PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | Nestled on a seedy DC street is one of the area’s biggest clubs, Echostage. Generally a spot known for EDM, there has recently been an uptick in rock shows circulating through. On Tuesday night, Interpol lit up the mega club ripping through their set as one of the best rock bands to come to DC this summer. The band members do not put on a big spectacle in the performance. Clad in all black, the focus is drawn to the music as opposed to the musicians, yet they managed to put on an energetic and electric show.
Known for monotone vocals and heavy, staccato basslines, Interpol has been a staple in the American alt-rock scene for 15 years. Founded in New York in 1997, they are touring the US and Europe this summer to promote their fifth album, El Pintor. This is the band’s first tour without founding member, bassist Carlos Dengler, and although his decision to split from the band left a hole in the album, the performance showed no sign of the loss.
Ever-serious frontman Paul Banks whirred through the hour and a half set to an increasingly excited crowd that went from head bobbing to all out jumping around. Songs from their 2004 album Antics, including “Evil” and “Slow Hands,” were undeniably the cause of most excitement, but the crowd remained relatively enthusiastic for the lesser known songs too.
Alternative rock legends Dinosaur Jr. performed for a sold out crowd on the Black Cat’s main stage last Sunday night and unleashed a full-scale noise assault on their DC fans.
Playing a mix of early and newer material from their enormous catalog, Dinosaur Jr. seems to be able to squeeze the essence of their career into a one hour-long set leaving the audience satisfied, but still wanting more from the Amherst, Massachusetts-based trio. While most of their set derived from You’re Living All Over Me and Where You Been? eras of the band, the trio did sprinkle their set with staples from their celebrated album Bug, and even managed to include their beloved rendition of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.”
Having 10 full length studio albums, countless singles, and numerous solo projects under their belts, J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph should now be considered more of an institution rather than a group aging indie artists.
Dinosaur Jr. were pioneers within the alternative rock scenes of the ‘80s and ’90s and introduced the world to a sound that had not been heard prior and influenced a countless number of acts to follow. One of the fundamentals for Dinosaur Jr.’s specific sound is the shear volume of their live show—and that reputation held true Sunday night.
No plans tonight? Synthpop stars Incredible Change will be headlining everyone’s favorite local outdoor music series Fort Reno. Their self-titled debut album was released last month and is available for free on Spotify, Bandcamp, and Soundcloud.
Ra Ra Rasputin lead singer Brock Boss has worked on Incredible Change as a side project for a few years now, with a goal “to incorporate more analog synths and focus on vocals.” Most of the songs on Incredible Change were written over the past two years, with Boss writing and recording songs and then scrapping them en masse, until the album was just right.
He is happy with the strength of the songs after having them in his head for the past two–and one song for four–years. Boss remembers, “Riding on the metro an hour to work and back, listening to parts of songs, imagining what fits, sitting at a desk in my apartment, recording vocals, drinking too much, rambling off whatever came to my mind. Listening back to them the next day, perceiving words I may have never said, but understood, and recognizing a tone or mood in the songs.”
DC’s Verizon Center hosted Imagine Dragons on Monday, 7/6 who performed for an exhilarated and packed house in the center of downtown Washington.
Imagine Dragons, the hard working band from Las Vegas, always seems to invoke smiles from their audience and when Dan Reynolds and his bandmates took the stage in DC, they did just that. The energy radiated from the band, to the crowd, and back again to generate an undeniable level of happiness in the arena.
On the road supporting their latest LP, Smoke and Mirrors, Imagine Dragons’ DC stop marked the end of the east coast leg of their US tour before they headed west. The band is then off to play shows in Japan, China, Europe, and Australia.
Serving as openers for the evening’s performance was veteran Canadian act, Metric who unleashed a stylish and flawless performance, and a very talented artist named Halsey from New Jersey got the evening started.
