Author Archives: Roger Catlin

TVD Live: Luna at the 9:30 Club, 10/5

On the various Luna tours the band has launched since it reunited in 2015 following a 10 year pause, they almost seemed miffed to have to play the old stuff fans wanted. Not that they had much new material— just an album of covers and another of instrumentals.

But now, embarked on one of those full album recitals popular with heritage groups, they seemed to have turned the corner into appreciating anew all that they accomplished. The showcase for an early show at the 9:30 Club in Washington Saturday was the 1995 album Penthouse from start to finish—though some stops have been showcasing the two prior albums, Lunapark and Bewitched, in their entirety.

But Penthouse might have been the best of the three to see, featuring the band at its prime, with a lazy surf-like riff to start with “Chinatown,” then the wavy, underwater-like figure on “Sideshow by the Seashore.” It wasn’t quite the lineup the band had when it recorded the album 24 years ago—Britta Phillips played bass in place of the originating Justin Harwood, and Penthouse was the last album for drummer Stanley Demeski, who’d go on to The Feelies; it’s been the hard-hitting Lee Wall ever since.

But Dean Wareham held court front and center as he always did, with his searching, mysterious lyrics in deadpan tones and interesting guitar figures. And still with him, trading off on some guitar interplay was Sean Eden, who has been around since their second album. It’s a formidable group, who face one another when they’re sitting out sparks of elongated anthems as if they’re a jam band on long workouts like “23 Minutes in Brussels” or “Freakin’ and Peakin,’” which speeds up, slows down and speeds up again before it ends.

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TVD Live: The Long Ryders at Pearl Street Warehouse, 9/20

Before there were labels like alt country or Americana, The Long Ryders were providing the connection between country and rock with a punk punch through their very limited recording years of 1984 to 87. They proved the thread between the pioneering work of the Byrds and Gene Clark (who lent vocals on the first Long Ryders album) and Uncle Tupelo, who wouldn’t release their first album until 1990.

After the encouragement of a few reunion shows, the early lineup is back together with a solid new album, Psychedelic Country Soul, and a tour to go along with it. “It took us 33 1/3 years,” frontman Sid Griffin told the crowd at the Pearl Street Warehouse in DC Friday, making the RPM connection.

Griffin, with his grey Prince Valiant hair and sideburns looking like a cross between Bob Keeshan and patriotic Muppet Sam the Eagle, has been spending his time in the intervening decades as a rock journalist in London. But he still likes to rock out on Chuck Berry style tunes like “State of My Union.” Just as in the old days, his rock instincts are balanced by the sweet country stylings of guitarist Stephen McCarthy, the Ryders’ secret weapon, last seen in town with The Jayhawks, with whom he recorded Rainy Day Music.

McCarthy brings a tasty twang to the proceedings, smooth vocals and decent songs. What’s more, he and bassist Tom Stevens create some fine harmonies, as on “You Don’t Know What’s Right, You Don’t Know What’s Wrong.” When Stevens fronts one of his own songs, though, he both takes lead guitar duties in addition to lead vocals. Drummer Greg Sowders (an ex-husband of Lucinda Williams) looked just happy to be part of the crew once more.

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TVD Live: The B-52’s, OMD, and Berlin at The Anthem, 9/17

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | The B-52’s are marking their 40th anniversary the same way they might have celebrated their 20th, their first, or a random Tuesday—with a party.

True to their skull ’n’ beehive colors that declare “Born to Party” they got a big crowd at DC’s Anthem riled up with a freewheeling set of their catchy, deeply fun songs, heavy on the perfect first two albums but culminating in the one that gave them their biggest hit, “Love Shack.” On a packed night with properly received sets from Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark and Berlin, they still ruled the barbecue once they got on.

The band is just 60 percent of what it was—but because the remaining members are the most colorful in singers Cindy Wilson, Fred Schneider, and Kate Pierson it might not be as noticeable that they’ve got a wholly different back line doing most the instruments (save for the occasional bongo, cowbell, handheld synth device, and slide whistle).

