Author Archives: Rachel Lange

Save Our Stages: Reignwolf and JJ Wilde at U Street Music Hall in Washington, DC, 8/10/19

During this period of historic uncertainty, the fight for the survival of our independent record stores is directly mirrored by the dark stages of our local independent theatres, clubs, and performance spaces which have been shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been cited as well that 90% of these concert venues may never, ever return.

Enter the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) whose #SaveOurStages campaign has provided a spotlight on this perilous predicament with a unique mission to “preserve and nurture the ecosystem of independent live music venues and promoters throughout the United States.” Without help from Congress the predictions are indeed quite dire and TVD encourages you support the S. 3814/H.R. 7481, the RESTART Act, by telling your legislators to save independent music venues via the form that can be filled out and forwarded right here.

This week as we did last week, we’re turning our own spotlight onto previous live concert coverage as a reminder of the need to preserve the vitality of live music venues across the country—and indeed across the globe—and while we’re at it to celebrate the work of the fine photographers and writers at TVD who are all itching to get back into the pit. 

On Saturday, August 10, Reignwolf, with support from JJ Wilde, brought their headlining tour to an intimate crowd at Washington DC’s U Street Music Hall in support of the band’s new album Hear Me Out. Stirring up fans with their charisma and blistering fuzzy blues rock, they tore through the roughly hour-long set of new songs and old favorites, leaving fans and themselves worn out and sweaty.

Reignwolf (songwriter/singer/guitarist Jordan Cook, bassist S.J. Kardash, and drummer Joseph Braley) released Hear Me Out, the band’s first LP, in March. Prior to this, Reignwolf had only released a handful of singles over seven years, developing an enthusiastic following while maintaining an air of mystery among fans.

This mysterious air was underscored in the darkened, underground room at U Street Music Hall. The band played shrouded in smoke and back-lit by bright white lights, allowing those in attendance to see Cook and Karsdash in silhouette, and Braley not at all. No matter, as songs like the ferocious “Wanna Don’t Wanna” and Gary Clark Jr-ish “Black and Red” were loud and energetic as the blazing fires of Hell. During those moments when Cook emerged from the smoke and could be seen, he revealed a look that calls to mind 1970s Bruce Springsteen or even a black leather-clad Cat Stevens, while the band’s sound could be compared to Jack White, the aforementioned Gary Clark Jr, or the barely contained insanity of Black Pistol Fire.

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TVD Live Shots: Alter Bridge with Deepfall
and Clint Lowery at the Ogden Theatre, 2/17

DENVER, CO | On a snowy, cold night in Denver, Alter Bridge brought down the house in the charming, somewhat decrepit confines of the Ogden Theatre. Sharing the bill on this leg of the Walk the Sky tour is Deepfall and Clint Lowery.

A sextet hailing from Grand Rapids, Michigan, hard rockers Deepfall (Rich Hopkins, Anthony Battista, Max Carrillo, Tim King, Nick Gray, and Taylor Brandt ) kicked off the night. Reviewing the band’s website and Facebook page, one gets the feeling the band, still relatively new, experienced some recent lineup changes. It’s notable that this was not reflected in their 30 minute performance as, up close, they appeared cohesive and very hard-working. The crowd offered their support, fist pumping as the band tore through its set, which included a cover of Journey’s “Separate Ways.”

Clint Lowery is best known as the lead guitarist of metal band Sevendust; he’s joined the Walk the Sky tour to promote God Bless the Renegades, his first solo album. Live, he’s impressive, physical, and intense as a solo performer. His songs, like “Kings,” which explores themes of redemption and empowerment, are introspective. His backing band (Ryan Bennett on drums, Pat Seals on bass, and Jon Jourdan on guitar) proved equally capable. Seals, in particular, possesses great stage presence; my attempts to photograph him airborne mostly failed.