Mudhoney is the redheaded stepchild of grunge. While its fellow bands—Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden—went on to fame and fortune, Mudhoney (like Tad) got left behind, despite the fact that they were arguably the first of the grunge bands and released the great “Touch Me I’m Sick,” a song whose only competitor as greatest grunge tune ever is “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” But they’ve carried on, real troopers, releasing solid records that receive great reviews but inevitably fail to sell. The world, friends, is not fair.
But I never shed any tears, because I was never a grunge fan to begin with. The genre sounded atavistic to me, like a return to the Stone Age past of Grand Funk Railroad, and my tastes ran to noise rock, and bands that didn’t just play great music but put on really fucked-up live shows that bordered on the deranged. I remember hearing “Touch Me I’m Sick” for the first time in a Philly bar and thinking, “This is really something.” Then I left the bar for the stage area and Cows started a riot and I almost got crushed by a giant member of Zen Guerilla (Philly greats!) and forgot all about “Touch Me I’m Sick.”
Hell, I might not have attended the Black Cat show on July 7 at all had Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds not opened for them. I love Kid Congo Powers; he’s my kind of twisted. And his band is tight, tight, tight. But I’d heard great things about Mudhoney—they’re Mark Arm on vocals, Steve Turner on guitar, Dan Peters on drums, and Guy Maddison on bass—and was relatively enthused to see them. It would give me a chance to see if I’d be wrong about grunge all along.
July 4, 2015, RFK Stadium, Washington, DC. Foo Fighters’ 20TH Anniverssary Blowout.
“The shows we’ve been doing lately are our favorite shows that we’ve ever done,” Dave Grohl told the NME last week. “What seemed like a setback at the time has turned into this beautiful blessing in disguise, where this throne and these crutches and these audiences make us play longer and harder than we ever have.”
Seems true to us. Were Grohl to have even been on his back and bedridden for the Foo Fighters’ 20th Anniversary 4th of July blowout at Washington, DC’s RFK Stadium, the audience still would have turned out in droves. To put it simply, 20 years on, Dave and the band are beloved.
July 4, 2015, RFK Stadium, Washington, DC. Foo Fighters’ 20TH Anniverssary Blowout.
And while we’re at it, let’s not forget the beloved line up of performers who proceeded the Foos on the 4th—Trouble Funk, Buddy Guy, Heart, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, LL Cool J, Gary Clark, Jr., RDGLDGRN—all played to a rabid, and for a time there, rain soaked crowd.
While away for our own 4th of July vacation thwarted a more timely response to the hue and cry from DC’s increasingly insignificant alt-weekly, our own Richie Downs braved the crowd and the weather to record the day in photos—from the very beginning to the Foos’ closing fireworks. It’s a narrative we think you’d agree is best revealed here on the faces of the performers—and those in attendance. —Ed.
If you are a fan of country music and you aren’t familiar with Chris Stapleton, there is a void in your life that you may not have even realized was there. The Lexington, Kentucky native has written songs for some of the biggest names in country and beyond including Sheryl Crow and Adele. Having previously fronted the Grammy-nominated bluegrass band The SteelDrivers, Stapleton has broken out on his own and is making huge waves with his debut solo album, Traveller. In the midst of a string of sold-out dates, I was a traveller myself, venturing from DC, down to the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, VA on Saturday to see him first-hand.
This is not your typical FM-country radio or CMT Awards fare. You won’t find songs of cold beer and hot women, and driving through the mud to get to the lake party or other standard bro-country themes. Stapleton is honest, real, and pure, and there is no pretension to what he does. It may have been a hot, rainy night in Charlottesville, but the warm glow of good music inside the venue made everything all right.
The venue packed quickly, fans lining both floors of the theater seeking out a vantage point. The crowd was buzzing by the time Aubrie Sellers took the stage to open the show. Having paid her dues as a country music background singer, Aubrie seems poised to break out on her own in a big way. The daughter of country stars Lee Ann Womack and Jason Sellers, the twenty-four-year-old Sellers won over the audience in no time flat. Her commanding voice was damn near a dead ringer for her mother’s, with an extra tablespoon of attitude thrown into the mix.
PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | On the heels of the release of their third studio album, Best Coast took over the east coast Tuesday night as they played to a sold-out crowd at DC’s 9:30 Club. It was a familiar setting for the band who was there for the third time as headliners for a packed house, as front-woman Bethany Cosentino pointed out about halfway through the show.
Technically a duo, they were accompanied by a drummer, bassist, and additional guitarist for the live show, because it seems Bobb Bruno has yet to master playing all of these instruments simultaneously. While both members of the duo have versatile musical backgrounds, they seem to have found a groove within their surf-rock sound.
Although on the recorded tracks the vocals are usually layered beneath reverb, there were no such effects for the live show. However, Bethany’s vocals were strong enough to carry the songs without any issue. They definitely brought their A-game to the 9:30 Club, but with a casual attitude crafted by years of playing festivals and headlining shows.
In his black jeans, shirt, and beret, Richard Thompson takes the stage with an almost military look; his guitar strap could almost be mistaken for an ammunition belt. Though his age, 66, places him more in the category of grizzled veteran, few are as strong a sharpshooter as still he is on electric guitar where his distinctive style is beyond copying.
Hey, he’s even got an official title by now. Not colonel or sergeant or lieutenant, but Officer of the Order of the British Empire, one of those OBEs you’re supposed to put at the end of your name.
And though his career is pushing 50 years since his first days as a teenage guitarist in Fairport Convention, he continues to issue solid, largely ignored, solo work, such as the new Jeff Tweedy-produced Still just out this week. That’s what got him out on a tour that brought him to the Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., for the first of two nights Tuesday.
With a nimble duo as rhythm section that enhances and furthers his seemingly effortless guitar attack, he’s able to escalate his artistry on the handful of new numbers as well as providing a sprinkling of what he self-mockingly called “the timeless classics you pay big money for.”
Thompson is one of those rare musicians who seem packed with too much talent—ace guitarist, fine songwriter, great vocalist. With a bemused manner between songs, he’s a darned pleasing entertainer as well.
So there I was, in Northwest Washington, DC sitting on a sofa Big Andy’s living room on Saturday, May 9, 2015, witnessing the miraculous. Namely, the great Ed Hamell of Hamell on Trial and it was a privilege to watch him perform in a space so small. Why, it could hardly have been more intimate if we’d all taken off our clothes like the guy in Hamell’s wonderful song, “First Date.”
Hamell, in case you’re not acquainted with his work, is one of the most idiosyncratic figures on the indie scene. He’s an anti-folk folkie who can play his old Gibson at about 1,000 mph, a teller of filthy jokes who is dead serious when it comes to the state of the world and its myriad casualties, and a survivor of drug addiction who still loves whores and other down-and-outers and insists upon achieving career success on his own terms, which is why he was playing Big Andy’s living room instead of Madison Square Garden. Oh, and did I happen to mention he takes his 13-year-old son Detroit on the road with him, and even brings Detroit to the front of the stage to tell a few jokes? Hamell is truly one of a kind; a compassionate man who loves to tell his audiences to go fuck themselves, and a cynic abounding with empathy. And it’s all in good not quite clean fun, as are many of his most noteworthy songs, such as the wonderfully bilious “I Hate Your Kid.”
The first thing you learn, watching Hamell, is that he loves to tell jokes, interrupts his own songs to tell jokes, and works jokes into his songs. He also interrupts his tunes to tell hilarious true stories, about his old drug buddies and their misadventures, which include smoking cat litter in the hopes that it was a rock of crack even though they knew damn well it was kitty litter, or finding a suitcase floating at sea filled with white powder, which they snorted without effect until they found a medallion certifying the contents as the remains of some cremated somebody.