Category Archives: TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live: Jason Isbell, Sheryl Crow, and Waxahatchee at Wolf Trap, 6/17

Bundling acts together for summer tours doesn’t just provide entertainment value, it also allows fans of one act to be introduced (or reintroduced) to acts they might otherwise not have bought a ticket for—and being pleasantly surprised as a result.

At first look, the Americana stardom of critics’ favorite Jason Isbell might not need a second act to bolster sales. Indeed, he’s drawn large crowds on his own across the country—including Wolf Trap, just last fall, where this month he was back again for two nights.

Yet for all his success, he hasn’t had a fraction of the radio play, sales, or widespread pop dominance of Sheryl Crow—whose fans in turn may or may not be aware of his deft songs. Sharing a bill on a tremendous summer night at the wooded Virginia venue and showed how much they have in common, with great bands and sharp songwriting.

Fans of Isbell would be reminded how many of Crow’s songs they already knew by heart and may have forgotten; and those who came for her hits were open and fair minded enough to hear what the fuss about Isbell was all about, maybe for the first time.

The double bill was more than a Machiavellian promoters’ idea; the two had worked together on Crow’s last album, Threads, on a remake of Bob Dylan’s “Everything is Broken” that they reproduced on stage, trading verses and guitar licks.

Crow professed to love everything about Isbell’s music and his politics—though that didn’t come up at all from either artist, particularly. Isbell, for his part, said he’d never had a more fun tour than the one with Crow and opener Waxahatchee, which was already winding up after just seven dates up the Atlantic coast. (Really? Never?)

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TVD Live: Belle & Sebastian, Japanese Breakfast, Los Bitchos
at Wolf Trap, 6/15

PHOTO: HOLLIE FERNANDO | Two summers of canceled or delayed concert tours due to Covid has not only resulted in a pent-up desire among music fans to get out and enjoy, but caused a big pile-up of top acts sharing bills in order to fit in all the season’s dates. There’d be no reason that, say, Belle & Sebastian and Japanese Breakfast couldn’t headline their own tours. But here they were together on a splendid outdoor bill at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in the woods of Virginia on an evening kicked off by the sharp, grooving instrumentals of the London band Los Bitchos.

Belle & Sebastian, for one, was a band so anxious to perform they’ve been picking things from all over their career, doing multiple songs from six different albums in addition to only a couple from their latest, A Bit of Previous, that they had to record at home in Glasgow instead of Los Angeles because of travel restrictions. So giddy did they seem at performing, frontman Stuart Murdoch ended up dancing atop an upright piano at the end of “I’m a Cuckoo.” “How did I get up here?” he wondered at its end.

Every night’s set has been different from the last as they spin through their rich catalog. And as spontaneous as it all seemed, there was a definite plan in action as half its members—there are up to eight on stage this time—moved to different instruments for each selection.

The manic Murdoch served as frontman for nearly every tune, though Sarah Martin and Stevie Jackson each took lead exactly once (not counting Jackson’s impromptu salute to the state with a verse of The Rolling Stones’ “Sweet Virginia”). And while the kaleidoscopic films and projections behind them seemed to fit each song, it was clear that the visuals could accompany just about any song they could try.

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TVD Live: The John
Doe Folk Trio at Jammin’ Java, 6/14

If you didn’t know he was a central figure of the LA punk scene, you’d think John Doe might have leapfrogged straight from the dusty circuit of 1940s country-western. In the inaugural set of The John Doe Folk Trio at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, VA, the lanky entertainer sported a classic cowboy shirt, sang behind a vintage microphone, and strummed a retro-style wooden guitar, backed by a standup bass and a drummer.

His songs, too, told of a yearning of a bygone America, with job struggles, pain, and death. It was the first stop of the tour following the release of his latest effort Fables in a Foreign Land that was borne of the Covid shutdown that also was a throwback to the pandemic of a century ago.

And the songs of the new Fables in a Foreign Land are all consciously set in the 1890s, a time before planes, phones, video, and internet further complicated and blurred life or death issues. But the new set of tunes weren’t so different from the songs he’s put out on his half dozen earlier solo efforts, such that the opening “The Losing Kind” went easily into the new “Never Coming Back” or even “Burning House of Love,” one of four X songs thrown into the setlist.