I’m baffled by the fact that Alter Bridge play small venues in the US. Yes, as opposed to London’s O2 (where Alter Bridge Live at the O2 Arena was recorded in 2016), a smaller venue such as the Ogden Theatre provides unmatched intimacy. However, Alter Bridge are just too damned good to be slumming it with the rest of us in reaching distance. Make no mistake—I’m not complaining. I adore the golden throated Myles Kennedy; seeing him up close, along with beast Mark Tremonti, remains a huge thrill. Shooting this band from the pit is a fantastic experience and seeing them anywhere a delight.

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TVD Live Shots: Vinyl Record Preservation Society presents Billy Gibbons, Carmine & Vinny Appice, and Ron Holloway at Pearl  Street Warehouse, 1/30

Did you know that the Library of Congress has an extensive vinyl record collection, and that when that collection gets periodically culled, the records get tossed in the bin? Enter the Vinyl Record Preservation Society, a DC based non-profit that places these otherwise doomed discs in the possession of schools and senior care facilities for folks to enjoy. A humble but noble effort, and one that needs funds to keep moving.

Enter the fine folks at DC’s Pearl Street Warehouse, a smaller room in the city’s Wharf which hosted a benefit for the organization on the last Thursday in what felt like a never-ending January. In addition to local rock and ska bands, the night’s lineup included saxophonist Ron Holloway, vocalist Franky Perez, Carmine and Vinny Appice and, much to my delight, the one and only Billy Gibbons.

After DC locals The Deplorables kicked the night off with a bite sized, three song set, ska band Free Lobster Buffet took the stage. I’m not a ska fan normally, but this was a fun one. Bassist Chris Boesen is also the head of the Vinyl Record Preservation Society, so the band was a natural fit for the night.

Cramming eight musicians onto the Warehouse’s tight stage, they got the crowd’s excitement up with a fun, high energy set. My own favorite was their jam “Nude Beach.” In addition, they brought out Holloway for a few tunes as well as Perez, who sang alongside FLB’s own Joan Bishop. This is a talented lot—great to catch them on one of their mid-Atlantic/East Coast dates. The tuba player gets sweaty and undressed during the set if that tells you anything about the fun levels. Boesen acted as emcee for the remainder of the night.

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TVD Live Shots: The Budos Band with Paul
& The Tall Trees at the 9:30 Club, 1/18

We burned the midnight (Old Engine) oil in DC when The Budos Band presented its funk/rock/soul party as a burnt offering at the 9:30 Club on a cold, wet Saturday night.

Kicking off the late night party was Paul & The Tall Trees. Led by Paul Schalda who, like the Budos Band, hails from Staten Island, NY, Paul & the Tall Trees are described as an intersection of classic bands like Buffalo Springfield and The Band. These are apt comparisons; live I also heard hints of Neil Young. It’s a poetic, occasionally tortured, but ultimately warm sound. Underscoring that warmth was Schalda’s frequent references to his father, a member of his own band.

The Budos Band (Jared Tankel, Thomas Brenneck, John Carbonella Jr, Mike Deller, Daniel Fodor, Andrew Greene, Rob Lombardo, Brian Profilio, and Dame Rodriguez) took the stage at the stroke of midnight. I’ve been a Budos fan for ages, having discovered them when I was taking a walk on a summer evening in Milwaukee. They were performing in a park near the Milwaukee School of Engineering and I stopped for a listen. After ten minutes, I bought up half the merch table and never looked back, having fallen hard for the band’s ’70s Afro-funky instrumental sound. Saturday night marked only the third time I’d seen them since that first evening in Wisconsin years ago and I couldn’t have been more stoked.

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TVD Live Shots: Clutch with The Steel Woods and Damon Johnson at the 9:30 Club, 12/29

Maryland’s Clutch received a hometown-style welcome when it sold out Washington, DC’s legendary 9:30 Club during the last weekend of 2019, bringing with them The Steel Woods and Damon Johnson.