And just as they did when they started this party in Athens, GA, they dressed as flamboyantly as they sang, with Wilson the costume winner in the highest beehive and flashiest jumpsuit, adorned with bat wings. Pierson may have had the same shimmery multihued dress she wore on the Whammy! cover—or one very like it—she may have shimmied the original out of existence years ago. Schneider still holds down the smarmy ringleader role, half talking his funny lines, and ad libbing a few new ones too.

They began with the urgent call of “Private Idaho” and moved into the still topical historical footing of “Mesopotamia” that might make one forget about the saber-rattling going on in the region now. “Give Me Back My Man” still had the yearning that put a cry in Wilson’s yelp, as authentic and pleading as a country song. They had a kind of swirling backing video meant to accommodate their nightly changes in their setlist, but they put up a garish picture of a retro dial phone during “6060-842.”

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TVD Live: Billy Bragg at The Birchmere, 9/19

“Welcome to the 7:30 Club!” Billy Bragg said, at the outset of his three-night residency at The Birchmere. He was both poking fun of the Alexandria club’s famously early nights, while name checking the DC area’s other famous club, the 9:30.

It was the first of several residencies he’ll also do in New York and Cambridge, MA before doing the same in various cities in the UK. Titled “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” he’s playing exclusively from his first three albums on one night, from his next three albums a second night, and doing kind of a career overview the third.

He began with the latter Thursday and seem freed to put in a set similar to those he had been doing in recent months, with a little bit of everything thrown in for his one-man, one-guitar format. The idea behind the residencies, he said, was to find a different way of touring that involved staying in one place longer than usual, an experiment that would mean a “low impact on the environment—and the artist.”

As such, he had been in the Nation’s Capital days before his run started, in part to do promotion of his new book, his sixth, The Three Dimensions of Freedom. Which he didn’t exactly read, but explained its point of view in such detail he might as well have.

The truth is, half a Billy Bragg concert is his speaking, and while he is charming, funny and sharp political commentator most of the time, there comes a point where fans would rather hear him singing choice selections from his songbook.

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TVD Live: Peter Frampton and JBLZE
at The Anthem, 9/11

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | Peter Frampton supercharged his career with a live album decades ago, so he’s going out playing live as well. In a stop at the Anthem in DC Wednesday, he seemed to have the kind of bouncy energy and joy in performance that doesn’t usually come in anything titled “Finale – The Farewell Tour.”

Frampton at 69 looks pretty youthful to hang it up, but is doing so because of the diagnosis of a rare disease called inclusion body myositis, a progressive muscle disorder. None of that kept him from leaping about and playing scorching guitar solos that veered from rock to jazz.

He began with an unusual request: that people photograph or video the first three songs only—the same kind of restrictions kept to professionals, so they could turn off their phones, stop texting and be more present for the show. A noble effort, but when he whipped out the first of the hits from his breakthrough Frampton Comes Alive! as his fourth song, the request was widely ignored.

Frampton is nothing if not a team player, showcasing the rest of his five-piece band by standing stage left, not in front of anyone. But “Show Me the Way” brought him center stage where the specially equipped rubber tube can bend his guitar notes through his vocals, which he used to such effect on the 1976 album.

The cheesy nostalgia of a Talk Box became just as emblematic of mid-’70s rock as the cherubic hair Frampton once wore. What became the hits of the live album were songs originated but largely ignored on the earlier solo albums from the former Humble Pie guitarist. The effervescent live versions made him an 8-million selling superstar that was exploited in all of the worst ways, from bare-chested magazine covers to starring in the awful 1978 movie version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. He kept touring and recording with diminishing commercial returns, but found his artistic footing playing guitar for David Bowie’s 1987 “Glass Spider Tour” and recording a Grammy-winning instrumental album Fingerprints in 2006.

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Ric Ocasek,
The TVD Interview

Today we remember Ric Ocasek who passed away Sunday, September 15, 2019 with a conversation from our archives from earlier this year.Ed.

