Category Archives: TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live: The Feelies at the 9:30 Club, 4/16

The Feelies spent their Record Store Day in DC playing music—a lot of it.

The bulk of it was a three-hour show with two full sets and four encores at the 9:30 Club, in a show so rare it some fans flew in from across the country. But they totaled more than 40 songs altogether Saturday if you count their free afternoon set on a sidewalk in front of a record store.

There, at Red Onion on U Street, it was all acoustic guitars and woodblocks, curious looks from the spa next door, warm smiles from longtime fans, and clueless looks from young urbans cutting a wide path around the whole thing on their way to yoga.

The long-running quintet hardly seemed at home in the light of the afternoon. But they didn’t look that comfortable, either, in their nighttime 9:30 showcase. By now that’s kind of the modus operandi from the band who made one of their first recordings “The Boy with Perpetual Nervousness.”

They haven’t lost the nerves it seems. Guitarists Glenn Mercer and Bill Million still have a hard time even looking at the audience, let alone talking to them. As he sings, Mercer keeps his eyes steadily on the lyric sheets he brings up to a makeshift music stand attached to his mic stand—each song its own loose leaf page, folded over.

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TVD Live: Jonathan Richman at the 9:30
Club, 4/7

Jonathan Richman is the very picture of the traveling musician.

On the expanse of the 9:30 Club stage, empty but for Tommy Larkins’ modest drum kit, he walked in for an early evening show still wearing his coat and carrying his guitar case. “Hi folks!” He doffs the coat, unclasps the guitar case, and takes out the instrument and starts to go. His immediate commentary is on the Washington weather necessitating the coat—which had a cold wind and some rain but also some brilliant intermittent breaks from the subject of his first song, “O Sun,” which he says could be praised more.

The same goes for Richman, who at 64 continues to delight his cult audiences with his surprising and innocent observations, his penchant to abandon his guitar to dance, play the maracas or shake a jingle bell tree, a seeming new addition to the sparse touring arsenal. Richman’s got a new album out, Ishkode! Ishkode! on Blue Arrow Records (ishkode being the Ojibwe word for electric or fire), and played a couple of things from it, but never mentioned it and certainly didn’t bring any to sell.

Likewise, those coming to hear anything from the Modern Lovers were to be disappointed. Nothing but the instrumental “Egyptian Reggae” was played from that period. Richman live shows are becoming more and more nebulous, as he’ll strum a riff for a while, shake his hips a bit, sing in various other languages, and dip in and out of recordings people might actually know.

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TVD Live Shots: Ace Frehley and the Charm City Devils at the 9:30 Club, 4/8

PHOTOS: DAVE BARNHOUSER | Having spawned the careers of countless guitarists with his tenure in KISS in the ’70s, Ace Frehley is still holding the hot hand in 2016.

It’s time to give Ace Frehley credit where credit is due. Sure, the career’s been a proverbial rollercoaster, but Friday night at the 9:30 Club, Ace was smoking—and I’m not just referring to the pyrotechnics. His playing was nimble as ever and his signature tone sustained from track to track was impeccable. And how about those tracks? “Rip It Out,” “Rocket Ride,” “Parasite,” “Love Gun,” “Snow Blind,” Strangeways,” “New York Groove,” Shock Me,” “Cold Gin,” “Detroit Rock City,” “Deuce.” All, well, hotter than hell.

Ace’s brand new LP, Origins Vol. 1 arrives in stores this Friday, April 15 and finds Ace digging into a trove of tracks that influenced him early on. Covers from Thin Lizzy to the Rolling Stones to Jimi Hendrix round out the set which includes guest vocals from Mr. Paul Stanley on Free’s “Fire and Water.” While this material didn’t make Friday’s setlist, his own tracks blatantly informed the origin stories of those in the audience—that is, if we’re to weigh the crowd participation and the myriad of air guitarists in attendance.

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TVD Live: Ry Cooder, Sharon White, and
Ricky Skaggs at the Birchmere, 4/6

Cooder-White-Skaggs sounds like a legal firm or at the least a group of CPAs. Instead, it’s a grand musical merger of two storied families—country star Ricky Skaggs, who married into the White family 35 years ago and went largely bluegrass as a result; and Ry Cooder, the singular guitarist whose work spans genres and cultures, with his son and frequent accompanist Joachim Cooder, who is nearly as thoughtful and musical in his approach on drums (on bass is Mark Fain, who comes courtesy Skagg’s Kentucky Thunder band).