Damon Johnson, known for his work with Brother Cane, Thin Lizzy, Alice Cooper, and Black Star Riders, kicked off the night. I was looking forward to seeing Johnson again as, while I’m old enough to have heard Brother Cane on played on the radio back in the 90’s, I never got to see Damon until he toured with Black Star Riders in 2018 when they supported Judas Priest. Stepping out of the shadow of that band, we got to see Damon taking the lead, showcasing some new tracks and setting hits from his back catalog aflame including Brother Cane tunes “And Fools Shine On” and “Got No Shame” along with a very fun cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed.”

The Steel Woods then took the reins. Donning cowboy hats and turquoise jewelry, the Nashville-based band appears to embody the Southern rock tradition, mixing blues-rock with an outlaw spirit and giving a nod to their brethren during a muddy cover of “Whipping Post.” Lest they be pigeonholed however, influences on their 2017 debut Straw in the Wind are said to include Metallica and Led Zeppelin. The band formed after guitarists Wes Bayliss and Jason “Rowdy” Cope met in Nashville and became friends, later collaborating musically and adding bassist Johnny Stanton and drummer Jay Tooke to the lineup. The band added a dark country outlaw edge to the rock lineup and it worked well.

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TVD Live Shots: Daughters with HEALTH and Show Me the Body at the 9:30 Club, 12/18

Daughters made a triumphant appearance on December 18 at Washington, DC’s 9:30 Club, bringing their critically acclaimed noise rock to an exuberant crowd. Along for the journey were Show Me the Body and HEALTH.

Kicking off the night were Show Me the Body, appearing in DC for the second time this year after a headlining show in the spring at Union Stage. After the New York trio (Julian Cashwan Pratt, Harlan Steed, and Noah Cohen-Corbett) thanked DC for its welcome, they launched into their roughly half hour set of hardcore punk. They tour in support of their new album Dog Whistle, which notably features the song “Camp Orchestra,” inspired by a visit to Poland’s Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum.

Being the first band of the night, one might anticipate a slightly more subdued interest from the crowd. That was not the case at all here. Standing in the photo pit, I could feel gusts of wind hitting me in the back of the head. I turned around to see the front row of fans headbanging, many of whom were wearing the band’s merch, easily identifiable by the three coffin logo.

Adding to the intensity were LA noise rockers HEALTH (Benjamin Jared Miller, Jake Duzsik, and John Famiglietti) who took the stage shrouded in relative darkness. That darkness was punched, however, by the strobe lights on the stage (beware of this if you are sensitive), leaving the band in a near-constant state of silhouette.

Famiglietti, when he wasn’t playing bass, hovered over an array of pedals and switches, headbanging so hair swirled in time. Touring on the heels of their February 2019 release Vol 4: Slaves of Fear, HEALTH are notable for contributing to film soundtracks such as Atomic Blonde but also video game soundtracks, composing the soundtrack to Max Payne 3 in 2012. Like with Show Me the Body, the crowd responded with rabid support.

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TVD Live Shots:
The Joy Formidable
with Twen at the Rock and Roll Hotel, 11/29

The Joy Formidable made a stop at Washington, DC’s Rock and Roll Hotel on Black Friday, giving fans respite from the Thanksgiving holiday and oncoming Christmas onslaught. Celebrating ten years together, they treated VIPs to a short acoustic set prior to doors opening before filling the RnR Hotel with tight indie rock.

The Joy Formidable (Ritzy Bryan, Rhydian Daffyd, and Matt Thomas) are playing their entire album A Balloon Called Moaning (plus a few more from their catalogue) as a celebration of hitting ten years together. The fans, crammed into the RnR Hotel’s dark snug room, were ecstatic; one yelling appreciation to Thomas as he took the stage and many singing along with Bryan.

