Category Archives: TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live: The Flaming Lips at The Anthem, 11/16

Add to the list of necessary roadie skills that of leaf blower.

He’s the guy who scampers on stage at a Flaming Lips concert to inflate a series of transparent plastic bubbles surrounding lead singer Wayne Coyne—or similarly blow-up giant rainbows, or swaying pink robots, as required.

Decades ago, Coyne developed the idea of singer-in-plastic bubble at rock concerts as a method to roll over his blissed-out audience, improving and streamlining the hand-to-hand combat of crowd surfing. When Covid hit, they proved safe barriers; he devised a series of concerts in the band’s hometown of Oklahoma City where not only all the band members were enclosed in their own bubbles, but so were the audience members. Now, the band must have piles of leftover bubbles.

By the end of their fall tour Tuesday at the Anthem in Washington, DC, concert restrictions had eased enough to allow fans to move around without being confined to bubbles (vaccination proof and masks were still part of the protocol, though).

But Coyne sang almost entirely inside a series of bubbles, with new ones constantly subbing in when his got too foggy, too hot, or a little less inflated. At 60, he no longer rolls over the audience. But he did roll out a big bubble full of balloons to the crowd at the show’s end. And he had other distractions: shooting streamers, pointing a spotlight into the crowd, unleashing confetti at various times, and hoisting a site-specific set of letter balloons at the finale.

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TVD Live: Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express at Jammin’ Java, 11/7

Chuck Prophet is always cheery and maybe a little goofy on stage. But Sunday at Jammin’ Java out in Vienna, VA, he seemed cheerier than usual. “I don’t know if you noticed, but we’ve been gone,” he said by way of explaining the pandemic that wiped out more than a year and a half of touring. “And now we’re back.”

He said so as if to explain “We might be a little rusty. It’s been a while.” But he and the four-piece Mission Express sounded fine indeed. “We’re going to put this little strip mall in Virginia on the map!” Before a sold-out audience at said strip mall, he doffed his mask to begin with the march of “Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins” and mixed in his well-honed songs from his last handful of albums, including a few from one that came out in 2020, the year time forgot, titled The Land that Time Forgot.

That collection included the dance party of “Marathon,” the reflection into past cultural touchstones in “High as Johnny Thunders,” and the autobiographical tale about growing up in Whittier, CA, and its brooding political shadow, “Nixonland.” But Prophet has such a rich array of surefire live songs that he can mix and mingle in highlights like the participatory “Wish Me Luck” (with a dour intro from Creedence’s “Lodi”), to the enduring “Summertime Thing,” which goes back nearly 20 years to the same album that produced “Run Primo Run,” which he also pulled out.

Prophet has enough songs in his quiver to select ones topical to the moment. While he doesn’t currently have one about the end of Daylight Savings Time, he did have “Castro Halloween,” which lamented “Halloween is gone,” seven days after the holiday. And cowriting “Always a Friend” allowed him to play that blast of an Alejandro Escovedo song.

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TVD Live: The
Magnetic Fields at
City Winery, 11/6

Prolific songwriter Stephin Merritt seems to respond best to creative prompts. Sixty-Nine love songs? Sure. A dozen songs that start with the letter I? Easy. One song representing each year of your 50-year-old life? Okay. All have been projects for his band The Magnetic Fields over the years. The latest was 30 songs each clocking in at 2 minutes, 35 seconds or less, called Quickies.

An accompanying tour for the collection, released in May 2020, did not come so quickly, though, due to the pandemic. A series of City Winery residencies for the band across the country, first planned for March 2020, was delayed at least a couple of times until it finally got running this fall, making its most recent stop at the Washington, DC outlet for a three night stand over the weekend.

It’s a compact crew, especially compared to the last time Merritt was here four years ago, amid a spectacular stage set and larger (but largely unseen) backing band of six doing 50 Song Memoir in order over two nights.

Here, evenly spaced across the stage was Merritt, perched on a stool to the right, alongside cellist Sam Davol (who switched to broken bongo from time to time); Shirley Simms on ukulele, vocals and autoharp, and Claudia Gonson on piano, vocals, and toy tambourine.

