Category Archives: TVD Washington, DC

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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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: David Rawlings at the Lincoln Theatre, 12/6

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | David Rawlings and his band takes to the empty stage as they would if they were around during the end of the Industrial Revolution 150 years ago or more. At the Lincoln Theatre in Washington last Wednesday, with two guys in big hats and two women in long cotton dresses, they rather resembled a rural string band that could have assembled on anybody’s porch a century ago or more, picking out music, interlocking rhythms, and singing harmonies about many of the same kinds of concerns. Americana indeed.

Rawlings may first have come to notice as the backing guitarist for his partner Gillian Welch, who, happily, is also part of the his band. But here, the smiling, good-natured Rawlings is front and center. His voice is OK at best; his songs often simple constructions. What jumps out, and what brings the audience, are his guitar solos.

He had a few guitars on hand, but mostly used one mighty mahogany 1935 Epiphone Olympic, with a sprucewood arched top. It seemed a tiny instrument – less than 14 inches wide — for all he brought out of it. With a tone midway between the high, bright sound of a mandolin and the deeper tones of a more conventional guitar, he flatpicks his way into a superhighway of inventive melody with one turn inspiring the next, faster and faster, but never losing its soul or appeal.

Applause greeted nearly every solo and the rest of the band rose to join his musicality. Guitarist Willie Watson, formerly of the Old Crow Medicine Show actually has a better voice (but is self-effacingly ineffective on bongos the one time he tried). Fiddler Brittany Haas of Boston bluegrass band Crooked Still who is often heard on Prairie Home Companion, often sounds, like Rawlings, as if she’s playing more than one instrument, the approach is so full and musical. Welch, of course, keeps the rhythm locked down on acoustic guitar and bolsters the harmonies throughout. And a couple of times, thankfully, was featured on some of her own songs, from “Wayside/Back in Time” to “Look at Miss Ohio.”

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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: Joe Henry at Jammin’ Java, 12/5

A saving grace of not exactly being a household name is the ability of fans to hear the music of someone like Joe Henry in such an intimate setting as Jammin’ Java, a strip mall oasis in a Virginia suburb outside of DC.

A hushed crowd of 100 or so is perfectly suited to the nuanced chamber-folk with a jazz flourish that Henry produces with his fine LA band. Henry’s deep voice matches his brainy songs that often march to deliberate beats. Still quite youthful at 57, he began the show Tuesday solo, deconstructing one of his most enduring, enigmatic tunes, “Trampoline.”

Then he was joined by his longtime band that includes Patrick Warren on keyboards, David Pilch on bass, the inventive Jay Bellerose on drums and percussion, and Henry’s son Levon on tenor saxophone and alto clarinet – an expressive instrument that snaked its way into a lot of songs, providing the perfect mournful undertone.

Another Henry who wasn’t a relation — jazz saxophonist Vincent Henry — sat in for a few songs and he and the younger horn man seemed to have a good time playing off of one another. It was a trip to watch Bellerose work — for some songs he’d have both sticks in one hand handling the set, while the other was reserved for tambourine. He knew when to build and when to hang back. There was nothing standard about his approach.

Henry said he was reluctant to use a gig as a way to promote new product — “and yet,” he added, before going into the first of what would be nine of the 11 cuts from Thrum, his 14th solo album, released in late October.

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TVD Live Shots: Descendents at Rams Head Live, 12/1

For a band whose mantra contains the phrase “couldn’t sell out a telephone booth,” Descendents, the long running California-based foursome, have been dishing out clever, slacker satire for years, clearly underestimating just how deep their influence runs and how un-nerdy they really may be. Last Friday night, the enthusiastic crowd at Rams Head Live in Baltimore got a chance to witness this for themselves—and to pay their respects to a band who deserves more than their share.

