Author Archives: Erica Bruce

TVD Live Shots: Poguetry: The Songs
of the Pogues at the Black Cat, 3/7

For a few years there, the Pogues coming through DC around St. Patrick’s Day was as common as The Dubliner being at max capacity on the day when everyone wears green. DC got to celebrate a little early this year when Pogues tin whistle player Spider Stacy and bassist Cáit O’Riordan, backed by the Grammy-winning Cajun band, Lost Bayou Ramblers, brought “Poguetry: Songs of the Pogues” to the Black Cat last Saturday. “I fucking love being in DC,” said Stacy at one point.

The pairing of Irish folk-punk music and Cajun may sound like an odd couple initially, but the two are incredibly similar with use of fiddles, squeeze boxes, marching pattern time signatures, and so on. The Pogues song “White City” showcased this dichotomy really well, with the Cajun style as the backbeat, and the Irish trad serving the tempo and flavor. It was also interesting to hear Pogues lyrics in Cajun French as in “Dirty Old Town,” which was sung by the Ramblers singer/fiddle player Louis Michot.

Stacy, a Louisiana resident since 2010, almost seems to be leading a charge in merging both genres, much like the Pogues did with Irish folk and punk.He and the band tossed around lots of Cajun French phrases between songs, and he played tin whistle, both Saturday and on the recording of the Ramblers’ “Si J’aurais Des Ailes.” Rumor also has it that they may be doing a record together soon.

Roots embracing wasn’t just on a musical level, but a fun fashion one as well. Stacy, O’Riordan, and Michot were all wearing different colored jumpsuits, and when I inquired if there was a significance about them, Michot explained that there is a whole history with older Louisiana men and jumpsuits. “We like, them,” he said. “Lots of older men in Louisiana like my grandfather, they had them for different occasions.” For those of you seeing the next batch of shows, you may see the whole band wearing them soon.

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TVD Live Shots: Johnny Marr at the Fillmore Silver Spring, 10/17

It must be difficult to have been in a legendary band and then try to live up to expectations when you are a solo artist, especially if you are a musician who routinely tries new things. Do you play the old stuff to keep the old fans around, or do you reject it so that your solo career is judged on its own? Johnny Marr, who played the Fillmore Silver Spring on Wednesday, seems to be one person who is successfully marrying not just those two sides of his career, but also the then and the now of his sound.

I noticed this merge specifically that night with his driving version of “Easy Money,” which had Marr’s earworm guitar riffs atop the rocking dance beat. When Marr’s old band, The Smiths, broke up, he went and played as a hired hand in a variety of other rock bands like The Pretenders and The Cribs. He then teamed up with Bernard Sumner in the ‘90s to form Electronic, whose sound had more of a focus on dance music, like Sumner’s New Order.

When he started making solo records, sometimes there were rock songs with a danceable beat, other times just straight-ahead rock songs, but always the guitar took center stage. As if to showcase the obvious, “Easy Money” was played last night in between the Electronic song “Get the Message” and the train-going-full-speed “Boys Get Straight.” It was an intoxicating combination for sure. (“You’d better be texting the words ‘That was fucking badass’ because it was,” joked Marr to the crowd.)

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TVD Live Shots: Graham Coxon at the Rock and Roll Hotel, 9/23

Graham Coxon, Blur’s guitarist, stopped by the Rock and Roll Hotel on Sunday, halfway through his first ever North American tour as a solo artist. It was a little surreal to see one of the greatest guitarists of all time playing in a place so small, but it was probably better that way for both the audience and for Coxon. The audience, because you were essentially hanging out in a space the size of a living room with a legend, and for Coxon, a smaller room means a small audience staring at you.

Notoriously shy and introverted, Coxon is the quintessential guitarist in a band who prefers to let someone else be in front, the kind who is only truly comfortable when he’s playing guitar. And he makes it so endearing, and well…real. As a solo artist though, that makes things a little difficult, which he admitted. “You lock yourself away with bloody guitars or painting and you get good at it. And maybe you’re not sociable to begin with. And then you’re expected to go out and talk to people,” he quipped. He also admitted he couldn’t talk and tune at the same time, which led to a fair amount of silence between songs. But it was kind of charming to see, like watching a mad scientist so focused on his work…

Coxon wrote a few songs for Blur but his solo work began when a neighbor asked him to write songs for a movie that was never made. Eight solo records later, his latest output is the soundtrack from the Netflix series, The End Of The F***ing World. A majority of this tour’s setlist pulls from that (“There’s Something in the Way that You Cry” and “Roaming Star” are heart stoppingly beautiful live), and per audience request, Coxon did a little of TEoTFW’s “Bus Stop” (“It’s better with drums. My friends are too expensive now (to tour with a band),” he joked.