It was sparse looking compared to the fussy, colorful, toy-filled stage last time. And were they spaced out because of Covid considerations? (Simms and Davol wore masks, except when she was singing or he sipped tea; the audience, packed as they were, had to have shown vaccination proof or negative test results, and were asked to wear masks when not downing wine—about half did).

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TVD Live: The Jayhawks at The Hamilton, 10/8

One plus of The Jayhawks playing the mid-Atlantic is that their former bandmate, guitarist Stephen McCarthy, often drives up from Richmond, VA to rejoin the Minneapolis band, adding some extra country twang and bringing added authenticity to the classic albums the Long Ryders member made with them, 2006’s Rainy Day Music.

His appearance with the band at the Hamilton in Washington, DC Friday was not such a casual reunion—his addition was vital to fill out the band after Karen Grotberg begged off of dates in DC and Philly over the weekend due to a short medical leave.

Grotberg adds a lot to the band, and has ever since she joined in 1992 with thoughtful keyboards and sweet harmonies with frontman Gary Louris. On the band’s latest album XOXO, meant to showcase songs and vocals from each band member (and not rely so much on Louris), she was standout on a couple of songs.

This time it was drummer Tim O’Regan doing most of the harmonies with Louris as well as a couple of songs where he took lead, “Tampa to Tulsa” and a newer one, “Dogtown Days.” (O’Regan’s family was in the crowd, we were told, and there was a singalong to note his recent birthday.)

But McCarthy helped on harmonies as well, though his focus was that pedal steel and electric guitar twang. Still, there was a rockier sound to the all-boys lineup (rounded out by bassist Marc Perlman, who didn’t sing at all). The combination of guitars led to some dizzying heights as on “Waiting for the Sun,” one of a couple songs pulled from their third album, Hollywood Town Hall, now marking its 30th anniversary.

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The DC Record Fair returns to Eaton DC, Sunday, 9/26!

Like a phoenix emerging from the ashes… No, wait—like a tonearm lifting from a record, the DC Record Fair rises once more! We’re back at Eaton DC on Sunday, September 26—and you best be wearing a mask.

Just like every event we’ll have 30+ vinyl vendors from up and down the east coast—and it’s free all day. Anticipate DJs, drinks, food, and loads of records designed to put a welcome hurt on your wallet or pocketbook. 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.

Mark your calendars!
Sunday, September 26, 2021 at Eaton DC, 1201 K Street, NW DC
11:00AM–5:00PM—and free all day!

RSVP and follow via the Facebook invite!

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TVD Live: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit with Waxahatchee at Wolf Trap, 9/14

Americana kingpin Jason Isbell is always a gracious frontman and performer. But he had to stop his show with his band The 400 Unit a couple of times Tuesday at Wolf Trap in Virginia to take in what he was seeing: a nearly full outdoor amphitheater packed with fans who had been waiting as long as he had to hear songs from his most recent album Reunions, released in May 2020. Sixteen months later he was performing it as he intended before an appreciative crowd under a rising half moon. “Here we all are!” he marveled. “No screens!”

A lot of the new album’s songs were built for playing live and the first couple selections from his set, “Overseas” and “What’ve I Done to Help,” snarled with expressive guitar solos from he and guitarist Sadler Vaden. Both favor a kind of wild, electric slide tonality echoing the best of ’70s inventiveness from Duane Allman to David Lindley. Isbell has attracted wide attention with his songwriting, though, with compositions that are full of the kind of detail and turn of phrase that can stun midway through.

With his wife Amanda Shires back in Nashville recovering from an unnamed malady, it’s tempting to say the band played harder and tilted more toward rock than they might have had she been there with her countrified fiddle and backing vocals. Vaden added Pete Townshend-style windmill slashes to his guitar more than once, which might have triggered drummer Chad Gamble to rumble like Keith Moon, while bassist Jimbo Hart conjured up a bass solo or two in the tradition of John Entwistle. But then again, Isbell can turn on a dime and produce quieter acoustic meditations that are all the more astonishing when they quiet a big outdoor audience that had been rocking along minutes earlier.

To keep things interesting for himself, his band, and maybe audience members who catch more than one show, Isbell switches the setlist around each night. As a result, those who peek at what he’d played in previous shows may be disappointed when he didn’t play them here. But then again, pulling things out of the hat means playing some unexpected selections, from “Alabama Pines” in the first half of the show to “Speed Trap Town” toward the end.