Lanky rocker Ric Ocasek, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, is lately spending time in some other artistic halls—art galleries to be exact, where he is showing his bright paintings and drawings. He spoke to The Vinyl District from New York about his approach.

How would you characterize these paintings?

They’re like songs that don’t have any words. I like to draw a lot when I’m thinking. I’ve been doing it for a long time, maybe as far back as when I was 18 and a draftsman.

What kind of draftsman were you?

I was a draftsman at AT&T drawing switching systems.

Do you think that may have led to your more jagged abstract works?

I don’t know if it’s related but it could be. It is a bit geometrical. I guess the detail stuff is a little bit like drafting, but I don’t know. I think it’s more abstract than that. It’s really just having the pens and tools and stuff and kind of always doing it as a way to think. It’s a good way to be thinking. I don’t know, you seem to wander off, and wherever your mind wanders off ends up coming out of the pen.

What kind of media do you use?

I use a lot of Japanese paint pens. I go to the art store and I go to the pen stores to get those. I also use acrylics when I paint. I paint on top of what I draw or part of it to embellish it. A lot of times I’ll do drawings, then blow them up and paint them.

So what are the range of sizes?

I’m drawing on paper that’s anywhere from 12″ x 18″ or 24″. The biggest thing I would draw on would be 24″ high or 18″ wide. If I do it on canvas, it’s the size of whatever canvas I buy. And a lot of time I manipulate it with mixed media.

Looks like you have a mix of abstract with representational art in the show.

The representational ones tend to be accidental. They start out abstract, however when they start looking like a person or a face or an object, it will become a graveyard or a city street or whatever. I also do a lot of photography. I started dong that when I was 14 and living in Baltimore. Sometimes I’ll mess them up and blow them up until you can’t tell what it is.

I used to do collages a lot, but I don’t any more. I stopped pasting a lot of things together. But I used to do a lot of it in the late ’60s and ’70s, and then I started drawing more. I would draw in hotel rooms when I was touring with the band as a way to relax.

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Eddie Money,
The TVD Interview

Today we remember Eddie Money who passed away last Friday, September 13, 2019 with a 2018 conversation from our archives.
Ed.

Add Eddie Money to the long list of rockers, from Ozzy Osbourne to Bret Michaels and Joe Jonas, to open their homes to reality TV crews. His new series Real Money, premiering April 8 on AXS TV—already home to Rock & Roll Road Trip with Sammy Hagar—chronicles life with his grown kids, who are also members of his backing band when he tours.

Money, at 68, is still getting mileage out of a string of hits in the 1970s and 1980s. He talked about the origins of hits like “Baby Hold On,” and “Two Tickets to Paradise” in a recent interview from Malibu. A long time Californian, he still retains his Brooklyn roots—mostly through a string of Rodney Dangerfield-like jokes that have been largely excised here for space and sanity.

“I’m sorry I sniffed all that airplane glue, I’m trying to give you good interview,” he began, before a conversation that told of his early days, a legal threat from Doris Day, touring with the Stones, and angering Sting.

Along the way, he took credit for everything from bringing Ronnie Spector back to show business, to being the first rocker to play the daytime TV circuit and the first guy to spray festival crowds with water. And he had a few choice words about Elvis Costello and Lou Gramm.

He concluded by declaring “I lied my way to the top!” in the manner of another ambitious borough-native, so baby hold on to that grain of salt.

Now you’re a reality TV star.

I gotta tell you, I’m very excited about the TV show. For some reason, it came out good, it’s funny, the kids are good. We’ll keep our fingers crossed. If we get a second season, it’d be good.

How many episodes have you done?

Ten. We shot a lot of it at the house until the neighbors got pissed off. So we shot it all over the place, in certain clubs and out on the road. They had me horseback riding, which is horrible. Hated that. And then they had me playing golf, and I play golf like Stevie Wonder at night, so I don’t know what good that episode was.

Do you think the series is going to bring new people to your shows?

I’ve got enough people out in my audience. I’ve got a lot of kids who grew up with their parents putting me in the tape deck. All these kids grew up listening to “Baby Hold On” and “Take Me Home Tonight.”

