Category Archives: TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live: David Byrne and Benjamin Clementine at the Anthem, 5/12

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNSDavid Byrne has always been as interested in visual art as in music. So his tours with the Taking Heads became increasingly more creative performance pieces with the herky, jerky music, big suits, and band movements to accompany his spiky, polyrthmic sounds. His solo tours were often just as arresting, and for the current “American Utopia” tour accompanying his first solo album in 16 years, he is breaking new ground.

On the vast, completely empty stage at the Anthem Saturday, ringed only by a curtain of chains, he appeared at a table and chair and picked up the life-sized model of a brain as he pointed out hemispheres of the organ and sang, “Here is a region of abundant details, here is a region that is seldom used…” It was just about the last stage props put on the stage. When joined by his musicians—nine all dressed in similar grey suits and two singers—they were all fully portable.

With wireless microphones, a wireless bass, wireless guitar, and wireless keyboard (which provided a lot of the sound), fully half of the musicians were assigned to parts of what would be a traditional drum set—toms, snare, timbale, other percussion—as if they were ready to be a marching band. Instead of striding into the crowd in formation though, they moved in planned patterns, stood 12-people across, or in two six-person lines, in a circle or a pinwheel in what must be the most choreographed rock concert for musicians ever devised.

So unusual did it seem, with nary a snaking wire, microphone stand, effects box, amp, or drum set in sight that it almost seemed like an all-dancing, little-playing track show. Byrne had to stop in the middle of the show to point out that it was not the case. Indeed, the dozen could have marched down the aisles and into the boxes, wifi willing, but chose to stay on the well-lit set, which changed hue or intensity with every song.

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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 Shots: M3 Rock Festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 5/4–5/5

The mega-sized, heavy metal shred-fest, M3 celebrated its 10th anniversary last weekend (5/4–5/5) at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Metalheads, young and well, middle-aged were treated to a heaping dose of hard rock from a myriad of artists who dominated the genre then—as they still do today. 

For this weekend’s go-around, the festival was split into 1 day and 2 nights of metal (Friday and Saturday), and 1 full day of southern rock (Sunday). I was there for the Friday and Saturday shows for a taste of the hair of the dog that bit me long ago. This year’s lineup featured some of the biggest names in the genre—Kix, Ace Frehley, Tom Keifer, and Sebastian Bach.

If you’re a metal fan in the DC area, the experience at M3 is all or nothing—meaning that you either come out and support all the bands on M3’s lineup—or you stay home. M3 fans are particularly unique, mostly decked out in rock attire—leather pants, ripped bangled shirts, or festival tees bought at merch—and in the way that they continue to support live music for the last three decades. I suppose that only time will tell if other genres will have as much of a turnout 30 years from now.

While fans do come out in droves for M3, I couldn’t help but take note of a phrase uttered for the past few years now: “If we’re able to do this next year,” this time via Eddie Trunk, host of That Metal Show and “Trunk Nation” on SiriusXM VOLUME during his introduction for Tom Keifer’s set on Friday night. I did notice that the crowd seemed notably thinner this time than in recent years, however the spirit of metal is definitely still there, and I hope M3 continues to thrive.

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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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TVD Live Shots: The Decemberists and Tennis at The Anthem, 4/21

Portland based indie-rock outfit, The Decemberists performed at The Anthem in Washington, DC on Saturday evening for what would be their first area appearance in a number of years. 

On tour to promote their newest and eighth studio album, I’ll Be Your Girl, The Decemberists came charged and ready to mix both their beloved classics with some newly spun yarns. While boisterously offering an occasional political rant in between songs, frontman Colin Meloy seemed to really enjoy talking politics—and bathroom stalls (a DC joke)—while in the nation’s capitol, and it all fell on eager ears.

Apparently, the 2016 presidential election affected chief songwriter Meloy so profoundly that in his view, the band’s new album is a representation of our nation’s dour political climate. For Meloy, the album is an attempt to cope with not just his, but the general sadness and despair at large since Donald Trump’s election. His view couldn’t be more apparent than with the record’s seventh track, “Everything Is Awful” which became a sort of sing-a-long mid way through the show. Personally, I wish they’d stick to tales of obscure historical events, but folk music is often about speaking truth—and Meloy is doing his fair share.

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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: They Might
Be Giants at the 9:30 Club, 4/14

High school pals John Linnell and John Flansburgh have pretty much stayed true to their eccentric approach to pop music as a guitar and accordion duo singing about science, history, and weird things might. Despite a successful foray into children’s music where they’ve recorded a handful of albums, earned Grammys, and scored music for Mickey Mouse, they’re back with a new non-kids album in I Like Fun, out this year, and a long tour to accompany it.