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TVD Live: Willie Nile at the Hamilton Live, 8/28

Willie Nile’s pent up energy for getting back on the road was fairly palpable in his show Saturday at the Hamilton in DC.

Originally scheduled for April 2020, it had been postponed by the pandemic to summer that year, then to April this year, to finally this late summer date 16 months later. In the interim, the rocker released two strong albums of new material to play to fit along with favorites from a 40 year career.

Blending the drive and heart of the Stones with a raspy delivery of a Dylan, Nile is a master of combining the simplicity and sheer fun of Chuck Berry with the poetic insight and effective wordplay of the folk scene where he rose. With a veteran three-piece backing, his set careened from carefree, anthemic rockers to declarative stands that are durable enough to endure for future issues than the ones from which they sprang.

The title song for his new The Day the Earth Stood Still, as well as its “Blood On Your Hands” rose from the pandemic’s rise and spectacular initial fumbling by the government. “The Innocent Ones,” about another humanitarian crisis, was dedicated to Afghanistan refugees. From the uprisings for racial and social justice came “The Justice Bell,” inspired by the lifelong civil rights work of Sen. John Lewis.

Nile’s long-awaited DC show came on the day of a march marking not only the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, but to endorse the voting rights act that bears Lewis’ name. Many of the streets adjoining the venue were still closed off from the day’s activity.

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TVD Live: Elizabeth Cook and Waylon Payne at Union Stage, 8/14

Elizabeth Cook could well be the best of the legion of DJs on Sirius XM. Her weekday “Apron Strings” show on the Outlaw Country channel reflects her personality, as she speaks frankly and sometimes brashly about her life, her musician friends, and everyday hard knocks in her engaging twang. She’d bring that same charm to solo appearances with just a guitar accompanying her stories and really well written songs.

Out on tour for the first time since the pandemic shutdowns, she has emerged as a completely different performer. Dressed in kind of a silvery space age Ziggy Stardust jumpsuit and surrounded by a three-piece rock band, she roared through her headlining set at the Union Stage in Washington Saturday—a transformation that surprised at least some in the seated audience.

Cook has dropped the names of rock bands in her sassy songs before going for a full bore sound 0n her 2020 album Aftermath, whose excessive production more aligned with crossover roar of “The Perfect Girls of Pop” of which she refers to on one of its singles. But in front of an electric band of long haired guitarists and a Mohawked drummer—and following a quiet and very well-received acoustic solo set from Waylon Payne—you’d hardly associate her with the honest and vulnerable persona she beams out on satellite radio.

At first playing a powder blue electric mandolin and then a guitar—whose plug fell out at least once; you couldn’t hear much of what she was adding on strings either way—Cook concentrated on her sharp lyrics, which were often muddied inside those hard-charging arrangements.

Cook has crafted some strong anthems, from “Thick Georgia Woman” to kick off the set; the popular “El Camino” mid-show, and the triumphant “Sometimes It Takes Balls to be a Woman” to end her encore. When it came time for a cover, she went not to any of the classic country she plays on the air, but the Velvet Underground. Nice to hear “Sunday Morning” anyway.

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TVD Live: Laurie Anderson at the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, 6/15

On a splendid summer’s night in the shadow of Rodin’s greatest work, Laurie Anderson sat with her electric CR violin before a laptop before two invited audiences of a couple dozen each last week to tell some stories that cast their usual spell. Live performance in any form is still a rarity as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides; the joy of gathering as we once did to share in artistic expression is something that felt as rare and lovely as the summer night’s breeze.

Anderson’s own plans were altered during the lockdowns as well; a major exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum was bumped now until September 24. The museum itself, closed for 15 months, won’t reopen until August 20. Anderson’s appearance in the splendor of the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden beneath the famous curved Brutalist building, now covered with scaffolding, was being filmed for its use in conjunction with the upcoming “The Weather,” billed as the largest ever U.S. exhibition of her artwork.

Anderson was there now, she said, to share some of her stories, inspired by the stories of Balzac, whom she credited with piercing observation and powers of description of ordinary events made extraordinary. She told one of his stories, or what she could recall of it, of a wind that blows into a town, under its door jambs and under dresses.

