Belle and Sebastian, Spoon, and Andrew Bird @ Merriweather Post Pavilion - 7/30/2017

The DC area has been sadly lacking in the music festival department since Virgin Mobile decided to end their annual free festivals and the Landmark Festival fizzled after only a single year.  But on the last Sunday of July, a triple-headliner show at Merriweather Post Pavilion brought, if not the musical diversity of a full-fledged festival experience, a line-up of heavy-hitters that would normally only be seen together at a large event.  Belle and Sebastian, Spoon, and Andrew Bird are all big enough names to headline their own shows individually – together, they brought a night of indie rock and pop to Columbia worthy of the top of a festival line-up.

The show was opened by local DC favorites Ex Hex.  The trio played a short but energetic set including five songs from their Merge Records debut Rips (including “Don’t Wanna Lose,” “How You Got That Girl,” “Waterfall,” “You Fell Apart,” and “Everywhere”) along with two new tracks.  It was the band’s first live performance in a while, but they rocked as much as ever, with the new material showing promise for more to come.

Andrew Bird performing at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD on July 30th, 2017 (photo by Matt Condon / @arcane93)

Andrew Bird performing at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD on July 30th, 2017 (photo by Matt Condon / @arcane93)

Next up was Andrew Bird, who released his most recent album Are You Serious last year.  Four tracks from Bird’s nine-song set were drawn from that album (the title track, “Capsized,” “Roma Fade,” and “Valleys of the Young”), with the rest drawn from his extensive back catalog, going as far back as 2005’s The Mysterious Production of Eggs for “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left.”  Bird swapped between his trademark violin, electric guitar, and a set of orchestra bells.  

Spoon performing at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD on July 30th, 2017 (photo by Matt Condon / @arcane93)

Spoon performing at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD on July 30th, 2017 (photo by Matt Condon / @arcane93)

If any of the bands owned the evening it was Spoon, who put on a dynamic performance that showed an ensemble of musicians at their peak.  While it’s only been a few months since the release of their latest, Hot Thoughts (playing only “Do I Have to Talk You Into It,” “Can I Sit Next to You,” and the title track), the group didn’t focus on it, instead playing a diverse set of tracks from throughout their two-decade career.  From “Anything You Want” from 2001’s Girls Can Tell to “Do You” and “Rent I Pay” from 2014’s They Want My Soul, Britt Daniels and company played a set that satisfied both casual and hardcore fans of the band, and is liable to end up on the best shows of the year lists for many who saw it.

Belle and Sebastian performing at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD on July 30th, 2017 (photo by Matt Condon / @arcane93)

Belle and Sebastian performing at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD on July 30th, 2017 (photo by Matt Condon / @arcane93)

Finally Belle and Sebastian was up.  The Scottish group hasn’t been back to the DC area for several years now, and anticipation for their return was high.  Although they haven’t released any new material in the time since they were last here, they have been working on a new album, and they played one new track, “Sweet Dewelee”(Raleigh the next night got the live premiere of a second one, “We Were Beautiful”).  Other than that, the set was a virtual best-of, and Belle and Sebastian are a band that has many bests at this point.  Going as far back as their 1996 debut Tigermilk with “Expectations,” the band hit on much of their discography in the 16 song set, with highlights including “Seeing Other People,” “Anotherr Sunny Day,” “Funny Little Frog,” and “The Boy With the Arab Strap.”

 

Photos by Matt Condon
Click to embiggen



Belle and Sebastian


Spoon


Andrew Bird



Mew @ 9:30 Club - 8/5/2017

Mew @ 9:30 Club - 8/5/2017

For 18 years, Mew has been a band with arena rock tendencies and indie rock workmanship that has uplifted fans all over the world. The much-lauded Danish trio spent six years crafting their previous album +- but surprised fans by releasing Visuals in April, a much quicker two-year turnaround. While Visuals did away with some of the glossy production of their previous album, their desire to create dazzling sights and sounds that convey hope and joy hasn’t gone away. In fact, on the visual front, they were as strong as ever at 9:30 Club.


Loi Loi, Re-TROS, Body Puzzle @ Dew Drop Inn - 7/24/2017

Loi Loi, Re-TROS, Body Puzzle @ Dew Drop Inn - 7/24/2017

Local DIY organizers DCDIT put on a show at the Dew Drop Inn that featured two local musical acts as well as one from Beijing. First up was Body Puzzle, the musical project of DC-based artist Anthony Pirog. He composed the sheet music for his five-piece band, creating an intriguing musical journey that took listeners through twisting and unexpected paths. Their musical influences were all over the place, with crime noir-like mysterious sax solos at times and dreamlike, woozy guitars at others. Body Puzzle is a new project from Pirog, so new music is incoming.


