Author Archives: Nick Nemphos

Needle Drop: Prelow, “Why Does Everything Happen So Much” EP

Listening to new EP “Why Does Everything Happen So Much” from NYC’s Prelow is like taking step back into those mythical high school summers.

There’s something about the slick, laid back grooves that are reminiscent of a lazy summer night sneaking around drinking with friends and trying to get the attention of the opposite sex. Lyrically, each song feels like a series of well strung together vignettes using catchy hooks as the connective tissue. It’s remarkably well polished for a new act and worth checking out.

Prelow’s latest EP came out on January 27th and you can find them on tour with Skizzy Mars from late February through mid April.

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Needle Drop: Milo Greene, “Lie To Me”

Milo Greene’s forthcoming album Control promises to be a distinct tonal shift from the more folk-pop oriented sound of the their first album, to a more upbeat ’80s electro pop vibe.

The band’s music has always been rooted in a sort of wistful nostalgia with a bit of longing and melancholy stirred in. The only thing that has really changed is the time period the sound evokes.

It takes quite a bit of courage for any band, especially a somewhat newer band, to make such a change, but it is refreshing to see a willingness to follow their instincts and move into new exciting directions. If the latest single “Lie To Me” is any indication, fans have a lot to look forward to.

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TVD Live: Grouplove
and Portugal. The Man
at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 9/12

Friday night Grouplove and Portugal. The Man played Merriweather Post Pavilion as a part of the 2014 Honda Civic Tour. In a great bit of double billing, both bands brought something unique to the stage and were a nice complement to one another, giving the audience two different types of performances.

Of the two headliners Portugal. The Man went on first amidst a sea of smoke and space lights, playing their take on “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2.” They played a selection of songs primarily from last year’s Evil Friends, but also had a few older tracks like “People Say” pop up throughout their set. For a bit of added fun, they threw in a handful of covers in addition to the opening song. They played a bit from “The Dayman” from the “Nightman Cometh” episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” which always makes for a fantastic sing-a-long. They turned in a great performance that somehow mixed an aesthetic you would associate with a jam band, but was still well-balanced with a much more focused set of music than you may find with that type of act.

When we covered Grouplove earlier this year as a part of our Firefly Festival coverage, I went on at length about how impressed I was with the band, and thankfully not much has changed since then. They played a mix of songs off both of their releases including all of their most popular songs like “Tongue Tied” and “Colours.” This is just one of those bands who are so on point in a live setting that if you let yourself be into what they’re doing onstage you will have a great time. Sure, some may argue that it’s too catchy or too pop, but I think it’s ok to let yourself have some fun at a show every once in a while.

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Posted in TVD Washington, DC | 1 Comment

TVD’s Four Days at Firefly 2014

By NICK NEMPHOS and OLIVIA UNG | In its third year, last weekend’s Firefly Music Festival was quite a spectacle, with an estimated 80,000 fans seeing over 100 acts on seven stages during this year’s expanded run of four days, from three previously. 

The headliners were Foo Fighters, Outkast, and Jack Johnson, and for the most part, the artists I saw did not disappoint. Here are the acts that I caught at The Woodlands of Dover International Speedway in Delaware. Here are all the reasons I think you should start planning next year’s trip now.

THURSDAY

Parade of Lights, 6:30-7:15 PM, Lawn Stage

The first band I caught on last Thursday, Firefly Festival’s opening night, Parade of Lights was upbeat and danceable, and they went over pretty well with an audience ready to get things started. I only caught a few songs of this electro-pop quartet from LA, but I enjoyed what time I had with them. A song worth checking out on their website was their set closer “Golden,” which I thought was the highlight.

Courtney Barnett, 8:00-8:45 PM, Lawn Stage

Courtney Barnett played from 8:00-8:45 PM on the Lawn Stage. Dressed all in black, she began her set just as the sun was starting to go down opposite to the stage. For most of their performance, Courtney and her band were bathed in the golden light of a setting sun.

This was the first full performance of the festival that I watched, and it was a great way to start off the weekend. From her studio work, I expected something a little more relaxed, but it was a great choice to ramp up the tempo a little bit for a festival to keep people engaged.

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TVD Live: Jenny Lewis at the 9:30 Club, 6/7

Jenny Lewis is about to release Voyager, her first solo album in six years, and if her performance on Saturday night at the 9:30 Club is any indication, she’s pretty excited about its release.

From the moment she walked out on stage and began working her way through “Just One of the Guys,” the first single from her new album, to the end of the show, she seemed to be having a great time playing through a well-balanced set of songs.

She took the stage looking both classic and modern in her white suit with airbrushed stars and a rainbow of colors. There’s something about it that evokes a retro feel while still feeling a bit fresh, much like the music she plays. Lewis and her band effortlessly switched between genres like the chugging honky-tonk of “The Next Messiah” to the indie pop of Rilo Kiley’s “Silver Lining.”

Throughout the evening, Lewis was chatty and full of smiles, which added to the fun vibe of the toasty room. When not behind an instrument. she spent much of her time at the front of the stage leaning in and feeding off the energy of the audience near the front of the stage. It all came together as a compelling live package. You couldn’t really help but have fun since Jenny was up there having so much of it herself.

