Category Archives: TVD Washington, DC

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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TVD Live: The B-52’s, OMD, and Berlin at The Anthem, 9/17

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | The B-52’s are marking their 40th anniversary the same way they might have celebrated their 20th, their first, or a random Tuesday—with a party.

True to their skull ’n’ beehive colors that declare “Born to Party” they got a big crowd at DC’s Anthem riled up with a freewheeling set of their catchy, deeply fun songs, heavy on the perfect first two albums but culminating in the one that gave them their biggest hit, “Love Shack.” On a packed night with properly received sets from Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark and Berlin, they still ruled the barbecue once they got on.

The band is just 60 percent of what it was—but because the remaining members are the most colorful in singers Cindy Wilson, Fred Schneider, and Kate Pierson it might not be as noticeable that they’ve got a wholly different back line doing most the instruments (save for the occasional bongo, cowbell, handheld synth device, and slide whistle).

And just as they did when they started this party in Athens, GA, they dressed as flamboyantly as they sang, with Wilson the costume winner in the highest beehive and flashiest jumpsuit, adorned with bat wings. Pierson may have had the same shimmery multihued dress she wore on the Whammy! cover—or one very like it—she may have shimmied the original out of existence years ago. Schneider still holds down the smarmy ringleader role, half talking his funny lines, and ad libbing a few new ones too.

They began with the urgent call of “Private Idaho” and moved into the still topical historical footing of “Mesopotamia” that might make one forget about the saber-rattling going on in the region now. “Give Me Back My Man” still had the yearning that put a cry in Wilson’s yelp, as authentic and pleading as a country song. They had a kind of swirling backing video meant to accommodate their nightly changes in their setlist, but they put up a garish picture of a retro dial phone during “6060-842.”

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TVD Live: Billy Bragg at The Birchmere, 9/19

“Welcome to the 7:30 Club!” Billy Bragg said, at the outset of his three-night residency at The Birchmere. He was both poking fun of the Alexandria club’s famously early nights, while name checking the DC area’s other famous club, the 9:30.

It was the first of several residencies he’ll also do in New York and Cambridge, MA before doing the same in various cities in the UK. Titled “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” he’s playing exclusively from his first three albums on one night, from his next three albums a second night, and doing kind of a career overview the third.

He began with the latter Thursday and seem freed to put in a set similar to those he had been doing in recent months, with a little bit of everything thrown in for his one-man, one-guitar format. The idea behind the residencies, he said, was to find a different way of touring that involved staying in one place longer than usual, an experiment that would mean a “low impact on the environment—and the artist.”

As such, he had been in the Nation’s Capital days before his run started, in part to do promotion of his new book, his sixth, The Three Dimensions of Freedom. Which he didn’t exactly read, but explained its point of view in such detail he might as well have.

The truth is, half a Billy Bragg concert is his speaking, and while he is charming, funny and sharp political commentator most of the time, there comes a point where fans would rather hear him singing choice selections from his songbook.

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TVD Live: Peter Frampton and JBLZE
at The Anthem, 9/11

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | Peter Frampton supercharged his career with a live album decades ago, so he’s going out playing live as well. In a stop at the Anthem in DC Wednesday, he seemed to have the kind of bouncy energy and joy in performance that doesn’t usually come in anything titled “Finale – The Farewell Tour.”

Frampton at 69 looks pretty youthful to hang it up, but is doing so because of the diagnosis of a rare disease called inclusion body myositis, a progressive muscle disorder. None of that kept him from leaping about and playing scorching guitar solos that veered from rock to jazz.

He began with an unusual request: that people photograph or video the first three songs only—the same kind of restrictions kept to professionals, so they could turn off their phones, stop texting and be more present for the show. A noble effort, but when he whipped out the first of the hits from his breakthrough Frampton Comes Alive! as his fourth song, the request was widely ignored.

Frampton is nothing if not a team player, showcasing the rest of his five-piece band by standing stage left, not in front of anyone. But “Show Me the Way” brought him center stage where the specially equipped rubber tube can bend his guitar notes through his vocals, which he used to such effect on the 1976 album.

The cheesy nostalgia of a Talk Box became just as emblematic of mid-’70s rock as the cherubic hair Frampton once wore. What became the hits of the live album were songs originated but largely ignored on the earlier solo albums from the former Humble Pie guitarist. The effervescent live versions made him an 8-million selling superstar that was exploited in all of the worst ways, from bare-chested magazine covers to starring in the awful 1978 movie version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. He kept touring and recording with diminishing commercial returns, but found his artistic footing playing guitar for David Bowie’s 1987 “Glass Spider Tour” and recording a Grammy-winning instrumental album Fingerprints in 2006.

