Category Archives: TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live: The New Pornographers and
Lady Lamb at the
Lincoln Theatre, 11/6

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | From the big sound that comes from The New Pornographers you’d almost expect more people on stage. But just eight were there Wednesday at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington DC, covering songs from eight different albums before a happy, largely seated audience.

It was the rare second day in the city to satisfy demand. Even more rare was that they were inside a theater rather than a big nightclub. “In 15 years I don’t think we’ve ever not played the 9:30 Club,” frontman Carl Newman said. It was such a topsy-turvy thing, he sang a line from “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)” from “Hamilton,” perhaps inspired by being in the Nation’s Capital an extra day. But in doing a second night’s show, though, they were determined to present a different show than the night before. “It’s only polite,” said Newman, ever the Canadian.

So people didn’t hear the new “Leather on the Seat” from their new album In the Morse Code of Brake Lights. Instead of “Dancehall Domine” from Brill Bruisers they played “You Tell Me Where”; two things were heard from Challengers including the title track that they hadn’t played the night before; they did a rare “Use It” but not “Stacked Crooked” from Twin Cinema. Further, “Avalanche Alley” instead of “High Ticket Attractions” from Whiteout Conditions; and “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” instead of “Crash Years” from Together.

It couldn’t have been too easy; these are intricate pop creations with lots of parts presumably needing lots of practice—they don’t just bang out anything. But it all sounded pretty darn glorious and they kept in enough favorites to rally fans from any of its eras (for me, it was “Singing Spanish Techno”).

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TVD Live: Robert Gordon & Chris Spedding at City Winery, 11/5

Rockabilly had its heyday and faded 20 years before Robert Gordon picked up the mantle in the late ’70s. By then, he had already been frontman for CBGB’s mainstay Tuff Darts and he would bring the same punk energy to the bass-slapping vibrancy of the ’50s sound.

He was the pre-Stray Cats king of the rockabilly revivalists even if he only grazed the mainstream. Still, Bruce Springsteen gave him the throbbing “Fire”; he recorded Marshall Crenshaw’s “Someday, Someway” before its author made it his signature song. Throughout a string of initial albums, he built a body of rockabilly works that would drive the music into the next decade.

Decades later, Gordon, at 72, is still performing and on Tuesday headlined a show at City Winery in Washington, DC, not far from where he grew up in Bethesda, MD. A lot of old friends showed up for him, including the drummer for the first band he was in at age 15. But it was not as crowded a night as past local appearances have been.

In a stylish suit and cummerbund, with an attempt at a modish cut in his hair, he cut a figure like a retired baseball star or ex-boxer opening a nightclub. He was welcoming and debonair but with a rough-hewn, old school expression that put him from another era. In front of a band with more credentials than there were fans before them, they rocked right into “Someday, Someway” after a five song set led by guitarist Chris Spedding, who comes to the tour after backing Bryan Ferry on a swing that played to thousands at the Anthem locally this summer.

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TVD Live Shots:
Sabaton and HammerFall at the Fillmore Silver Spring, 11/3

For many years, I’ve had an interest in the study of World War I, “The Great War.” In just four years, that conflict sprayed carnage across the world, leaving millions dead, accelerated technological advancements, influenced the culture of a generation, and shaped an entire century. I’d read books and given speeches on why we should continue to have an interest, even as 100 years have passed since November 11, 1918. I’ve only ever been met with polite attention. I know now what was missing from my discussions, the thing that could generate sustained enthusiasm for creaky, dusty history: Swedish power metal.

This realization came to me when Sabaton (Joakim Brodén, Pär Sundström, Tommy Johansson, Hannes van Dahl, and Chris Rörland) marched through suburban Washington, DC this past Sunday night with support from HammerFall, blasting the sold out Fillmore Silver Spring, the last night of the US leg of “The Great Tour.” Sabaton are promoting their new album The Great War. Unlike previous albums that were built around a war-related theme—last stands, heroes, the rise and fall of the Swedish Empire—this album is built around World War I.

It was an impressive stage setup for a club venue—a war tank with the drum kit perched on top and mic stands in the form of helmets and rifles. After kicking off with “Ghost Division,” Sabaton tore through roughly half of The Great War, setting stories about the Red Baron and the Battle of Verdun to fist pumps and metal riffs.

