Category Archives: TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live: Alejandro Escovedo with Don Antonio at City Winery, 1/15

“Are you ready for some romantic Italian music?” guitarist Antonio Gramentieri calls out to the audience.

Well, honestly, no.

The crowd at City Winery in DC was actually there for the more Tex-Mex flavored ballads and rockers from longtime songwriter Alejandro Escovedo, who has toured with all kinds of configurations over the years, from bands to duos to solo. But wanting to hire a band to back him on a European tour two years ago, he ran into an outfit from a small town near the Italian alps, Don Antonio.

Not only did they manage to bring a full sound to back Escovedo’s songs, they helped inspire his new album The Crossing. Where once it might have been the story of a Mexican-born kid hitchhiking his way from Mexico to an LA amid the punk boom, now it’s about a trip by young Diego and Salvo, who meet while working at Salvo’s uncle’s Italian restaurant in Galveston. The two share a love of punk rock, beat writers, and filmmakers like Antonioni.

And they go off to LA, “looking for an America they both believe exists,” Escovedo explains. So while it’s not exactly about immigration, he goes on, and more about two kids going after something better. There a number of similarities in the two cultures, as he notes Southern Italy has its own immigration from the African countries south of it.

Escovedo by now has accomplished a lot, produced a lot of great music, and even survived Hep C (he shows a PSA to raise the issue), so concept albums come to him now fully formed. And as a performer who has enjoyed collaboration with others, the international alliance suits him well.

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Save the Date: The
10th Anniversary of the DC Record Fair at Penn Social, Sunday 1/27!

Where does the time go? The DC Record Fair turns 10 and sets up shop to celebrate at DC’s Penn Social on Sunday, January 27, 2019!

As with each fair for a decade now, we’ll have 40+ vinyl vendors from up and down the East Coast, the special DJ line up, the drinks, the food, and special book signings all designed to put a welcome hurt on your wallet or pocketbook. You’ve been warned.

Our friends at the Fillmore Silver Spring put together the above feature a while back that outshines any descriptive copy we could devise—hit play.

THE 10th ANNIVERSARY DJ LINE-UP:
11:00-12:00: DJ Aisha Karimah
12:00-1:00: Cynthia Connolly (Banned in DC)
1:00-2:00: Danny Ingram (Dot Dash)
2:00-3:00: John Foster (Superior Viaduct Records)
3:00-4:00: Geologist (Animal Collective)
4:00-5:00: Nitekrawler (DC Soul Recordings)

Mark your calendars! 
THE DC RECORD FAIR

Sunday, January 27, 2019 at Penn Social, 801 E Street, NW
11:00–12:00, Early Bird Admission $5.00
12:00–5:00, Regular Admission $2.00

RSVP and follow via the Facebook invite and watch this space for updates!

POSTER: JOHN FOSTER AT BAD PEOPLE GOOD THINGS

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TVD Live: Jon Spencer
& the HITmakers at the Black Cat, 1/12

When Jon Spencer took the stage arranging his amps before his latest band started playing Saturday night at the Black Cat in DC, nobody much responded. Maybe they didn’t recognize him with glasses. But when he doffed the glasses, Clark Kent-like, suddenly he was the mercurial rocker, with an Elvis Presley voice, a rock ’n’ roll soul and manic psychobilly punk style.

Once part of such bands as Pussy Galore, Boss Hog, Heavy Trash and the epic Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, he now fronts a trio modestly called The HITmakers. As such, the bulk of his set came from playing all 12 tracks on the recent Spencer Sings the Hits he recorded in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

“Ready for more hits?” he’d say mid-set, with no little irony. As influential as he’s been on rock’s underground, he’s never come close to having a hit—even if his sounds helped power a recent Hollywood hit, Baby Driver. But what he did was hard-hitting, that’s for sure. The tight circle of the band had Sam Coomes, of Quasi and Heatmiser, on keyboards, and the young M. Sord on drums, augmented by the unusual percussion by onetime Sonic Youth drummer Bob Bert, who spent time in Pussy Galore with Spencer.