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TVD Live: Julianna Barwick and Vasillus
at the Sixth and I Synagogue, 2/10

Oddly enough, after years of seeing shows in DC, this past Monday was my first trip to the beautiful and historic Sixth & I Synagogue for a performance. It’s just one of those things where event calendars and my calendar never met in the middle, so I hadn’t had the privilege of seeing a show there, and I can’t think of a better artist than Julianna Barwick to begin what I can only hope to be the first of many visits.

Brooklyn’s Vasillus took the stage first and was absolutely a welcome addition to the evening. Vasillus’ music is this mix of driving synth drum beats with distinctive vocals laid overtop. He has a big powerful voice that has this epic depth to it that shined in the terrific acoustics of Sixth & I. This was a nice compliment to Julianna Barwick, as it had something of a similar aesthetic, but was different enough to make it interesting for the audience.

For those new to her music, Julianna Barwick is a one-woman choir and band. Her music is in many ways all about the atmosphere and mood it creates. This is in part due to her not singing traditional lyrics, but rather, she uses her voice to put down layers of sound that she then loops and builds into something more. By the time the songs reach their apex, it can sound like an entire choir is on stage with her. Barwick is well-practiced at this, and the transitions that occur as the compositions build are entirely unnoticeable. She would often be singing with eyes closed while operating her board with nimble hands. It’s all so seamless that you almost immediately forget that she’s even looping.

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TVD Live: Waxahatchee with All Dogs and Cayetana at the Black Cat, 1/23

Friday night at the Black Cat, fans were treated to three excellent female-fronted bands that carried echoes of the past but remained uniquely their own thing. It felt like taking a trip back in time to the punk-tinged female acts of the past like Sleater-Kinney or the lo-fi honesty of Liz Phair. This is a sound that has been missing for quite a few years, and to hear it resurface now is certainly welcome.

Cayetana, a three-piece band from Philadelphia, took the stage first. They came out with a handful of speedy garage-punk pop songs to get the audience ready, and in a lot of ways stole the show for the lucky folks who decided to show up early. Featuring some tight playing and one of the best bassists I’ve seen in quite some time, they proved to be an early highlight.

Columbus, Ohio’s All Dogs came next, and they were a great addition to the bill and seemed to fit well with the stylings of the other acts. For a relatively new band, they have a surprising number of great catchy songs. Singer and guitarist Maryn Jones was particularly impressive throughout their set.

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TVD Live: Phosphorescent with Caveman at the 9:30 Club, 1/22

It was a freezing 12 degrees outside in DC when Phosphorescent took the stage Wednesday night at 9:30 Club, but the sold-out crowd made for what felt like a cozy night in with friends.

Starting off with “The Quotidian Beasts” off of last year’s Muchacho, which led the charge for the eight-song section featuring the full backing band, the set drew heavily from Muchacho but still managed to feature a generous sampling of back catalog material.

The band then left the stage for a four-song break that featured Matthew Houck performing solo for what was arguably the stand-out section of the show. That’s not to say the band was poor in any way—far from it actually—but stripped down to its essence, you could really begin to appreciate the vocal delivery and the emotive performance. What was also notable was how silent the club became.

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TVD Live: Loretta Lynn at the 9:30 Club, 7/26

Loretta Lynn’s music is intimate and revealing in a way that few of her female classic country contemporaries can claim, and it is most readily apparent in the songs she penned herself. Her enduring career is due in no small part to her easily relatable lyrics, particularly when it comes to themes that impact women. The fact that she drew heavily from many of her own classics for Friday night’s show at the 9:30 Club made for a memorable evening.

The night started with a few songs from her son Ernest Ray as backed by Loretta’s band The Coalminers. It was a solid way to get the crowd going a bit, and while I have heard his performances can be hit or miss he, was in good form for the covers he sang. Up next were a few sang by Patsy and Peggy Lynn, Loretta’s twin daughters, who did a great job of working the stage end-to-end, whose songs were a bit more in the realm of contemporary pop country. I liked their stage presence, and the crowd loved it.

Loretta came out in a floor-length sequined gown and started things off with “They Don’t Make Them Like My Daddy.” It immediately struck me just how top-shelf her voice still is. After 50 years in the music business, you don’t really expect her voice to be quite so potent, and yet here she is all these years later, not only keeping up with, but surpassing, the vocals of so many other female singers. The quality, combined with her unique vocal delivery, creates a compelling sound that really doesn’t disappoint.

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TVD Live: Thao and the Get Down Stay Down at Underground Arts, 3/23

Known for their spirited high-energy live performances, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down brought their best to the intimately sized Underground Arts in Philadelphia.

With a capacity of around 500, which is around a third or more smaller than the other rooms Thao has played in on this tour, the Philly audience received a welcome treat in seeing the band in such tight confines.

Before Thao came on Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside (above) were tasked with getting the evening started. The band played through their new album Untamed Heart almost in its entirety with a bit more kick than you’ll find on the record. Their style of old meets new rock is a great complement to Thao’s sensibilities, and Sallie Ford’s voice sounds even better in person. Something of a revelation though was guitarist Jeff Munger who was allowed to let loose and prove that the guitar solo is alive and well on the indie rock scene.

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