Behind the electricity and drive, a lot of the fierce, thundering songs of that seminal punk band were super-charged folk songs that fit into the continuity of the American songbook. Some of his new material grew out of fondly remembered songs from his childhood, such that the sagebrush saga of “Sierra Peaks” became the strange milieu of “The Cowboy and the Hot Air Balloon.”

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TVD Live Shots: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss with JD McPherson at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 6/11

A delighted crowd packed Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland Saturday night to see Robert Plant and Alison Krauss “raise the roof” during a set that showcased the magical pairing of the two music legends.

You might argue it was long overdue. Plant and Krauss first collaborated in 2007, which resulted in the successful Raising Sand. Only in 2021 did we get a follow-up, Raise the Roof, released in November. The setlist drew from the new album and threw in some covers.

Of course, these covers included some Led Zeppelin. Over the years, the retooled, folk rock/country version of “Rock and Roll” has grown on me and I’ve come to appreciate hearing it live. However, this setlist also included two of my all-time favorite Zeppelin songs, “When the Levee Breaks,” which gave guitarist JD McPherson the opportunity to take the spotlight, and “The Battle of Evermore.” I daresay that Krauss’ angelic but powerful vocals on “The Battle of Evermore” rivaled Sandy Denny’s original recording in 1971. I’m not ashamed to admit that it brought a tear to my eye and was what finally got the mostly grey-haired audience on its feet Saturday night.

For his part, the Robert Plant of 2022 is matured and subdued, but there are hints of rock’s Golden God of the past, which manifest these days as the occasional familiar hand gesture, hip thrust, or “ooh yeah.” Mostly he is a lovely, harmonizing, on-stage partner for Krauss. The two elevate and improve upon material they cover together. Live, the duo is supported by an incredible backing band wielding instruments that include mandolin, fiddle, and stand-up bass. It really is magical to witness.

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TVD Live Shots: Royal Blood and Cleopatrick at the 9:30 Club, 5/19

The sold out 9:30 Club felt tropical last Thursday night as Royal Blood made a stop in Washington, DC on its Typhoons tour. Canadian rock duo Cleopatrick provided support.

Security provided water to those in attendance; the sold out club felt like a sauna. It hardly seemed to matter to the crowd, which collectively lost its mind over the English rock duo (vocalist/bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher), touring to support its latest album, Typhoons, the first since 2017’s How Did We Get So Dark?. It wasn’t just a great gig, it was one of the very best I’ve seen in recent years.

Canadian rock duo Cleopatrick kicked off the night. In thirty minutes, they showed they are musical kin to Royal Blood, blasting the crowd with a steady stream of aggressive rock, which was infused with punk energy. While drummer Ian Fraser provided the rhythmic backbone for each song, Luke Gruntz played guitars with an intensity that set the tone for the rest of the night.  The already full club responded with an enthusiasm usually reserved for headliners.

Singer-bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher took the stage at 9PM sharp and kicked off their set with two songs from the new album, “Typhoons” and “Boilermaker” (with additional support from a keyboardist who sang backup). The set drew from all three Royal Blood albums, weaving the loud, sexy, metal-edged rock of their early tracks (which famously got the attention of Jimmy Page), such as “Loose Change” and “Out of the Black,” with the more danceable, but equally hot, new material. Wow, does it ever work—the crowd spent 90 minutes nearly bouncing off the walls.

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TVD Live Shots: The Hu with The Haunt at the Warner Theatre, 5/16

Mongolian rock lords The Hu brought their Black Thunder Tour to a packed and rowdy Warner Theatre in Washington, DC on May 16th. Supporting the Black Thunder Tour is Florida rock quartet The Haunt.  

Fronted by siblings Anastasia Haunt (vocals) and her guitar-wielding older brother, Max, along with Nick Lewert (drummer and producer), and bassist Nat Smallish, The Haunt are a very young rock band, like Plush, embracing rock music. The crowd arriving early at the Warner Theatre got to witness their energetic set.  I was particularly impressed with the siblings’ charisma and mature stage presence; I suppose this should be unsurprising as vocalist Anastasia has been in front of an audience since age nine. The Haunt are a promising sign for rock music’s future.

Between sets, the venue—the elegant Warner Theatre, mere blocks from the White House in downtown DC—filled and buzzed with energy. At 9:15PM The Hu took the stage to the now familiar chants of “Hu! Hu! Hu!”