I get people at the shows who are in their early 20s, I got parents coming to the shows. We do have a pretty large following. You gotta remember, I was putting records out in 1976, I’ve got people listening to me who are in their 70s right now that still come to the Eddie Money show. Sometimes I have people asking the promoters if they have a wheelchair rack.

How many dates do you do a year now?

I’ve got five kids, so I’ll do anything to get out of the house. What I do is I try to work every weekend if I can, because I like to get Dez out there. I want to promote Dez’s music, and I’m not just saying this because he’s my kid, but he’s a great songwriter. He doesn’t sound like me, but the songwriting quality I think he’s a chip off the old block.

It’s a brave thing to do one of these shows and show everybody your family life.

Well, the kids—nobody’s got DUIs, nobody’s doing drugs or anything else like that. I feel fortunate enough, and of course all the kids are still living at home. But that doesn’t bother me either. I like having the kids living at home because I can keep an eye on them.

I’d rather have them in front of me, rather than being in someone’s car, or somebody else’s house until 4 in the morning. This way, I know when they’re going to bed, when they’re getting up, and somebody’s going to have to take out the garbage and do the dishes. I’m very happy.

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Ken Stringfellow: Touched on Tour

Typically half the creative engine of The Posies, Ken Stringfellow has both played with a number of other bands, including R.E.M., the reconstituted Big Star and the Minus 5. But he’s also found time to put out a few solo records over the years—one of which seemed destined to be buried in a day of national tragedy.

He’s back to play that album, the 2001 Touched, on a solo tour that kicks off September 12 in Nashville and includes a September 21 show marking the 25th anniversary of the Mercury Lounge in New York. We reached him in Europe just before he flew over.

Seems like you’ve got a lot of dates on this solo tour.

Yeah, it’s ambitious. Sixty shows, or something like that. It all started from one show, which has to do with my album Touched, which has the dubious release date of September 11, 2001. Waking up that day, I had bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate the release. My phone was ringing as I woke up, and a friend of mine was like, you probably need to turn on the television. I can’t really explain what’s happening right now. Of course, we all know how the day was. It completely torpedoed my plans. and my solo career was probably forever stunted by this. Of course, that’s not such a big deal—I’m still alive. Many people suffered far worse things on 9/11.

People didn’t really know what to do with themselves, which you probably recall, the first couple of days, they were just sort of processing it. A lot of people canceled their tours immediately. I remember that Nick Cave announced he was canceling his U.S. tour. People just didn’t know if it was safe or what was happening next. I decided to carry on. So as soon as planes started flying again, on Friday—9/11, you’ll recall was on a Tuesday—I got on a plane and went to New York and picked up my gear. New York was still burning basically. When I landed at Newark, you could still see smoke coming out of the crater.

The tour taught me a lot of things, and playing this particular record taught me a lot of things about this record. Suddenly it seemed like this record was a response to 9/11 in a lot of ways. There was a lot of feelings of grief and healing. It suddenly seemed very cosmic and appropriate being on tour at this time for people who needed some messages that not only encapsulated their grief, but also offered a little bit of caress as well. It was not a time for Limp Bizkit.

But anyway, I got an invitation from the Mercury Lounge in New York to play for their anniversary this year. And the Mercury Lounge is where I played on that tour, nine days after September 11. It was kind of an intense moment. It was probably the first moment where people could deal with a show, or anything emotional. People were way too raw. I had played a couple of shows, Boston and Hoboken and Philadelphia before New York, in between September 15 and 20 and people weren’t really ready. But getting to New York September 20, they needed something. So for people who were there, and it wasn’t a bad turn out—a lot of people who had tickets may not have shown up. But the people who were there, say 75-100 people, it was very intense that is burned into a lot of people’s brains. Because I’m connected in their minds to that week, in a good way.

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TVD Live: Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins at the Anthem, 9/5

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | For a woman whose songs are so direct, and whose voice is so clear, Jenny Lewis also likes to dress up a bit. So for the stop in her “On the Line” tour at The Anthem in DC, she wore a glamorous form-hugging gold lamé dress as if it were dug out of a trunk from Old Hollywood.

