PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | When I purchased my Wilco tickets last year, I didn’t realize it would be the same night as Super Bowl Sunday. No matter, as Sunday night proved to be much better than any Coldplay/Moldplay/Beyoncé/Bruno Mars half time show. Wilco played their new album Star Wars in its entirety along with classics to a sold out audience. Even Tweedy commented, “Thank you for coming out on a national holiday. We are like Jews at a Chinese restaurant at Christmas. You are our people.”
Fittingly, the stage was set simply with flickering light strands which moved at times in tandem to the experimental sounds backing up the cohesive movements of the bands’ instruments. Guitarist Nels Cline performed several excellent solo pieces and drummer Glenn Kotche beat the crap out of the drums and provided enough sweat at the end of the show to fill an oak barrel.
The encore performances included several Wilco classics providing audience sing-a-longs, including a final number—perfect and exact—David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” As for DAR Constitution Hall, the evening included a malodorous air akin to a backed-up gym bathroom—and worse, its acoustics are rather lackluster. The fact that Wilco’s performance overcame these obstacles only reinforces their talents as performers and musicians.
Going on 9 years ago when we told friends we’re developing a website devoted to vinyl records, we received a lot of raised eyebrows and a whole bunch of good-luck-with-thats. Eyerolls too. Lots of eyerolls.
It’s gratifying and humbling to have had such a turnout on Sunday at Washington, DC’s Penn Social for the winter 2016 edition of the DC Record Fair, now in its seventh year. The return of the flat black shiny medium once thought of as a relic shows no sign of decline, and well over 2,000 of you seemed to agree.
Watch this space for news of our Summer event, and in the interim, ace photographer Richie Downs has a look back at Sunday.
PHOTOS: ERICA BRUCE | The long careered rock star often has a constant battle with his past. Fans want to hear the old hits; artists want to present their latest work. Generally, it’s a trade-off. No such compromise is coming in the current tour by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band that stopped at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Friday.
While in some past tours, he’s presented whole albums within his typically long show, this year he’s presenting the entirety of 1980’s double album The River at every stop, in order. This is a kind of slavishness to the original that even the first River tour never had. And it takes up a full two hours in a three and a half hour show.
In a way he is supporting his latest release—which is a $100 boxed set of a remastered River with outtakes. One of those outtakes, the perfectly fine “Meet Me in the City,” he is using to open each show, with the full house lights up, as if to remove the illusion of spotlit stars on stage. It was another reminder that this was an Everyman presenting his youthful songs of searching and creeping adulthood to fans he treated like peers.
Still, playing 20 songs in exactly the same order is an anomaly in a Springsteen show—he likes to throw in curveballs and surprises in every one of his stops, to make it interesting for himself if not for the fans who may come to multiple shows. For that, he only had a handful of songs at the end to switch up at will before the encore.
Back for its 7th year is Washington, DC’s twice yearly record rummage, The DC Record Fair which sets up shop on January 31, 2016 in the cavernous confines of downtown DC’s Penn Social.
As with each event, we’ll have 40+ vinyl vendors from up and down the East Coast, the DJ line up, the bar, the food, Zeke’s Coffee back with their bold brew, raffle items up for grabs just for coming through the door, plus the random other surprises that make the DC Record Fair a special community event.
THE WINTER 2016 DJ LINE UP: 11:00 – 12:00: DJ Lickashot
12:00 – 1:00: Kosmo Vinyl (9:30 Club)
1:00 – 2:00: Greg Caz (NYC)
2:00 – 3:00: DJ Tommy B
3:00 – 4:00: Adrian Loving (Axel F DC)
4:00 – 5:00: DJ Jahsonic
Our friends at the Fillmore Silver Spring put together this piece a while back that outshines any descriptive copy we could devise:
REVIEW: NATHAN PAYNE | Following the release of her new album Midnight,Grace Potter fans have been a bit apprehensive of her separation from the Nocturnals. The new album is a departure from her conventional style of suggestively mischievous rock and roll. Midnight brings an electronic element to Grace Potter’s sound, featuring waves of ’80s synthesizer and nods to a more “pop” style of music. The collection is consistent with her slow, sure-footed exodus from southern-style rock, pushing the boundaries of her diverse repertoire.
As a longtime Grace Potter fan, I was relatively disappointed with Midnight. The bouncy, almost bubbly nature of the album lacked the familiar edge of what I had come to expect. Hints of her old sound still remained, but the full on grittiness of her notorious Flying-V guitar sound was lacking. That being said, I’ll be the first to admit I made the mistake of approaching the Midnight Tour with a certain amount of residual disappointment. Little did I know, I was about to embark on a rhythmic journey of light and sound that would make me thankful to still have a face that hadn’t been melted off by wildly amazing rock and roll.