Jamila Woods @ Songbyrd - 7/29/2017

Jamila Woods @ Songbyrd - 7/29/2017

Jamila Woods has an impressive resume: Brown University graduate, associate artistic director of the non-profit organization Young Chicago Authors, and rising R&B star. After making a name for herself singing the chorus of Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment’s “Sunday Candy” and Chance the Rapper’s “Blessings,” she released her debut album HEAVN exclusively on SoundCloud through Chicago label Closed Sessions. The album was so well-received that she has since signed to record label Jagjaguwar, who will be jointly re-releasing HEAVN alongside her original label Closed Sessions. With the impending re-release, she embarked on a July tour that included stops at Pitchfork Music Festival, Panorama Festival, and a sold-out DC crowd at Songbyrd.


Fleet Foxes @ Merriweather Post Pavilion - 7/29/2017

Fleet Foxes @ Merriweather Post Pavilion - 7/29/2017

After completing touring for their 2011 sophomore album Helplessness Blues, Fleet Foxes went on an extended hiatus while frontman Robin Pecknold pursued his undergraduate degree at Columbia University. Pecknold began teasing new material last year on his Instagram account, and in June the band released their third album, Crack-Up, on Nonesuch Records. Touring for the album brought them to Merriweather Post Pavilion last weekend, where they packed the outdoor venue with eager fans despite the rainy day.


Ride @ Theatre of Living Arts (Philadelphia) - 7/22/2017

Ride @ Theatre of Living Arts (Philadelphia) - 7/22/2017

Sometimes stories do have happy endings. When Ride split acrimoniously in 1996, leaving behind one last album (Tarantula) that suffered greatly from the strains that were ripping apart the group during its recording, many assumed that the band was done. Even after the tensions had cooled, the band themselves said for years that a reunion would never happen. Then, in late 2014, word came that the band were reforming for a series of dates in North America and Europe in 2015, including stops at both Coachella and Primavera Sound. Reviews were positive and often glowing, fans were excited, and the band appeared to once again enjoy working together. After it was done, many were left wondering what, if anything, was next. Would it all come down to just a brief nostalgia run, or was there new life in it?


The Moody Blues @ Pier Six Pavilion - 7/19/2017

The Moody Blues @ Pier Six Pavilion - 7/19/2017

Before The Moody Blues released Days of Future Passed in 1967, they probably seemed likely to be simply another sixties pop band destined to have a few minor hits and then disappear into the annals of time. Their 1965 debut album The Magnificent Moodies had yielded a number one single in the UK with a cover of Bessie Banks’ “Go Now,” but the Merseybeat sound the band had adopted was already beginning to sound dated by the time the record was released. Several further singles failed to chart nearly as well, personnel changes (notably, the departure of singer and guitarist Denny Laine and bassist Clint Warwick, replaced respectively by Justin Hayward and John Lodge) pointed to internal problems, and the band was still in debt to their label Decca for advances. Many bands buckled under less weight.


Tank & the Bangas @ Songbyrd - 7/21/2017

Tank & the Bangas have gone viral, and they have NPR to thank. Though the New Orleans band only has one album under their wings, the independently-released 2013 album Think Tank, a coveted spot in NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series catapulted them to Internet fame. As the winners of the 2017 Tiny Desk Contest, a nationwide talent search for the best band that hasn’t broken through yet, their Tiny Desk Concert has been viewed more than 1.5 million times and counting. DC was quick to snap up what precious few tickets were available once Songbyrd announced the band’s concert. And amongst all the hype surrounding the band, their stellar performance made them some new fans that have reason to be very excited about the band’s bright future.

Tarriona "Tank" Ball of Tank & the Bangas at Songbyrd (Photo by Mauricio Castro / @themauricio)

Tarriona "Tank" Ball of Tank & the Bangas at Songbyrd (Photo by Mauricio Castro / @themauricio)

As it turned out, the hype was real. Lead vocalist Tarriona “Tank” Ball was a wrecking ball of energy and emotion on stage in everything she did - her moves (including dancing around Songbyrd’s prominent on-stage pole and throwing in a twerk or two), her voice (ranging from infant-like inflection to full-bodied roars), and her back-and-forths with the band (especially with co-vocalist Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph). The band got the crowd moving with Tiny Desk Concert favorite “Quick” and even covers of Anderson.Paak’s “Come Down” and OutKast’s “Hey Ya.” But if there was one song that drives home why the band will have staying power, it was the band’s performance of “Rollercoaster.” The extended live version of the song added some very wistful flutes and an even more powerful spoken word delivery from Ball. She left the crowd entranced throughout, as if Ball was speaking directly from her heart to theirs. If there was ever a band whose future never looked brighter, even on an intimate and sweaty stage, it would be Tank & the Bangas. Now that the hype train is rolling and the general public are finally getting a taste of their manic and passionate live show, there’s no doubt that they’ll be packing even larger venues very soon.

