Last Saturday, the 141st running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Raceway in Baltimore brought with it Budweiser InfieldFest—a smorgasbord of musical offerings from country to rock, from electronic-dance to hip hop.
Headlining the day’s performances were The Chainsmokers from New York City, Willie Maxwell II—also known as Fetty Wap, and Canadian DJ Frank Walker on the main stage. The Jägermeister Stage located at the opposite end of the infield hosted Baltimore locals All Time Low, and for country music fans, openers Chris Janson and Corey Smith.
Finding little reprieve from the rain and the muddy grounds of the infield at Pimlico, attendees didn’t seem to mind sticking it out through every performance. Despite the wet conditions, the crowd in the infield remained enthusiastic and undaunted, and when the Chainsmokers played the final set of the day, it gave the venue a renewed energy and life of its own.
If Morrissey and Pulp had a millennial child, it would be Oscar—his songs are thoughtful, cheeky, and bright. The single-named “gangsta melancholic,” Oscar opened with a short and sweet set featuring “Daffodil Days,” “Beautiful Words,” and “Sometimes” off his debut album Cut and Paste. (I got to chat with him after his set. Turns out he’d seen Bloc Party when he was 16 at Brixton Academy. And now he’s opening for them.)
But first, The Vaccines! This is a band that I really wish I’d known better before seeing them live. Lead singer Justin Young exploded on stage, rocking the entire emotional spectrum in his face and body. It was an extremely engaging set and certainly helped to wake up a crowd wary of partying too hard on a Thursday night. My favorites were “Dream Lover,” “Post Break-Up Sex,” and “If You Wanna.”
Bloc Party eased into their set with the subdued and hypnotic “Only He Can Heal Me” off their latest album Hymns. Then they launched into “Hunting For Witches,” which set the crowd ablaze. This is the band’s first US tour since welcoming new members Justin Harris on bass and keyboards and Louise Bartle on drums.
The first hint that the evening was going to be different was learning that we photographers were being allotted six songs to shoot instead of the standard three. Why? There was no official photo pit. At the 9:30 Club it’s not uncommon to have to scrap with the fans to get your shots. What is very uncommon is having the bands recognize that this can be a hindrance and try to make it up to you. Very unexpected and generous.
Yeasayer were off to a solid start, opening with the mid-tempo “Half Asleep” from their new album Amen & Goodbye. And then the wheels came off. There was some confusion on stage as to why they weren’t rolling into “Gerson’s Whistle” as expected.
Frontman Chris Keating fiddled with his laptop and accompanying sound gear, sparking a fan behind me to utter “I think they’re trying to tap into the Matrix.” Well, the Matrix was broken and Yeasayer handled it like total pros. Relaxed, affable, and more amused than annoyed, Keating gave the audience a choice, “Either we take a five-minute break to fix things or we wing it.” Unsurprisingly, the vote to wing it was unanimous.
Adia Victoria, the soulful, electric-blues siren from Nashville, Tennessee made DC9 the DC stop on her current “Me & the Devil” east coast tour.
Delivering a mesmerizing performance, there’s something truly indescribable about Adia’s music that can’t be labeled or confined. It’s like a whole otherworldly presence is along for the ride and Adia’s in control of it all. Her music has dissonance and an ethereal quality to it. Its feel is magnified further within a live setting, and her band’s performance is like no other in the game right now. There’s a lot of raw guitar tones among the strings and they churn from silence to a bomb dropping in no time.
Adia’s vocals are gritty, yet refined. She manages to howl, whisper, chant, scream, and demand all eyes upon her with just a gesture. Her vocals soar from high to low and take listeners on a ghostly journey in tandem with her band that’s both tight and impeccable—from the straight-forward thumping drums, the relentless tonality of the guitars, right down to the last organ swipe.
PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | Iris DeMent’s career had already been something of a miracle: a clear voiced Southern gospel wail from a woman who wasn’t even that sure of her religious bearing, whose vocal power in concert could make one question the need for amplifiers, who was proclaimed by no less than Merle Haggard as his favorite voice in country. Then she did something more fascinating.
Inspired by the adoption of a 6-year-old from Siberia in 2005, she came across some poems from a Russian poet Anna Akhmatova that spoke so clearly to her—and seemed to have the cadences of her own gospel declarations, that she put 18 of them to song on her most recent album The Trackless Woods.
They provided the bulk of the performance with Loudon Wainwright III Wednesday at the Birchmere music hall, the Alexandria, Virginia stronghold marking its 50th anniversary. DeMent, 55, recalled that one of her first gigs more than 20 years ago was at the Birchmere, and it still served as a warm place for her to play, even when things weren’t always going her way.
Spiffed up in a mother of the bride kind of dress and fashionable eyewear, she began and ended the show strongly, on guitar, serving up the marvelous songs that made people take notice when that career was starting.
