Category Archives: TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live: Drive By Truckers and Hiss Golden Messenger at
the 9:30 Club, 4/21

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | The Drive-By Truckers tried something bold with their 10th studio album last fall, American Band. Though the title makes it sound like a reprise of the Grand Funk hit, it was actually a collection of its most pointed political commentaries to date, challenging its Southern rock fans with issues of prevalent gun violence, racial injustice, and government censorship.

It raged against Trump’s America even before he got elected from the very state that helped elect him. And while the ratcheted-up tracks from American Band were prominent in the first of two packed nights at the 9:30 Club in D.C., they hardly challenged district politics (any more than, say, “Ronnie and Neil” did), let alone rattle the current resident on Pennsylvania Avenue less than a couple of miles away.

On Friday, Cooley played “the most science based song we’ve ever written,” in honor of Saturday’s big Science March in his “Gravity’s Gone.” In Saturday’s show, they backloaded his “Once They Banned Imagine,” about the time when Clear Channel put John Lennon’s “Imagine” on a list of don’t-play songs after 9/11, with their own cover of Lennon’s “Just Gimme Some Truth” and the Ramones’ “The KKK Took My Baby Away,” a couple of covers they’ve been doing on the current tour.

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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: Amiee Mann and Jonathan Coulton at the Lincoln Theare, 4/20

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | Aimee Mann thinks her songs are sadder than they really are; that there’s so much psychosis on her latest album that she had to called it Mental Illness. It was as if a night of her music might result in a jump off a bridge.

“Settle in,” she warned, on the first night of her Mental Illness tour at Washington, DC’s Lincoln Theatre. But she needn’t have worried. As she was joined, song by song, by members of her backing trio, it was clear that Mann’s songs of droll observation have a lift in not just how they’re sung but by the soft punch of their assembly.

While her new album looks at different characters or situations, it does so in a harmonic way that makes whatever may be melancholy sound sweet. Its songs are built around acoustic guitar, with a slight wash of keyboards or strings, replicated on tour on synths by Jamie Edwards. Paul Bryan is a constant on bass, but drummer Matt Mayhall often seems less than fully employed.

But this is hardly mournful territory. Even when the message is blunt as it is on “You Never Loved Me,” there is a catchy melody and clever observations and turns of phrase. The largely acoustic allows her elegant songs to breathe. And it’s a good fit for a lot of the other songs from nearly a quarter century of solo recordings, from “4th of July” that began the show to “Long Shot,” the inevitable brush with success of “Save Me,” and one she said she hadn’t played for a while, “Humpty Dumpty” from 2002’s Lost in Space.

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TVD Live: Pete Seeger and the Power of Song: Tribute to a Folk Legend at the Kennedy Center, 4/15

There are so many rich stories to tell about Pete Seeger, the folk music standard-bearer who died three years ago at 94, that a Kennedy Center tribute concert to him Saturday could barely fit them—and all the artists slated to play. As it was, Pete Seeger and the Power of Song: Tribute to a Folk Legend, produced with the Grammy Museum, stretched on four hours to nearly midnight.

And still it didn’t quite provide a complete overview of the Pied Piper of folk music, whose devotion to causes caused him to be blacklisted for more than a decade. Five years before his death, Seeger sang Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” at President Obama’s inauguration alongside Bruce Springsteen (who of course had his own Seeger-tribute album, band and tour in 2006).

Though he’s played Seeger tribute shows in the past, Springsteen was missing from the show, though many of the more than a dozen acts were closely associated with him, from Judy Collins, 77, who began the show with his standard “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” (co written with Joe HIckerson); the surviving fellows from Peter, Paul and Mary, who made a hit of “If I Had a Hammer” and were inspired enough by the moment (and its locale) to sing a couple of new topical songs; and Roger McGuinn, who put his 12 string electric guitar to perform Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn” more than a half century ago after he made it a hit with the Byrds.