Each aspect of the aggregation would be worth going out to hear individually; together, it’s remarkable in its riches. Having already sold out two shows at the Birchmere in their initial tour last fall, they returned for a pair of springtime encore performances as the storied club marks its 50th anniversary.

Once more they are playing almost entirely old timey songs, largely gospel, that could have been lost in the dustbins but were instead revived on YouTube, as Cooder explained. When they wanted to perform a particular song, one would shoot an email with a YouTube link to another and they’d commence learning it. The black and white videos tended to be the better ones, Cooder opined, though when they started to be recorded in color, he opted for the early to mid-color periods.

Not surprisingly, the song list owes to previous vocal harmony and string outfits that had family ties, from the Stanleys and Louvins to the Delmores. And the point of their touring seems to go back to the days before recording, to simply perform them together live—there is no Cooder-White-Skaggs album they’ve recorded to promote; there doesn’t seem to be one in the works either.

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TVD Live, Before and After: Kitten at the Rock and Roll Hotel, 3/25

For a touring musician, the often cliched “life on the road”—shuttling from venue to venue, city to city—can become insufferably grueling. For Chloe Chaidez, Kitten’s unique force of nature, it’s simply the method by which she’s garnering fans on a steady climb to the stratosphere—venue to venue, city to city. It also doesn’t hurt that she possesses a bewilderingly strong catalog of material and a crack band behind her.

In Washington, DC last week, Kitten’s stop was the venerable Rock and Roll Hotel to which we dispatched our own force of nature, photographer Richie Downs to chronicle the stuff the enthusiastic crowd that evening didn’t catch—the minutia, preparation, and the dedication to putting the music together night after night. And the live show too, of course.

Back at TVD HQ, Richie told us, “When Kitten hit the stage around 11PM, Chloe came out at full force and showed no signs of slowing down throughout her entire set. I’ve seen Kitten perform several times and the truth is this band keeps getting better each time they’re in town. Their delivery was flawless.”

Kitten is touring in support of the new EP “Heaven or Somewhere in Between” released this month. —Ed.

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TVD Live Shots: Savages and Angus Tarnawsky at the 9:30 Club, 3/27

Living up to their name and reputation, London’s Savages took the 9:30 Club by storm Sunday night, leveling the District audience. With what seemed like nonstop barrage of melodic indie-post punk, the band played hard and steady. Most of all, they played extremely fucking loud, I’m talking sonic levels here—probably the loudest show I’ve attended this year.

Standing tough and firm, vocalist Jehnny Beth delivered a flawless and often poetic performance. Accompanied by her fellow bandmates—Gemma Thompson on guitar, Ayse Hassan on bass, and Fay Milton on drums, the foursome seemed more like a gang ready for battle.

The show was outstanding and Savages have certainly mastered their live sound. They stayed right in the pocket throughout their entire set and come across as relentless and seemingly unstoppable. Savages are touring to promote their new album, Adore Life, released on Matador Records in January of this year—which is available on vinyl.

Angus Tarnawsky got the evening started with his progressive beats and aggressive use of percussion.

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TVD Live: Tal Wilkenfeld at the Birchmere 3/15, the Verizon Center 3/24

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | It’s a bit of a schizophrenic touring season for Tal Wilkenfeld. Half the time, the Australian bassist is headlining modest sized clubs with her band. The other half, they’re opening huge arena shows for The Who. Fans in DC got to see her at both extremes this month, first at the venerable Birchmere music hall in Alexandria, VA, March 15 and then the cavernous Verizon Center in Washington nine days later on the 24th.

What was surprising is that she didn’t seem to tone her arena show down for the closer confines, nor did she have to make her club show substantially bigger to fill an arena. Wilkenfeld is a young guitarist turned bassist who took her parents’ money meant for college and instead went straight to Los Angeles to play music. She got jobs immediately and caught a lot of attention when she played bass with Jeff Beck, most prominently at a 2007 Crossroads Music Festival, where a video of her solo during “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers” is up to 1.8 million YouTube views. She’s since performed with the likes of drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (who was part of the Beck band too—and Zappa and Sting before that).

