“So much work and thought went into every turn of phrase and every tiny shimmer of sound.” That is undoubtedly true listening to Laura Gibson’s fifth studio album Goners. It also added to the punchline when Gibson told the audience at her DC9 show that European press on her recent tour struggled to find a translation of the slang term she used as a title and pronounced in a more, well, juvenile fashion. It’s a funny reminder that you can control a lot of things in life, but you can’t control the world’s response—even when you’re careful.
Jazz saxophonist Marcus Strickland and his ensemble Twi-Life brought a powerful groove and thoughtful exploration of the linkages between African and American music forms to the City Winery on November 20th, in a celebration of his new record, People of the Sun. Strickland’s musical vision accentuates the connectivity between black musicianship on both sides of the Atlantic, from Mali to the American South, including the intersection of jazz with soul and hip-hop and blues textures.
On Sunday night, Lord Huron brought their sophomore album Strange Trails to DC for the first of two sold out nights at the 9:30 Club. Singer and guitarist Ben Schneider led the indie folk band through a 16-song collection of tracks from both of the band’s albums. Schneider is a storyteller in his lyrics, and through a series of energetic songs at times reminiscent of a more polished rockabilly and at other times of the country rock of Springsteen, punctuated by his signature yelps and warbles, he sang of characters existing in the sort of tales that made up the pulp anthologies of yesteryear. While the polished pop shimmer of many of the songs often belies the darker narratives driving them, it’s clear that there is something interesting going on behind tracks such as “Dead Man’s Hand” and “Fool For Love.”
Photos by Richie Downs www.richiedowns.com
There are shows and then there are SHOWS. Future Islands tour closing set at the sold out 9:30 Club last Thursday was emphatically, and with all its heart, the latter.
Since 2006, the Baltimore mainstays have been hammering away at their weird brand of hyper-emotive synth-rock, and for whatever reason – be it a Letterman performance that went viral, or just the fact that in Singles the band has made their best release to date – it is safe to say that they have, at long last, finally arrived.
Photo by Richie Downs www.richiedowns.com
If we’re talking Rock ‘n’ Fucking Roll, one really shouldn’t complain that Philadelphia’s The War On Drugs delivered an almost two and a half hour set Friday night at the 9:30 Club. That’s the stuff of Springsteen-ian legend that people look back on years later and say, “I was there, man. I. Was. There.” And, in fact, the megalith of a show that Adam Granduciel and his cohorts delivered was an embarrassment of riches that showcased every era of the band; a crash course in how they got from there to this year’s unmitigated masterpiece, Lost in the Dream.
But man, was it some kind of awesome endurance test.
The set proper was book-ended by Dream’s “Under the Pressure” and “In Reverse,” a move that seemed appropriate given what would come between the two. Besides being the band’s best album to date, Lost in the Dream is also the logical culmination of everything that came before it for them. The winding river of The War On Drugs history that the set list took could not have made that fact any clearer.
While walking all sweaty and broken out of the OFF! show at the Black Cat Thursday night, I was already thinking, this is going to be one of those situations where attempting to recount the show will ultimately end with “you just had to be there.” Listening to OFF!’s first 4 EP’s and album will give anyone a primer on what is so great about this band. OFF! is bold, unabashed classic hardcore punk rock that melts faces within a time frame that leaves you stunned. Then, by the time you fully realize what has just happened, the band has already packed up and left the building - or been hauled off by the cops.
So, when OFF! took the stage and launched into “Poison City” the crowd erupted into a flurry of mosh-pits, fist pumping, and unified head-banging, immediately sparking the tenet of punk music that makes these shows so enjoyable. The idea that you must make the choice to always live in the moment, to come with an open mind and leave your presuppositions about what this is all about at the door - or at least at the bottom of your half empty beer can you are about to throw across the room in youthful discontent.
To truly understand and appreciate what is so great about OFF! is to realize a.) that they are not fucking around, and that b.) they put a lot of, if not all of the, soul into what they are doing – soul that isn’t found in most of the over-processed, digitalized music being made today. So, if you know anyone who may be at a point in their life where they are questioning the emotional and soulful effect of music on the human psyche in today’s day and age, then throw them into the pit at an OFF! show to wake them the fuck up.
There have been countless instances in music history where a key band member has been felled by an injury and a replacement must be found for the show to go on. Often it’s a friend, someone on loan from another band, or a studio musician who gets the call to fill in. When The Be Good Tanyas’ Sam Parton was injured in a car accident last month, band mate Frazey Ford made a radical choice in selecting her temporary replacement, a choice that could very well drive a lesser musician to tears, if not outright madness: her own mother.
So it was that the two remaining Tanyas, Ford and Trish Klein, along with drummer John Raham and bassist Mark Beaty, were joined by Ford’s mother, Diane, for a fantastic show at the Hamilton Tuesday night. While the loss of Parton’s mandolin was noticeable, the elder Ford did a superb job filling out the harmonies on some of BGT’s best known songs, and also helped provide some humor as Ford adjusted to having her mom on stage with her.
They opened with “In Spite of All the Damage” from 2003’s Chinatown, a quiet lead-in before picking up the tempo with a jumpy version of “Ootischenia” and the ominous (but seasonally appropriate) “Scattered Leaves.” Other highlights included Klein playing a mean harmonica on “Human Thing,” the perfect harmonies of “Midnight Moonlight,” and the show stopping closer “Light Enough to Travel.”