Author Archives: Richie Downs

TVD Live Shots:
Hurray for the Riff
Raff and Son Little at
the 9:30 Club, 4/21

Last Tuesday, the New Orleans-based modern folk heroes, Hurray for the Riff Raff performed at DC’s 9:30 Club and indulged their audience with a genuine taste of real Americana.

To commence Tuesday’s performance, vocalist Alynda Lee Segarra took the stage alone and brought to life “The New SF Blues” minus the accompaniment of her band, delivering the lyrics with a commanding voice and an unassuming, graceful swagger. Segarra then turned to welcome her band to the stage for the next song with a “…here comes the rest of the Riff Raff” and smiled as the audience welcomed her and her full combo to DC.

Hurray for the Riff Raff immediately dove into the night’s second song “Blue Ridge Mountain” from their latest full length release, Small Town Heroes. The band proceeded to fill the room with beautifully orchestrated, yet simplistic tones well into the night. Despite their modest stage set up and use of only essential instruments—guitar, piano, drums, fiddle, and bass—the Riff Raff unquestionably fills the room with a very full sound. I suppose that when you use only the key ingredients to make a soup, that’s exactly what you taste the most. Point being—simple is a really good thing.

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TVD Live Shots: Priests and Protomartyr at U Street Music Hall, 4/16

Washigton, DC’s Priests eviscerated the stage at U Street Music Hall last Thursday evening with a raw barrage of songs in true punk rock form and showcased some seriously classic punk influences.

I’m not going to bullshit anyone, I am almost halfway to being a cynical old man—at least in regard to keeping up with new and flourishing underground music scenes. The fact is, I love it when I am surprised by finding a band like Priests, and it turns out I could be totally wrong about a real absence of punk rock on this planet. In fact, there is significant strength within the punk scene at the moment and there’s a healthy dose of it right in DC’s backyard with Priests.

The band was on my radar but I had never had the chance to see them perform, and I have to admit, I loved watching Priests live and I was truly taken back with the overall tone of the show. The powerful vocal screams and snarling rants from singer Katie Alice Greer were addictive, and the audience’s reaction to the band as a unit was something that doesn’t come easy—it’s earned.

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TVD Live Shots:
Jessie Ware at the
9:30 Club, 3/31

English songstress Jessie Ware graced the stage of the 9:30 Club on Tuesday night—quite literally—to perform for a sold out crowd.

Touring to promote her 2015 release Tough Love (Interscope), Ware’s performance could be described in one word for this attendee…stellar. Her emotive voice and veteran stage presence gave her every opportunity to dispatch her talents with ease. The eager crowd hung on every breath, every beat.

Wielding influences that range from pop, soul, R&B, and folk, Ware’s stage show reflects the passionate vibe of her new album, displaying her singular strength as a songwriter and performer.

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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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