At last week’s back to back sold out gigs at Rock and Roll Hotel, IDLES aimed their ideological guns at the growing threat of nationalism and anti-immigrant attitudes in their home country of Britain as well as the US. In addition to this hyper-relevant protest, they also confronted a more subtle and arguably more complex blight on society; masculinity.
Touring in support of their 2018 release Smell Smoke, Boston Massachusetts Vunderbar stopped through D.C. recently tour share their autobiographical tunes and female fronted bands Lavender (DC), Indigo DeSouza and singer-songwriter Sidney Gish joined them on the bill.
Peter, Bjorn and John have always been able to display a unique spectrum of sensations that can elevate you from mellow to euphoric in a few chords, and that skill was on full display last Saturday during their show at Rock and Roll Hotel.
With fan favorites like the Nagano-featured SBTRKT track “Wildfire” thrown in for good measure, their set had all of the ingredients required – fan favorites, deeper cuts, tight-knit camaraderie, and a whole lot of dancing - for an epic night of music.
After performing over 110 shows around the world in support of her debut album I Love You Like a Brother, Lahey wrapped up her whirlwind and worldwide tour at Rock and Roll Hotel with one fist-pumping power rock anthem after another.
Jonathan Wilson is known as much for his recording and production work for other artists as he is for his own music, and probably because he’s always so busy in that regard it can be a long time between his own releases. His second album, 2013’s Fanfare, built strongly on the word-of-mouth momentum that propelled his solo debut Gentle Spirit into the spotlight, but for the last several years he’s been largely silent on the solo front. That doesn’t mean that he hasn’t been busy though. Fresh off of producing Father John Misty’s latest record Real Comedy and an extended time spent first playing on Roger Waters’ Is This the Life We Really Want? and then touring the world with Waters’ band, Wilson released his third album, Rare Birds, at the beginning of the month. For his first time in DC in several years (outside of the Roger Waters show last summer), Wilson brought a full band to the Rock and Roll Hotel to perform the album for a roomful of fans, many of whom have been waiting some time to see him.
The phrase ‘pop-punk’ might leave a negative connotation in people’s heads, reminding them of Vans Warped Tour bands whose time has come and gone. But Diet Cig marries fast-and-furious pop-punk power chords with simple and relatable lyricism brimming with confidence and subject matter that Blink-182 wouldn’t want to touch, like wanting to eat ice cream on your birthday. The duo of singer/guitarist Alex Luciano and drummer Noah Bowman have sold out shows all over the country, including their stop at Rock and Roll Hotel. With this tour, though, the effervescent duo became a quartet by adding Spook School bassist AC Cory and keyboardist Karli Helm. But still, it was Luciano and Bowman that stole the show as they have time and again.
One of the most unique voices in music today, John Maus is an enigma. His recordings are willfully lo-fi, and his deep baritone voice stands out enough to be immediately recognizable. After his third album, We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, finally got him the critical and fan reception that he deserved, he essentially disappeared for six years. During that time, he completed a PhD in political science (a significant shift from his undergraduate degree in musical composition) and built modular synthesizers. In October of last year, he finally re-emerged with the release of his fourth album, Screen Memories. Saturday night brought him to a sold-out and packed Rock and Roll Hotel for his first DC live appearance since that previous record.
YACHT has always been one to poke fun at society in some way. In 2010, they published a book called The Secret Teachings of the Mystery Lights: A Handbook on Overcoming Humanity and Becoming Your Own God. With their previous album, I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler, they only allowed the video for “L.A. Plays Itself” to be viewed when Uber prices were surging in their hometown of Los Angeles. More controversially, they ‘announced’ a leaked sex tape that eventually turned out to just be a music video for “I Wanna Fuck You Til I’m Dead.” (To be clear, there was no human nudity - but a whole lot of strange, slimy alien skin was present.) Their latest EP Strawberry Moon again prods at society with their music (one questioning why we eat animals) and videos (satirizing lifestyle brands and those that love to Instagram their meals), but it’s the live experience where YACHT really shines.
The Clientele returned this year from a seven-year break from recording with Music For the Age of Miracles, picking up right where they left off with their distinctive indie-pop sound. Following the release of the Minotaur mini-LP in 2010 the band had gone on indefinite hiatus, but they reunited briefly in 2014 to play several shows including the Merge 25 festival. Washington, DC was fortunate to get one of a handful of warm-up shows leading up to that festival appearance, and the band returned again to start off their US tour at the Rock and Roll Hotel.