Lewis, 43, began her career decades ago as a child actress (she was in Camp Beverly Hills, you know), so that might actually have been the case. But the creative Lewis likes to put on theatrical airs on stage as easily as she likes to shift musical moods.

And since she entered the music scene as a distinctive indie voice in the short-lived but beloved band Rilo Kiley, she’s tried spare folk, twisted gospel soul, irresistible straight ahead rock and now, occasionally, the kind of catchy club music that tends to come from dozens of newly arrived divas with single names.

But mostly there is that voice—so pure and so very well amplified and carried through the hall. Those who’ve complained about Anthem acoustics must not have heard this show—one of the most beautifully balanced I’ve heard in town. But her pipes were also aided by a loving crowd who remained utterly hushed as she sang, only to burst up singing along and dancing, as they were encouraged toward the end.

With a five piece band behind her all night, there were also a couple of string players on hand to begin the set with the warning siren of “Heads Gonna Roll” and “Wasted Youth”—both from her solid recent album On the Line, which should be all over the radio if radio was a thing any more.

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TVD Live: Vampire Weekend at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 8/30

PHOTOS: JORDAN GROBE | It wasn’t quite Labor Day Weekend, but it was Vampire Weekend.

The New York band was playing its first show at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD, in nine years, as frontman Ezra Koenig recalled, and it was quite a different configuration. Multi instrumentalist and cofounder Rostam Batmanjlij split the group in 2016 following its last album, and in a seeming credit to him, had to be replaced by four musicians on stage: Garrett Ray, Will Canzoneri, Greta Morgan, and Brian Robert Jones.

It was Jones trading guitar noodles that led to a big, sprawling “Sunflower” that opened the show — so big that you might think the brainy pop group had turned into a jam band. It was the first of 11 songs from the band’s latest album, Father of the Bride which got a heavy push in the generous 28-song show. They all seemed well received (except perhaps the slowest ones) but there was a nostalgic undercurrent animating fans who cheered best their earlier songs — “A-Punk” and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” from their 2008 eponymous debut; “Horchata” and “Cousins” from the 2010 follow-up Contra; and the songs with women’s names from 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City, “Diane Young” and “Hannah Hunt.”

Koenig said something about having more voices on the new album, but it’s more obvious than ever in a live setting that he is the band’s center. Morgan came down from her guitar and keyboard perch to sing a verse of just one song all night. There was surprising little vocal support from the others onstage; the big choral moments were provided via sample. More collaborative was the guitar work of Jones, who in his shorts and big Afro resembled Reggie Watts on stage, eking out electronic tones from his treated guitar.

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TVD Premiere: Staples Jr. Singers, “We Got A Race To Run”

Record store crate diggers would have felt blessed if they ever chanced upon the old Brenda 45 “We Got A Race To Run” by the mysteriously named Staples Jr. Singers. The late ’60s swampy gospel could have been lost to time, but has been found by the LA collector and DJ Greg Belson and put on a new compilation The Time for Peace is Now, due in stores September 13 on Luaka Bop.

In advance of that, The Vinyl District is proud to present the track here, sharing in its snaky guitar, arresting voice, and uplifting and still-timely sentiment from a Southern gospel soul outfit that turned out to have no direct connection to The Staple Singers who had brought groove and gospel to the top of the charts in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

No, the Staples Junior Singers were just big fans—big enough fans to name themselves heirs of the sound on their too-rare recordings that call for justice more than Jesus. Today, the stirring voices of the Staples Jr. Singers can be found in the stylings of Annie Caldwell and the Caldwell Singers, still raising church rafters and saving souls in the most rural corners of Mississippi.

At the time of “We Got A Race To Run,” though, they were one of a number of groups who melded uplift and community in universal anthems that often left the doctrine behind. As author Jonathan Lethem puts it in the liner notes to The Time for Peace is Now, these were songs born of “individual inspiration fired and forged and upheld by community, tradition and context” that are “resplendent with love and yet are not love songs.”