The last time I saw The Hu was on their first U.S tour in 2019 when they played at Baltimore Soundstage, and it was a crowd similar in makeup that gathered in DC Monday night. Seasoned metalheads, grandparents, younger people, even children had come to see this band whose sound mixes the modern and the traditional; that mashup what The Hu really excel at here. The band consists of four core members, standing at the front of the stage, and are backed by a touring band who play percussion, bass, and guitar.

Galbadrakh “Gala” Tsendbaatar and Enkhasaikhan “Enkush” Batjargal play the morin khurr (the horsehead fiddle), a two-string instrument played with a bow. Temuulen “Temka” Naranbaatar plays the tovshuur, a three-stringed lute. Finally, Nyamjantsan “Jaya” Galsanjamts takes on throat-singing, singing melodically, and playing the jaw harp and wood-carved flutes. This mixing of old and new extends even to appearances, as the men mix beads and flowing robes with boots, jeans, and their own band shirts.

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The DC Record Fair returns to Penn Social, 4/3!

The DC Record Fair returns to Penn Social on Sunday, April 3—and just like every year we’ll have 35+ vinyl vendors from up and down the east coast, DJs, drinks, food, and loads of records designed to put a welcome hurt on your bank account. You’ve been warned.

Our friends at the Fillmore Silver Spring put together the above feature a while back that outshines any descriptive copy of the event we could conjure—hit play.

The Spring 2022 DC Record Fair DJs are:
11-12: DJ John Murph
12-1: Crown Vic’s Weird World
1-2: Rick Taylor (WFTBO) with special guest Vivien Goldman
2-3: Soul Call Paul
3-4: DJ Retrospect
4-5: Leon City Sounds

Mark your calendars!
THE DC RECORD FAIR
Sunday, April 3, 2022 at Penn Social, 801 E Street, NW
11:00–12:00, Early Bird Admission $5.00
12:00–5:00, Regular Admission $2.00

RSVP and follow via the Facebook event and watch this space for updates!

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TVD Live Shots: Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs with Jeremy Ivey at the Birchmere, 3/28

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | With Tom Petty gone since 2017, fans have flocked to the shows of his longtime guitarist, producer, and collaborator Mike Campbell. With the same kind of Florida panhandle twang, rock ’n’ roll pedigree and especially taste in top hats, he’s the closest and most authentic connection to a beloved body of music.

But the talented Campbell, 72, has been busy in a lot of other ventures, too, over the years, helping out bands in the studio, co-writing with stars and even serving as part of Fleetwood Mac for a tour. For the last decade or so, he’s also maintained a stripped-down, garage sounding rock band, the Dirty Knobs, who’ve only released their first two albums in the last couple of years.

The Dirty Knobs have been listed to play a gig at the Birchmere in Alexandria for more than two years. First scheduled for March 17, 2020, it was postponed to September 2020, then rescheduled for a year later, September 2021, and finally to a late March, long sold out show this week.

“Hey Virginia! We made it,” Campbell greeted. “Thank you all for risking your lives to be with us tonight, just as we’ve risked our lives to be with you.” (You’d think the pandemic was officially over, though, with no vaccination checks, nary a mask in sight, and fans packed as tightly as ever on the long tables.)

It was a generous, generally rocking show on a wide stage, where equipment, amps and guitars spilled clear down the runway to backstage. The volume was that of someone used to arenas and stadia as well (or someone who had already lost their hearing at such venues).

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The Spring 2022 DC Record Fair returns to Penn Social, 4/3!

The DC Record Fair returns to Penn Social on Sunday, April 3—and just like every year we’ll have 35+ vinyl vendors from up and down the east coast, DJs, drinks, food, and loads of records designed to put a welcome hurt on your bank account. You’ve been warned.

Our friends at the Fillmore Silver Spring put together the above feature a while back that outshines any descriptive copy of the event we could conjure—hit play.

The Spring 2022 DC Record Fair DJs are:
11-12: DJ John Murph
12-1: Crown Vic’s Weird World
1-2: Rick Taylor (WFTBO) with special guest Vivien Goldman
2-3: Soul Call Paul
3-4: DJ Retrospect
4-5: Leon City Sounds

Mark your calendars!
THE DC RECORD FAIR
Sunday, April 3, 2022 at Penn Social, 801 E Street, NW
11:00–12:00, Early Bird Admission $5.00
12:00–5:00, Regular Admission $2.00

RSVP and follow via the Facebook event and watch this space for updates!

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TVD Live Shots: Mdou Moctar with Emily Robb at the 9:30 Club, 3/22

While we were away.Ed.