The band appeared to be in good humor and a celebratory mood as well, appearing delighted to play their old songs. Bryan stopped to thank a young boy (age ten or so) for being in attendance and Daffyd even took it in stride when an on-stage encounter with Bryan ended with a cut to the forehead, blood trickling down his nose. Thomas for his part pounded the drums like a sledgehammer; I was situated next to his drum kit and could feel the blasts of air moved by his high hat.

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TVD Live Shots: La Dispute with Empath
and Touché Amoré at
the 9:30 Club, 11/24

La Dispute brought its post hardcore punk to Washington, DC on 11/24 with an appearance at the 9:30 Club. Philadelphia noise rock band Empath and Los Angeles post-hardcore punks Touché Amoré were along for support.

La Dispute is touring in support of its their well-received fourth album Panorama, the first release with Epitaph Records. The current lineup is vocalist Jordan Dreyer, drummer Brad Vander Lugt, guitarist Chad Morgan-Sterenberg, guitarist Corey Stroffolino, and bass guitarist Adam Vass. Getting great reviews from outlets like Pitchfork, the music blends melodic tones with finely constructed stories that touch on death and life. I was not entirely sure what to expect from this band, with the dim lights and salt lamps on stage; however, the show was extremely energetic and Dreyer possesses the ability to convey deep emotion through fine vocal execution.

It’s worth noting that La Dispute often works with charitable organizations. In addition, early in the set, Dreyer stopped to state the band supports a safe environment for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or race. A quick search reveals that the band makes their catalog of music available free each Christmas, asking only that fans make donations to organizations of their own choosing. It’s always refreshing to see bands use their position to support positivity and charity.

The night kicked off with Philadelphia noise punk darlings Empath, described by Rolling Stone as being much of a “cosmic jazz combo as a screaming punk band”. Empath (Catherine Elicson, Garrett Koloski, Emily Shanahan, and Randall Coon) are promoting their debut LP, Active Listening: Night in Earth, described as fierce and cacophonous. It’s clear, in performance, this is a band not interested in fitting into a neat category.

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TVD Live Shots: John 5 and The Creatures with Reverend Jack and Jared James Nichols at Voltage Lounge, 11/22

PHILADELPHIA, PA | Philadelphia’s Voltage Lounge is a shoebox of a club tucked away in an old industrial area north of Chinatown and Old City.  On November 22, we packed it in, nearly filled to the literal rafters, to see guitarist John 5 with his band The Creatures (Ian Ross on bass and Logan Miles Nix on drums),  Kentucky’s Reverend Jack, and Wisconsin’s Jared James Nichols were along for support and it was one hell of a good time.

Where do I begin? John 5 may be most well-known as a member of Rob Zombie’s band and he’s also played with Marilyn Manson.  Because of this, I had thought of him primarily as a metal guitarist; however, that is not accurate.  A glance at the guitar stand on stage should have been my clue as it included a banjo and not just one but two (!) mandolins. Throughout the night the songs veered from metal to country to even a little funk. John 5 is delightfully versatile and talented; he cannot be lumped into a single category.

It’s such a treat to watch especially since he does it all with a great sense of fun. The cramped stage played home to several flatscreens that played bits from horror films and classic monster movies, and John 5 himself takes the stage in full face makeup and mad scientist costume. I love a good freakshow (see my affection for bands like Avatar and guitarist Buckethead) and John 5 delivers. It seems a bit incongruent to hear a country influenced song like “Cactus Flower,” from his latest release Invasion, while seeing Godzilla march across the TV screens, but it worked.  It all works.

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TVD Live Shots: Electric Wizard with Midnight at the Fillmore, 11/18

It was a night of doom and black metal as veterans Electric Wizard made an appearance at the Fillmore Silver Spring supported by the barely contained black metal and punk energy of Midnight.

For the uninitiated, an Electric Wizard show involves slurping from a chalice of sludgy metal masterpieces, with lyrics touching on gothic literature and obscure horror films. In concert this is all set against a backdrop of ’70s Satanic Panic exploitation films and bathed in orange and red lights. The guitars (Liz Buckingham with Haz Wheaton on bass) are raw, the drums (Simon Poole) pound, and Jus Oborn’s vocals are tortured while blood and Satanic ceremony flash above the stage on the screen. It’s hypnotic and intense, and a little unnerving if you’re unaccustomed to it.