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The Rubinoos
and Chuck Prophet,
The TVD Interview & Premiere, “Phaedra”

Power pop stalwarts The Rubinoos first emerged at a high school hop in Berkeley, California nearly a half century ago. With a couple of career defining albums on Beserkley Records, the band brought vocal-rich tunes and a penchant for covers that would try the patience of the most open-minded rockers.

Still, their version of Tommy James & the Shondells’ “I Think We’re Alone Now” got some traction in 1977; their 1979 power pop original “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” proved so catchy it landed Avril Lavigne in court for maybe borrowing too much of it for her 2007 single “Girlfriend,” and they did the title song for the film Revenge of the Nerds. Over the years, they wrote and covered songs from “Rhapsody in the Rain” to “Hats Off to Larry” to “Yo Ho,” the Pirates of the Caribbean amusement park ride theme.

Sporadic recording followed a 15 year hiatus, but now one of their biggest early fans, Chuck Prophet, has teamed up with them for their new album due in stores on August 23 via Yep Roc, From Home, with every one of the tracks co-written by the prolific Prophet with the band’s Tommy Dunbar.

And though there are no covers this time, there are some shout outs to some of the acts that fueled their early love for rock ’n’ roll, from the DeFranco Family to the Troggs to the Honeycombs. The Vinyl District is proud to premiere one of its tracks, “Phaedra” a pean to the ancient goddess that also has roots in a classic 45, Lee Hazlewood’s “Some Velvet Morning” with Nancy Sinatra.

We talked to the band founding members Dunbar and lead singer Jon Rubin, as well as rocker and producer Prophet, in a California conference call about the single and the new LP, their love for the old Cruisin’ albums, and that time they got booed at a Jefferson Starship show at Winterland.

What was the origin of “Phaedra”?

Chuck: I think one of the things that was kind of a challenge about writing this record, is that we’ve got guys here that are a certain age. The first couple records had songs like “Can I come over tonight…will your parents be home?” They seem unseemly.

Jon: We can’t sing those songs any more.

Chuck: So, we figured out songs where we can thank the goddesses and address the boy/girl thing in more of a mythical way.

Tommy: It’s funny you mention Lee Hazlewood, because that’s where I got the name from. It was like, that’s a cool name.  

A couple of other songs on From Home name check influences in “Do You Remember” and “Honey from the Honeycombs.”

Tommy: It’s funny, the band will have been playing together in some form for 50 years come 2020, and to me Honeycombs records aren’t nostalgic in that we still listen to that stuff. But “Do You Remember” was a lot of—I remember Chuck picking my brain. “What did you do on…” “Oh, yeah, that was off of Kings Road.” “Do You Remember” is very much a history of the band.

Chuck: And also what made “Do You Remember” work for me, is that very much like The Beatles, Tommy and Jon would sing almost in unison just because they got more power. Like if you listen to the early Beatles, Cavern Club era, John and Paul sing together and they have the power. By the time they get to Abbey Road, they’re almost like a prog band, you know what I mean? Everyone is off doing their own thing. It’s a special thing when Jon and Tommy sing in unison in a four piece band. And I don’t even think there’s a couple of minor overdubs on “Do You Remember.”

Jon: In the early days of The Rubinoos, Tommy and I used to sing together all the time. I mean, on tons and tons of songs. And a lot of that was inspired by The Beatles because we thought by the two of us singing together, we came up with third lead vocal voice.

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TVD Live: The Minus 5 and Dot Dash at the Rock and Roll Hotel, 6/25

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | The recovery from a stroke in 2017 remains a source of celebration surrounding rocker Scott McCaughey. He’s surrounded by musicians who have been friends of his for years, is writing slightly more reflective songs following his brush with mortality, and still rocking out with a verve that may surprise even him. Fronting the latest version of The Minus 5 at the Rock & Roll Hotel in Washington, he flitted between his band’s latest collection, Stroke Manor, some sturdy classics from the band’s past, and some choice covers.