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TVD Live: Shaky Knees Music Festival, 5/4–5/6

With all of the schizophrenic weather in Washington, DC the last few weeks, three days in Atlanta, GA was just the ticket. Add the great music festival Shaky Knees, and it was a can’t miss.

Shaky Knees is a nomad, never in the same location, and this year Central Park in the Old Fourth Ward was its home. Here’s what we saw this year at Shaky Knees 2018.

FRIDAY, May 4 | Best way to start off a festival: Courtney Barnett
The first day was kicked off with the guitar queen stylings of Courtney Barnett. I knew her name but not her music, and boy was she impressive. Barnett has a Joan Jett voice, so while her songs could fall into the “urban folk” column like one of her influences, another Aussie named Darren Hanlon, Barnett’s songs came with a swagger all their own.

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TVD Live Shots:
Queens of the Stone
Age and Royal Blood
at The Anthem, 10/20

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | Not everyone can play so loud that they shake the windows in a 6,000 person venue, but then most everyone isn’t Queens of the Stone Age. It’s really good that DC’s newest venue, The Anthem, is built like a brick house because between the sonic boom of the Foo Fighters, who opened the place with a sold out show on the 12th, and then QOTSA who sold out last Thursday, any structure less secure would have toppled by now.

QOSTA, out supporting Villians, their first record in four years, haven’t hit DC much, so Loud with a capital L didn’t come just from the stage, it was also from the crowd. This was never more apparent than when QOTSA lead singer/guitarist Josh Homme sauntered and sashayed to the stage which created a deafening noise. The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn often locked in to his audience in record time when playing the 9:30 Club, but this audience with Homme was there even before the band hit the stage. It was electric.

When you’re rocking people’s faces off, playing a two-hour set is not an easy task, and we’ll admit there were a few lulls towards the middle of the set, like with “Make It Wit Chu.” I mean was it sexy? Sure, Homme could sing the phone book and it would be sexy. But it just seemed to drop the set between the funk-tastic “Smooth Sailing” and Bowie-like killer hooks that make up “Domesticated Animals.” But perhaps a rest is necessary when you start a set as strong “If I Had a Tail,” “Monsters in the Parasol,” and “My God Is the Sun” beforehand.

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TVD Live: Bush and The Kickback at Power Plant Live!, 6/10

Bush seems to really love winding up tour segments in Baltimore. Last August, they ended the US tour behind their sixth studio record, Man on the Run, at their Pier 6 Pavilion show. This past Saturday, the band and openers The Kickback, rocked a near sold-out Power Plant Live! show before being off tour for a couple of weeks. Maybe it’s the grittiness of Baltimore, maybe it’s a love of the blue crabs, but based on Saturday’s show, it’s obvious Bush loves Baltimore as much as Baltimore loves them.

Out supporting their March release, Black and White Rainbows, Bush played with the polish of a seasoned band and with the enthusiasm of a seasoned band who still loves to tear the roof off places. While last year’s show was loose, this year’s was way more wild and wooly. Last year, the photographers were told to “not shoot in front of Gavin”—this year, there were no restrictions. And, apart from Rossdale running through the aisles during “Little Things” last year, no one left the stage.

This wasn’t the case on Saturday, where Rossdale, bassist Corey Britz, and lead guitarist Chris Traynor, all utilized boxes arranged in the photo pit to stand on at various times during the show. Rossdale came down to sing along the barricade often, even leaning over and pushing his white Fender guitar into the crowd so audience members could strum. (To say the female patrons in that first row weren’t thrilled to be leaned on by him is an understatement.) The band played off, and to, each other onstage, and looked like the audience’s energy was only making them stronger as the night went on.

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TVD Live: Midnight Oil
at the Fillmore Silver
Spring, 5/9

I had an odd thought as I watched Midnight Oil at the Fillmore Silver Spring last Tuesday—how many Americans in the sold-out crowd first discovered the band because of MTV back in the mid-to-late ’80s?

They weren’t a radio staple, with their songs about the plight of indigenous Australian populations and desecration of the environment, even if their post-punk music was incredibly catchy. And they weren’t video-pinups like their Aussie brethren INXS. While INXS frontman Michael Hutchence set fire to hearts and crotches of men and women alike as he slithered around the screen, Oils frontman Peter Garrett was about setting fire to brains, damn near reaching out of the screen to shake your moral conscience awake.