Opening for Tank & the Bangas were their fellow New Orleans-based band Sweet Crude. The band’s Cajun-flavored indie-pop songs (sung in both English and Louisiana French) were a very pleasant surprise, especially vocalist/percussionist Alexis Marceaux’s infectious energy. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to compare them to early Arcade Fire with a hint of Dr. John. Their latest release Créatures is out now through Rhyme and Reason Records.

 

Photos by Mauricio Castro
Click to embiggen



Upcoming Tour Dates


Gorillaz @ Merriweather Post Pavilion - 7/17/2017

Gorillaz @ Merriweather Post Pavilion - 7/17/2017

In an interview following the release of The Fall in 2011, Damon Albarn was quoted as saying that it was unlikely that Gorillaz, his collaboration with artist Jamie Hewlett, would put out another album. But times change, and after an even more improbable reunion when Blur put out The Magic Whip in 2015, Albarn announced in October of that year that he and Hewlett had begun work on a new record. The results of those efforts finally came out in April of this year with the release of Humanz, a 20-track tour de force that saw Albarn digging even deeper into the electronica and hip-hop influences behind the project, and deeper into the political climate (even though the album was recorded prior to the votes for Brexit and for Trump, parts of it seem almost prescient), than he ever had before. Along with the album came the announcement of a world tour, and the excitement was so high that the band’s stop at Merriweather Post Pavilion (not a small venue) sold out almost instantly, months in advance.


Episode 300: Generation Soundcloud with April + Vista

Episode 300: Generation Soundcloud with April + Vista

Soundcloud is one of the most ubiquitous "tools" used by artists and industry professionals alike since the collapse of the MP3 blog culture. Communities have built up within it, artists have been discovered through it, and 

Earlier this month, the music service announced that they were laying off 40% of their workforce, closing two offices, and, it was discovered, may only have enough cash to run for another 50 days.

On our 300th episode (!!!) Kevin, Marcus and special guests April George and Matt Vista (April + Vista), are discussing what this collapse could mean for artists, the blogosphere and the industry at large, and figuring out how to save the music industry in the process*

PLUS: Thoughts on the future of the cast, and a listen to a track that is nearest and dearest to our hearts. 

*Spoiler: We don't save the music industry


Woods @ Rock and Roll Hotel - 7/13/2017

Woods @ Rock and Roll Hotel - 7/13/2017

The story goes that Woods never intended to release a record this year, with last year’s City Sun Eater in the River of Light still fresh in everyone’s minds. Then the election happened, and in a quick outpouring of emotion, the band found they had written and recorded a six-song, 32-minute record reacting to the outcome. But rather than giving in to despair or anger, the central message of Love Is Love is one of hope, that no matter how bad things may seem in the short term, peace and love will win out in the end. At the tail end of a brief summer tour, the band brought their psychedelic folk pop to the Rock and Roll Hotel for an energetic set that helped to reaffirm that message for all who came out to see them.


Lake Street Dive @ Lincoln Theatre - 7/19/2017

Lake Street Dive @ Lincoln Theatre - 7/19/2017

For your soul-tinged pop music fix, one of the first bands you should turn to is Lake Street Dive. Thanks to some well-deserved word of mouth, most notably a 2012 cover of Michael Jackson’s “I Want You Back,” the quartet of Rachel Price on vocals, Bridget Kearney on stand-up bass, Mike Olson on guitar and trumpet, and John Calabrese on drums have taken their act from the Boston Conservatory of Art to venues around the world, including both 9:30 Club and Wolf Trap in the DC area last year. The quartet returned to DC with a sold-out set at Lincoln Theatre that included old favorites, sing-along covers, and even a few new songs from their still-unannounced fourth album.


"Aquarian" - Seneca B

"Aquarian" - Seneca B

Sounds Like:

A lofi hip-hop waterfall

Why You Should Care:

Hailing from Boston, MA, Seneca B is creating instrumentals that you should add to your hiking/travelling/otherwise wandering soundtrack. MF DOOM take notice...Seneca B is making the soundtrack to your next album.

With flowers adorning the cover art, “Aquarian” sounds smooth and silky with its melodic guitar and soul-singing sample. If Continuum-era John Mayer were to record music for a New York rap cypher, that would be this track. A perfect beat to deliver a mindful freestyle to, Seneca B shows that her calm and collected style flows with fluidity over an 808. Releasing Soundcloud and Bandcamp singles over the past few months, “Aquarian” is Seneca B’s most recent drop, so hopefully she is preparing for something big.

In the meantime, add “Aquarian” to whatever playlist you listen to when you’re staring at the stars on a summer night.


