Category Archives: TVD Washington, DC

TVD presents Respect the Architects: An All Vinyl Odyssey Mapping Future Funk ft. Jahsonic & John Murph at Den of Thieves, 9/18

For the our third installment of our monthly all-vinyl residency at Den of Thieves we present Respect the Architects: A Vinyl Odyssey Mapping Future Funk featuring two of DC’s most prolific and ubiquitous selectors: Jahsonic & John Murph. We issued the DJs a challenge to take listeners and dancers on a sonic odyssey mapping the family-tree of “Future Funk” using their extensive vinyl collections to map the course.

Funk is like an apple and there are tens of thousands of varieties of an apple. Enter “Future Funk.” Who is its daddy? How does one define it? Ask any funk expert and you will receive a variety of answers based on subjective tastes. Certainly you could get an academic ethnomusicologist to explain it but how fun would that be? The musical genre called “Future Funk” is so vast and means so many things to different people that it’s hard to pinpoint the mouth of the river from which it springs. So, for our purposes we turn to our topographic DJs—Jahsonic and John Murph—who will map our course at Den of Thieves this Thursday.

There was a plethora of technical innovation for keyboards and guitar effects in the ’60s and lots of musicians jumped right in. I often hear that Sly Stone sits near the source of “Future Funk” with his early ’70s output, specifically on There’s a Riot Going On and later on Fresh. Is it the drum machines? Miles Davis was supposedly inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s wah-wah pedal and put it to use on much of his funk/jazz explorations. Herbie Hancock never shied away from electronic gadgetry and synthesizers but always kept it funky. Noted jazz musician Eddie Harris spawned hits playing his sax with a Varitone effects unit in the late ’60s, but rather than playing bop he was definitely blowing a more groovy funk sound.

If someone were to ask me what an example of “Future Funk” is, I’d probably point to Stevie Wonder’s Clavinet-drenched mega hit, “Superstition” and the futuristic aesthetics of Funkadelic and Sun Ra. Where does “future funk” begin for you?

Murph: I think funk began well before we called it “funk.” You can hear traces of it in black American blues, gospel, and jazz. And certainly in a lot of Afro-Latin and West African music. Just listen to Johnny Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillun,” Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy,” Bessie Smith’s “Gimme a Pigfoot” to hear clear evidence. Then there’s the inherent funkiness of compositions by Count Basie, Fats Waller, Mario Bauza, Sun Ra, Machito, Charles Mingus, and many others.

Jahsonic: Like most people, I’m going to have to say at the twin poles of Sun Ra and Parliament Funkadelic.

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TVD Live: Grouplove
and Portugal. The Man
at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 9/12

Friday night Grouplove and Portugal. The Man played Merriweather Post Pavilion as a part of the 2014 Honda Civic Tour. In a great bit of double billing, both bands brought something unique to the stage and were a nice complement to one another, giving the audience two different types of performances.

Of the two headliners Portugal. The Man went on first amidst a sea of smoke and space lights, playing their take on “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2.” They played a selection of songs primarily from last year’s Evil Friends, but also had a few older tracks like “People Say” pop up throughout their set. For a bit of added fun, they threw in a handful of covers in addition to the opening song. They played a bit from “The Dayman” from the “Nightman Cometh” episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” which always makes for a fantastic sing-a-long. They turned in a great performance that somehow mixed an aesthetic you would associate with a jam band, but was still well-balanced with a much more focused set of music than you may find with that type of act.

When we covered Grouplove earlier this year as a part of our Firefly Festival coverage, I went on at length about how impressed I was with the band, and thankfully not much has changed since then. They played a mix of songs off both of their releases including all of their most popular songs like “Tongue Tied” and “Colours.” This is just one of those bands who are so on point in a live setting that if you let yourself be into what they’re doing onstage you will have a great time. Sure, some may argue that it’s too catchy or too pop, but I think it’s ok to let yourself have some fun at a show every once in a while.

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TVD Live: Overkill at Empire, 9/11

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | For over three decades, Overkill has been beating audiences into submission with their merciless brand of thrash metal. Last Thursday night at Empire in Springfield, VA, they proved to be like a vintage bottle of bordeaux, only improving with age.

Formed in 1980, Overkill was part of the first great rise of thrash metal. While Slayer, Metallica, and Exodus, among others, were putting the Bay Area on the metal map, Overkill, along with bands like Anthrax and Nuclear Assault were rising out of the New York/New Jersey area. Many years later, they are back on the road supporting their latest release, the critically acclaimed White Devil Armory.

There was no national support for this show, as Overkill are playing headlining off-dates while touring with Prong throughout the fall. I didn’t catch the name of the first band, a trio of nervous teens, made up of two guitars and a drummer. A personal note: you’ve gotta have some bass, fellas. I need to feel it, not just hear it. They kicked off with a cover of the classic “Die By the Sword” by Slayer, and unfortunately rookie nerves took over, and they found themselves victim of hecklers. Personal note number two: when someone heckles and yells out “FREEBIRD!”do not actually try to play “Freebird.” No one ever said cutting your teeth was easy.