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TVD Live Shots: Babymetal and Avatar
at The Anthem, 9/8

It was a theatric night with two contrasting bands at Washington DC’s Anthem, on Sunday, 9/08, as Babymetal, with Avatar, stormed the Wharf.

In Babymetal you have the perfect gateway act to the wider world of metal, and I’m glad they’re getting booked on some of the bigger American rock festivals. Judging by the crowd, their fans are more than just people who think they’re hot. To me, it seems like the obvious thing is less gatekeeping and more embracing. Besides, when was the last time your favorite burly dude band played Revention and tried to summon a dark god? Exactly.

From the moment the lights go dark and the band’s logo is projected onto the nearly bare stage, the room belongs to Babymetal. For the uninitiated, the sound is classic kawaii, a genre that features a mix of pop-ish vocals combined with thrash guitar. Leading on vocals, Su-metal is joined by Moametal and a temporary new member in impossibly intricate and impressive choreography.

Indeed, the choreography is what one notices first as the trio kicks off their set with “Megitsune” and what makes the performance so engaging to watch. The three young women barely appear to break a sweat during their hour and change set, which included “Karate,” “PA YA YA,” and “Gimme Chocolate.” This, on top of Su-metal’s impressive vocals and the skill of their backing band, all masked dressed in Grim Reaper-ish garb. Hanging back in the shadows, the musicians were not intended to be the main attraction here. Nevertheless, they killed.

While it may be easy to write off a band like Babymetal as gimmicky, the skill, talent, and hard work involved here is evident and deserving of serious consideration, as the fans present at the Anthem already knew.

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TVD Live: Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins at the Anthem, 9/5

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | For a woman whose songs are so direct, and whose voice is so clear, Jenny Lewis also likes to dress up a bit. So for the stop in her “On the Line” tour at The Anthem in DC, she wore a glamorous form-hugging gold lamé dress as if it were dug out of a trunk from Old Hollywood.

Lewis, 43, began her career decades ago as a child actress (she was in Camp Beverly Hills, you know), so that might actually have been the case. But the creative Lewis likes to put on theatrical airs on stage as easily as she likes to shift musical moods.

And since she entered the music scene as a distinctive indie voice in the short-lived but beloved band Rilo Kiley, she’s tried spare folk, twisted gospel soul, irresistible straight ahead rock and now, occasionally, the kind of catchy club music that tends to come from dozens of newly arrived divas with single names.

But mostly there is that voice—so pure and so very well amplified and carried through the hall. Those who’ve complained about Anthem acoustics must not have heard this show—one of the most beautifully balanced I’ve heard in town. But her pipes were also aided by a loving crowd who remained utterly hushed as she sang, only to burst up singing along and dancing, as they were encouraged toward the end.

With a five piece band behind her all night, there were also a couple of string players on hand to begin the set with the warning siren of “Heads Gonna Roll” and “Wasted Youth”—both from her solid recent album On the Line, which should be all over the radio if radio was a thing any more.

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TVD Live Shots: dodie and Adam Melchor at the 9:30 Club, 9/6

YouTube superstar dodie, with support from newcomer Adam Melchor, thrilled a house filled with emotional young fans at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC on Friday, September 6.

England’s Dorothy “dodie” Clark, 24, began her career performing covers on piano and ukulele before moving on to write original material. Using YouTube as her platform, she’s amassed literally millions of subscribers since creating her first solo YouTube channel in 2011. Previous EPs, “Intertwined” and “You” were released in 2016 and 2017, respectively; dodie’s latest, “Human,” was released in January of this year.

It’s easy to see the appeal for the mostly (very) young, mostly female fans at the 9:30 Club. She has an accessible but somewhat ethereal stage presence, her entrance onto the stage punctuated by white lights that made her appear as if she were an otherworldly figure plopped down from the sky, yet she dressed casually and wore no shoes. Her soft voice, often drowned out by the sound of the crowd singing along with her, carries songs with relatable themes.

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TVD Live: Vampire Weekend at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 8/30

PHOTOS: JORDAN GROBE | It wasn’t quite Labor Day Weekend, but it was Vampire Weekend.

The New York band was playing its first show at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD, in nine years, as frontman Ezra Koenig recalled, and it was quite a different configuration. Multi instrumentalist and cofounder Rostam Batmanjlij split the group in 2016 following its last album, and in a seeming credit to him, had to be replaced by four musicians on stage: Garrett Ray, Will Canzoneri, Greta Morgan, and Brian Robert Jones.