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TVD Live: Flamin’ Groovies and Muck
and the Mires at City Winery, 11/1

The reunion this decade of the Flamin’ Groovies, the San Francisco band formed in the ’60s that made its biggest mark in the ’70s, hasn’t been easy.

Earlier tours were hit and miss, but inspirational enough for co-founding member Cyril Jordan and crew to record a new album in 2017. Part of the shakiness of recent tours was due to Chris Wilson who was co-writer of a lot of the ’70s power pop stuff, including their classic Shake Some Action.

The Massachusetts-born Wilson, who long ago transplanted to England, is officially on hiatus now. So for what they called the “Trick or Treat 2019 US Tour,” which stopped at City Winery in DC Friday, Jordan was backed by Chris Von Sneidern, who played bass on the 2017 release, now playing guitar, and bassist Atom Ellis—both are seasoned San Francisco players; Ellis worked with Dieselhed and backed Link Wray from 1996-2003 (and was wearing a Wray T-shirt in DC).

On drums was Tony Sales—not the bassist who played with Runt, Iggy Pop, and David Bowie’s Tim Machine, but his son. That would make the young drummer the grandson of comedian, kids’ TV host and sometime recording artist Soupy Sales (It all goes to make some fans seem particularly old, having been entertained now by three generations of Sales).

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TVD Live: The Milk Carton Kids at U Street Music Hall, 10/28

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | The Milk Carton Kids started making a splash soon after their 2011 debut, such that the California duo were on big tours, supporting top stars, before playing their own headlining theater gigs and augmenting their sound with a full band. Maybe it was too much too soon, or maybe Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan wanted to get back to what they did best.

They say the reason for their current “A Night with the Milk Carton Kids in Very Small Venues at Very Low Ticket Prices Tour” is for the fans: to play the kind of places when they started their run not even a decade ago, for fans who may not want to see them in a bigger venue at double the price.

The first stop for the tour (after an even smaller benefit show in DC the night before) was the U Street Music Hall, which the duo hadn’t played in before, they said, but was very like the kind of places they did—dark, crowded, with capacity for only a few hundred people with the competing sound of the the beer fridge.

That device seemed to have been turned off at U Street, Ryan noted during the show (it hadn’t). But the duo’s very quiet music engendered an equally quiet audience such that when someone exited the restroom they held the door so it wouldn’t slam behind them (and maybe for the first time, you could hear the hand dryer still blowing inside).

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He’ll outlast us all:
Dead Eddie lives!

If you’re reading this right now, we have a correction to our headline. Eddie Wilchins—Dead Eddie—passed away on October 23, 2019 having succumbed to the Chron’s disease and its ancillary ailments that he batted for many, many years. 

Earlier in 2019, a number of us assembled the article below (the original is here) to celebrate the man while he was still with us, his moniker always threatening to come to pass. And now that it has, we remember our friend today—the consummate rock star

Rest well, Eddie.Ed.

“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: Hamell on Trial at Gypsy Sally’s Vinyl Lounge, 10/18

Tucked away at the end of K Street in Washington, DC’s Georgetown, snuggled next to the Key Bridge, is Gypsy Sally’s. On a Friday night, a sizable, but still intimate, crowd gathered to celebrate a birthday and welcome Ed Hamell, performing as Hamell on Trial, to the upstairs Vinyl Lounge.

It’s difficult for me, as a first time observer, to provide a complete illustration of the web Hamell weaves at his show. I did no prior research, no Google, no YouTube views beforehand. I only knew he was the friend-of-a-friend and a character, nothing more. Before his set, we are introduced. He’s alone and contemplating a new song of his, one about the things that allow us to survive in our Bizarro world political climate; I encounter a gentle, thoughtful man.

As Hamell warms up, the first thing I notice is the guitar. Hamell uses one guitar for the entirety of his roughly two-hour performance: a 1937 Gibson acoustic, immortalized in his tribute, “7 Seas.” Rigged with black tape and wired to an amp, the wood shows wear, she’s almost dust, and I wonder how much fight she has left in her. But she sounds incredible, warm and knowing, and I can hardly avert my eyes. Only the force of Hamell’s personality tears me away.

