Category Archives: TVD Washington, DC

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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TVD Live Shots:
FITNESS and Wild Moccasins at the
Black Cat, 7/15

Los Angeles based FITNESS is an exciting new project featuring music masterminds Max Collins of Eve 6 and Kenny Carkeet, formerly of Awolnation. Veterans of the music industry, Collins and Carkeet have both experienced great commercial success and popularity with their former bands as well as from songwriting for other artists.

The duo have been close friends and writing songs as a team for several years. Two years ago they decided to launch FITNESS, a labor of pure love, and a creative outlet to really write the kind of songs they wanted to write. No rules, no expectations, no bullshit.

I was pleased to catch their set at the Black Cat in Washington, DC over the weekend, and the room was packed. The Black Cat is a legendary punk rock club in the District and a perfect venue to hear the band. It’s always a treat to see such an explosive show in an intimate setting.

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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: Taylor Swift at FedExField, 7/10

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNSDespite the dizzying confluence of torches, fireworks, lights, immense video screens, dancing squads, light-up fan wristbands, and three-story snakes—so many snakes—in Taylor Swift’s big “Reputation” stadium tour, the best moment comes when she’s finally alone with the guitar.

It happens just over halfway in her two hour extravaganza when she’s on a B-stage, having been airlifted there by a light-up gondola while singing “Delicate.” It’s after the giddy heights of “Shake It Off” alongside tour openers Charli XCX and Camila Cabello (as well as another of those giant snakes) all while the fans’ wristband lights involuntarily blink Christmas colors.

Only then is she able to talk more to her fans as if they were old college buddies (“I’ve been thinking of you guys”). At the first of two sold out shows at Maryland’s FedEx Field for what she said was her 24th show in the area, she thanked fans for allowing her to go from teenage country sweetheart to high-volume pop music force. But she returned to her acoustic guitar roots all the same, with a spare version of “So It Goes…” from the new album and something from her Red album a half dozen years back that she hasn’t played for a while, “State of Grace.”

It was the rare moment of surprise and intimacy in a massive show whose every moment is plotted for maximum crowd convulsion. It’s audacious for a show this big to still largely be a vehicle to sell a new album, and playing 12 songs from Reputation (skipping only three of its tracks) meant squishing old favorites into medleys.

It was all fine with the audience of young girls, their indulgent parents, and a few guys, all excited for the big show and some decked out in a kind of Taylor cosplay, which ran from the troubling sight of grade schoolers in fishnets and lipstick to someone in full witch costume to one old guy in what looked to be an exploded newspaper.

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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: The Feelies at the 9:30 Club, 6/22

PHOTO: DOUG SEYMOUR | The fast jangle and hypnotic rhythms of The Feelies is not just a warm throwback to 1980s when their first album ushered in a precise kind of frantic nerd rock, influencing a number of other bands. By now, the band is a standard-bearer for an enduring strain of New York rock. With its droning chords, flighty solos, pounding drums, and deadpan vocals, it’s the closest thing to the Velvet Underground in the 21st Century.

It’s a homage the quintet acknowledged in its splendid and generous return performance at the 9:30 Club Friday night. Two of the four covers in their series of encores were from the Velvets. And the harder rocking selections from their latest material from their 2017 album In Between forge the same heady path, particularly the title song. It was presented, as on the album, in two ways, the original and in an expanded psychedelicized version in the encores. By the end, Glenn Mercer was rubbing his guitar neck against the microphone, which you wouldn’t have expected such a reserved person to do.

Mercer is paired with the similarly bespectacled and overly reserved Bill Million, with Mercer taking on all the lead vocals and most of the lead guitar work, as Million adds the textures of his rhythmic guitar. The two barely spoke to the crowd and could scarcely bring themselves to even look up at them, despite the adoration.

To their left, Brenda Sauter began the show creating tones on guitar on the opening “When Company Comes.” She became a third percussionist late in the show, hitting a standing tom. But mostly she played bass, sang some harmonies, and acted like Earth translator for the rest of the front line, saying thanks from time to time. “You make us feel so welcome,” she said at the outset.