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TVD Recommends:
The Legendary Shack Shakers at the Black
Cat, 9/15

Trying to put a neat label on what genre the Legendary Shack Shakers play is akin to trying to put a sweater on an octopus.

You could start with rockabilly, but that doesn’t nearly cover it all. You could mash it all up and say: hillbillygypsyswampcarneysoutherntwangabilly. Yeah, that’s a good start. Monday, September 15th at the Black Cat in DC, the pandelerium that is the Shack Shakers returns, and it’s up to the audience to determine whether you’ve just been saved or dragged straight to hell.

If you ask anyone who knows about the Shack Shakers, you will most certainly hear about their absolutely untamed live shows. When asked about their unbridled energy, frontman J.D. Wilkes has laid it out pretty clear. “We try to tap into basic primal instincts. Rock ‘n’ roll is a cathartic release. Anything that doesn’t realize that bestial nature isn’t rock ‘n’ roll.”

Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra has called Wilkes “…the last great rock and roll frontman.” The band has received accolades from luminaries such as Robert Plant, Hank Williams III, and Stephen King.

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TVD Recommends: Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad at Tropicalia, 9/12

The music of Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad (GPGDS) flips roots reggae upside-down and shakes free traces of perceived Americana. Their sound is a derivative of island rhythms, although some listeners might, first, recognize their blues influences.

Later this month GPGDS or Panda, is releasing their first album since 2012. The album, Steady, breaks from the clinical sounds of a jam band, but the men of the band gleefully stick to archetypes of the grand genre of Jamaica—rocksteady shin-kicks, protest lyrics, and herb-smoking. Coming off their previous album Country, Tony Gallicchio, Chris O’Brian, Dan Keller, James Searl, and Dylan Savage infuse their latest with American folk motifs. Steady is an indirect study in musicology, particularly the relationship between reggae and working-class American music. They perform on Friday, September 12 at Tropicalia.

Singer-bassist James Searl took some time out of his schedule to humor me with questions ranging from re-animated dead folk singers to song title references from Steady. The album will be released on Easy Star Records, September 30. Panda, already mid-tour, continues through the US until early October. 

If your music was packaged with a mission statement, what would it be?

Music is healing. Let’s rock and let’s groove to this rhythm.

Tell me how you got in cahoots with Easy Star Records?

Dub Side of the Moon was a profound recording. We used to play it as the house music before all of our shows back when we started playing out as a band that was focused on spreading reggae music to the future. One thing about reggae that we all recognized was its miraculous ability to sound ancient and futuristic all at once.

Easy Star seemed to understand how powerful of a concept that was in their reinterpretation of the classic album Dark Side of the Moon, of which Panda was familiar with every note of the Pink Floyd version. We kept doing our thing, and they kept doing their thing, and after a while, the meet up was inevitable. There have been so many natural connections that have brought us together. It feels very special. Their support has certainly given us the confidence to know that we are on the right track in our lives and that reggae music is the truth.

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TVD Ticket and Vinyl Giveaway: Trampled by Turtles at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 9/13

Just recently Trampled by Turtles released their ironically named album Wild Animals

Maybe it’s not so ironic… but the album marks the seventh release for the Minnesota-based band. Refusing to be defined by a singular genre, the five-piece has been blending elements of various genres, forming a different, hybrid sound that continues to evolve with each new release. Wild Animals, according to the band’s official bio, “is the sound of a band at the peak of their potential, strengthened from a decade together, winning some and losing some, but growing none-the-less.”

Adding to the fun and excitement of Wild Animals, Trampled by Turtles will be among the many bands playing at this year’s Route 29 Revue hosted at the Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday, September 13. The other bands that will be featured in the revue are Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Iron and Wine, The Devil Makes Three, Guster, and Hurray For The Riff Raff.

Want to go? We have a pair of lawn tickets to give away! But wait, there’s more… the winner will also receive an autographed vinyl copy of Wild Animals.

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TVD Live: Perfect Pussy at the Rock & Roll Hotel, 8/30

I hereby vow to make no off-color jokes about Perfect Pussy, the Syracuse, NY, noise rock quintet that has been winning plaudits from the likes of Pitchfork and Stereogum since it emerged in 2013 with the self-released demo, I Have Lost All Desire for Feeling. Nor am I going to beat around the bush (shit, so much for my vow) about what I think of Perfect Pussy’s frenzied and cacophonous forays into feedback, atonality, and dissonance. To wit, I consider Perfect Pussy the most annoying noise rock band to come our way since Sonic Youth.

Why? Because like Sonic Youth, Perfect Pussy’s music reeks of pretention. I’m talking the kind of pretention that comes of turning noise rock into Art with a capital “A,” which is an unconscionable thing to do to a genre I happen to love, and that doesn’t want to be arty but only wants to give you an earache while poking fun at anyone dumb enough to consider rock music ART. In short, Perfect Pussy has followed Sonic Youth down the primrose path of the avant-garde, and I can say that with certainty as I hear Sonic Youth in every atonal note Perfect Pussy plays.