Hamell’s website describes him as a “New York-based, folk punk hero,” and goes on to quote people like Henry Rollins, name drop Ani DeFranco, and rattle off the comparisons to Bill Hicks, Tarantino, et al. It’s all true. It’s easy to get caught up in, and laugh your ass off at, the dirty jokes and the shit talk from the stage. Songs like “Pussy” made me blush and giggle. He teased me for taking a few notes during his set. We were all instructed to yell “Fuck you, Vicky” during his birthday serenade of a lovely woman celebrating her 50th. We obeyed.

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TVD Live Shots: Amon Amarth, Grand Magus, At the Gates, and Arch Enemy at The Fillmore Silver Spring, 10/13

The ticket said “The Raid of Silver Spring,” and that meant only one thing: Swedish metal giants were in town, bringing metal to the huddled masses of suburban Washington, DC direct from Sweden.

Going into the evening, I’d hoped to steer clear of the easy Viking clichés, but having a look around the venue, I saw fans wearing kilts and Viking helmets while carefully sipping beer from drinking horns. The bands on this Sunday night’s bill, headlined by the Viking metal behemoths themselves, Amon Amarth, traffic in the imagery, so I’ll join in. Indeed, the name of the tour, “Berserker,” is the name given to the fiercest of all Viking warriors, so anything else is pointless and not fun.

I’d need the strength of my Scandinavian ancestors to endure this assault; Grandma and Grandpa Swanson, help me out here. I’d argue it wasn’t so much a raid as recruitment, as the enthusiastic fans—packing the Fillmore to its chandelier-adorned ceiling—needed no coercion to board the ship.

Whetting our appetite for the plunder were Stockholm metal veterans Grand Magus. In a roughly 25 minute, five song set, the trio (Janne Christoffersson, Mats Skinner, and Ludwig Witt) stirred the masses with their doom/stoner metal sound, including a taste (“Untamed”) from their latest album, Wolf God, released this spring. A genuinely appreciative Christoffersson declared the Fillmore crowd the “loudest” they’d ever played for and suggested a residency right there, because who needs Vegas? The crowd roared in agreement and, during the last song of the set, sent Grand Magus off by chanting along with “Hammer of the North.”

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Independent Minded: A podcast with Ron Scalzo: Eric Astor from Furnace Record Pressing

The Independent Minded podcast features conversations with indie artists in the music and entertainment business.

Pop culture legends “Weird Al” Yankovic and Henry Rollins, indie icons CAKE, Gogol Bordello and Mike Doughty, and up-and-coming indie artists The Districts and Vagabon talk about their experiences in the business, their inspirations and passions, and their recent projects.

The podcast is hosted by Ron Scalzo, an indie musician and radio producer with 9 self-released albums and an independent record label of his own, Bald Freak Music.

Furnace Record Pressing’s Eric Astor | Episode 106 features Eric Astor, founder and CEO of Furnace Record Pressing in Arlington, VA. Eric talks about pressing vinyl, connecting with people, making sense of all the record pressing madness. Find out more about Eric and Furnace Record Pressing at

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TVD Live: Shovels & Rope at the 9:30 Club, 10/9

PHOTO: CURTIS WAYNE MILLARD | Like the White Stripes before them, Shovels & Rope bring the two person, man and woman, guitar and drums lineup to life. The exception is that they dwell more in country roots, with Appalachian gospel seeping through their down-home harmonies and lots of wistful tales of traveling on the road.

But there’s more—in addition to the drum work, Cary Ann Hearst also plays a short Korg keyboard and harmonica (sometimes at the same time). At times, she also gave up her drum seat for the guitar of her husband Michael Trent, who also switches around from acoustic and electric guitar, to drums, piano, harmonica, mandolin and keyboard.

Though the duo showed in a headlining show at the 9:30 Club in DC Wednesday that they have the kind of songs that could benefit from a larger outfit backing them, they resolutely kept it a twosome. They don’t even have a roadie handing them guitars or tuning, maintaining a busker’s approach as if they were always ready to go back to playing smaller venues or, if fortunes really change, to the streets.

But look around: It was a large crowd that came out to see them and many knew their older songs well enough to sing along without squinting at the lyrics that had been painted on five backdrops behind them—for decorative purposes only. (Also part of the stagecraft: a pair of busts covered and wrapped as if by Christo). It was a strange crowd though—one of those who fill a room but aren’t entirely quiet enough for the quietest parts, with yammering going on in corners of the room, as if the duo were there as background music for their party.