Midnight Oil stopped as a band in the early 2000s because Garrett ran for political office and wound up serving three terms in Australian federal politics. But, in an effort to sound an alarm in this current political climate, Garret said on Tuesday, “It was time for us to come and play for you again.” The Oil’s performance was stocked with as much power and passion as it had 30 years ago, complete with vocal commentary on Trump (or “The Dumpster,” as Garret called him), and politics in general.

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TVD Live Shots: Bush at Pier 6 Pavilion, 8/14

“I’ve been a lot of places, but this is a lovely place to end a tour,” said Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale on Sunday night at the Pier 6 Pavilion in Baltimore. And wind up the last leg of the US tour behind Man on the Run they did, with one hell of a show. In spite of the stifling humidity, and the torrential downpour/ thunder/ lightning that cut short the set of opening band Chevelle, Rossdale and the band showcased why they’re still playing shows—their live show is full-on power, a throat punch, a kick to the teeth.

This was no 1990s-era band phoning it in for the payout, delivering just the hits. Well, it was, perhaps, in theory—they played only one song from Man on the Run, “The Only Way Out,” which is unusual for a tour promoting a record—while the rest of the set was from the hitmaking records like 16 Stone, Razorblade Suitcase, and The Science of Things. But bands phoning it in don’t usually work this hard, so much that the frontman breaks a string from playing so heavy on the first song (“Everything Zen”), and the whole band is 10 pounds thinner from energetic sweat by the end of the show.

How tight this band is as a whole needs to be acknowledged—they could start and stop on a dime collectively. Chris Traynor on lead guitar plays the meanest slide and Corey Britz isn’t the usual bassist who just stands there, Entwhistle-style. Original Bush drummer Robin Goodridge still pounds the bejebus outta the skins. And Rossdale never stops moving, who, at one point, singing “Little Things,” was running full-tilt through all the Pier 6-aisles and fan-filled rows. A testament to cardio routines, the man should market his and sell it.

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TVD Live Shots: Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band at the Warner Theatre, 6/17

While Ringo Starr’s post-Beatles career hasn’t generated the output of Lennon, McCartney, or Harrison, Starr has played with a wider variety of musicians than the other 3 via the many incarnations of his All Starr Band, the latest of which stopped by the Warner Theatre on Friday.

The band, where “everybody on stage is a star in their own right,” currently includes representation from Toto, Mister Mister, Santana, and Utopia, among others. Playing for just under two hours, the set list was filled with Starr’s solo songs, some Beatles songs, influential favorites, and those made famous by the musicians playing with Starr. Was it a little odd to see Starr drumming on songs like Toto’s “Africa” or Mister Mister’s “Broken Wings”? A little, to be honest. But it also showcased his versatility as a performer.

A highlight of the evening was hearing Beatles songs live that aren’t usually played elsewhere. “When I first joined the Beatles, I wrote many songs,” said Starr at one point. “Most were never recorded.” The ones that he did manage to get through, including “Don’t Pass Me By,” “Yellow Submarine,” and the show’s closer, “With a Little Help from My Friends,” were all played, the latter two whipping the audience into a massive sing-along. “In all honesty, you’re the best audience we’ve had all night,” quipped Starr.

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TVD Live Shots:
Dolly Parton at
Wolf Trap, 6/8

“Not sure who is going to wind up in the White House. I was thinking about running. I got the hair and we need more boobs in the race,” joked Dolly Parton on Wednesday to a sold out crowd at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center. Touring behind a new record Pure and Simple, out this summer, the show highlighted the pure talent of Parton against a simple stage setup, letting Parton in her rhinestone-studded outfits and talents be the visual on which the audience focused (“I never leave a rhinestone unturned,” she quipped).

The show was equal parts hoedown, comedy routine, church session, and fireside chat, with the show broken into two one-hour sets. In the first hour, Parton talked a lot about her family and the set list concentrated on traditional Americana songs, some from her new record and a couple of her early hits (“Jolene,” “Coat of Many Colors”).

One very cool part of this set was to see the variety of instruments Parton could play: guitar, banjo, harmonica, saxophone, dulcimer, and tin whistle. Her band joined in the harmonies and an upright bass when she sang a medley of 1960s protest songs—”American Pie,” “If I Had a Hammer,” “Blowing in the Wind,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”—which she coined “a little piece of Americana” to round out the first half of the show.

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TVD Live: Shaky Knees Festival 2016, 5/13–5/15

Last weekend, we headed South to Atlanta for some sun and the 2016 edition of the Shaky Knees Music Festival. The festival, which ran for three days, was jam-packed with talent. This is the best of what we saw.

DAY ONE | Friday was a solid array of awesome.