One of the problems with the avant-garde end of the noise rock spectrum is that its purveyors tend to take themselves very, very seriously. Their earnest “product” could hardly be any more different than that created by the populist wing of noise rock, which consists largely of bands whose only agenda is to épater le bourgeois, or if not le bourgeois, the prevailing musical powers that be, as was the case with Washington, DC’s No Trend, whose only reason for existence in its early days was to piss off Georgetown’s identically attired hardcore punks by baiting them as insectile conformists. And such bands are invariably funny precisely because the bands or scenes they are reacting against are inevitably serious, and the last thing one wants to do is fight ire with ire. No, far better to turn to sarcasm and black humor, which weapons have been in the arsenal of the absurdist enemies of earnestness ever since Alfred Jarry wrote Ubu Roi.

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TVD Live: Big Star’s Third Live at the 9:30 Club, 8/23

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | Once a decade or eon or so, an LP comes along that is simply too tortured and nakedly honest for human ears. 1978’s twisted and raw Third/Sister Lovers is such an LP. The final offspring of the seventies’ incarnation of Memphis, Tennessee power pop band Big Star—which never dented the charts during its lifetime but has achieved cult superstardom in the years since—Third is anything but a catchy power pop record. I mean it could be, were it not lacking in the catchy, the power, and the pop departments. That said it is a bona fide 12-inch record, which ought to count for something.

What Third offers the listener instead of Big Star’s previous infectious and bittersweet tunes about teenage kicks, love, and heartbreak (you know, like the great Raspberries, only more emotionally complex and sonically all over the place) is the sound of former Box Top Alex Chilton teetering on the edge of the psychic abyss and about to completely lose his shit, to the loving accompaniment of some great string arrangements by Carl Marsh. (They should have entitled the LP Breakdown to Strings.)

As such, Third is every bit as nakedly powerful a work of art as Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Crack Up,” or heroin- and booze-ravaged Charlie Parker’s tortured 1946 Dial Records take on “Lover Man,” which he couldn’t even stand on his own to record and which was followed by a long “vacation” in California’s Camarillo State Mental Hospital.

Third’s honesty and vulnerability have moved innumerable music fans, even if I’ve never been one of them. Sure, I’m touched by some of the songs on the LP, and admire its complete disregard of commercial considerations—they certainly couldn’t have expected this one to go platinum—but I’ve always found it both cold and lacking in irresistible tunes, and really only like 5 or so of its 14 (or more, depending on which release you buy) cuts.

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TVD Live: Sturgill Simpson at the Birchmere, 8/19

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | There seems to be a bit of a musical civil war going on in America. The terms have been made clear, the battle lines have been drawn, and the armies have amassed.

The battle rages over country music, and the sides couldn’t be more different. On one side, you have the shallow, commercialized pop country, basically composed of love songs with an added occasional twang, or blathering about beer, trucks, or pretty girls in tight shorts. The opposing side is deep-rooted and a bit rougher around the edges. You won’t see them topping the country charts or appearing in beer commercials, and they are determined to “put the “o” back in country,” as Shooter Jennings so eloquently put it.

What you will get, in the case of someone like Sturgill Simpson, is truth. Truth about alcoholism, truth about the struggles of getting through hard times, and truth about drugs, for better or worse. Tuesday, at the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA, Sturgill shared that truth with a sold-out crowd.

I arrived just before 7 and made my way inside to the outer bar area. There were a few people milling around, but it seemed fairly quiet for a sold-out show. I realized my mistake as I entered the main hall. I was apparently late to the party as the majority of seats at the tables had been taken already. The hall was a dull roar of people talking, laughing, eating, and drinking before the show began. I’m pretty used to most venues—clubs big and small, amphitheaters, arenas, and theaters—but the dinner theater setup of the Birchmere is one that I just can’t quite get used to. Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful venue, steeped with history and blessed with great acoustics, but…well, more on this later.

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TVD Live Shots:
The Silopanna Festival
at the Anne Arundel Fairgrounds, 8/16

Last Saturday gave way to a solid festival of music and fun at the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds.

Nestled in a cozy little patch of woods in the Annapolis countryside which is also known for hosting the Maryland Renaissance Festival every October, the Silopanna Music Festival took shape and filled the wooded fairgrounds, bringing local and national artists together and serving up a mix of genres on its stages—with a little something for everybody.

The festival featured three stages with no down time between sets, games, plenty of good food, and enough beer and mixed drinks to go around. The festival also delivered something more than just a schedule of outdoor musical performances, from apparel to custom craft brews, there was something to suit any fancy at Silopanna.

Hosted by the good folks at Rams Head Live, the scheduling went smoothly the way any well-managed festival should. Headlining act, The Flaming Lips were preceded on the main stage by popular acts Matt and Kim, Dashboard Confessional, Sleeper Agent, and Hellogoodbye.

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