Episode 299: In The Dark - Grateful Dead [Discologist]

Episode 299: In The Dark - Grateful Dead [Discologist]

By 1987 the Grateful Dead's long, strange trip was starting to wind itself down, but a surprise hit single ("Touch Of Grey") would catapult the band back into the spotlight, inspire an entirely new generation of fans whose size would, in the end, play a large part in the band's untimely demise.

To celebrate it's 30th birthday, a group of proud Deadheads recently spent a Friday night in the basement with Kevin to talk through this divisive landmark in the band's history and try to figure out if it's just true that "every silver lining's got a touch of grey" or if the Dead were, at long last "going to hell in a bucket."


Episode 298: Big Fish Theory - Vince Staples

Episode 298: Big Fish Theory - Vince Staples

With a string of mixtapes, EP's, and one LP behind him, hip-hop's Vince Staples has been making a mark on the new-rap landscape for years now. On his new album Big Fish Theory, he's taking the art form into the future and bringing us all along for the ride.

Kevin, Marcus Dowling (Decades/Capital Wrestling), and Joe Lapan (Songbyrd Music House) dig into this landmark effort from the young MC, and consider what this means for the future of hip-hop, where Staples is going to land once he comes down from the stratosphere, and much, much more. 

PLUS! Get to know the superfly jams of R&B/jazz/hip-hop supergroup The Pollyseeds before their album Sounds of Crenshaw, Vol 1 drops on 7/14. (This Friday!)


Robyn Hitchcock and His LA Squires @ WTMD First Thursdays AT Canton Waterfront Park (Baltimore) - 7/6/2017

Robyn Hitchcock and His LA Squires @ WTMD First Thursdays AT Canton Waterfront Park (Baltimore) - 7/6/2017

WTMD, the public radio station affiliated with Towson University, has been running their First Thursdays summer concert events in Baltimore for well over a decade now, bringing in a diverse range of artists from small local bands to legends. Their 2017 season has been no different, and has, in fact, seen the event grow from one stage to two in Canton Waterfront Park. A rainy day for their July event forced them to combine the event onto a single stage on the adjacent parking lot, but couldn’t put a damper on the spirits of the performers or the crowd who braved the forecast to see them.


Episode 297: Gaming The Playlist - Spotify and You

Episode 297: Gaming The Playlist - Spotify and You

 

In a recent article on artist advocacy site CASH Music, journalist Liz Pelly investigated "The Secret Lives Of Playlists", and what she found out has sparked another cycle of controversy for the world's largest provider of streaming music, Spotify.

Is payola running rampant in the world of playlists? Is that really a problem? Do streaming services have a "moral" obligation to artists or has the label system simply evolved, meet the new boss, same as the old boss? Casey Rae (The Priest They Called Him: William S. Burroughs & The Cult of Rock 'n' Rolland Michael Kentoff (The Caribbean) join Kevin in the basement to try and navigate this hyper-complicated landscape and hopefully come up with some answers.

PLUS! Indie-Folk collective The Good Graces are back with a new LP (Set Your Sights) and we've got listen to one of it's best tracks for ya!


"in a library, in the summer (when I read I fall asleep)" - Faunaphor

"in a library, in the summer (when I read I fall asleep)" - Faunaphor

Sounds Like:

A markedly more serene Louis Weeks and Noah Berman

Why You Should Care:

DC-based keyboardist Louis Weeks and guitarist Noah Berman have been creating music side by side for a few years now, but today, they are debuting music under a new moniker – Faunaphor. The vintage synths and sparse percussion paired with dissonant piano chords making their presence at any given moment makes this a slight departure from the pair’s previous work, but Weeks’s vocals are as calm and assured as ever here. Faunaphor’s debut album And There I Was is due later this year.


Roadkill Ghost Choir @ Songbyrd - 6/19/2017

Roadkill Ghost Choir @ Songbyrd - 6/19/2017

Roadkill Ghost Choir’s sound is big - much bigger than their origins. Hailing from Athens, GA by way of DeLand, FL, their debut album In Tongues introduced the world to their unique blend of Southern rock and alternative rock that were both of those things and much more. Their most recent album, the Born To Run-influenced False Youth Etcetera, is on track to be re-released later this year by Freakout Records. The band (and friend of the podcast) played Songbyrd on their mini-tour of sorts that started at Firefly Music Festival in Dover and will end at their adopted hometown of Athens.


The Pains of Being Pure At Heart @ Rock and Roll Hotel - 7/1/2017

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart @ Rock and Roll Hotel - 7/1/2017

For the last decade, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart has been one of the premier bands of the New York indie pop scene. Led by singer and guitarist Kip Berman, the group released their first, self-titled album in 2009, and followed it up with Belong in 2011 and Days of Abandon in 2014. Earlier this year, Berman announced the completion of the band’s fourth album, titled The Echo of Pleasure, which will be released on September 1st. In the meantime, the band embarked on a summer tour, which brought them to the Rock and Roll Hotel this past Saturday night.