People talk about the gritty, piston-beats of industrial Michigan coming through its home-grown rock, but here was Bert wailing away on what looked to be an old Chevy gas tank with a pair of hammers. (On the album, the equipment is identified as “gas tank, strut spring, brake rotor, metal table, ventilation duct, unistrut, 2” EMT conduit, ball peen hammer”). Its distinct ping plays off Sord’s cellar-floor boom but helped conjure the heavy beat that’s always been a part of Spencer’s innate swagger.

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TVD Live Shots:
Rayland Baxter and Illiterate Light at the Hamilton, 1/12

Opening the night for Rayland Baxter’s “Wide Awake” tour, two-member experimental rock band Illiterate Light took the stage. Taking in Jake Cochran’s minimalist drum setup and John Gorman’s synth base, it was easy to anticipate not hearing anything that might fit the evening’s expectations.

But well before the show, the pit was packed with fans who were ready to see them. You could chalk it up to the fact that they hail from nearby Harrisonburg, VA, but you’d be mistaken. Once their set started, the sound and energy that came from these two was entrancing. They had clear chemistry on stage, each carefully watching the other to perfectly time their rhythm and harmonies. But most impressive was their ability to turn up the volume, with Gorman stomping the synth base and nailing guitar solos while Cochran’s sang (screamed?) in a way that can only be described as primal.

They were a perfect opener for Baxter, who wasted no time taking the stage and harnessing that energy. Long-time listeners may be more accustomed to songs like “Olivia” and “Yellow Eyes,” both low-key alt-country songs that are excellent, but more suitable for a quiet evening in than a rock show. Opening with the first song from his new album, Strange American Dream, Baxter left anyone in the crowd expecting a quiet set—at least in this listener’s case—pleasantly mistaken. However, after about an hour, the 6-piece band left the stage, turned down the lights and sound, and left Baxter alone to do what he does best.

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He’ll outlast us all:
Dead Eddie lives!

“Eddie was the consummate front man,” explains Kenny Inouye, guitarist for seminal DC punk rock band, Marginal Man. “He was out in the audience working the crowd… some guys come off like they’re trying too hard when they do stuff like that, but for him it was like it was the most natural thing. Imagine Iggy Pop going out in the crowd and alternating between doing the songs and engaging the crowd in conversation between the songs.” “Is there such thing as a secular tent revival rabbi? Because I swear, I’ve seen one,” states longtime friend/fan Ben Gilmore.

Hailing from the Garden State, just outside of the Big Apple’s city limits, Edward Wilchins has been a member of hard rock bands Dead Eddie and 555 and a solo artist and session guitarist, playing the East coast from Atlanta to Boston. Dead Eddie was born after landing a gig with some fellow students at the Rathskellar at DC’s George Washington University in the late ’80s. Eddie, having suffered from Crohn’s Disease since childhood, was in the hospital and wasn’t sure he’d make the show. However, the show did go on and the band now had a name, Dead Eddie, and Eddie, a lifelong moniker.

A new local DC zine described them as the Rolling Stones on speed with Keith Moon on drums as Dead Eddie continued to play nightclubs throughout DC and Baltimore, including DC Space and 15 Minutes, also recording an EP (“Dad’s Sleeping,” 1990). However after 5 years as a regional band, Dead Eddie, the band, had run its course.

Dead Eddie, now solo, launched into doing studio work, and as an extra guitarist with touring bands. Then in early 1995, Jesse Boone, an old buddy from his GW days, called Eddie to record a few solos with his band. 555 were recording at WGNS studios in DC and at the time were composed of Jesse on guitar/vocals, Valente Miranda on bass, Mike Paggealogos on drums, and Steve Scharf on vocals. Eddie ripped out guitar solos for two songs, “Underwear” and “Green Monkey,” both in one take, for their soon to be released LP, Squirrel Covers. Jesse recalls, “They were great recording sessions with mostly full live takes and minimal overdubs.  There were also long days and endless nights of partying and soon we were forced to complete the record at Uncle Punchy Studios.”

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TVD Live: NRBQ at the Hamilton, 12/28

Those who haven’t seen the long-running NRBQ for a decade or two (or five) might have been surprised at the pre-New Year’s show at the Hamilton in DC to find that it is almost entirely a different band.

And while it may be unsettling for fans of Joey and Johnny Spampinato, the late Tommy Ardolino, or even Big Al Anderson, to see their wholesale replacements, the younger members miraculously seem largely as skilled and certainly steeped in the unique sensibility of the band, ready to rock, croon old pop, or take off on free jazz at will.

