Category Archives: TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live: Randy Newman at the Birchmere, 9/18

At 73, Randy Newman is still writing sharp and funny political songs, elaborate and cynical set pieces about the state of the world and, in between them, the kind of stark songs that unexpectedly rip your heart out. At a wide-ranging, 2-set, 33 song panorama of his work of the past half century, fans responded to his oldest, most enduring numbers but were just as knocked out by the newest things, as collected on his new Nonesuch collection Dark Matter.

The new collection kicks off with a kind of mini-opera about science vs. religion, but he skipped it altogether on the first of a two night stint at The Birchmere in Alexandria, in place of several songs of particular interest to the politically-minded crowd.

Not only was there “Putin,” his opus to the preening Soviet leader, there was a new one imagining John and Bobby Kennedy in the White House talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis, Celia Cruz, and the head of the Washington NFL team, “Mr. George Preston Marshall” who “runs them like a plantation,” “for never has a black man worn the burgundy and gold.”

He almost forlornly sang “Political Science,” his famously sardonic call to “drop the big one now” because “no one likes us.” “It’s harder to sing this now,” he said, the day before the U.S. president would call for “the total destruction” of North Korea.

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TVD Live: Concert for Yoko Ono, Washington, DC and the World at the Hirshhorn, 9/17

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | Aside from her considerable career as a conceptual artist, Yoko Ono may also be the most polarizing figure in rock. She still carries a lot of unfair blame for being a convenient target as The Beatles were breaking up, and may have showed up on too many Lennon solo albums for purists. At the same time, she inspired a generation of edgy rockers who picked up on her extreme modes of expressions—the shrieks, the trills, and moans—that accompanied some pretty far out records. Artists from the B-52s to Mariam Makeba took up the inspiration and noise bands made her a totem.

Sonic Youth was so enamored with the sound, their Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore cut an album with her called Kimyokothurston. So it seemed right that Gordon headline “A Concert for Yoko Ono, Washington and the World” to wrap up the so-called Summer of Yoko at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The event, created around the 10-year anniversary of her Wish Tree for Washington, DC in the sculpture garden, included a couple of other conceptual works, new and old at the museum, and was concluding with a big concert outdoors in the museum’s plaza.

And while there may have been a number of more conventional approaches the invited acts could have taken—covering more straight ahead songs like “Walking on Thin Ice,” “Kiss, Kiss, Kiss” or any number of her dance remix hits of the past couple of decades, they all mostly decided to take passages from her 1964 volume of poetry and performance suggestions, Grapefruit, and run with it.

Ono herself, now 84, was not there, but her voice echoed in the plaza chanting “Imagine Peace” to begin the event Sunday. Then followed a film Arising from 2013 depicting some sort of mannequin dump while we heard a nice combination of droning guitar and her guttural wails.

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TVD Live: Arcade Fire and Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Capital One Arena, 9/16

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNSPlaying in the round isn’t always the best way to take in an arena concert. By definition, a band’s presentation is fractured in different directions, lacking a central, unified focus. Every time a band member is facing you means that another is facing the other way. If it’s a spinning stage, it can all be a little dizzying.

Arcade Fire seemed to solve all of that with the arena tour that stopped at the Capitol One Center in Washington Saturday (a place that was so recently the Verizon Center, it still said so on the central ice scoreboard). For its purposes, being in the round means closer to its audience and being in the center of its party, something the Canadian band has always tried to do. To start, it played up the boxing rink aspects of the stage set up with sports-like introductions and warm up suits as well as actual ropes that were shed after a few songs.

Wireless microphones allowed singer Win Butler and Régine Chassagne to wander the stage at will. Different platforms on the stage, from monitors to piano tops allowed them to stand out further on different levels. And yes, a central platform did spin around at times, moving mostly the drum set of Jeremy Gara as well as the standup piano. Everybody was visible, in other words, at least from some vantage points, if not in person at least in the cleverly programmed rectangular video screens above them.

Arcade Fire is in the midst of a tour to promote their fifth album Everything Now, one that makes fun of rampant consumerism while clearly being a part of it. This was heralded by infomercial like video ads before their set for oddball items and lots of symbols for international currency marching around the arena’s own video screens.