A packed to the rafters 9:30 Club in Washington, DC hosted Tuareg guitarist and songwriter Mdou Moctar as he wound down the US leg of his Afrique Victime tour on March 22.  

Philadelphia guitar goddess Emily Robb kicked off the night. Performing alone, Robb provided support to this tour promoting her first solo album How to Moonwalk. While some of her instrumentals were fuzzy and, as others have noted, lacking in melody, others had a decidedly blues bent. All were loud and raw and, without vocals, even meditative and hypnotic. Dressed in traditional robes, Mdou Moctar and his backing band (Ahmoudou Mokadassane, Souleymane Ibrahim, and Michael “Mikey” Coltun) then took the stage for a loose and joyful hour-long set.

If you are unfamiliar with the Mdou Moctar’s backstory, gather ‘round. Moctar is based in a desert village in rural Niger, called Agadez. Growing up in a conservative family that disapproved of electric music, Moctar built his own guitar with almost no instructions, using items like bicycle cables, reclaimed wood, and bits from a sardine can. His self-taught shredding—which has earned him the moniker “Hendrix of the Sahara”—spread via mobile phone data cards, a popular local form of distribution. Moctar eventually won approval from his community by writing, producing, and starring in the first Tuareg language film, a remake of Purple Rain.

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TVD Live: Poguetry
in Motion at the Black Cat, 3/17

While we were away.Ed.

The Pogues and St. Patrick’s Day were always a natural combination to be celebrated by the Irish from any background. Many are the fans who clamored to see the Irish roots punk band on their annual March visits to the East Coast.

Nearly as welcome, then, is the tour by Poguetry in Motion, which played St. Paddy’s at the Black Cat in DC, for the first time in two years—shortly before the pandemic put a halt to their tour and nearly everything else in the performing world. There was some extra joy, then, at the simple pleasure of live music in a room full of grateful fans who had been unable to gather like this for a good long while.

Poguetry is the brainchild of Peter Richard “Spider” Stacy, the Pogues’ tin whistle player and late period sometimes frontman. While spending some time in New Orleans he crossed paths with the Grammy-winning zydeco outfit Lost Bayou Ramblers, realizing there were a few similarities to their approaches to roots music, if not their instrumentation (electric guitar and drums, but also fiddle and squeezebox).

Soon they were jamming on Pogues tunes and before long Cait O’Riordan, the original Pogues bassist, was on board as well. Carrying such key bona fides, a tour naturally followed. Their Black Cat show proved that with the penny whistle, the original vocals of O’Riordan and a steady drum (from the Ramblers’ Kirkland Middleton), they were able to conjure the best of things like “I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Everyday” from 1985’s Rum, Sodomy & the Lash, the source of so much material in the Pogues-centric set.

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TVD Live Shots: Gary Numan with I Speak Machine at the Lincoln Theatre, 3/15

While we were away.Ed.

The elegant Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC hosted Gary Numan on March 15, where Numanoids young and old, goth and bureaucrat, gathered to greet the electronic pioneer during this stop on the Intruder tour. After four decades, he demonstrates he is still as creative and fascinating as ever.

Along for the tour is Tara Busch, performing as I Speak Machine, an experimental music and audio-visual project. I Speak Machine is due to release a new album in April (War) which is described as visceral and honest. As an example, the single “The Metal Of My Hell,” examines Busch’s battle with addiction. On stage, Busch managed to command the audience with her presence and charisma during her 30-minute set, an impressive feat given her minimal stage setup of computers and synths.

Taking the neon lit stage shortly after 9PM, Gary Numan and his fellow musicians dressed and sounded like a house band from a Bartertown bar, which felt fitting given our modern times. Long gone is the “android” look from yesteryear; it is a visual signal of his ability to evolve as an artist. After all, he is known for not only influencing younger bands like Nine Inch Nails, he also is open minded enough be influenced by those musicians in return.

This tour is in support of Numan’s latest album Intruder, which Numan has characterized as something of a companion piece to 2017’s Savage (Songs from a Broken World); both albums address themes of the Earth’s pending climate disaster. The set list was sprinkled with songs from Intruder, including the title track. While it’s exciting to hear Numan perform his early songs like “Cars,” “Films,” and “Down in the Park,” in concert his more recent work more than holds its own. The song I was the most stoked to hear, “My Name is Ruin,” is from Savage (Songs from a Broken World) and happens to be one of my favorite songs of the last ten years by any artist.

