Category Archives: TVD Washington, DC

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.

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TVD Live: Amadou & Mariam at the Birchmere, 6/7

PHOTO: JULIO BANDIT | One might think that the whole of the Washington, DC/ Maryland/ Virginia metro area were clad in red and glued to what would be the winning game in the Stanley Cup Finals last Thursday. But in Alexandria, a couple wore lime green tunics on stage and conjured up hypnotic, danceable music from their Mali homeland. Amadou & Mariam may have been playing to a smaller audience than usual with their band, but their energy didn’t lack in putting out their sound.

Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia met at Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind when they were still teenagers. Both had lost their sight—his at 16, her’s at 5—and were interested in music. He played some of that sparkling, intricate guitar associated with Afro-pop; she lent a smooth singing voice.

They got married in 1980 and recorded the first of their cassette albums of Malian blues in 1986. Bolstering the band with percussion, keyboards, and a bigger sound, they recorded in the world music hotbed of Paris a decade later but weren’t really discovered by a wider audience until 2004.

Since then they’ve snared a Grammy nomination and released four albums to international acclaim, the latest of which continued their observations about the world situation, La Confusion. That they sing largely in French means their message is not always direct to the English-speaking audience, but its beat and feel never fail to communicate directly.

They are a remarkable couple to witness on stage, even apart from the matching tunics. He has a reserve unusual for a guitarist of such finesse and fire; she often has a glum look when she’s not singing, bordering on scowl. So for both, they present an honest front instead of showbiz fakery. And both have cool, gold framed shades.

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TVD Live: Ry Cooder at the Birchmere, 6/4

PHOTO: JOACHIM COODER | The venerable guitarist Ry Cooder took a seat to kick off his Prodigal Son tour Monday not because he was weary at 71. No, he said. Sitting in the direct line of amps arranged in a semi-circle behind him, with a rack of nearly 10 instruments to his side, he found that it all sounded better to him that way.

And it certainly sounded great to the audience as well. For his first solo headlining appearance in the DC area in some 37 years, Cooder chose the Birchmere because he liked the place when he played there in the trio with Ricky Skaggs and Sharon White a couple of years back. And it certainly was accommodating. As the Southern-most stop on the current tour, it drew a lot of out of towers who were treated to a large helping of his new album The Prodigal Son, but also a few choice oldies from decades back.

Cooder’s slicing guitar has been part of rock history for some time now, from his signature slide in the Rolling Stones’ “Sister Morphine” to gutbucket blues in Captain Beefhearts’s Safe as Milk. His sizzling slide set the mood for more than a dozen memorable movies; he won a pair of world music Grammys even before he made Buena Vista Social Club and has lately been stewing about politics on more recent releases.

The Prodigal Son comes close to some of his earliest solo albums, when he revived the blues songs of long forgotten souls and covered Woody Guthrie. But the work of covering Blind Willie Johnson sounds convincing live, where his voice is lower and more full, matching the indelible slash of electric guitar, whether sweetened with the slide or twanging with depth.

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TVD Live: Japanese Breakfast at the 9:30 Club, 5/30

PHOTO: EBRU YILDIZ | Based in Philly, Japanese Breakfast has played more than a few gigs 140 miles to the south in DC, opening for a handful of bands before finally getting a headlining gig at the Black Cat last year. Headlining at the fabled 9:30 Club, though, was something Michelle Zauner almost refused to dream for herself.

That she not only headlined there May 30 to open the band’s current US tour, but sold it out (also selling out the first five shows on tour), meant Japanese Breakfast is becoming a main course. “I didn’t think this was really going to happen,” Zauner marveled.

Still touring off of last summer’s Soft Sounds from Another Planet, Zauner has crafted an effective set from a recent European tour that swings from her electronically-tinged dream pop to rock and back again.

Super-energetic and jumping around, the three-piece backing band that included her husband Peter Bradley on guitar, Zauner was full of exuberance even if a lot of her songs reflected a tough time in her life following deaths in her family—her mother and aunt in quick succession.

Zauner often hides any mournfulness deep within the lyrics while the music on the surface is upbeat, songs that subtly shifted from dream pop to a rockier edge to porto-dance beat (she called for the lighting of the club’s disco ball at one point).

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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: Pussy Riot at the Black Cat, 5/23

Pussy Riot always seemed the last of the fearless punk bands, a group that would thrash for what it believed in and be willing to be jailed for it, as they famously were in Russia’s capital in 2012 after a church performance. By the time they made it to the US capital Wednesday as part of its inaugural North American tour, the attitude, neon ski masks, and political fervor were all still there. But they had long since given up guitars.

By now, Pussy Riot is animated by electrobeat dance music. In their succinct performance at the Black Cat, as a masked DJ kept the beats (and a crucial slide show) going from a laptop, one member chanted, sung or rapped to a dozen songs, accompanied at times by two flanking (and also ski-masked) colleagues.

Once, Pussy Riot declared they’d never be part of the Western style music business, preferring to throw surprise actions at unconventional sites like the one that got them rounded up by Putin. But here was a largely conventional setting with $30 tickets sold at the door—and a large crowd willing to pay it if only to provide support to their political and deeply feminist mission.

The set began with a 25-point manifesto, displayed on a large screen and read in a robotic voice (in English). Its declarations, from “82% of all wealth generated in the past year went to the top 1%” to “The super-rich enjoy undue influence,” was not exactly news to the Washington crowd as it stood mostly and followed attentively along, rather than cheering as would occur at a rally.

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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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