Category Archives: TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live Shots: Hot Snakes, Duchess Says, Suicide Pact at the Rock & Roll Hotel, 11/15

Wednesday night is a hard sell for any venue. In DC, it takes a band of great strength to lure mid-week concert-goers to any hall. Although when the right act shows up, rooms fill elbow to elbow just as they did last week as a sold out Rock and Roll Hotel hosted San Diego’s Hot Snakes, and with them some very impressive opening acts.

Hot Snakes are touring to support their upcoming 2018 release which, along with their entire back catalog, will be released on Sub Pop records next year. The new release has been highly anticipated and will be the band’s first since 2005’s Thunder Down Under. Their current nine stop November tour has included dates in San Francisco, Seattle, LA, Boston, Philly, and Washington, DC before the band jets off to Europe in January. It’s been five years since Hot Snakes played a show in Washington, and Wednesday’s crowd was primed with excitement before the band took the stage despite a painfully long set change between bands.

While the star of the show for many is Reis’ crisp guitar tone, it serves as the perfect punctuation for his longtime band mate Rick Froberg’s (Obits) more steady, open guitar lines and distinct throaty vocals. Hot Snakes’ rhythm section consists of Gar Wood on bass and not one, but two separate drummers—Jason Kourkounis (Delta 72) and Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket From The Crypt, Sultans)—both behind the kit for the specific songs they recorded with the band.

Just prior to Hot Snakes’ performance, John Reis leaned down toward the front of the stage where I was standing. He was plugging in guitar cords when he looked over at me like a werewolf before a full moon. “I’ll be sweating and falling all over you—you may need to pick me back up.” “It’ll be okay,” I offered. “I’ve got you—but I move around a lot too.” “But seriously,” he insisted, “you might wanna tell the people behind you—I’ll be all over here.”

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TVD Live: Bob Dylan
and Mavis Staples at
The Anthem, 11/14

“Forever Young” is not a song Bob Dylan played in his first show at the big new rock club The Anthem in DC Tuesday, but it is something he embodied. Who else has so dominated American music for half a century, requiring one to venture out to see his shows with his band year after year not necessarily to hear new music, but to see how the old ones have evolved even more, even since the last time around.

Dylan at 76 does seem younger—his hair no longer hidden beneath a hat but grown out to a brown ‘fro again; his voice as clear as he wants to make it (its cragginess here and there, we see, is a choice). Behind a baby grand piano rather than an electric keyboard—and never coming close to touching a guitar, something I’m still not quite adjusting to—he dominated early solos in a setlist that has been substantially the same for much of the last year. Charlie Sexton didn’t seem to weigh in with short, stinging guitar solos until later in the show. That made the sound of the songs different, which will happen when your lead instruments are piano, pedal steel, and tom tom.

Entering the vast Anthem stage to the sounds of guitarist Stu Kimball, improvising “O Shenandoah,” the band kicked in with “Things Have Changed,” the 2000 song that earned him the Oscar he appears to have on display on an amp. The song seemed propelled on kind of a cowboy beat that seemed to fit with the matching Western suits the band wore (black hats on the left, hatless on the right).

It’s an occupational hazard to pluck out lyrics of a Dylan song to clarify what’s happening. In this case it’s “I used to care, but things have changed.” And in the second song, a further kiss-off to those who would be too fervent a fan: “I’m not the one you want babe, I’m not the one you need.” Add this to the fact that he never speaks to the audience or acknowledges them in any way and you might think he doesn’t like what he’s doing.

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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: Pere Ubu
and Johnny Dowd at
Hill Country Live, 11/9

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | Pere Ubu as a band predated the American punk explosion, which nonetheless gave context to its fierce, bare-boned recordings. And though it remained associated with the explosion of bands at that time, Pere Ubu the band always seemed more an extension of the kind of outsider, rough-edged cadre of blues shouters, poets, and hipsters that grew from jazz and blues to the Beat poets, with its only remaining figure David Thomas continuing in the tradition of  Lord Buckley, Captain Beefheart, or Tom Waits, shouting out observation and complaints amid keening choruses done in his unique style.

That Pere Ubu is still around at all by now, nearly 40 years after groundbreaking early albums like The Modern Dance and Dub Housing, is kind of a gift; that it continues to record such consistently strong material, on 2014’s Carnival of Souls and the new 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo, is almost a miracle.

It comes on the weary shoulders of frontman David Thomas, who in his black hat and cane, presents himself as a somewhat menacing figure. At the Hill Country BBQ in Washington Thursday, he could be seen standing outside the restaurant in the rain before the show, scowling like a gargoyle.

Five musicians were already at work when he found his way to the stage slowly, plopping down on a chair and leaning into a well-lit music stand holding his lyrics. He’d put on his reading glasses and began, with a voice unlike most in music—the kind of squeal of a wounded animal who’d been prodded too much.

The approach worked because he had a really solid band behind him. It began with the stinging guitar of Gary Siperko, able to carve out surf to funky chords. Longtime bassist Michele Temple worked well with hard-hitting drummer Steven A. Mehlman. The whole sound was sweetened by the experimental flourishes of Kristoph Hahn of The Swans on pedal steel guitar, and especially Robert Wheeler, working both an old ElectroComp 101 synthesizer, looking like an old telephone switchboard, as well as a theremin. Not only did it add interesting electronic texture to the sounds, it also provided the unusual sight of Wheeler playing an instrument as if he were doing tai-chi.