Born since the band was conceived, talented guitarist Scott Ligon, bassist Casey McDonough, and super young-looking drummer John Perrin could have been raised in a lab to take the mantle of the quirky, fun-loving band. Even the singing voices of Ligon and Perrin seem pitched at about the same light timbre of Terry Adams, who at 70 is the sole connection to the beginnings of the band more than a half century ago.

Still holding down his side of the stage, manically attacking the electric piano or clavinet, smiling goofily, his hair spilling from beneath a molting straw hat festooned with a band of flowers, Adams still brings the bulk of the band’s cockeyed personality. At the same time, his keyboard playing is a marvel in its accuracy (despite looking like he’s only freely pounding).

The wild man had formed what he called the Terry Adams Rock and Roll Quartet more than a decade ago with Ligon, but abruptly re-christened it NRBQ, seemingly single-handedly reigniting the storied band that stopped performing in 2004.

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TVD Live: Margo Price and Lilly Hiatt at the 9:30 Club, 12/27

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNSTo start her short tour leading up to New Year’s Eve, Margo Price rewrote the old Loretta Lynn tune “One’s On the Way.”

Fitting, since she’s showing off her own pregnancy—five months along—with husband and band member, Jeremy Ivey. But she’s also topical enough to adapt that old country hit (written by Shel Silverstein) so that Beyonce and Cardi B replace references to Liz and Jackie, while some lines from the 1971 original certainly still hold up 47 years later (“the girls in New York City, they all march for women’s lib”).

Price, 35, was glowing in her tour opening date in DC, perhaps because of her bump beneath her guitar, but also beaming from reaching her heights. She was happy to be headlining the storied 9:30 Club and basking in her first Grammy nomination she’d been given a couple of weeks earlier. It’s for Best New Artist, which is kind of a laugh for someone working for a decade, finally attracting a wider audience with two strong albums on Jack White’s Third Man Records. But deserved nonetheless.

Price is a fierce artist who seems country to the core and yet dismisses entirely the bland commercial hybrid of contemporary country radio (which seems to have ignored her in return). Behind her strong, clear voice and no-nonsense performing style, she’s got a solid handle on songwriting and even introduced a new song, possibly the only one to combine the legacies of John Lennon, Elvis Presley, and Martin Luther King, “Long Live the King.”

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TVD Live: Cat Power at the 9:30 Club, 12/16

The music starts up minutes before Cat Power strides on stage. Her backing trio conjures a kind of soundscape of pointillist notes, more structured than tuning up, but not entirely melodic either. They are providing an atmosphere in which Chan Marshall can emerge.

In her beguiling show at the 9:30 Club in DC on a recent Sunday, Marshall was freed from her own guitar or piano playing, instead steadying herself with the twin microphone stands pointed toward her, that she gripped like ski poles on her way down a slalom.

Once, the long time folk-tinged siren of indie rock was said to be so full of stage fright she could hardly complete a show—or she had to drink to get through it. By now, at 46 and a mother, she’s found a way to present live shows as alluring as her very personal recorded output. That comes with one big caveat: making her almost impossible to see.

The stage is barely lit but largely from the back, in a general fog, and the figure of Marshall can be seen—tall and rangy, using a lot of hand movements, and moving across the full stage. But from the middle of the floor one can never glean a facial expression until the lightning moment when a flash goes off on a camera phone.

It creates the same kind of murky mystery that her slow and moody songs do. Even if it’s a little frustrating for fans hoping to more clearly see her perform. But if the trade-off is solid show, so be it.

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TVD Live: The Rev. Horton Heat, Junior Brown, The Blasters at the Black Cat, 12/15

The Rev. Horton Heat issued his Christmas album 13 years ago, but only for the last few years has he loaded up a big holiday revue that includes a few other acts equally worthy of headline status—Junior Brown and The Blasters.

They all packed into the Black Cat in DC on a recent Saturday, playing a stage festooned with vintage silver Christmas trees (with revolving color light) and ribbons. Heat was the only one to actually play Christmas tunes, be they twanging instrumental versions of “What Child is This” with which he started his generous set, or surprisingly reverent versions of things like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

That these sentimental classics would come in-between a barrage of signature blasts like “Psychobilly Freakout” would sometime cause a seasonal whiplash, but they’ve always been two parts of bandleader’s Jim Heath’s sensibility.