It was Jones trading guitar noodles that led to a big, sprawling “Sunflower” that opened the show — so big that you might think the brainy pop group had turned into a jam band. It was the first of 11 songs from the band’s latest album, Father of the Bride which got a heavy push in the generous 28-song show. They all seemed well received (except perhaps the slowest ones) but there was a nostalgic undercurrent animating fans who cheered best their earlier songs — “A-Punk” and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” from their 2008 eponymous debut; “Horchata” and “Cousins” from the 2010 follow-up Contra; and the songs with women’s names from 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City, “Diane Young” and “Hannah Hunt.”

Koenig said something about having more voices on the new album, but it’s more obvious than ever in a live setting that he is the band’s center. Morgan came down from her guitar and keyboard perch to sing a verse of just one song all night. There was surprising little vocal support from the others onstage; the big choral moments were provided via sample. More collaborative was the guitar work of Jones, who in his shorts and big Afro resembled Reggie Watts on stage, eking out electronic tones from his treated guitar.

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TVD Live Shots: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Stonefield, and ORB at the 9:30 Club, 8/31

On Saturday, August 31, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, with support from fellow Australians Stonefield and ORB, made a stop at Washington DC’s 9:30 Club, playing for an absolutely stoked, sold out crowd.

The Melbourne, Australia septet is known widely for their incredible live shows. Indeed, at the 9:30 Club, they gave a focused, mature, and skilled performance, with a setlist spanning over twenty songs. The crowd, in contrast, lost its collective mind. In the photo pit, the photographers weaved around each other while also dodging club security as crowd surfers—including one dude in a Teletubby costume, the purple one—made their way over the barrier. From the balcony, the tightly packed crowd could be seen transforming most of the club’s floor into a giant mosh pit. It was barely controlled, joyful chaos.

King Gizzard are out making the rounds in support of its fifteenth studio album, Infest The Rats’ Nest, a thrash metal entry into the band’s genre-bending catalog. This just months after the release of the blues-rock Fishing for Fishies. It’s worth noting that, in 2017, the band released a total of five albums, demonstrating a productivity that warms the cockles of my Buckethead-loving heart.

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TVD Live Shots: WHY? and Barrie at U Street Music Hall, 8/25

On Sunday, August 25, WHY?, with support from Barrie, brought their headlining tour to Washington, DC’s U Street Music Hall, playing for the crowd gathered in the underground club’s intimate venue in support of the band’s new visual album AOKOHIO. The youthful audience was subdued but engaged and enthusiastic during the set, which was delivered with a dose of good humor.

WHY? is led by Yoni Wolf and was founded in 2004 by the Cincinnati, Ohio- based rapper and singer, who had been using WHY? as his stage name since 1997. AOKHIO is the band’s sixth album, presented as six movements constructed of two to four songs each. Struggling with the notion of releasing an album in the usual sense, one made up of a dozen songs and released at once, Wolf approached AOKOHIO with a different mindset. He completed one movement before moving on to the next, releasing the individual movements digitally for his fans. Wolf has described the whole process as taking five years. The concept is underscored with the release of an accompanying visual album, which features, in part, home movies from Wolf’s Ohio childhood.

At U Hall, the set list featured some of these new songs, but also some that were clearly old favorites, with fans rapping along right with Wolf. WHY? appeared to transfer the movement approach to their performance, playing three or so songs, some very short, before breaking to chat and joke with the audience, even answering questions from the crowd. With this unique approach and songs that examine one’s sense of self and place, WHY? gave an interesting and introspective performance.

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TVD Live Shots: Smashing Pumpkins, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, and AFI
at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 8/17

Smashing Pumpkins singer, Billy Corgan fell ill right before the band’s performance at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday night. Luckily for those in attendance world-famous vampire, Nosferatu was on site to fill in for the ailing singer. If not for his long fingers, sharp teeth, and creamy pale skin, the vampire would’ve been an odd stand-in for Corgan, but things seemed to work out just fine as the crowd were none the wiser to have the doppelgänger center stage.

Buffoonery aside, it was 9:25 when the Smashing Pumpkins took the pavilion stage in the woodlands of Columbia, Maryland. Billy Corgan—the real Billy Corgan—and his re-united Pumpkins, (James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlin) must have been eager to play because I can’t recall any artist at the pavilion appearing on stage even one minute early for their set.

Prior to the Pumpkins taking their places on stage, the atmosphere had been set with dramatic stage props put in place; three striking Matryoshka dolls that stretched to the upper ceiling lights of the pavilion.

Reunited with guitar player extraordinaire Iha and drummer Chamberlin for this tour, the band is almost completely reformed. The only missing element is D’arcy Wretzky. the founding bass player, whose relationship with Corgan has been one of a “he-said, she-said” for as long as I can recall.