After filing into a sold-out 9:30 Club, the crowd was primed. It wasn’t long before a flash of light and a blast of feedback vaulted the entire room into orbit. Energy was instant as she played “Hot to the Touch” followed by “Ah Mary.” I immediately realized I had underestimated Grace. The edge was there, it appeared in all of her music, and it was better than ever. New and old sounds had successfully merged in front of my eyes. Fresh band members and instrumental elements had evolved her music into something so much more—and by the time I had my revelation, we were all somewhere beyond the Milky Way.
Making up for a postponed show from October of this year, British rockers The Struts returned with their talents and showmanship as promised to the Rock & Roll Hotel in Washington, DC on Tuesday.
Having recently played a stadium show in nearby Northern Virginia, The Struts, on the road promoting their latest EP, “Have You Heard,” brought the glitz and charm to a far more up-close and personal setting, and the sold-out venue’s eager audience couldn’t seem to get enough of the UK retro-rock revivalists.
Highlights included front man Luke Spiller entering the crowd and coaxing the audience to the floor for a fun little sing along game, then later showering those in the crowd with champagne for a one wet encore. The band also used the venue to film footage for an upcoming video release.
Monday night marked night one of The Arcs two night stay at Washington, DC’s premier venue, the 9:30 Club.
When Dan Auerbach decides to form a side project, he really goes all in. The Arcs are not only a sophisticated blues infused outfit, they are a band that boasts a fresh and creative approach to their songwriting and sound. Their live set up includes Auerbach on guitar and vocal duties, Nick Movshon on bass guitar, dueling drummers, keyboards—and an all female Mariachi band, Mariachi Flor de Toloache.
The Arcs’ sound really digs down and scratches that itch for anyone craving progressive, well-rounded blues. The guitars are tone driven, the songs are well structured, and the choruses linger—just what you would expect from top-notch musicians. Their vibe is as sophisticated as it is fun.
Touring to support their September 2015 release Yours, Dreamily, The Arcs will wrap up their tour in Nashville on December 20th.
Like a gauzy, deadpan version of an old holiday TV special, the Aimee Mann & Ted Leo Christmas show that landed at the Birchmere in Alexandria Monday had all the traditional elements: well-worn songs, corny patter, seasonal costumes, and guest stars.
And in addition to original songs about the Yuletide, they wrestled old hits into holiday form, even if it relied on more corny humor.
Mann has been doing this kind of thing for several years, since she released her own decent, though dour, holiday release One More Drifter in the Snow in 2006. But since joining up with Leo for their thoroughly agreeable side project The Both, they’ve done it twice. And by now, they know how to play off one another in planned skits and amusing offhand remarks, just as well as their vocals and musical sensibilities match.
They’d be a good couple to host a weekly, new century Sonny and Cher show if anybody was so inclined. Bill Murray’s terrific Netflix Christmas special may have reminded viewers or introduced others to the core variety show pleasures of music and humor, mixed with a modern-day knowingness. Mann, a veteran guest star on Portlandia, even produced her own funny reel of her trying to attract celebrities to her L.A. holiday show that’s pretty good.
Vanessa Carlton brought her intimate and alluring songcraft to Washington, DC’s Howard Theatre last Friday night for an up-front and extremely personal performance.
Touring to promote her 2015 release, Liberman, Carlton’s stage set-up might have been minimal, but her sound couldn’t have been more encompassing. While Carlton focused on her vocals and keys, she’s enlisted a multi-instrumental touring companion who plays violin, keyboards, and guitars. The duo conjured a colorful array of sounds to complement Carlson’s warm vocals.
Taking the audience on a journey, Carlson focused on compositions that spanned her career and catalog, while adding personal anecdotes to introduce a number of songs which spoke to her inspirations, her beginnings as a ballet dancer, and becoming a new mom.
Carlson’s current east coast tour dates conclude in Asheville, NC on December 19, and then she’s back on the road in mid-January for a west coast run. The new album, Liberman is available on CD, cassette—and vinyl.
PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | It’s been two years since Rosanne Cash introduced her extraordinary album The River & the Thread in a series of concerts at the Library of Congress, and she was back in the D.C. area Wednesday still singing a handful of its haunting songs of the South (and one that helped inspire it, “Ode to Billie Joe”).
The songs themselves, presented acoustically with her husband and producer John Leventhal at a sold out Birchmere, still sound beautiful. But by now she’s incorporated them in performance that shows them to their best advantage, honing the patter that precedes them into effective introductions as well. With Leventhal playing behind her and her setting the stage, it’s almost like Springsteen in approach.
All of the songs from The River & the Thread combine into a statement about a woman, raised in Los Angeles and living in New York for a quarter century, coming to terms with her family history and her solid roots in the South—born in Memphis with a family from east Arkansas.
Each of the songs are like unfolding a roadmap to a new place, but unfolding at the same time a new revelation or new emotion by way of a telling detail—a phrase, a place name, or an ordinary process, like the sewing in the title.