“I hope today is the start of the best day of your life,” said Beach Slang lead singer James Alex as they kicked off the festival on the Piedmont stage. In spite of those recent break up rumors, the band seemed happy and raring to go. Their audience was young, and maybe had never heard of The Replacements, but with the band’s big guitar hooks and songs, it’s obvious the band loves them, right down to their shared ethos.

“We’re such a fucking mess but that’s part of our charm,” said Alex. And, much like Replacements lead singer Paul Westerberg, a whole article could be written using Alex’s stage quips alone; stand-outs included “I suppose we are forever the sloppy punks invited to the sweet party,” and “I usually wind up with my pants off and my belt as a headband, but we’ve only got 30 minutes.” This millennial version of the Replacements needs to stay around, so keep those fingers crossed those breakup rumors were only rumors.

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TVD Live Shots: Rush at Jiffy Lube Live, 5/30

Rush is a band you either like or dislike; rarely is there any grey area. But having caught their Saturday show at Jiffy Lube Live on the 40th anniversary tour, rumored to be their last, it was obvious why so many are so rabid about the band, and that age is nothing but a number.

The band, now in their early 60s, played for 3.5 hours (and that did not include the 20 min intermission), working their way backwards through their storied 20-record discography, playing a few songs from each. To the delight of many, the audience was even treated to a song Rush had never played live before, “Jacobs Ladder” off of 1980’s Permanent Waves. Said frontman Geddy Lee, “In the spirit of moving backwards, we’re going to stay with this record for one more. It’s a song we rarely play. In fact, I don’t think we ever have.”

The other fascinating part of it all was watching these three guys just, well, play. The running comment about Rush for years was how their incredibly elaborate sound was created by just three members. And it just remains the three members. Unlike many bands who need additional players to play their studio music live, Rush still retains the incredible talent and dexterity to do it all themselves. It’s stunning how singer/bassist Geddy Lee remembers all of his bass parts AS WELL AS all of the the words to so many songs without faltering, given how elaborate Rush lyrics are known to be (take a read of “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” or “Xanadu” sometime, for an example).

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TVD Live Shots: Old 97s at the 9:30 Club, 10/26

The Old 97s, touring behind the 15th anniversary of their stellar Too Far To Care record, hit a sold out 9:30 Club last week, and it was tough to know who was showing more enthusiasm, the band for playing the 9:30 Club, or the audience for being there to hear them play.

Too Far To Care is one of those records that steals your heart while kicking your ass and your eardrums in the space of 13 songs. From Ken Bethea’s wicked guitar riff on track 1, “Timebomb,” to Phillip Peebles’ tribal drumming in back of the Rhett Miller/Exene Cervenka (X) “Four Leaf Clover” that ends the record, Too Far to Care shows off the band’s musical chops and influences that flow under lead singer Rhett Miller’s vocals and lyrical word play.

And as the band was playing it from start to finish, from the volume of the audience sing alongs to the choruses in “Barrier Reef” and “Wt. TX Teardrops,” you’d think it was the audience.

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TVD Live: Nada Surf
at the 9:30 Club, 4/10

There’s something so oddly comforting about Nada Surf. Like that cool friend you have, the one you often stay up all night with talking, spinning records, and drinking whiskey, the records that the Surf has put out over their 20-year tenure are solid, engaging, and always have you coming back for more.

The band came to the 9:30 Club on Tuesday in support of their latest release, The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy, this time with two extra members in tow, guitarist Doug Gillard (Guided by Voices) and instrumentalist Martin Wenk (Calexico), which filled out the live sound quite nicely.

Lead singer/guitarist Matthew Caws has that effortless voice, one that beckons the heart, and writes lyrics that appeal to the brain, while bassist Daniel Lorca and drummer Ira Elliot put forth a backbeat underneath it all. Together, its a package that creates emotional songs that rock your face off.

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TVD’s Best of SXSW 2012 in Photos: Friday, Saturday, Sunday
(Part 2 of 2)

By Friday of South-by-Southwest, the bone-tiredness is starting to set in. You’ve been living on beer and food-truck tacos and BBQ (usually) because there is never time to have a sit-down meal (and the food truck tacos and BBQ are tremendous). The street crowd of on-lookers and weekend attendees has swelled. You’re running on maybe 16 hours of sleep since Tuesday. But there’s so much to see and hear yet! So what was the best of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday this year?

FRIDAY | Friday was kicked off in one of the best ways possible with an excellent breakfast taco and the lovely songs of Eric Bachmann and the full band version of Crooked Fingers at the Paste day party.

“Sleep All Summer,” from the band’s Reservoir Songs Dignity and Shame may be a sad song lyrically, but live, it is a stunner. Tracks played from the latest record, Breaks in the Armour, are so good.

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