Opening their set with “Today” from 1993’s Siamese Dream, The Smashing Pumpkins played roughly a 90-minute set that spanned their catalog and of course showcased their many hits—”Solara” and “Zero,” with a sullen version of “Disarm” following. Later the classics “Ava Adore,” “1979,” “Tonight, Tonight” and “Cherub Rock.”

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TVD Live Shots:
Bryan Ferry and
Femme Schmidt at
the Anthem, 8/13

Bryan Ferry’s North American Tour landed at DC’s premier waterfront venue, The Anthem last week for what turned out to be a stunning performance from the prolific songwriter behind Roxy Music. 

After being inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame with his much adored band in December of 2018, it’s no wonder that Bryan Ferry is on tour. This run of shows is being billed as Ferry “performing songs from Avalon, his solo work, and Roxy Music” and the tour definitely leans heavily on Ferry’s Roxy days, except for his unique covers of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” (from Ferry’s 2007 release Dylanesque) and “Let’s Stick Together,” from 1976’s release of the same name, as the final song of the evening.

Ferry’s setlist did include the mega-hits: “The Space Between,” “Don’t Stop the Dance,” “Love is the Drug,” “More Than This,” and of course, “Avalon.” His performance was stellar—as to be expected—but for this show his band sounded particularly good. In fact, the best I’ve ever heard them. The bass was crisp and the melodies shined the way they do on the recordings. The sound engineer deserves kudos for balancing volume and tone and The Anthem’s acoustics shined brightly as well.

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TVD Live Shots: Aerosmith at MGM National Harbor, 8/10

TOP TWO IMAGES: ZACK WHITFORDAerosmith, the bad boys from Boston, brought their “Deuces are Wild” Las Vegas residency show to the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland for three dates which concluded this past Tuesday.

Named after the track originally recorded for their 1989 album Pump, and not released until 1994 for The Beavis and Butt-Head Experience, the “Deuces” run includes 35 shows spread out among the MGM National Harbor in Maryland, the Borgata in Atlantic City, the MGM Springfield in Massachusetts, and finally the Park Theater in Las Vegas beginning in late September.

It’s hard to pigeonhole a band like Aerosmith. Not only has the band been a major player in the rock music scene from their inception in 1970, they practically define the genre for those of us who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s. The band up and ran with the baton passed from mega-rock predecessors like Led Zeppelin, the New York Dolls, and the Rolling Stones, and they’ve done a hell of a job reaching new audiences and a new crop of fans. Their music has definitely inspired generations, and icon status fits the band quite well.

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TVD Live Shots: Reignwolf and
JJ Wilde at U Street Music Hall, 8/10

On Saturday, August 10, Reignwolf, with support from JJ Wilde, brought their headlining tour to an intimate crowd at Washington DC’s U Street Music Hall in support of the band’s new album Hear Me Out. Stirring up fans with their charisma and blistering fuzzy blues rock, they tore through the roughly hour-long set of new songs and old favorites, leaving fans and themselves worn out and sweaty.

Reignwolf (songwriter/singer/guitarist Jordan Cook, bassist S.J. Kardash, and drummer Joseph Braley) released Hear Me Out, the band’s first LP, in March. Prior to this, Reignwolf had only released a handful of singles over seven years, developing an enthusiastic following while maintaining an air of mystery among fans.

This mysterious air was underscored in the darkened, underground room at U Street Music Hall. The band played shrouded in smoke and back-lit by bright white lights, allowing those in attendance to see Cook and Karsdash in silhouette, and Braley not at all. No matter, as songs like the ferocious “Wanna Don’t Wanna” and Gary Clark Jr-ish “Black and Red” were loud and energetic as the blazing fires of Hell. During those moments when Cook emerged from the smoke and could be seen, he revealed a look that calls to mind 1970s Bruce Springsteen or even a black leather-clad Cat Stevens, while the band’s sound could be compared to Jack White, the aforementioned Gary Clark Jr, or the barely contained insanity of Black Pistol Fire.

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TVD Live Shots:
The DC Record Fair at
the Eaton DC, 6/30

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | After a decade in regular rotation, the enthusiasm for the DC Record Fair appears to not be waning one bit as its Summer 2019 edition exhibited. At a brand new location, the Eaton Workshop in downtown Washington, DC, a line formed early on Sunday on June 30 and kept apace all day long. Perhaps it was the free entry? Who knows.

What we do know is that TVD’s ace photographer Richie Downs spent some time documenting the fair for us before we went on our annual summer (sanity) break. Click through for his coverage.

And watch this space for an announcement of perhaps a Autumn event as there’s plenty spinning around the fair at the moment.

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