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TVD Live: Luna at the 9:30 Club, 10/5

On the various Luna tours the band has launched since it reunited in 2015 following a 10 year pause, they almost seemed miffed to have to play the old stuff fans wanted. Not that they had much new material— just an album of covers and another of instrumentals.

But now, embarked on one of those full album recitals popular with heritage groups, they seemed to have turned the corner into appreciating anew all that they accomplished. The showcase for an early show at the 9:30 Club in Washington Saturday was the 1995 album Penthouse from start to finish—though some stops have been showcasing the two prior albums, Lunapark and Bewitched, in their entirety.

But Penthouse might have been the best of the three to see, featuring the band at its prime, with a lazy surf-like riff to start with “Chinatown,” then the wavy, underwater-like figure on “Sideshow by the Seashore.” It wasn’t quite the lineup the band had when it recorded the album 24 years ago—Britta Phillips played bass in place of the originating Justin Harwood, and Penthouse was the last album for drummer Stanley Demeski, who’d go on to The Feelies; it’s been the hard-hitting Lee Wall ever since.

But Dean Wareham held court front and center as he always did, with his searching, mysterious lyrics in deadpan tones and interesting guitar figures. And still with him, trading off on some guitar interplay was Sean Eden, who has been around since their second album. It’s a formidable group, who face one another when they’re sitting out sparks of elongated anthems as if they’re a jam band on long workouts like “23 Minutes in Brussels” or “Freakin’ and Peakin,’” which speeds up, slows down and speeds up again before it ends.

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TVD Live Shots:
The Hu with
Al Lover at Baltimore
Soundstage, 9/29

On a warm early autumn night, music fans of all stripes piled into Baltimore Soundstage to witness the arrival of The Hu, fresh from Mongolia, embarking on their first tour of the US. Al Lover acts as support on the tour, warming up crowds with psychedelic electronica.

Los Angeles based Al Lover opened the gig with his psychedelic and experimental electronic music. Lover has, since 2013, released a variety of projects while collaborating with multiple artists and touring extensively. His latest album, Existential Everything, was released in February, 2019. The appreciative crowd bobbed along with the beats as Lover wove a sonic web during his set, setting the tone for the headliner.

It appears the last year has been a bit of a whirlwind for The Hu. In the fall of 2018, videos for “Yuve Yuve Yu” and “Wolf Totem” were released on YouTube; as of this writing the two have garnered about 43 million views. In contrast, the population of Mongolia is just over three million.

Mixing the modern and the traditional is what The Hu really excels at here. The band consists of four core members, standing shoulder to shoulder at the front of the stage, and are backed by a touring band who play percussion, bass, and a Les Paul guitar, as western music fans would all recognize. Less recognizable is the traditional instrumentation of the core members.

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TVD Live: An intimate evening with Ken Stringfellow and Friends, Chevy Chase, MD, 9/23

PHOTOS: RACHEL LANGEThe time: 7:30 on a Monday night. The place: a private residence in Chevy Chase. Not the usual circumstances for a rock concert, but that’s the point—Ken Stringfellow’s solo tour is prioritizing “non-venue spaces,” including many private concerts and “secret shows” like this one. The fine line between public and private is a fitting leitmotif for Ken’s return to Touched, originally released by Manifesto Records on the inauspicious date of September 11, 2001. His second solo album since the breakup of the Posies, Touched is appropriately personal, and a fitting soundtrack for the deep disillusionment of 2019.

The concert is surprisingly lighthearted, despite the melancholy musical fare. Hosted by ELO alumnus Parthenon Huxley and his wife Helle, the event has the delightfully laid-back vibe of a grown-up house party—there’s beer and wine chilling on the back porch, while a fleet of folding chairs give guests who have already taken their seats plenty to look at it, whether it’s the record collection on the bookshelf or the eclectic collage of pop and high art on the walls.

At the front of the room is Ken’s improvised stage rig, which features “a real piano” (as promised by the tour webpage) against the tastefully space-age backdrop of a dark window to the backyard which reflects both the mood lighting in the living room and the neon violet glow of the WiFi router. Ken cracks a joke about this unexpected special effect between tunes—a moment which epitomizes the appeal of a private concert. There might not be much room to move, but there’s plenty of room to breathe, and Ken uses that freedom to great effect.