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Play Something Good with John Foster

The Vinyl District’s Play Something Good is a weekly radio show broadcast from Washington, DC.

Featuring a mix of songs from today to the 00s/90s/80s/70s/60s and giving you liberal doses of indie, psych, dub, post punk, americana, shoegaze, and a few genres we haven’t even thought up clever names for just yet. The only rule is that the music has to be good. Pretty simple.

Hosted by John Foster, world-renowned designer and author (and occasional record label A+R man), don’t be surprised to hear quick excursions and interviews on album packaging, food, books, and general nonsense about the music industry, as he gets you from Jamie xx to Liquid Liquid and from Courtney Barnett to The Replacements. The only thing you can be sure of is that he will never ever play Mac DeMarco. Never. Ever.

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TVD Live: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists and TK Echo at the Black Cat, 9/15

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | Eighteen years after he started Ted Leo & The Pharmacists here, the band returned to DC for a spirited pair of shows this weekend at the Black Cat after a long absence, gladdening fans with his driving older material even as he attempted to show a new direction with his latest.

It’s not a completely inverted approach, as the tarot-card like cover of his new Kickstarted album The Hanged Man may indicate. Indeed, may of the new songs purposely match the legendary velocity of yore. But other times accompanied by an acoustic guitar, the use of which he felt he had to apologize for each time, or even more surprising, beginning a song solo at the piano in the shadows (the venue light system, for one, not being able to adapt to such a shift), he made clear he wanted to try things out in a singer/songwriter mode.

Already he’s dropped the name of his band from the self-released album, though it appears on the marquee of the tour he was kicking off—replete with familiar players as guitarist James Canty, bassist Marty “Violence” Key, and the much-in-demand drummer Chris Wilson (who is also now part of Titus Andronicus). They were augmented by saxophone player Adrienne Berry and guitarist Ralph Darden, a pair who also contribute backup vocals and have a tendency toward skronky experimentalism with their respective instruments.

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TVD Radar: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band career retrospective Anthology in stores 9/29

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Continuing the celebration of the legendary Americana band’s 50 years of making music together, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s extraordinary career is encapsulated in the new retrospective two-disc set, Anthology, due September 29 via Capitol Nashville/UMe.

Beginning with “Buy For Me The Rain,” their first track from their 1967 self-titled Capitol records debut, and culminating with “The Resurrection” from their most recent studio release, 2009’s Speed of Life, the all-encompassing collection is an extensive 39-track career overview, which includes illuminating liner notes from renowned journalist and author Holly Gleason. Hanna says, “We really wanted this collection to historically reflect our band’s timeline, but in addition to that, felt like it was important to include deeper cuts (“Fish Song,” “Cosmic Cowboy”) and instrumentals (“Randy Lynn Rag,” “Midnight at Woody Creek”), and fan favorites (“Ripplin’ Waters,” “Bayou Jubilee”).

Long before Americana music had a name, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, helped lead the charge, mixing elements of country, bluegrass, folk, mountain music, and rock & roll into a sound that celebrated the full range of American music. Formed in Long Beach, Calif. in 1966, the guys were traditionalists and trendsetters, performing songs that nodded to the past while still pushing toward the future.

From their ubiquitous 1970’s Top 10 hit of Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles,” to “An American Dream”—featuring Troubadour pal Linda Ronstadt—and “Make a Little Magic,” with Nicolette Larson, to their #1 country songs, 1984’s “Long Hard Road (Sharecropper’s Dream),” penned by Rodney Crowell and featuring Ricky Skaggs on fiddle and a young Jerry Douglas on dobro, to 1987’s platinum-certified “Fishin’ In The Dark” and many many more, Anthology collects all their best known songs in chronological order of release showcasing the band’s thrilling evolution and numerous highlights.

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The Best of TVD’s Play Something Good with John Foster

The Vinyl District’s Play Something Good is a weekly radio show broadcast from Washington, DC.

Featuring a mix of songs from today to the 00s/90s/80s/70s/60s and giving you liberal doses of indie, psych, dub, post punk, americana, shoegaze, and a few genres we haven’t even thought up clever names for just yet. The only rule is that the music has to be good. Pretty simple.