While they once made fun of their endless touring with a fanciful They Might Be Giants Tour 2040 T-shirt that pictured them as doddering on the road decades from now, they’re still in great shape at ages 57 and 58. Playing a sold out show at the 9:30 Club in DC Saturday night, it would seem they might have trepidation with their fate, judging from the title of their opening song “Let’s Get This Over With,” the first of seven from the new album.

But instead, they played a long and generous, two-set, 35-song show, full of favorites from throughout their 36 years with a pretty good sampling representing at least 14 of their 20 albums. It was a strong show in part because of the audience—not the over-excitable sing-along middle schoolers as it seemed to be last time I saw them, but fans who grew up with the band, loved the old stuff, and appreciated hearing the new concoctions which were as smart and melodic as ever.

While there was a segment at the start of the second set that featured just the duo (a Quiet Storm portion that featured videos of lightning), the show featured their longtime band of guitarist Dan Miller, bassist Danny Weinkauf, and drummer Marty Beller—who were now all clearly in view of Linnell for the first time, he gleefully told the audience, since he had only recently installed a rearview mirror on his keyboard. To that solid quintet, Curt Ramm strolled out to provide trumpet six songs in, a nice surprise and big addition.

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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: The HillBenders at the Hamilton, 4/12

Recording bluegrass versions of pop or rock songs goes back nearly half a century, to the days when the Country Gentlemen made Manfred Mann’s “Fox on the Run” their own and adapted Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans.” Both of those came out about the time The Who issued their rock opera Tommy, which has been turned into a full length Bluegrass Opry a couple of years ago by The HillBenders in a project so successful they’re still touring on it, returning to the Hamilton in DC Thursday to run through it all again before an appreciative crowd.

Pete Townshend wrote most of Tommy on his acoustic guitar, which makes it easy to adapt to what The Hellbenders were describing as an all acoustic approach (though the bass was amplified and there were some electronic touches of loops and amplified stomps). And yes, it kind of works, especially when they’re doing the best known single from the work, “Pinball Wizard,” with Mark Cassidy’s banjo picking overtime.

That they’re doing the whole thing, beginning to end, in order, is half the appeal, given the opportunity to hear some of the individual songs again, from the plaintive opening “1921” to “Sally Simpson” and “I’m Free.” Some of the less than 30 second interstitials sound as corny as ever, from “Miracle Cure,” to “There’s a Doctor I’ve Found.” Even harder to hear as entertainment is the child abuse archly approached in “Christmas” and “Fiddle About”—a bluegrass title if there ever was one (and, alas, there was no fiddle in the quintet).

One of the best things about The HillBenders adaptation was its cover variant—which was projected behind them on stage all night, the blue criss cross ribbons of the original turned to brown, as if they were slats in a country picnic basket.

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TVD Live: Jim White and Sylvie Simmons at Hill Country Live, 4/10

It was no wonder David Byrne signed Jim White to his Luaka Bop label nearly 20 years ago. The two kind of look alike, have the same set of social hesitancy, and a penchant for original, unexpected, and often delightful songwriting. But White, who played a solo show at Hill Country Live this week, reminisced that Byrne rejected scores of his songs as being too weird. “This from a guy who did…” and he went off in the Stop Making Sense arm-chopping move.

White, who conjures a swampy, lonely, Ecclesiastical-tinged, Southern gothic sound, often has his tracks used in similarly artful shows, from Breaking Bad to Rectify. Minus a band, he was left to picking out old tracks and some from his new Waffles, Triangles & Jesus on an array of guitars played through a couple of vintage amps that seemed to hum throughout.

Before a modest but rapt crowd sipping beers at tables and chairs, White intermixed his brooding songs with long, spoken interludes. It seemed he took 10 minutes to tell the origin of the 1970 Impala he drove in the BBC Documentary Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, which introduced his singular music to many.

He said he doesn’t like to sing his hits any more—and that would include things like “Handcuffed to a Fence in Mississippi” or “Static on the Radio”—because that would bore him. But he included a couple of old favorites anyway, from “Alabama Chrome” to “A Town Called Amen.” He used tracks and loops to back up a couple of songs and it wasn’t off-putting. He’s well versed for kicking these things on and off at the right times, and he uses them sparingly. The track on “Jailbird,” he said, allowed him to play the harmonica solos.

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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