There were also close friends from the folk and banjo circuit, from Tom Paxton, now 79, who was aided by Seeger adapting one of his early songs, “Ramblin’ Boy”; and Tony Trischka, 68, the five-string ace who made a convincing case of having heard the last song Seeger might have sung on earth.

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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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The Best of 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: John Mayer at the Verizon Center, 4/6

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | John Mayer is so talented, it’s almost stunted his career.

He has such appeal to young women with his sticky love songs, he won’t ever be in danger of losing them; at the same time, he’s such an accomplished guitar hero, he gains another group of fans who care little about his love ditties. His worst performance so far has come in being a rock star. He’s fallen into its excesses by dating celebrities, becoming a recurring item in tabloids, and giving offensive interviews.

On his new tour, he hopes to bypass all that with everything else he does so well, and it makes for a big, impressive evening. On the fourth stop of the tour Thursday at the Verizon Center in DC, he divides his show obsessively into sections so prescribed, there are titles on the screen behind him of things that would be obvious to anyone watching: The Full Band, Acoustic, a Trio set, the Encore, etc.

Within those frameworks, he’s free to mess around with the setlist, changing it every night since the tour began. He’s smart enough to include not only a few from his new album The Search for Everything, but songs from throughout his career. He had a splendid band, which at its heart is a rhythm section that I’d go see backing anybody—drummer Steve Jordan and bassist Pino Palladino, who made everything rock solid.

Their trio work was one featured segment of the concert and it flew from inventive blues and jazz playing to replicating some of the best of the rock trios, in this case Jimi Hendrix Experience’s, “Bold as Love.” How splendid not only to hear it played so well, but to have an arena of young people singing along to what was once considered a Hendrix deep cut.

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TVD Live: Lambchop at
U Street Music Hall, 4/1

Over its career, Lambchop has been known to travel with as many as 20 members performing its hushed, quirky, and often contemplative alt-country. At the U Street Music Hall Saturday night, there were just four.

Which was good, since the small stage couldn’t fit many more in the first place. And it suited the surprising turn for the band with its latest album FLOTUS, which is not about the First Lady at all, but is an acronym for another heartsick observation, “For Love Often Turns Us Still.”

In what sort of seems a natural evolution, its bandleader, writer, and singer Kurt Wagner has moved his moody tone poems from pedal steel guitar and piano to pulses of electronica. Layers of atmospheric sound back his own vocals which have been multiplied and broadcast through a Vocoder like device he plays like a keyboard. Sometimes you’d hear a veritable chorus of voices from stage and they’d all end up having a single source in Wagner behind his devices.

It’s not as jarring a career move as, say Neil Young’s Re-ac-tor, Joe Ely’s Hi-Res or Bon Iver’s 22, A Million. But it is still surprising coming from a Nashville guy who still wears a seed cap. And behind the electronic wash, the human heart of Lambchop and its world-weary observations about romance and the world endure. “I don’t want to leave you ever, and that’s a long long time,” he sings, when the lyrics finally come in the longest work on the new album, “The Hustle.”

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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: Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express and The Bottle Rockets at The Hamilton, 3/28

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | Even as he rocks out with his band the Mission Express, Chuck Prophet has mortality all around him.

“Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins!” he declares in the anthemic title track of his latest album, which kicked off his splendid show at the Hamilton Live in Washington, DC, Tuesday. He’d return to Fuller, the forever young rocker with the forever mysterious death, in an encore of “Let Her Dance” that included quotes from “Day Tripper,” “Pretty Woman,” and “Can’t Turn You Loose.”

But before then he would note, in one of the most immediately relevant songs of 2017, how it’s been a “Bad Year for Rock and Roll,” noting how “the Thin White Duke took a final bow” and didn’t even have space for all the other musical deaths besides Bowie.

But he did find some hidden gems in the repertoire of Leonard Cohen—“Iodine,” a Leonard Cohen folk-rock number to which he gave a little extra rock, and Chuck Berry’s “Ramona Say Yes” to note the recent significant passing of this year, trying his own version of the duckwalk in tribute.

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