Her current band doesn’t have marquee names but hold their own with complex and powerful playing, especially from guitarist Owen Barry and drummer Tamir Barzilay. The Who, of course, have a storied list of acts who have opened for them, including Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, the Faces in both of its incarnations, the Kinks, the Pretenders, Lou Reed, Bob Marley, and The Clash.

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TVD Live: The Who at the Verizon Center, 3/24

PHOTOS: ERICA BRUCE | The “Who Hits 50!” tour that finally got to the Verizon Center in Washington last week is one steeped in history, of course. So there were plenty of projected photos of the band from the its past, historical passages about their place in fashion and art history, and even an annotated list of past shows in town (that included a surprising 20-year gap between 1969 and 1989).

By the time the band hit the stage, they did all they could to erase the passage of time through lights and sound, succeeding largely through the efforts of lead singer Roger Daltrey, who at 72, can still muster much of the power he had on the recordings, twirl his microphone, and galvanize the crowd.

He’s dropped an octave or so in those decades and is absent a large chunk of his upper range, but he makes do by going into a surprisingly high falsetto and then dropping into deep baritone.

It was Daltrey’s viral meningitis that canceled the original DC date last November. He looked the picture of health in the return date, however, especially compared to the only other original member, Pete Townshend, 70, who despite keeping his familiar profile on guitar and overcompensation on his windmill riffs, couldn’t sing a lick because of a cold.

When he did open his mouth, it was like a croak that made modern day Bob Dylan sound like classic Tony Bennett. He was game to try his few scheduled solo spots, though, and remarked that the cragginess may actually help set the scene for “The One” from Quadrophenia, which, at 43, was the newest album they played.

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TVD Live: Eli Paperboy Reed at U Street Music Hall, 3/12

PHOTO: ROBERTO CHAMORRO | Eli Paperboy Reed, who kicked off his latest US tour at the U Street Music Hall in DC Saturday night with a thrilling show, has for more than a decade played the kind of music that sounded like it came from some secret cache of great soul 45s from the ’60s that somebody left in the weeds on the side of the road somewhere between Memphis and Chicago.

What millennial has so well channeled the passion and power of the era in original songs that don’t sound like he’s paying homage to the past so much as he’s powering his way forward in a classic roadster?

Still something of a babyfaced kid who’s got his hair up in a pompadour these days, Reed sure knows his way around a guitar. But he’s a hair-raising standout primarily for the kind of wide-ranging, unfettered soulful yelp that puts one in mind of the greats—Otis Redding, O.V. Wright, and others who are anchored to a melody but quite naturally vamp on and around it in a passionate fury.

That he’s a white kid from Boston is part of the novelty, I suppose, but there’s no doubting that he’s channeling the best of the best straight from his heart. And it seems absolutely natural too that he’s turned the dial even further with his upcoming new album My Way Home, due out June 10 on Yep Roc, by immersion into the kind of fiery gospel that sparked soul music itself back in the day.

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TVD Live: Skylar Gudasz at the Rock & Roll Hotel, 3/11

The University of North Carolina men’s basketball team was wrapping up its ACC tournament sweep in town at the Verizon Center, bringing its powder blue clad fans with it. So it’s no surprise somebody said “Go Tar Heels!” in the middle of Skylar Gudasz’s opening set at the Rock & Roll Hotel Friday.

But they could have just as well have been fans from Gudasz’ home base of Durham, N.C., or even from neighboring Virginia—she grew up north of Richmond in Ashland. After her own graduation from UNC, she stuck around Chapel Hill to record with the likes of pop rock ace and ex dB Chris Stamey, who featured her on the big Big Star tribute tour a couple of years ago where she was a standout singing things like “Thirteen.”

With her own solo debut Oleander out last month (also produced by Stamey), she was in DC to start a tour with Mount Moriah at the club, which responded (mostly) to her clear voice and sometimes hushed pop with reverent silence, which is a little unusual for the barroom.

With an electric guitar she mostly strummed, she was backed by four musicians in a band that was sometimes not needed (and started some songs in folded arms, waiting to come in at all). For nearly half of the set, she was at the piano, where she likely created the songs to begin with.

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