Author Archives: Leah Henry

TVD Live: Alice Smith
at The Hamilton, 11/8

The Hamilton, as a venue, pairs the gorgeous banker-style dark wood, upscale allure of old-timey bars with the cool downstairs lounge adult-listening-room-style performance space. 

Alice Smith, with a full band (guitar, bass, drums), glides on stage in tight black, lace-racing-striped pants, ruffly top and heels—fashioned like a trim, sexy, European. She launches directly into “Won’t Break,” warming up, breaking it down, provides the appropriate amount of banter, and with a full-smile, gives “thank-yous” to her home town.

She is charming as fuck.

As I sat there last Thursday, tallying my Alice Smith performance experiences, bringing this to—I am happily losing count—eight or nine, I realized that my excitement is unwaning despite her lack of record releases. In Alice Smith Revisited I gushed, and for those of you who have not been witness to her live performances, you will have more opportunities, as she’s promised an album, titled She, February 2013, fueled exclusively by money raised at Kickstarter. Her current tease is a single titled “Cabaret.”

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TVD Ticket Giveaway: Band of Skulls at 9:30 Club, 3/24 (Sold out!)

This Saturday, March 24th, 2012, the 9:30 Club brings Band of Skulls and We Are Augustines.

Band of Skulls released Sweet Sour last month after their debut album, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, in 2009. When Band of Skulls aren’t opening for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Muse, or The Dead Weather, they play SOLD-OUT shows, and we have your chance to get in for free to their sold-out show this Saturday!

The blues-influenced Southampton rock of BoS will be supported by the strife-ridden indie rock of We Are Augustines, who independently released their debut album, Rise Ye Sunken Ships, in 2011.

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TVD Live: Kathleen Edwards with Hannah Georgas at 9:30 Club, 2/3

Following a short intermission Friday night at the 9:30 Club, a smiling Kathleen Edwards opened with “Empty Threat,” the first song on her new album Voyageur. With a folk-charged chorus like “I’m moving to America,” how could she not win the affections of this crowd? I hear a male voice beside me sigh “wow” as she finishes the first song, her voice sounding just as beautiful and unique as I remembered.

As I strike up conversation with said gentleman beside me about folk music, why someone brings a notepad to a show, and how he’s been a fan for years, we smile and brace ourselves for the set to come. Edwards and the band begin with one of my favorites off of the new album, the second track “Chameleon/Comedian,” following the first, as if she’ll play all of Voyageur tonight.

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TVD Ticket Giveaway: Kathleen Edwards at
the 9:30 Club, 2/3

Kathleen Edwards’ revealing and inventive album VOYAGEUR was just released January 17th, and we’ve got a pair of tickets to give away for Friday night’s show at 9:30 Club!

I’ve always enjoyed her honest, emotional, and angst-filled songs best, such as “Cheapest Key,” from Asking for Flowers. If you haven’t heard her latest album, VOYAGEUR, produced by Bon Iver front man Justin Vernon (Edwards’ current love interest), it addresses Edwards’ recent romantic transition, ending her marriage with her producer Colin Cripps, and leading into the next exciting chapter.

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TVD Live: Jesse Sykes
& The Sweet Hereafter and The Sadies at
IOTA, 11/17

After struggling through soundcheck Jesse Sykes apologized to the early arrivals at IOTA, calling the soundcheck “demoralizing,” and allowing her drummer a chance to check his mics and exit.

Moments later, Jesse Sykes (Lead Vocals and Guitar), Phil Wandscher (Guitar), Bill Herzog (Bass), Eric Eagle (Drums) stepped on stage and into an entirely musical introduction, 100 percent psychedelic rock/folk, stoner, garage, heavy guitar, blissful. After they grew better acquainted with the stage Wandscher asked, ” Can we dim those lights, I feel like I’m tripping acid?” The lights dimmed, and we hear “Come to Mary” from their fourth LP Marble Son, released August 2nd, and in this recent release, JS&SH dove deep into the dark psychedelic and side-stepped much of the alternative country overtones.

When Sykes let’s loose I’m taken back to the ’60s, I close my eyes, and I hear Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane (who, being called “The Acid Queen” long ago, only adds punch to Wandscher’s comments). Jesse’s voice may often dip into eerie, but in songs like “Ceilings High” paired with the “jam band”-style guitar and slide, it works, feeling more like a playful Phish song than one from the late ’60s. But heading back to their sweet spot in “Hushed by Devotion”and out of the lighter ballads, I think Sykes really shines.