Nearing 60, Heath is at once the most traditional-looking of country-western performers in his silk suits, aw shucks smile, heartfelt croon, and especially his rock-solid rockabilly playing on his signature Gretsch guitar. But he also came out of the punk world, which means many a winter brew was spilled doing a typically obnoxious late-show mosh pit to old things like “400 Bucks” or the raucous divorce song “Galaxy 500.”

So the show careened between the two poles—“Baddest of the Bad” followed by the Elvis holiday cheer of “Baby Bring My Baby”; “Rudolph” followed by quite another animal, “Hog Tyin’ Woman,” from his most recent album Whole New Life.

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TVD Live: Rufus Wainwright at the Music Center at Strathmore, 12/8

Rufus Wainwright is an accomplished enough figure in music, having just opened his second opera, that he needn’t have to look back. Lucky for his longtime fans that he is, marking his 20th anniversary in show business with a tour that showcases his first two albums, which made for an elegant and stirring evening Saturday at Bethesda’s Music Center at Strathmore.

With the impeccable genes—son of the wry singer/songwriter Loudon Wainwright III and Canadian songbird Kate McGarrigle—the young Wainwright has nonetheless forged his own career, with beguiling songs and strong tenor aching toward showy standard pop to such a degree that he presented his own version of Judy Garland’s 1961 concert at Carnegie Hall. (Wainwright’s heady genes will continue: He and his husband have a daughter by way of Leonard Cohen’s daughter—what pressure she will have to be a poet and songwriter).

It seems to be as interesting for Wainwright as it is for his audience to look back on the early days of the debut Rufus Wainwright and Poses. Unlike other acts who recreate old albums, he didn’t present the songs of the first in order, or even all of it (leaving out three tunes). But he did do all of Poses in the second half, in order, and without the charming and funny commentary between tunes that he used in the show’s first half.

Wainwright takes care with these songs, doing them better and with more confidence and stretching them out to such a degree that when he did the little ditty “Millbrook,” it seemed short by comparison. He had a bit to say about his mother, and his French Canadian upbringing, but little about his dad, whose “One Man Guy” he did straightforwardly, as he did on his second album.

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TVD Live: Sweetheart
of the Rodeo
50th Anniversary Tour at Strathmore, 12/3

“One hundred years from this day,” Gram Parsons once wrote, “will the people still feel this way?” Alas, he wouldn’t live to find out. Twenty-two when he wrote it, he was dead at 26. But half a century since it was recorded for a game-changing Byrds album, maybe the people do feel different.

A flop when it was released, Sweetheart of the Rodeo gained stature as the first album-length country-rock statement, creating a string of music that flourishes as Americana, and justifying a tour marking its 50th year, which made its way to the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda in a ringing show Monday.

Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman were the only Byrds remaining to perform it. But that seemed to fit—they were the only two members left in the imploding band when they started the project. They were the ones who hired the country-rock savant Parsons, who in turn helped steer the band to its rhinestone-gilded new direction.

The Byrds had dabbled in classic country previously, from the bluegrass-sounding “Mr. Spaceman” to Hillman’s “Time Between.” But it was Parsons who pulled them further, with three of his own songs as well as the wide-ranging country sampling that rounded it out, recorded in Nashville with some of its finest musicians.

In doing so, after helping invent folk-rock by plugging in Dylan, the Byrds created an honest salute to the twang and rhinestone of classic country with neither condescension nor irony; a full embrace of American ideals unusual for long-haired rockers of the day, and possibly out of step entirely with 1968, the tumultuous year in which it was recorded.

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TVD Live: Brian Wilson celebrates Pet Sounds at the Kennedy Center, 11/5

It’s been two years since Brian Wilson’s 50th anniversary tour of the Beach Boys Pet Sounds “final performances” commenced across the states and around the world. But the masterpiece of rock expression has never worn out its welcome. Another one of the “final performances” came Monday at the Kennedy Center, this one not only enhanced by the acoustics and decor of the Concert Hall, but with added strings and horns from the Kennedy Center Opera Orchestra (the ones who weren’t being used next door at Anastasia presumably).

