour was a long time in the making. After all, some 11 years ago in March of 2006, Shirley Manson gave the introductory speech that welcomed Blondie into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

To get the evening’s audience primed, the tour enlisted the help of LA garage-rock duo Deap Vally. Their punky retro-blues sound was a fitting addition. When Garbage ultimately hit the stage, there was a strange tension that wasn’t released until nearly halfway through their set, evident as Shirley Manson paced the stage in short circles like a wolf eyeing its prey. She was incredibly on point, almost fierce.

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TVD Live Shots:
PJ Harvey at Wolf
Trap, 7/21

Friday evening Wolf Trap’s Filene Center played host to one of the UK’s most prolific and eclectic indie artists, PJ Harvey, who in tandem with her nine-piece band of musicians took the stage with no opener to set a mood, but a dramatic one it would become.

PJ Harvey is no stranger to on-stage theatrics, but seeing her poised and repetitive motions live is an experience all its own. Her stage presence is beyond commanding, leading her backing band in every sense—feeling every note with moves set against a thundering bass drum.

This is particularly the case in songs such as “Down by the Water” and her set opener, “Chain of Keys.” It feels as if we’re privy to a story unfolding which adds a heightened dimension to the flow of the evening, as was the case with “The Ministry of Defense.” I swear I got goosebumps as every musician on stage chimed in for the chorus’s beautiful melodies for one of the most dramatic shows I’ve seen in many years.

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TVD Live Shots:
Steve Miller Band
and Peter Frampton
at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 6/23

Last Friday evening, Merriweather Post Pavilion and the surrounding woodlands of Columbia, MD played host to two rock giants. Both the Steve Miller Band and Peter Frampton are co-headlining a joint US tour, and fittingly both artist’s catalogs are synonymous with summertime gatherings. Yes, powerhouse co-headlining tours seem to be a back as a summer trend and happily for Merriweather’s audience, the pairing of two of rock’s most prolific artists brought them a night of the genre’s most celebrated songs.

Kicking off the evening, Peter Frampton primed the crowd with his clean and precise guitar tones, his well written rhythms, and his signature voice box that still gets cheers from fans after all this time. Frampton played a solid set and sounded quite fantastic—his solo breaks on his signature Gibson Les Paul ringing through the hills. He even threw in a solid cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” as a tribute to the late Chris Cornell.

When Steve Miller took the stage, he did so quite gracefully with a rather calm walk to the microphone. Apparently Miller’s a man of very few words, short of a brief hello and introduction a few songs into his set. Getting right to it, Miller’s unassuming approach and humble stage presence contrasts with the caliber and reach his songs have attained through the years.

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TVD Live Shots:
Royal Blood at the
9:30 Club, 6/6

Last Tuesday, DC’s music fans were treated to one of the hardest rocking, modern blues duos in the business today when the 9:30 Club hosted UK’s Royal Blood.

With all the great music that’s coming out of the hip seaside town of Brighton on the south coast of England, it’s perhaps somewhat difficult to create a unique musical identity. This however this is not the case with Royal Blood, the bass and drums duo. Band members Mike Kerr (bass) and Ben Thatcher (drums) formed Royal Blood in 2013, eventually signing with the same management company as labelmates Arctic Monkeys. Their first single “Out of the Black” was released in 2013 and was followed by their first full length album in 2014, the self titled Royal Blood—easily a career defining record. The band is currently touring to support their forthcoming release How Did We Get So Dark?, in stores this week via Warner Bros.

Royal Blood’s sound and style lends itself best to a live setting. I’m still amazed at the full tone they produce with just drums and bass. At last week’s show, the band laid down the anticipated barrage of heavy, rumbling, tones with an even more enthusiastic performance than their previous stop at the club just 2 years ago.

How Did We Get So Dark? will be available on June 16th on either signed vinyl or a super deluxe vinyl edition featuring bonus tracks.

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TVD Live Shots: Budweiser InfieldFest at Pimlico Raceway, 5/20

Last Saturday, the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Raceway in Baltimore hosted the Budweiser InfieldFest which featured a variety of musical offerings ranging from electro-house to pop-punk—with a big dose of country-cool.

Headlining the performances for the day were country star Sam Hunt, Grammy award winner Anton Zaslavski, aka ZEDD, Maryland natives Good Charlotte and LoCash, and opening up the festivities was the Canadian country duo High Valley.

Despite the wet weather holding off through the day’s events, the rain from the night before left a muddy infield and track, as has become a tradition for the past few years. Weather aside, the crowds came in droves to bet on the horses, drink, eat some from local digs, and get their fill of live music.

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TVD Live Shots: Metallica at Lincoln Financial Field, 5/12

Heavy metal giants Metallica brought their “WorldWired” tour to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia last Friday laying claim that they are still the best at what they do—music that’s faster and heavier than any other band in the business.

Metallica is one band that needs no introduction. They are perhaps the biggest metal band on the planet and their name is synonymous with thrash and metal. Through their 35+ year career, Metallica has been truly a pioneering force in music, almost solely responsible for bringing the metal genre to mass audiences in the ’80s and ’90s. And in 2017, they have only gotten better with age.

Touring for the first time since 2009, Metallica’s “WorldWired” tour kicked off in Baltimore, MD last Wednesday and was followed by Friday’s night two in Philadelphia. The band is touring to promote their 2016 album, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, their first studio effort in eight years and the band’s tenth studio album, released as a double vinyl set on Blackened Recordings.

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TVD Live Shots:
The xx and Sampha
at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 5/6

For lovers of the “dream pop” genre, I couldn’t imagine a better place to be than Merriweather Post Pavilion for last Saturday’s performance by the critically acclaimed artists, The xx and supporting act, Sampha.  

UK-based trio, The xx is touring to support their third studio album, I See You, which was released in January of this year. The band’s record label Young Turks, is an independent British label that consists of artists such as FKA twigs, SBTRKT, Jamie xx, and Sampha, their supporting act for the evening.  I See You drew widespread acclaim from critics, and the album debuted at the number one spot on the British album charts and reached number two on the Billboard 200 in the US.

Watching The xx perform live evokes just as much emotion as the dramatic tones that inhabit their recordings. The ambiance of their on-stage setup certainly creates an atmosphere all its own. Giant (moving) mirrored panels flank both sides of the stage and cover the center drum/ DJ riser to create a deceivingly infinite space. Falling smoke on the crest of the stage and deep purple lighting only emphasized the moodiness.

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