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TVD Live: Dead Meadow with The Blackbells at DC9, 10/31

Halloween night’s opener The Blackbells delivered subtle, vocal heavy rock with an early ’90s Tom Petty honky-tonk song structure. Despite their genre differing vastly from the headliner Dead Meadow they managed to charm and ready the DC9 audience, who were divided in attire; half wore plaid shirts and beanies, inspecting the stage the instruments, waiting patiently, the other half in costumes, mostly chatting about earlier parties and parties to follow.

Dead Meadow plays creative stoner rock. Transitioning from “At Her Open Door” to “What Needs Must Be” may seem a little colorless, but, let us not forget, to enjoy shoegaze, psych/stoner rock, one must prepare to be lulled into rhythmic head nods and coaxed into a haze—enjoy it. This is not to say that Dead Meadow’s songs are “all the same” or “mind numbing”—far from it, they use looping, play rhythm and blues, and experiment heavily on stage.

I would get a specific movement down (melting into a sound), and their drummer would switch up the beat to keep us guessing. Once they warmed up, I felt I’d lifted a garage door in California to hear the three playing their hearts out.

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Fallen for Greenville (South Carolina) and Kelly Jo Connect

With beef brisket and basil lemonade in hand, I stood in a small crowd at one of five stages at Fall For Greenville waiting for the next act. Every October, Greenville, SC shuts down its streets, rolls out food stands, and gives musicians, mostly local, one hour performance slots. I’d missed the festival for the past few years (okay six years), and over that time, Fall for Greenville has gone from a block party (hot dogs and sweet potato fries) to a fully fledged festival.

Pure serendipity led me to Kelly Jo Connect’s 4pm set Sunday, October 16th. In a neon t-shirt, black vest, and soft guitar-backpack, lead vocalist Kelly Jo Ramirez hopped on stage with braided pigtails and an enormous smile. I’ve heard Ramirez sing solo, but hearing her with a full band was incredible.

The Kelly Jo Connect consists of five members: Ramirez herself, Jaze Uries (drummer) and Curtis Baker (bassist), who add a fullness I hadn’t heard in previous performances, Karyn Smith (lead guitarist), and Doug Knight (saxophonist), who added polish and whimsy to Ramirez’s standard R&B-leaning guitar.

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Jenny Owen Youngs: Singer & Comedienne

“Make it a clean break, make it a fast cut, I don’t wanna feel the ache, don’t wanna keep the rot.” Jenny Owen Youngs sings “Clean Break” as her introduction to the crowd at Red Palace, who by 10:30PM last Friday have had just enough of Hank and Cupcakes and are ready for sarcastic banter and dark-humored rock pop.

It’s been six years since Batten the Hatches, Jenny’s first record (not including self-released The Scrappy Demos), and she hasn’t lost her perspective. As she sings the lyrics, “I want to be the girl that makes you try,” I get the feeling she still has hope, but it dwindles. She sings like someone who continues to try despite her huge bobbles and missteps.

Everything I touch turns to shit
Everyone I try to love won’t hear of it
Now my hands are overfull of things I’d like to give
Does anybody want it?
Does anybody want it?
Does anybody want me?

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TVD Live: David Wax Museum with Pearl and the Beard at 9:30 Club, 9/14

The 9:30 Club was brimming with folk fans ready to hear the buzzed-about David Wax Museum—their conversations floating from Burning Man, to Newport Folk Festival, and how to most creatively tie bandanas. Surrounded by my co-folksters, I felt simultaneously at ease and excited. Turns out I live for folk.

Still flying from my high up in Newport, I was pretty excited to see David Wax Museum live, one on one with them, no dirt, no thousands upon thousands of people, good sounding venue in my own town. And I thought, they are bringing Pearl and the Beard—oh now I am most definitely switched on!

As the “ooooos” began in Pearl and the Beard’s “40K,” I got goose bumps, the sweet sound of Jeremy Styles’ guitar, Jocelyn Mackenzie’s percussion building anticipation. “You never come when you say you will/ and I overstay my welcome sitting in this windowsill/ not letting this fire build.” In this opening song, we flirt with Emily Price’s cello, not hearing her let loose both voice and strings, until “The Lament of Coronado Brown,” at which point you realize that her voice is strong and sultry. Each individual of Pearl and the Beard brings a lot to this trio.

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DC United: These
United States with
The Cassettes at the Black Cat, 9/10

It wasn’t the well attended send-off for which I’d hoped, but the crowd was enthusiastic and loyal, typical of These United States fans. As Southeast Engine played their last few songs, the projection screen geared up, and my much-anticipated live introduction to The Cassettes began. Shelby Cinca is exceptional, the energy he brings, the sound… I felt satisfied. When Saadat Awan introduced “Aik Kahani” with “this is a pakistani folk song,” I knew I was getting something this evening I hadn’t wholly expected.