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.
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.
Over the course of their now more-than-three-decade long career, The Wedding Present have become a British musical institution. They were one of the bands featured on NME’s now legendary C86 cassette, and were arguably one of the most successful – of the 21 other bands on the tape, only Primal Scream might rival them for a stronger claim to fame. Famed BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel championed them over the years, and their churning guitar sound helped to influence an entire generation of British indie pop that followed after them. While they’ve always had more of a cult following in the US, it’s a devoted one. The Weddoes, as their UK fans affectionately refer to them, last played in DC five years ago for the 21st anniversary of their 1991 album Seamonsters, but the time away didn’t keep a crowd from turning up for their return to the Rock and Roll Hotel last week.
Cold Cave, the darkwave brainchild of musician Wesley Eisold, sounds like a throwback, combining the influences of the heyday of Factory Records with the synth industrial of bands like Nine Inch Nails. The band released its most recent proper album, Cherish the Light Years, on Matador Records in 2011, but since that time has been fairly reclusive, releasing only a handful of singles (as well as a compilation album, Full Cold Moon, in 2014). Despite this, the band recently embarked on a tour, which included a stop in DC at the Rock and Roll Hotel last week.
Sunflower Bean are still a very young band, but they’ve been making a name for themselves for the past several years at home in New York City, being named the “hardest working band” in the city by Oh My Rockness in 2014. Their first EP, Show Me Your Seven Secrets, came out early last year and showcased a heavy, psychedelic sound, with churning hard rock grooves and distorted vocals. The band followed up in February of this year with their first full-length, Human Ceremony, a much more refined affair that took them in the direction of indie pop, with Johnny Marr- and Robert Smith inspired guitar work and Lush-inspired vocals (and the occasional hint of The Velvet Underground) throughout much of the record. In a surprise release in September, the band put out another four-song EP, From the Basement, containing covers of The Modern Lovers, Neil Young, Spiritualized, and T Rex. There’s little doubt that the trio has a vast knowledge of music between them, and they want to play all of it. In many ways they’re still finding their own sound, but even watching this growth is an exciting ride.
British psychedelic rockers Temples released their debut album Sun Structures over three and a half years ago, and it’s been a while now since we’ve even heard from the band. All of that should be changing in March of next year, when the band is set to release their second album, Volcano. In the meantime though, the band embarked on a short US tour this fall, including a stop at the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington, DC.
Jah Wobble began his career in music nearly four decades ago playing bass as a founding member of Public Image Ltd., and his distinctive style served both to set the band apart and to influence an entire generation of musicians. He remained with the band for their first two albums before setting off on his own for a long and prolific career as a solo artist and with his own ever-morphing backing band, The Invaders of the Heart. Wobble released his most recent album, Everything is No Thing, this year, and recently embarked on his first US tour in over a decade. Last Friday, that tour brought him to DC at the Rock and Roll Hotel.
As you may or may not know, it's been a really hard week for the greater South Louisiana family. Yet another historic storm with record-shattering rainfall -- this time in and around my stomping grounds of Baton Rouge, LA -- ravaged and nearly drowned our fair capital city in floodwaters this week. There's not a single family unaffected in some way. Most are safe, but the scope of damage and displacement is historic and near-unfathomable. Louisiana still needs all the help they can get. (Please consider chipping in even a few tax-deductible bucks toward a great organization and a cause very near to my heart.)
It's been ten mother-effing years!" said Jenn Wasner to the sold-out crowd at Rock & Roll Hotel. Formed in mid-2006 in Maryland and continuing to earn the praise of music critics everywhere, Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner’s two-piece indie rock band surprised fans on June 9th by releasing their new album, Tween, at the same moment it was announced.
Ben Watt released his first solo album, North Marine Drive, in 1983, and then didn’t make another until Hendra came out 31 years later in 2014. It’s not that he wasn’t busy for all of that time in between – he spent nearly 20 years as half of the indie pop duo Everything But the Girl with his wife, Tracey Thorn. When Everything But the Girl went on hiatus in 2000, Watt spent some time as an electronica DJ and a radio presenter before teaming up with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler to record Hendra, surprising everyone after such a long break from music with some of his strongest work to date.