This connected with her own aim for the exhibit, inspired by John Cage’s famous “Lecture on the Weather,” commissioned in Canada and read by US war resisters there. With her own work on “Weather “devised in the Trump years,” the pandemic-caused delay means “some of the imagery has different meanings to it, to say the least.” But her tales, so strange but not entirely unbelievable, touched on the oddity of modern life with the artist as a kind of sociological spy into different corners of American life.

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Posted in TVD Washington, DC | Leave a comment brings the live concert experience to your quarantine

PHOTOS: JOHN SHORE | In our time of the Coronavirus Clampdown, fans of live music are feeling the void, just as musicians have seen their livelihoods temporarily disappear. The nation’s string of music clubs reliably alive with nightly shows are shuttered and empty as the streets around them. One of the nation’s best-loved venues, the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC is attempting to fill that void by streaming a string of live shows it shot for a public television series that ran a few years back.

The 12 episodes of Live at 9:30, recorded in 2015 and 2016, features performances from nearly 60 different artists—from heritage acts like Garbage, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and The English Beat to local heroes Trouble Funk and Thievery Corporation to groups that have long since outgrown playing 1,200-capacity clubs like the 9:30: St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Grace Potter, and Lake Street Dive.

Filmed with 15 different cameras, the intent was to “capture the energy of the audience, something we unfortunately can’t reproduce at the moment,” says 9:30 spokesman Jordan Grobe. The shows, streaming free on, reflect not only the energy of the room, but the variety of its bookings.

“Each episode focuses on five different artists to show people different genres they might not be familiar with,” Grobe says. “So for instance, you might love Gogol Bordello, but not be familiar with Shakey Graves, so those are in an episode together.” “The format of it is sort of a reverse Saturday Night Live, where instead of it being 85 percent comedy, 15 percent music, it’s 85 percent music, 15 percent variety.”

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TVD Live Shots: Poguetry: The Songs
of the Pogues at the Black Cat, 3/7

For a few years there, the Pogues coming through DC around St. Patrick’s Day was as common as The Dubliner being at max capacity on the day when everyone wears green. DC got to celebrate a little early this year when Pogues tin whistle player Spider Stacy and bassist Cáit O’Riordan, backed by the Grammy-winning Cajun band, Lost Bayou Ramblers, brought “Poguetry: Songs of the Pogues” to the Black Cat last Saturday. “I fucking love being in DC,” said Stacy at one point.

The pairing of Irish folk-punk music and Cajun may sound like an odd couple initially, but the two are incredibly similar with use of fiddles, squeeze boxes, marching pattern time signatures, and so on. The Pogues song “White City” showcased this dichotomy really well, with the Cajun style as the backbeat, and the Irish trad serving the tempo and flavor. It was also interesting to hear Pogues lyrics in Cajun French as in “Dirty Old Town,” which was sung by the Ramblers singer/fiddle player Louis Michot.

Stacy, a Louisiana resident since 2010, almost seems to be leading a charge in merging both genres, much like the Pogues did with Irish folk and punk.He and the band tossed around lots of Cajun French phrases between songs, and he played tin whistle, both Saturday and on the recording of the Ramblers’ “Si J’aurais Des Ailes.” Rumor also has it that they may be doing a record together soon.

Roots embracing wasn’t just on a musical level, but a fun fashion one as well. Stacy, O’Riordan, and Michot were all wearing different colored jumpsuits, and when I inquired if there was a significance about them, Michot explained that there is a whole history with older Louisiana men and jumpsuits. “We like, them,” he said. “Lots of older men in Louisiana like my grandfather, they had them for different occasions.” For those of you seeing the next batch of shows, you may see the whole band wearing them soon.

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TVD Live Shots: Dermot Kennedy and SMYL at The Anthem, 3/4

Last Wednesday evening, DC’s Anthem hosted Irish songwriter Dermot Kennedy for an exciting night of music that showcased both his talent for song craft and his skill as a live performer.

Dermot Kennedy was in command of every aspect of his performance. His melodic acoustic riffs were perfectly complimented by the gargantuan sound of his band, even down to the smallest hum of his electric accompaniment. Kennedy’s vocals, engaging on their own, were pushed atop the mix to shine through it all.