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TVD Live Shots: Paramore and Foster the People at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 6/23

Saturday night, The Woodlands at Merriweather Post Pavilion hosted one of music’s most expressive acts in recent years, the power-pop trio Paramore. In tow, indie pop-rockers, Foster the People bought their synth grooves to round out the lineup.

For a band whose initial touring leg in coming to a close, Paramore’s enthusiasm remained unwavering. In fact, Hayley and the boys seem more focused than ever and their infectious energy carried well beyond the confines of the stage. When Williams appeared, she struck as hard as a bolt of lightning with her signature dance moves and high kicks—and the music behind her followed every move.

The first song of night, “Grudges” (from the new album) set things off on a good foot. Next was a kick from their self titled fourth album, “Still Into You” followed by “Rose-Colored Boy.” Their classics, “That’s What You Get” and “Crushcrushcrush” rounded out their first five tunes before bouncing back with “Fake Happy.”

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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: U2 at Capital One Arena, 6/17

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNSIt was only last year when U2 hit the stadium circuit for a kind of nostalgia immersion with the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree. The give and take for the band’s 2018 tour boasts smaller venues—if hockey arenas can be considered small—and a largely lesser known album to promote, last year’s Songs of Innocence.

Eight of its 13 songs made it on the band’s 24-song setlist at the CapitolOne Arena in Washington Sunday, an event that drew both former secretary of state Madeline Albright and NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell to the very section I was in (making me feel so young!). Yet the charismatic and ever-political Bono largely strayed from the topical world—aside from a roster of protest posters projected on the arena-length cage before the show. Compromise was the word he stressed; not love (not sure how well that one was landing in the epicenter of the divide).

By now you can take the band out of the stadium but not the stadium out of the band, in a show which stressed as much if not more of the video screens, special lighting, catwalks, and B-stages as they did on football fields. The setup was complicated to figure out even if you were watching it, but it involved a main stage on which the four members only occasionally performed together as one, a smaller one at the other end of the area that took up a lot of the second half of the show, and between them a walkway with 80 feet of screens on both sides that illustrated each song differently and allowed the band members (but mostly Bono) to walk through a video projection instead of just having it behind him.

It was spectacular, yes, and the sound was ringing. Hats off to a band that has solidly maintained its original lineup for so long and has not augmented it with a dozen players on stage just because they could (on the other hand, it wasn’t immediately clear where all the synthesizer washes were coming from on some songs; playing along to tape is not a good alternative).

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TVD Live Shots:
Robert Plant and
The Sensational Space Shifters at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 6/12

Last Tuesday evening, Merriweather Post Pavilion played host to a rock ‘n’ roll legend in the truest sense of the term, and when Robert Plant walked onto the stage to begin his performance, the vibe of the venue was filled with pure excitement. It was just over 49 years ago when one of the most classic double bills in the venue’s illustrious history took the stage. On May 25,1969 Led Zeppelin opened for The Who at Merriweather, and ironically enough, on the same evening as Plant’s show at MPP, The Who’s lead man, Roger Daltrey was performing at another DC area venue, Wolftrap in Vienna, VA.

There are few performers in rock n’ roll who echo the spirit of the genre itself as much as does Robert Plant. His talents and stage persona within Led Zeppelin cemented his legacy as a bona fide “Rock God,” and the ultimate frontman. Fortunately for us all, Robert Plant’s music continues to thrive years after Zeppelin’s abrupt end. Plant, now 69 years old, could easily (and contently) rest on past accomplishments, but it’s his drive to create new music and experiment with new sounds that have kept him vital and on stages all these years.

Writing and performing with artists Alison Krauss, Patty Griffin, and Welsh folksinger Julie Murphy, Plant has consistently chosen projects that are just outside the comfort zone of most rock singers. Most recently with backing bands Strange Sensation, Band of Joy, and currently with The Sensational Space Shifters, Plant has cemented a reputation for ever-evolving.

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TVD Live: Dave Alvin
and Jimmie Dale Gilmore at the Birchmere, 6/14

Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore had known each other for years on the Americana circuit, but it wasn’t until they joined forces for a brief acoustic tour last year did they find that they also cut their musical teeth watching blues greats at the old Ash Grove club in Los Angeles. They decided to cut an album together for Yep Roc, Downey to Lubbock, that represented their respective hometowns and have gone out on tour together as a duo with the backing of Alvin’s band The Guilty Ones.