Hosted by John Foster, world-renowned designer and author (and occasional record label A+R man), don’t be surprised to hear quick excursions and interviews on album packaging, food, books, and general nonsense about the music industry, as he gets you from Jamie xx to Liquid Liquid and from Courtney Barnett to The Replacements. The only thing you can be sure of is that he will never ever play Mac DeMarco. Never. Ever.

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Posted in TVD Washington, DC | Leave a comment

Play Something Good with John Foster

The Vinyl District’s Play Something Good is a weekly radio show broadcast from Washington, DC.

Featuring a mix of songs from today to the 00s/90s/80s/70s/60s and giving you liberal doses of indie, psych, dub, post punk, americana, shoegaze, and a few genres we haven’t even thought up clever names for just yet. The only rule is that the music has to be good. Pretty simple.

Hosted by John Foster, world-renowned designer and author (and occasional record label A+R man), don’t be surprised to hear quick excursions and interviews on album packaging, food, books, and general nonsense about the music industry, as he gets you from Jamie xx to Liquid Liquid and from Courtney Barnett to The Replacements. The only thing you can be sure of is that he will never ever play Mac DeMarco. Never. Ever.

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TVD Live: Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer at the Birchmere, 8/27

PHOTO: JACOB BLICKENSTAFF | It’s a bit of a head scratcher why it hasn’t been until now that Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer have collaborated together. The sisters have each carved out distinctive careers with varying degrees of commercial success over the last 30 years, released 24 albums between them, and share in an Alabama upbringing and tragic family history.

The only excuse they could give in a lovely duo concert Sunday at The Birchmere, celebrating their first album collaboration, is that they were living on opposite coasts. They finally found time last year to record 10 tracks with Teddy Thompson for a new album this summer called Not Dark Yet.

They performed the work of almost all cover songs with a backing trio—in order, start to finish—their clear, evocative voices blending in a way siblings often can. Their cover choices were meant to surprise, songs they said were country mainstays around the house. So in addition to Jessi Colter’s “I’m Looking for Blue Eyes” and Merle Haggard’s “Silver Wings,” which they said they were singing as long as they can remember, there were more unusual choices from the rock arena, from the Killers’ “My List” that began the show, to Nick Cave’s “Into My Arms” deep into the set.

They all fit the tone of engulfing warmth, but none so well as their Townes Van Zandt selection, “Lungs” or that of Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires’ “The Color of a Cloudy Day.” The only sibling song they took up was the Louvin Brothers’ “Every Time You Leave,” but they did it in the yearning style Emmylou Harris used when she recorded it. The title track brought back one of Bob Dylan’s languid, mid-period high points, beautifully done with Moorer taking her place behind the grand piano as her sister played guitar.

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TVD Live: Greta Van Fleet at DC9, 8/26

PHOTO: MICHAEL LAVINE | Like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Greta Van Fleet was named after a random person in their community with a quirky moniker. The teen band from Frankenmuth, Mich., might have risked getting mixed up with Greta Van Susteren at some point or at least the singer Grace VanderWaal.

But they might be a much bigger thing. To hear the people at their sold out debut at DC9 in Washington Saturday, it might be the second coming. “It might be like seeing Hendrix in a club before he got big,” one guy in the crowd way oversold it. And actually, the band brings enormous good cheer to its very familiar sound. It’s a kick to hear a sound so accomplished—and so tied to classic rock of a half century ago—coming from a fresh-faced band of brothers.

Curly-haired Josh Kiszka, who for some reason wore Adam Ant war paint on his face as if mixing up rock periods, is lead singer. Brother Jake Kiszka is guitarist, the youngest of them Sam Kiszka switches from bass to keyboards. And like every rock band that ever existed, they’ve replaced their drummer. The current incarnation is Danny Wagner, who looks like a young Joe Perry banging away.

But the main thing about Greta Van Fleet, from their first note to their last, is their slavish reconstruction of Led Zeppelin, from the supercharged version of blues and rock, every guitar intro, and to the bashing of the non-brother drummer. And especially the wail of young Josh on vocals, who boasts every vocal trick from the Robert Plant tool box: “Yeah-ee-yeah-ee-yeah-ee-yeah” is there; “woo-yeah” as well, as is the sonic wail that begins low and goes all the way to the destroyed penthouse. He even addresses the women in the very simple songs as “Lady.”

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