Author Archives: Richie Downs

TVD Live Shots: Dermot Kennedy and SMYL at The Anthem, 3/4

Last Wednesday evening, DC’s Anthem hosted Irish songwriter Dermot Kennedy for an exciting night of music that showcased both his talent for song craft and his skill as a live performer.

Dermot Kennedy was in command of every aspect of his performance. His melodic acoustic riffs were perfectly complimented by the gargantuan sound of his band, even down to the smallest hum of his electric accompaniment. Kennedy’s vocals, engaging on their own, were pushed atop the mix to shine through it all.

Live, his material comes across as both intellectual and surprisingly dark conjuring a very unique experience, down to his stage presence which highlighted the moodiness of the evening with creative side lighting and negative space to emphasize the venue’s atmosphere.

Kennedy is on tour to promote his first full length LP, Without Fear via Interscope Records. The album boasts four singles including the radio hits, “Outnumbered” and “Power Over Me.” Without Fear debuted at number two on the UK album charts upon its release in October 2019, and came in at number twenty-one on Billboard in the US. Without Fear is available in standard black vinyl which arrives with a digital download for those of you without a record player in your cars.

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TVD Live Shots: Calexico and Iron & Wine with Frances Quinlan at The Anthem, 2/7

I simply love the 2005 EP “In the Reins”—so much so that I would even deem it among my favorite releases from both Calexico and Iron & Wine—and with their combined body of work, that’s saying quite a lot. 

“In the Reins” was the first joint calibration between Calexico and Iron & Wine and is revered by musicians and beloved by their fans. Rein’s soothing and rhythmic grooves are stunning, yet subtle, and its songwriting is extraordinarily delicate. The title track alone, “He Lays In the Reins,” is a song that feels like a warm bed on a cold, rainy day as its calm verses wash over.

Samuel Beam better known by his stage name, Iron & Wine wrote all the songs for the EP and cut it with Calexico’s Joey Burns and John Convertino in a studio in Tucson, Arizona. This current tour led them to DC’s Anthem last Friday night for an unforgettable set by two bands who seem destined to perform together. The venue seemed to come alive for Friday’s show as the mood was truly electric—especially for a seated show. “In the Reins” is available on black vinyl from Subpop Records.

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TVD Live Shots:
Grace Potter and
Devon Gilfillian at
The Anthem, 1/25

Grace Potter brought her considerable talents to Washington, DC’s Anthem this past weekend, touring in support of her new release, Daylight. In tandem she brought one very special guest for the evening, Devon Gilfillian

Potter’s latest album was released to critical acclaim in October of 2019 and is a big step in a new direction, leaning more than ever toward the pop side of her blues-rock roots. For Saturday’s performance she was in excellent form and simply as exuberant as ever. Dancing straight through the first few songs of the set, she appeared elated during “Love is Love” and “Back to Me” which proceeded the title track of the new record, “Daylight.”

Potter even honored some older fan favorites such as the soulful “Big White Gate” off of 2007’s This is Somewhere which was a request just four songs in. Throughout the evening Potter also seemed to glow and radiate from within, and it’s obvious that her new band suits her well as she’s hit a whole new stride. Daylight was released via Fantasy Records and is available on gold-tiger vinyl.

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TVD Live Shots: Hiss Golden Messenger and Lilly Hiatt at the 9:30 Club, 1/15

Last Wednesday evening DC’s 9:30 Club played host to a night of indie-rock from two acts that will demand more attention for years to come, Hiss Golden Messenger and Lilly Hiatt.

His Golden Messenger is the led by MC Taylor, a Southern California native who transplanted to the Durham, North Carolina music scene in 2007. After various successful lineups, Taylor made subtle personnel changes over the years to explore different capacities for the band’s sound with rock remaining at its core.

The band boasts eleven studio albums to date along with multiple EPs, various singles, and live releases. In 2014 Taylor signed with Durham’s Merge Records and joined the ranks of artists such as Arcade Fire, Robert Pollard, and Washington, DC’s own Ex Hex among others. Hiss Golden Messenger’s latest LP, Terms of Surrender was released in 2019 and is available in black vinyl and limited edition Coke bottle vinyl which includes a two color newsprint posters within.

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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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