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TVD Live: Dhani Harrison and Summer Moon at U Street Music Hall, 11/7

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | There were more grey-haired types than usual at the Dhani Harrison show Tuesday at the U Street Music Hall. Were they suddenly interested in dense, synth-heavy 21st Century anthems from a guy becoming known for his sprawling soundtrack work? Excited about his solo album In///Parallel? More likely they were taking a night off the Fab Faux circuit to check out one of the more authentic chips off the old Beatles block.

Harrison, at 39, looks a lot like his dad and he sounds even more like him, especially in those keening high ranges than anybody else around. Those who have seen him on any of the various George Harrison tributes know he can hold his own on guitar against some of the all time greats as well.

All of that, plus the chance to see him in a club likely no bigger than the Cavern (and also downstairs!) brought the oldsters out midweek along with the younger fans who more likely know of Harrison’s work with his previous bands, thenewno2, Fistful of Mercy with Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur, or amid the Los Angeles collective that included the two acts that have joined him on tour, Summer Moon and Mareki.

It was solely Summer Moon that opened the night (though Mareki popped out to help sing one tune with the headliner). Summer Moon is fronted by Strokes bassist Nikolai Fraiture, who came out as if a week late to Halloween in a golden cape and headband. It was quite a lineup for a middling opening band, with Noah Harmon of Airborne Toxic Event on guitar and Camilia Grey of Uh Huh Her on keyboards. She was actually a better vocalist than Fraiture, but he led on everything even when he couldn’t quite remember the lyrics. “The great thing about you not knowing the songs, is that you don’t know when we fuck up,” he said at one point.

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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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Needle Drop: Flex Mathews, Hi, I’m Flex Mathews

“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.”Ralph Ellison

Hi, I’m Flex Mathews is part elegy, part magical realism, and part tale of survival in Washington, DC. In the city with a rapidly shifting demographic, the local emcee flexes some lyrical muscle countering the new cultural norms in the land of taxation without representation.

On his debut album, Flex assembles his verses like a supply chain worker on caffeine. In the track “We Mean BizNess,” the lyricist volleys some tactical wordplay against those of the rap ensemble FAR EXP. Together like stonemasons, the words stick with mortar, solidified along a myriad of colorful jazz breaks, rambunctious scratching effects, and urban sound effects.

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TVD Live Shots: Evanescence at MGM National Harbor, 10/31

Few people in rock music have the pipes of Evanescence’s Amy Lee. Her soulful tone and distinguished sound are as identifiable as they are unique. Belting out tunes like “Never Go Back” and “Lacrymosa” at the opening of her performance at the MGM National Harbor last Tuesday night, it was clear she was not only there to sing—she came to rock.

Performing with a 20 piece orchestra to reflect the direction of the band’s forthcoming album Synthesis, the show was far from a classical recital and leaned more toward the operatic. As usual Lee’s vocals were unearthly and soared beautifully above the mix. Fan favorites like “My Heart Is Broken,” “Bring Me To Life,” along with the more reflective “My Immortal” and “The In-Between” spanned the band’s catalog through several line-up changes and Amy Lee’s own solo projects.

Lee was quoted in 2013 saying, “I am Evanescence. I am the only original member. I have basically hired the band. Evanescence has become me. It is mine and it’s exactly how I want it to be.” (And rightfully so.) Their current line-up includes Tim McCord on bass guitar, Will Hunt on drums, and guitarists Jen Majura and Troy McLawhorn. Whatever change in personal the band may have undergone through its various incarnations, Lee’s vocals are the bedrock for their loyal fanbase.

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TVD Live: Lucinda Williams at the Lincoln Theatre, 10/30

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | The increasingly popular ploy of celebrating a classic album on its anniversary came a little differently to Lucinda Williams. Instead of performing the original work top to bottom in front of a backdrop of the cover, her show at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington Monday was preceded by a completely re-recorded version of the sublime, 25-year-old Sweet Old World.

On it, she changed the pace of a couple of songs, occasionally added new lyrics, switched the order of the tracks, changed the title of one song and even, finally, the title of the album to This Sweet Old World. As she played it—in yet another order—with her tasty three-piece touring band known as Buick Six, its essence was still there: the sharply detailed, clear lyrics; the overarching sense of loss; the lovely melodies. If anything the years added a depth to her mournful tunes, so many of which dealt with untimely death that she introduced one as “another song, another boy, another suicide.”

As she explained in often lengthy introductions for each selection, not all of the death occurred at one time. The original Sweet Old World was a struggle done over a period of time; its songs referring to real people who had died over the course of her life then. They included her troubled “Little Angel, Little Brother,” an admired poet in “Pineola,” and the memory of a young poet she knew in the ’70s said to be “too sensitive for this world” that became the album’s title song, reminding him of all the earthly things he’d miss when he took his life: “The sound of a midnight train, wearing someone’s ring, someone calling your name…”

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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.

Read More »

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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