Only last month he and three others from the current band were in town as part of another group, Corin Tucker’s pointedly political Filthy Friends. And here again, like a personal support committee, were guitarists Peter Buck and Kurt Bloch and terrific drummer Linda Pitmon. To them were added Joe Adragna on vocals (and a fourth guitar, albeit acoustic) and Mike Mills on bass. To back McCaughey’s sometimes thin vocals, everybody but the hangdog Buck chipped in with harmonies. Having both Buck and Mills—fully half of R.E.M.—on a small stage was a throwback to the early days of their famous Athens band (McCaughey was supplemental musician on a lot of their final tours so the pedigree went even stronger).

Still, who expected them to ring out a version of “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville” with Mills on lead vocals, to start the encores, a thrilling little rock moment in a club. It was one of a few very well-chosen covers of the night. They had been pairing the doleful “Beatles Forever” with that band’s “Nowhere Man,” which sounds pretty good live with Buck picking the 12-string Rickenbacker. But McCaughey veered from his planned set by adding the Kinks’ “Where Have All the Good Times Gone?” which took a minute for everyone to recall the chord changes.

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TVD Video Premiere: Lonesome Shack,
“No Way Back”

PHOTO: MOLLY ADELER | Authenticity is a rarity, which may be why the American blues trio Lonesome Shack have been enjoying some attention since they moved to the UK. Not that they’re from the American South or anything, but rather the Pacific Northwest. Still, the trio of Ben Todd, drummer Kristian Garrard, and bassist Luke Bergman kicks up a tasty, boomy, atmospheric sound, as they do once more for their new video “No Way Back.”

The clip, which we are proud to unveil today at The Vinyl District, is something inauthentic, however—an entire video shot backwards but choreographed to look like it’s going forward. The hint comes only at the oddest visual surprises, from the turquoise hat jumping into his hand, an umbrella that seems to attract streams of water, or in what looks to be erasing a painting with a paint brush. Todd’s own quirky gait and movement amid his studio in industrial East London may be a tipoff as well.

What doesn’t give it away, though, is Todd’s achievement in lip syncing the entire song, in one continuous shot, entirely backwards as well. How do you memorize those movements to make them look convincing? How many takes did it take? Only one, according to the slate that should begin the clip, but of course instead ends it.

Todd learned his blues and banjo licks while living in a shack in the New Mexico desert, an experience that led to the band name and a lyric in the video: “I had my time in a lonesome shack / I made up my mind, I can’t go back.” Todd says that the song “started with a photograph I took in Norway of some animal tracks that crossed a snowy field and disappeared into the woods.”

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TVD Live: Filthy Friends and Dressy Bessy at U Street Music Hall, 5/20

FILTHY FRIENDS PHOTOS: JOHN CLARK | Women rule the world, or at least they did at DC’s U Street Music Hall in a rockin’ Monday night show by Filthy Friends with Dressy Bessy.

The oddly named Friends are a kind of supergroup led by Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney that also features Peter Buck of R.E.M., Scott McCaughey and Kurt Bloch of Young Fresh Fellows, and the ace drummer Linda Pitmon who worked with Buck and McCaughey in the Baseball Project.

Great to see such adept musicians in such close confines. And as solid as the musicians’ credits are, it was clear that it was Tucker’s band, as she tore through songs that seemed especially changed and pointed as performed a couple of miles from the White House. The proximity seemed to add extra punch in her delivery, wringing emotion in the opening accusations of “November Man” sang with the spite of a “Masters of War,” about a leader for whom “we don’t have no love.”

Then there’s the inhumanity of child separation at the border in “Angels” (“What monster holds their fate tonight?”) and the sheer surreal state of contemporary American life in “Only Lovers are Broken” (“My head spins and the world turns madly are we almost on the brink?”).

Much of the band’s new Kill Rock Stars album Emerald Valley has to do with environmental warnings, from the title song to “Pipeline” and “The Elliott.” about the desecration of forests. But Tucker has a way to make the personal political too from the urban story of “One Flew East” to the more tender lines of “Hey Lacey,” which began the three song encore backed by just two guitars.

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