It gave another dimension to parts of the work, which had already been pretty well handled by the 10 piece band who had figured out ways to perform all of the xylophones, bass harmonicas, flutes, clarinets, banjos, theremin, and electric guitar that the endlessly innovative work required. Violins added an extra emotional tug to “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder),” the horns amping up an additional urgency in “Here Today.” Both pushed the existing, somewhat surprising emotional wallop further.

It wasn’t just the nostalgia of the sweet hopeful naiveté of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” it was hearing Wilson, at 76, starting these songs in his own voice with lines that maybe ring more true for him at the end of his life than they did at the beginning. “I know perfectly well I’m not where I should be,” he sings in “You Still Believe in Me” (whose title, on the part of the audience, was also still true). Or mournfully singing, “I keep looking for a place to fit in,” at the start of “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times.”

In each of those songs, the higher parts were picked up by another band member. In the past, it had been Al Jardine’s son Matt. Only recently has somebody new stepped in for those parts. Keeping in the family, now it’s Wilson’s son-in-law Rob Bonfiglio, Carnie Wilson’s husband, handling acoustic guitars and doing those high parts for the tour.

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TVD Live: Elvis Costello & the Imposters at DAR Constitution Hall, 11/4

PHOTO: JAMES O’MARA | Normally super-prolific, Elvis Costello went five years between new albums recently, going so far as to tour an old album, Imperial Bedroom last year rather than release a new set of songs.

But a memoir, a health scare, and that tour with the Imposters reminded Costello how much he liked performing with the snap of Pete Thomas’ drums, the baroque inventiveness of keyboardist Steve Nieve, and the bounce of Davey Faragher. Last month, he released the new Look Now, his first album with the Imposters in 10 years, and was kicking off his tour to support the album last weekend, with his third stop at the staid DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC Sunday.

The Imposters are pretty much the Attractions with a switch in bassists from Bruce Thomas to Faragher, so there was a great opportunity to play the snarling tracks of his early years along with the quieter, generally more pop approach of his new work.

He pointed to each Imposter as the bracing opening song featured each of them in turn—drums to bass to organ on “This Year’s Girl,” a song that felt utterly contemporary, in part because it’s been the theme song to this season’s The Deuce on HBO (which coincidentally was having its finale that night).

Looking sharp in black suit, tie and shirt and brandishing his electric guitar, the four were accompanied by the background singers from the last tour, Kitten Kuroi and Briana Lee, who were left to mostly go-go dance in knee-high boots to the oldest songs since they largely featured no background parts.

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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: Take Me to
the River Tour at The Hamilton, 10/24

It’s less than a half a year to Fat Tuesday, but the heart of Mardi Gras is on the road in the form of the Take Me to the River tour. The caravan, headlined by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and featuring such figures as Ivan Neville and George Porter Jr., is built around the upcoming documentary Take Me to the River: New Orleans—a sequel to the 2014 original that concentrated on Memphis soul stars working with young hopefuls.

Both were directed and produced by Martin Shore, who introduced and played some congas in the background during the stop Wednesday at the Hamilton in DC. By now the whole “Take Me to the River” operation is meant to bolster music education, both financially and in giving talented young people a chance to get on stage to share their skills amid some legends.

In the upcoming film, it’s Irma Thomas who shows the younger singer Ledisi around one of her classics in a clip that preceded the live music. Live, it meant young performers like singer Joelle Dyson and bassist Dillon Caillouette are on board with New Orleans legends. But they could hold their own.

Dyson (at least I think that was her name; it wasn’t listed anywhere) started with a pair from Irma Thomas—the sassy “(You Can Have My Husband But Please) Don’t Mess With My Man” and the classic “Time is On My Side,” which she proves more true for her certainly than it does, for say, the Rolling Stones, who famously also recorded it.

That’s the point of this show—that the young people have time on their side to advance this indigenous soulful music. And she could have asked for no better backing band than one with Ivan Neville on keyboards, George Porter Jr. on bass, Terence Higgins on drums, and the Dirty Dozen’s Kevin Harris on saxophone. It was unclear whether it was more inspirational or intimidating for Caillouette to play his bass in the shadow of the Meters’ great bassist Porter.

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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