The “third stream” is a term for musical compositions that embody a little bit of jazz and a little bit of classical according to Gunther Schuller. If your ear is tuned to that, DC-based percussionist Sriram Gopal invites you to lend one to The Fourth Stream.
The Fourth Stream is the debut album featuring DC-based jazz musicians under the helm of drummer Sriram Gopal. The album is not so much an exploration of varying musical styles as it is a fellowship of sounds. It is a collection of harmonies from various parts of the world that find common ground in this delightful piece of work.
The album is a fusion of crossover jazz, post-rock, bebop, classical, and South Asian devotional music. “Stream” might be the type of mystical composition found among Joe Harriott and John (not the pop singer) Mayer’s library of works, set in a framework designed for improvisation.
Tracks on the album include “Bapuji,” “Nadia,” “Bengali Dhun,” “Something Good,” “Why? Because I Can,” and “Almost Spring.” “Bapuji,” the album’s first track, is both argument and reconciliation among Bobby Muncy’s lounge-room sax against gatling-speed drum breaks. “Nadia” is a get-up-and-move tune with more than a few bars of EWI playfulness.
Filter, the hard hitting ’90s industrial rock outfit, made the Howard Theatre their DC stop on the band’s current “Make America Hate Again” tour.
Nailing a thrilling performance to an enthusiastic crowd, frontman Richard Patrick is no stranger to delivering a pummeling round of songs to his diehard fans. Patrick, after leaving Nine Inch Nails as their tour guitarist, co-founded Filter with Brian Liesegang in 1993 and has racked up multi-platinum records since.
For Wednesday night’s performance the band was in excellent form. Patrick’s vocals sounded incredible and had just enough pop to soar above a relentless rhythm section. On bass guitar was Ashley Dzerigian who delivered an outstanding performance among the beautiful electronic madness. Through the entire set was a large, rapid moving eye on two screens above the stage that was both hypnotic and startling.
Thursday night the Fillmore Silver Spring hosted veteran heavy metal rockers, Megadeth who played for a packed house and proved their sound and skill is as timeless now as the day they started it all.
It’s always a privilege to get to cover great music. Sometimes however, it is particularly incredible to be tasked to cover a band who defines a genre. Undoubtedly one of the founding fathers of thrash metal, Megadeth has pioneered a sound all their own. Live, the band exceeded every expectation that you might have—30+ years on.
Thursday night’s performance was one of the best sounding shows I’ve heard so far this year. The band’s music is known for its complex guitar arrangements and its technical prowess—and they’re still hammering the audience tight, fast, and loud.
Who said rock is dead? Not on my watch!
April 29th and 30th marked the return of Merriweather Post Pavillion’s annual ’80s hard rock and heavy metal party known as the M3 Rock Festival. Two days of all the classic hair metal bands who were not only the soundtrack to the Sunset Strip but also for east coast bars like Hammerjacks and the Bayou.
Kicking off the first day was a young lady named Gabbie Rae—who quite honestly stole the show. The highlight came midway through her set when she covered Dio’s “Last in Line.” Never have I heard anyone do Dio justice until now, and to put it mildly—jaw dropping. The night continued with Enuff Z’Nuff and 86 Bullets who were both a lot of fun.
Guitarist George Lynch and his band Lynch Mob slayed everyone with their technical precision and even managed to throw in a couple of Dokken songs to top off the night. Mötley Crüe may be done but Vince Neil still carries the torch and was backed up by Slaughter bassist Dana Strum, guitarist Mark Blando, and the high-flying mad man behind the drums Zoltan Cheney. (Tommy Lee has nothing on this guy.) Vince’s set consisted mainly of everyone’s Mötley favorites and he’s got great chemistry with the band on stage.
Hours before playing the last US date of their Hepatitis Bathtub and Music Tour, NOFX signed copies of their new, best-selling book at Politics & Prose. The line to get in and see them snaked around the block. El Hefe, Smelly, and Melvin were in good spirits, despite the fact that many fans insisted on taking photos of them—the same photos all the other fans had taken—and were seriously holding up the line. Understandably, Fat Mike was somewhere between Not Amused and Go Fuck Yourself. Or maybe he was sick.
Must’ve been the former because by the time they took the stage at the Fillmore, he looked ready to rock, wearing a sexy above-the-knee leather skirt. Opening with “60%” and “Dinosaurs Will Die,” the energy on stage ramped up. Melvin launched into the air numerous times. The crowd ate it up and the pit refreshed itself for a raucous night.
As the hour-plus set progressed, Mike seemed to warm to the crowd, lovingly engaging with one audience member by hurtling an object at her and yelling “There’s a dollar, you fucking bitch. Shut up!” The set drew from the early days with “Green Corn” and “Linoleum” and the more recent with “72 Hookers,” with plenty of satisfying staples in the mix.