The fans gathered at the Fillmore were there for it, however. The usual roundup of black-clad metal fans came to see Electric Wizard on their brief jaunt through the East Coast, two years after their 2017 release, Wizard Bloody Wizard. The stop at the Fillmore Silver Spring was number three of six for the US this fall, so a special appearance indeed, and a treat for doom metal fans.

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TVD Live Shots: Anna Rose with Annie Stokes at DC9, 11/17

On Sunday night, an intimate, low key crowd gathered at Washington DC’s DC9 to see New York rocker Anna Rose, with support from local singer songwriter Annie Stokes.

Anna Rose Menken, who goes professionally by Anna Rose, has music in her DNA. Her father, renowned composer Alan Menken, is perhaps best known for his scores for Disney films (such as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast). In contrast, however, Anna Rose’s style is much more rock and roll. Her sound has been described as an amalgam of blues, rock, and grunge and she cites such female greats as Stevie Nicks and Janis Joplin as influences.

Her latest album, The Light Between, is described as more of a singer-songwriter’s foray into Americana, having been recorded in (and likely influenced by) Nashville. To a fan of rock music, she has a welcome sound: backed by a four-piece band, she possesses a beautiful voice, but the songs are not pretty. Gritty and guitar laden, they tell stories of those who are lost and restless. Underscoring her influences, in concert her performance of “Bury Me Deep” leads to a gorgeous rendition of “Rhiannon.” Warm and enjoyable, Anna Rose’s music goes down like sips of fine bourbon. In short, she’s terrific.

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TVD Live Shots:
Sabaton and HammerFall at the Fillmore Silver Spring, 11/3

For many years, I’ve had an interest in the study of World War I, “The Great War.” In just four years, that conflict sprayed carnage across the world, leaving millions dead, accelerated technological advancements, influenced the culture of a generation, and shaped an entire century. I’d read books and given speeches on why we should continue to have an interest, even as 100 years have passed since November 11, 1918. I’ve only ever been met with polite attention. I know now what was missing from my discussions, the thing that could generate sustained enthusiasm for creaky, dusty history: Swedish power metal.

This realization came to me when Sabaton (Joakim Brodén, Pär Sundström, Tommy Johansson, Hannes van Dahl, and Chris Rörland) marched through suburban Washington, DC this past Sunday night with support from HammerFall, blasting the sold out Fillmore Silver Spring, the last night of the US leg of “The Great Tour.” Sabaton are promoting their new album The Great War. Unlike previous albums that were built around a war-related theme—last stands, heroes, the rise and fall of the Swedish Empire—this album is built around World War I.

It was an impressive stage setup for a club venue—a war tank with the drum kit perched on top and mic stands in the form of helmets and rifles. After kicking off with “Ghost Division,” Sabaton tore through roughly half of The Great War, setting stories about the Red Baron and the Battle of Verdun to fist pumps and metal riffs.

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TVD Live: Hamell on Trial at Gypsy Sally’s Vinyl Lounge, 10/18

Tucked away at the end of K Street in Washington, DC’s Georgetown, snuggled next to the Key Bridge, is Gypsy Sally’s. On a Friday night, a sizable, but still intimate, crowd gathered to celebrate a birthday and welcome Ed Hamell, performing as Hamell on Trial, to the upstairs Vinyl Lounge.

It’s difficult for me, as a first time observer, to provide a complete illustration of the web Hamell weaves at his show. I did no prior research, no Google, no YouTube views beforehand. I only knew he was the friend-of-a-friend and a character, nothing more. Before his set, we are introduced. He’s alone and contemplating a new song of his, one about the things that allow us to survive in our Bizarro world political climate; I encounter a gentle, thoughtful man.