When it comes to melodic punk, the Descendents are practically the forefathers of the genre, particularly for emo-core. In fact, I’d argue that the band inspired that label altogether. Mixing classic hardcore sounds with singer Milo Aukerman’s metallic vocal sensibilities and often fast paced lyrics, the band rose to prominence in the California punk scene after their formation in the late 1970s. Stylistically, the Descendents have been tagged with many labels from pop-punk, skate-punk, power-pop, and emotional-hardcore. The band’s upbeat tempos are regularly infused with melodic bass lines and harmonic guitar breaks. Toss in a scoop of well sung melodies—usually with lyrics about coffee, flatulence, defecation, and sometimes just about a girl—what you get is a mix of relatable, fun, and heartbreaking songs.

Since the glory days of post-hardcore, the Descendents’ style has become wildly pervasive. Along with Dag Nasty, Buzzcocks, and The Queers, the Descendents’ sound has directly influenced Nirvana and Green Day, and their influence lingers on The Offspring, Pennywise,  NOFX, Good Charlotte, Taking Back Sunday, and the abominable Blink 182. The 2013 documentary, Filmage is a worthwhile look at the band’s history and features interviews with members of Black Flag, Fugazi, and Minutemen. There’s also a Descendents brand IPA, “Feel This Coffee,” from Mikkeller Brewery. The beverage is named after a track from their latest album and another Descendents mantra—their love of coffee.

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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: Morrissey at The Anthem, 11/30

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | It wasn’t until the encore that fans finally tried to get on stage and embrace their hero Morrissey at The Anthem in DC.

There was no way they were going to threaten missing the rest of the show by trying it earlier. One accomplished a full hug; another was stopped before approaching. The star didn’t mind the adulation. Because he’s canceled so many planned shows in town over the years, it seemed a gift that Morrissey finally appeared at all last Thursday.

In a solid show at the big new venue in the District, the former Smiths frontman was in fine voice, shuffling up a setlist that he had been using on recent dates that emphasized his just released Low in High School but sprinkled with songs from throughout his career, including even inspirations, from Elvis Presley, whose obscure “It’s Now or Never”-like cha-cha, “You’ll Be Gone” opened the show, to the Pretenders, whose sturdy “Back on the Chain Gang” was warmly received with a sing-along.

That he hadn’t abandoned the Smiths entirely was a good thing, revving up the show cleverly with “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish” and holding in reserve the sure power of “How Soon is Now?” until mid-set. By the time he ended his final encore of “Shoplifters of the World Unite,” he had doffed the buttoned jacket he had all evening, undone his white shirt and threw it into the audience, baring his 58-year-old chest. He had shown good restraint in keeping it all on until then. Beneath a picture of Morrissey coddling a colicky Trump-faced baby, he changed the chorus to “Trump-shifters of the world unite,” just a mile from the White House.

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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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TVD Live: Tony Bennett: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song Tribute at Constitution Hall, 11/15

The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song usually goes to songwriters. An exception came this year with the award to Tony Bennett, who as a singer over a seven decade career, has been a leading purveyor of the American Songbook in general and the music of George and Ira Gershwin in particular.

So a few Gershwin songs were sung back to him as he was honored on November 15 in an event at the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC for a public TV special that will air in January. Then, after giving thumbs up to the performers from his box at the side of the stage next to Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, Bennett, at 91 ran (!) on stage and blew everybody away with his still commanding jazz vocals.

The thing about these all-star salutes that seem so common, especially in DC, is that the stars who gather are rarely in the same class person being honored; in almost every case you’d rather hear the honoree than the guest star sing his signature songs. Perhaps because Bennett was honored in a network special marking his 90th birthday last year, some of that show’s star power was missing—particularly Lady Gaga, with whom he has recorded and toured.

I was half thinking Bob Dylan and his Band would show up, since he does a Bennett number, “Once Upon a Time,” in his tour, which was just in town the night before at the Anthem. Alas, he too had performed it for the 90th birthday TV special, albeit from a sound studio in Birmingham while touring the South. The tribute did have Stevie Wonder, though, which was pretty grand. Led out to stand and sing rather than sitting behind a keyboard as he usually does, Wonder sang “If I Ruled the World” and stuck around for a duet of “What a Wonderful World” with Gloria Estefan, adding some flourishes on his harmonica. Wonder’s appearance came just after another highlight, Savion Glover doing his matchless tap, first solo and then to back Vanessa Williams as she sang “Stepping Out with My Baby.”

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