I then grew nervous for our TUS, as The Cassettes played an amazing set; a reunion suits them, and they would be a tough act to follow, but as itching front man Jesse Elliott began his banter and sang, “The Important Thing,” my relief percolated. I began missing them already as they played “I Want You to Keep Everything” from Everything Touches Everything. With a quick drum introduction from Robby Cosenza, the first words oozed slowly through Jesse’s lips.

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These United States depart The District as The Cassettes reunite

Say your goodbyes to the likable local band members of These United States: Jesse Elliott, J. Tom Hnatow, Colin Kellogg, Justin Craig, and Robby Cosenza.

These United States bids adieu to The District, their musical birthplace. But please don’t despair; they will continue touring across the country making full-bodied East Coast folk rock together, no matter where they wind up.

For untapped fans, or for those new to the area:

Over the last three years, These United States has played over six hundred shows and released four albums, and their style of folk rock and roll has gained the support of NPR’s All Things ConsideredWorld Cafe, Mountain StageSpinPasteFilterNY TimesVillage Voice, and countless other reputable music experts.

Join them at Black Cat this Saturday, September 10th, for a proper sendoff.

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TVD Ticket Giveaway: David Wax Museum at 9:30 Club, 9/14

David Wax Museum was declared “The breakout act at the Newport Folk Fest last year” by Paste. They solidified their reputation this year and have tour dates scheduled all the way out to March 2012! DWM are hot; not like a fleeting flash or a passing trend, they embrace enduring and influential styles of Latin America, weaving them flawlessly into classic folk.

Rob Kirkpatrick from Huffington Post dubbed them The Best Band You Might Not Know, and after hearing them live was

…simultaneously excited to hear a great act on the verge of blowing up while lamenting that the band is destined for mainstream audiences and bigger venues from here on out. It’s bound to happen for the band. They’re that good. It’ll be our loss and our gain.

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TVD’s Package Deal: Digitalism—I love these dudes

After Digitalism’s I Love You, Dude record release this year, I was kindly invited by the German duo to hear them live and “bust a move” at the 9:30 Club Friday night during the HARD Summer Tour (as mentioned in my previous post). Being the most popular act on this tour, Digitalism has their recent single “2 Hearts” featured in the promotional video for the HARD Summer Tour.

I typically lean toward “instruments,” but isn’t music, especially live music, about breaking with convention? Friday night, I left my folk bias behind and arrived early to “get the lay of the land.” And as I stood in a freezing cold, nearly empty club I felt intimidated and nervous. What would fill this space; who would fill this space; how could they fill this space!? So, like we do when the show hasn’t begun, we drink!

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Top 7 Reasons Newport Folk Festival Sold Out (In Advance) This Year:

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Newport Folk Festival at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, Rhode Island. These are the reasons you should have been right there with me:

1. Carolina Chocolate Drops

I cannot believe I have not written them up sooner, but what better time than now! Carolina Chocolate Drops is the absolute number one reason to regret not having attended Newport Folk Festival. Get hooked on them, it will only take one listen to Rhiannon Giddens’ vocals and fiddle, Dom Flemons banjo, passion, and history lessons banter, and Hubby Jenkins’ guitar and bones to fall inlove. This trio (plus 2011 addition, beat boxer Adam Matta) mingles old picking, jugs, and rhythm and blues; inspired by legendary southern fiddlers, CCD puts a new face on “black string music.”

Rhiannon Giddens sang old-time ballads and R&B covers with soulful nods to female jazz singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone. (Being from the Piedmont area myself, I felt they did the foothills some serious musical justice with their sound.) Their creativity in mixing the older classics with their current influences is their greatest asset, making them one of the most fun and inspiring acts to watch.

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TVD Package Deal: The Heartless Bastards with Vandaveer at IOTA, 7/22

The Heartless Bastards—aren’t.

They are rock n roll, the kind you miss before they’re gone. I am already reaching for the car radio as “Out at Sea” fades. Immediately I want to go back, go back and repeat that catchy riff, the charm of a full female lead, the tormented call of Erika Wennerstrom. These intoxicating psychedelic garage rockers played one of many acoustic tour dates Friday, July 22nd, at IOTA.

Vandaveer was a 9am addition to the show. “I received a text at 9am from IOTA wondering if I could open for The Heartless Bastards tonight. My reply, ‘yes!’” says Vandaveer, his fingers moving nimbly across his guitar, well rested after three weeks since his last live gig.

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