In addition to an impressive musical CV which includes not only The Posies but more recently R.E.M. and Big Star, Stringfellow has a sense of humor and he isn’t afraid to use it. Nothing is off-limits, either, and throughout the set he riffs on everything from Millennial entitlement to an audience member’s ill-timed sneeze. (Okay, I confess: it was me.) His performance turns out to be two parts music, one part standup routine, and sometimes both at once.

Because the guestlist is short enough that the main attraction can see who’s not here yet (“They’re a big group and they tend to travel in packs,” he remarks) the shows gets off the ground not with Touched but with requests from the audience and a new composition Ken describes as “one from the mental health files.” Nobody’s heard the song before but nobody minds, already absorbed by Ken’s uncompromising vocals and the artfully mixed metaphors which give his lyrics their distinctive bittersweet flavor.

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TVD Live Shots:
Alter Bridge, Skillet,
and Dirty Honey at MECU Pavilion, 9/22

On September 22, Alter Bridge and Skillet kicked off their co-headlining, “Victorious Sky” tour at Baltimore, Maryland’s MECU Pavilion, with young rock upstarts Dirty Honey in the supporting role.

Leading off was California’s Dirty Honey (vocalist Marc Labelle, guitarist John Notto, bassist Justin Smolian, and drummer Corey Coverstone). With only an EP under their belts, they’ve already rubbed elbows this year with Slash on his tour with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators as well as made the rounds of the summer festivals. While the band’s sound will likely remind fans of anyone from Zeppelin to Guns ‘n’ Roses to current rock saviors Rival Sons, it’s clear they are not out to mimic anyone. Rather, during their six-song set, they demonstrated that they’ve arrived to carry the torch of their classic rock forebearers, but in their own young and modern way. It was the third time I’d seen Dirty Honey; they keep getting better.

Coheadliner and Christian rock stalwarts Skillet excited the crowd with their super high energy and exhilarating set. I’ll admit to being unfamiliar with Skillet; the term “Christian rock” makes the agnostic in me bristle and run for the hills. I like my rock and roll dark, dirty, and demon sprinkled, with squeezed lemons my preferred imagery.

However, Skillet’s style goes over well live as their songs are melodic and uplifting, the band members charismatic and skilled musicians. It’s great fun to watch and rock out to, especially when vocalist John Cooper strapped on what could only be described as fire extinguishers to his arms and blasted water vapor in the air, or when Seth Morrison and Korey Cooper got lifted on risers. Drummer Jen Ledger smiled for my camera as she sang and wailed on the drums. They were terrific.

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TVD Live: The Long Ryders at Pearl Street Warehouse, 9/20

Before there were labels like alt country or Americana, The Long Ryders were providing the connection between country and rock with a punk punch through their very limited recording years of 1984 to 87. They proved the thread between the pioneering work of the Byrds and Gene Clark (who lent vocals on the first Long Ryders album) and Uncle Tupelo, who wouldn’t release their first album until 1990.

After the encouragement of a few reunion shows, the early lineup is back together with a solid new album, Psychedelic Country Soul, and a tour to go along with it. “It took us 33 1/3 years,” frontman Sid Griffin told the crowd at the Pearl Street Warehouse in DC Friday, making the RPM connection.

Griffin, with his grey Prince Valiant hair and sideburns looking like a cross between Bob Keeshan and patriotic Muppet Sam the Eagle, has been spending his time in the intervening decades as a rock journalist in London. But he still likes to rock out on Chuck Berry style tunes like “State of My Union.” Just as in the old days, his rock instincts are balanced by the sweet country stylings of guitarist Stephen McCarthy, the Ryders’ secret weapon, last seen in town with The Jayhawks, with whom he recorded Rainy Day Music.

McCarthy brings a tasty twang to the proceedings, smooth vocals and decent songs. What’s more, he and bassist Tom Stevens create some fine harmonies, as on “You Don’t Know What’s Right, You Don’t Know What’s Wrong.” When Stevens fronts one of his own songs, though, he both takes lead guitar duties in addition to lead vocals. Drummer Greg Sowders (an ex-husband of Lucinda Williams) looked just happy to be part of the crew once more.

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