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TVD Live: St. Paul and the Broken Bones and Thee Sacred Souls at the Lincoln Theatre, 3/8

While we were away.Ed.

“It’s been two and a half years since I’ve been able to be with an audience,” Paul Janeway, the venerable saint of the soul band St. Paul and the Broken Bones, told the crowd at the Lincoln Theatre. He wasn’t talking about performing; the band had played dozens of shows since the pandemic hit, getting back on the road in August 2020. He was talking about really being with the audience, plunging down in it and walking among them as he performed.

So he gingerly stepped down from the stage and strolled up an aisle unmolested as he sang another one of his songs that blended gospel feel with soul yearning, “Sanctify.” Up to the back of the hall, up the back stairs across the balcony, singing down to where the first floor crowd was turned around and looking back, the seven-piece Broken Bones churning away on stage.

Accompanied by a roadie who wasn’t so much providing security as he was being pressed to do lighting—shining a flashlight on the singer’s face, Janeway made his way finally to the boxes overhanging the stage—a nice perch for him to sing and reach out at the climax of the song.

He was only a few songs into their set—one of two nights in DC that would conclude at the nearby 9:30 Club Wednesday. But that was also the extent of his performance outreach, at least until he high fives a toddler on her dad’s shoulders in the encore. He spent the entirety of the following instrumental—inserted more to kill time than to showcase soloists—trying to get back onto the stage.

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TVD Live Shots: Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators with Plush at the Fillmore Silver Spring, 3/9

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators’ highly anticipated River Is Rising tour made a stop at the Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland on Wednesday night, much to the thrill of rock fans in the Washington, DC area.The River is Rising tour is in support of SMKC’s fourth album release, simply titled 4. Young rockers Plush are on the tour in support of the October release of their self-titled album. Both bands stoked the already brimming energy of a full house eager to once again hear rock and roll played live. DC knows how to show up for a gig and we (one of “the best crowds of the tour”) ate this up.

On the heels of International Women’s Day, it was great to see a band like Plush—four young women who describe themselves as being on a mission to bring rock back to the forefront of the music industry. It’s a goal I wholly support and, given the crowd’s reaction to them, I’m not alone. They were entertaining and energetic. In 2022, it’s great to see such young bands (Dirty Honey is another that comes to mind) embrace rock and roll once more. As if their hard sound weren’t enough to let us know their goal is to bring rock back, they underscored this commitment by blazing through a rendition of Heart’s “Barracuda.” It was a raucous thirty-minute set and, as these women continue to mature (they range in age from 19-21), they will get even better.

Nearly thirty-five years after the release of Appetite for Destruction, rock legend Slash took the stage along with Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators. The gentlemen took the crowd on a hefty 21-song journey of some of their best tunes, with a few surprise covers thrown in (don’t expect any GnR, however). Along with some of the band’s earlier greats like “Anastasia” and “You’re a Lie,” they’ve also thrown in “The River is Rising” and—a personal favorite—“Spirit Love,” both from 4.

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TVD Live: Bob Dylan at the Anthem, 12/2

Before it was so rudely interrupted, Bob Dylan’s annual touring regimen took on a recurring pattern, playing the same towns the same times of the year. His last time in Washington, DC was the first week of December 2019. The final show in that leg of the campaign that he never called the Never Ending Tour looked like it may well have served as his last live performance ever as the pandemic raged on, closing venues for more than a year and a half, wiping out touring schedules for more than a year as Dylan, deserving a break after so many years of service, was entering his ninth decade.

But a brief month-long tour materialized despite all odds (and during a brief clearing in the gloom of Covid variants) and here was Dylan, back in DC at the Anthem during the first week of December 2021 closing the latest leg of his tour, selling out the place at 80.

With the latest handful of subtle but tasty musicians behind him, Dylan emerged from the shadows a couple of minutes before the 8 o’clock start time, suggesting an early bird special. The ensemble remained in shadows or silhouette for much of the show, which depended on dim footlights and illumination of the curtain folds behind them.

And when they all shambled to a start on an unrecognizable “Watching the River Flow,” it seemed like Dylan, behind a big upright piano, was sputtering to keep up, the river’s flow having gotten away from him. His voice was a froggy growl, as if frayed at the end of the tour, the timing all wrong. Things didn’t much improve on the next song announcing his intention to forge his own direction despite expectations, “Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine.”

It seemed like it was going to be a long night.

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