As Hamell warms up, the first thing I notice is the guitar. Hamell uses one guitar for the entirety of his roughly two-hour performance: a 1937 Gibson acoustic, immortalized in his tribute, “7 Seas.” Rigged with black tape and wired to an amp, the wood shows wear, she’s almost dust, and I wonder how much fight she has left in her. But she sounds incredible, warm and knowing, and I can hardly avert my eyes. Only the force of Hamell’s personality tears me away.

Hamell’s website describes him as a “New York-based, folk punk hero,” and goes on to quote people like Henry Rollins, name drop Ani DeFranco, and rattle off the comparisons to Bill Hicks, Tarantino, et al. It’s all true. It’s easy to get caught up in, and laugh your ass off at, the dirty jokes and the shit talk from the stage. Songs like “Pussy” made me blush and giggle. He teased me for taking a few notes during his set. We were all instructed to yell “Fuck you, Vicky” during his birthday serenade of a lovely woman celebrating her 50th. We obeyed.

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TVD Live Shots: Amon Amarth, Grand Magus, At the Gates, and Arch Enemy at The Fillmore Silver Spring, 10/13

The ticket said “The Raid of Silver Spring,” and that meant only one thing: Swedish metal giants were in town, bringing metal to the huddled masses of suburban Washington, DC direct from Sweden.

Going into the evening, I’d hoped to steer clear of the easy Viking clichés, but having a look around the venue, I saw fans wearing kilts and Viking helmets while carefully sipping beer from drinking horns. The bands on this Sunday night’s bill, headlined by the Viking metal behemoths themselves, Amon Amarth, traffic in the imagery, so I’ll join in. Indeed, the name of the tour, “Berserker,” is the name given to the fiercest of all Viking warriors, so anything else is pointless and not fun.

I’d need the strength of my Scandinavian ancestors to endure this assault; Grandma and Grandpa Swanson, help me out here. I’d argue it wasn’t so much a raid as recruitment, as the enthusiastic fans—packing the Fillmore to its chandelier-adorned ceiling—needed no coercion to board the ship.

Whetting our appetite for the plunder were Stockholm metal veterans Grand Magus. In a roughly 25 minute, five song set, the trio (Janne Christoffersson, Mats Skinner, and Ludwig Witt) stirred the masses with their doom/stoner metal sound, including a taste (“Untamed”) from their latest album, Wolf God, released this spring. A genuinely appreciative Christoffersson declared the Fillmore crowd the “loudest” they’d ever played for and suggested a residency right there, because who needs Vegas? The crowd roared in agreement and, during the last song of the set, sent Grand Magus off by chanting along with “Hammer of the North.”

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TVD Live Shots:
The Hu with
Al Lover at Baltimore
Soundstage, 9/29

On a warm early autumn night, music fans of all stripes piled into Baltimore Soundstage to witness the arrival of The Hu, fresh from Mongolia, embarking on their first tour of the US. Al Lover acts as support on the tour, warming up crowds with psychedelic electronica.

Los Angeles based Al Lover opened the gig with his psychedelic and experimental electronic music. Lover has, since 2013, released a variety of projects while collaborating with multiple artists and touring extensively. His latest album, Existential Everything, was released in February, 2019. The appreciative crowd bobbed along with the beats as Lover wove a sonic web during his set, setting the tone for the headliner.

It appears the last year has been a bit of a whirlwind for The Hu. In the fall of 2018, videos for “Yuve Yuve Yu” and “Wolf Totem” were released on YouTube; as of this writing the two have garnered about 43 million views. In contrast, the population of Mongolia is just over three million.

Mixing the modern and the traditional is what The Hu really excels at here. The band consists of four core members, standing shoulder to shoulder at the front of the stage, and are backed by a touring band who play percussion, bass, and a Les Paul guitar, as western music fans would all recognize. Less recognizable is the traditional instrumentation of the core members.

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