“I thought I was retired,” Gilmore, 73, said from the stage in explaining his gratitude at this late life venture. But the hollow wail of his unique tenor sounds just as compelling as it did in the Flatlanders. Together, their trading off of verses featuring personal traits on the album’s title song made for as entertaining a show theme song as you’d hope for. Then they followed largely with covers of songs by artists they both admired (and put on the album) as well as the best of the songs they’re known for.

That meant the lovely and enigmatic “Tonight I Think I’m Gonna Go Downtown,” “Dallas,” and “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own” (jumped up to a rockabilly beat) from Gilmore; and from Alvin, “Fourth of July” a couple weeks early, “Dry River” and “Marie, Marie”—the sole Blasters song.

They made an odd-looking pair—Gilmore tall and gangly; his long white hair adding a ghostly appearance, opposite the solid and shorter Alvin, clad in his usual cowboy gear. Their two voices couldn’t be more different either. Gilmore’s high, keening lonely sound was opposite Alvin’s deep Western baritone. Trading off on songs meant a concise punch of their best stuff.

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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 Shots: Hot Snakes, Vundabar, and Meat Wave at Union Stage, 6/10

There’s nothing better than a punk rock show on a Sunday night …well, almost. But thanks to the San Diego based post-hardcore outfit Hot Snakes, last Sunday evening turned out to be a little more interesting than drinking Irish Slammers and watching Iron Chef America re-runs on the boob-tube (boob-tube; an electronic box containing a video screen and a speaker, watched by millions of cretins too lazy to go out and get a life. [Def. 3] in Urban Dictionary Online, June 10, 2018).

Seriously speaking though, the cold fact is when Swami John Reis and friends are in town—in any manifestation, whether Hot Snakes, Drive Like Jehu, or even RFTC—the right thing to do is drag your ass downtown and make it to the show! As I may have said before, this unique combination of musicians playing together is a gift from beyond, and quite frankly, it’s a magic that can’t be taken for granted. On this particular night, John Reis along with his perfect counterpart in rock, Rick Froberg, led the rest of their intrepid Hot Snakes (Gar Wood, Jason Kourkounis) into a night of steady, hard, and overdriven music at one of DC’s newest venues, Union Stage.

Live is where the Hot Snakes rule. Froberg’s distinct vocals, Gar and Jason’s pounding rhythm section, and Reis’ furious guitar work seem to take new form on stage. Their scratchy rhythms are elevated to insane heights and when things get too wild, they still hit those sweet grooves when called for. Plainly said, Hot Snakes are simply the best at what they do—and with a new album in stores, Hot Snakes have hit a perfect stride.

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TVD Live: Belle
and Sebastian at
The Anthem, 6/9

Belle and Sebastian’s current tour is a movable feast, where substantially different set lists are conjured each night, whole sections of musicians are added and subtracted, and the fun being had on stage is certainly contagious to those in the crowd.

The setup at The Anthem Saturday for the group was an odd one: general admission, but with seats. That provided comfort while awaiting the show, but once the band was onstage, everyone was on their feet for the duration.

With its roots in a kind of literary folk rock, the Glaswegian band has since broadened its sound to include the big beats of the dance floor. The wide-ranging Pride weekend set Saturday, though, surprisingly kept away from the latest things, taking advantage of a five-piece string section — and a hired trumpet — to delve into much older things. Indeed, it was the 15-year-old Dear Catastrophe Waitress that was the source of most of the night’s material, from the title track to “Lord Anthony” to the suddenly improper-sounding “Step Into My Office, Baby.”

Band co-founder Stuart Murdoch is the main surviving voice of Belle and Sebastian, utterly precise and distinctive in his accented vocals. He seemed especially glad to be playing a relaxed show, where he strolled gingerly, balanced on the security fence between stage and crowd, counting on front row members to steady him; invited a few dozen fans on stage to dance along to “The Boy with the Arab Strap” and “The Party Line,” and told everyone to enjoy themselves inside, isolated from any of the various problems outside.

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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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