Live, his material comes across as both intellectual and surprisingly dark conjuring a very unique experience, down to his stage presence which highlighted the moodiness of the evening with creative side lighting and negative space to emphasize the venue’s atmosphere.

Kennedy is on tour to promote his first full length LP, Without Fear via Interscope Records. The album boasts four singles including the radio hits, “Outnumbered” and “Power Over Me.” Without Fear debuted at number two on the UK album charts upon its release in October 2019, and came in at number twenty-one on Billboard in the US. Without Fear is available in standard black vinyl which arrives with a digital download for those of you without a record player in your cars.

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Sorry You’re Here: Beauty Pill’s Lost Record Sees the Light At Last

PHOTO: STEPHAN GIOVANNINI | “I didn’t want to put this record out,” Chad Clark tells me at the beginning of our conversation about Sorry You’re Here, the most recent release by DC-based band Beauty Pill. “It’s a pretty interesting journey.”

You’ll find the album filed under new releases in your record store or on your preferred streaming platform, but Sorry You’re Here was first conceived in 2010 as the soundtrack to a devised dance play by the Taffety Punk theatre company. The premise of tends to give listeners pause, because the text is taken entirely from real chatrooms of the late 1990s and early 2000s devoted to the subject of suicide—not how to prevent or avoid it, but how to actually do it, and why so many people felt the urge to take their own lives in the first place.

“I love the play,” Clark says. “I stand by it as a work of art.” It’s certainly not for everyone; because the text of the piece is gathered from real life—and death—online, it can be a disconcerting experience for audience members. “It’s sensitive, but it’s not a timid work,” Clark explains. “It doesn’t surprise me that it’s disturbing for some people. But artistically, at that level, I support it.” Given the difficulty of the material, his initial hesitation to release the music to a wider audience might seem obvious. “It’s not an area that I take lightly,” he says. “[But] my unease about releasing the music had a lot more to do with the fact that the style of the music deviated very strongly from what people expected from me or wanted from me at that time.”

Eventually, he decided to part ways with Dischord, not because the label imposed what he refers to as a “kind of an aesthetic straitjacket,” but because fans of other Dischord artists expected something different from what Beauty Pill had to offer. “This music is far out and away from what people thought I should be doing,” he explains. “I was nervous, I was insecure, that’s just the reality. And now I hear it, and what’s happened in the time since is people have really come around.”

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TVD Live Shots: Calexico and Iron & Wine with Frances Quinlan at The Anthem, 2/7

I simply love the 2005 EP “In the Reins”—so much so that I would even deem it among my favorite releases from both Calexico and Iron & Wine—and with their combined body of work, that’s saying quite a lot. 

“In the Reins” was the first joint calibration between Calexico and Iron & Wine and is revered by musicians and beloved by their fans. Rein’s soothing and rhythmic grooves are stunning, yet subtle, and its songwriting is extraordinarily delicate. The title track alone, “He Lays In the Reins,” is a song that feels like a warm bed on a cold, rainy day as its calm verses wash over.

Samuel Beam better known by his stage name, Iron & Wine wrote all the songs for the EP and cut it with Calexico’s Joey Burns and John Convertino in a studio in Tucson, Arizona. This current tour led them to DC’s Anthem last Friday night for an unforgettable set by two bands who seem destined to perform together. The venue seemed to come alive for Friday’s show as the mood was truly electric—especially for a seated show. “In the Reins” is available on black vinyl from Subpop Records.

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Independent Minded: A podcast with Ron Scalzo: G. Love

The Independent Minded podcast features conversations with indie artists in the music and entertainment business.

Pop culture legends “Weird Al” Yankovic and Henry Rollins, indie icons CAKE, Gogol Bordello and Mike Doughty, and up-and-coming indie artists The Districts and Vagabon talk about their experiences in the business, their inspirations and passions, and their recent projects.

The podcast is hosted by Ron Scalzo, an indie musician and radio producer with 9 self-released albums and an independent record label of his own, Bald Freak Music.

Episode 112 | Ron interviews Philadelphia indie music icon G. Love about The Juice, power naps, politics, Brooklyn accents, beards, Brushfire Records, and being hazed by Keb’ Mo’. Ron also rants about The Grammys.

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