The Howard Theatre

Kamasi Washington @ The Howard Theatre - 8/26/15

Kamasi Washington @ The Howard Theatre - 8/26/15

On Wednesday morning at approximately 6:45 AM Bryce Williams (Vester Flanagan) murdered Alison Parker and Adam Ward during a live television broadcast. He filmed the shootings and shared the video with the world before taking his own life.

On Wednesday evening at approximately 9:30 PM Kamasi Washington and his band began their set in front of a packed house at the Howard Theater.

These events were not connected. They were separated by 190 miles and 15 hours. That is a world of distance; an ocean of time. Yet these events were inextricably linked.

When tragedies play out on camera and are spread in real time through the media, we all become witnesses. Our national and local psyches are indelibly wounded by these all too common eruptions of violence. Charleston. Sandy Hook.  Virginia Tech. Minneapolis.  By some counts, more than one mass shooting a day in 2015. More incidents than we can remember, more victims than we can effectively process. Every person in that audience that watched the news, followed the events on social media, or (god forbid) saw the actual video was affected as part of the larger, extended community.

By the time Kamasi Washington took the stage, the familiar pattern of action and reaction had taken hold. The same debates about mental health and gun control, the same longform reaction pieces, the same accusations of “politicization” from all sides, the same feeling that this event, like the ones that came before, would change nothing. That our crippling national inertia would continue.


Louis Weeks @ The Howard Theatre - 5/28/15

Louis Weeks @ The Howard Theatre - 5/28/15

Last week the Howard Theatre saw one DC-based musician reaching the end of his long road while two other groups began their own journeys.

Fellow Creatures kicked off the night with their hypnotizing mix of electronica, prog and pristine harmonies. While the duo (expanded to a four piece live) of Sam McCormally and Will McKinley-Ward has yet to put out an album proper (their upcoming debut album is being co-produced by none other than Louis Weeks himself), they’ve amassed an impressive collection of songs that continue to morph and mutate when performed live. Where those songs finally end up remains to be seen, but seeing them worked through in front of a live audience provides a wealth of thrilling, unexpected moments.

DC’s best/worst kept “secret” band, The El Mansouris took the stage next. An unexpected supergroup of DC-area musicians (including Fiona Kohrman, Margot MacDonald, Alex Braden from Young Rapids, Sam Raymond, formerly of Rival Skies, and Drew Hagelin of Cigarette),  The El Mansouris have only a few performances under their belt. But if the highly polished set they delivered is any indication, they’re already a tight unit with a clear identity. Just like Fellow Creatures, harmonies play a large role in The El Mansouri’s Music, but the group steers clear of any technical fireworks in favor of a more populist blending of indie rock and folk that charms one minute and provides sonic pyrotechnics the next. This was the largest stage on which the group had performed to date, and they took full advantage of the space, surrounding themselves in glowing orbs of canvas-dimmed light, providing a simple yet effective ambiance that underlined one of the few things we know about the band at this point: They mean business.

Also in the “means business” column: Louis Weeks.


Sylvan Esso @ The Howard Theatre - 9/13/14

Sylvan Esso @ The Howard Theatre - 9/13/14

Saturday. The Howard Theatre in Washington, DC. Two young musicians whose resumes – work with bands like Mountain Man, Megafaun, The Rosebuds, Feist and more – each run a mile long take the stage armed with only a microphone and a laptop rig. What spills out over the next hour is some of the most inventive, exhilarating, forward thinking and humanizing music of 2014. Maybe of the past decade.

Consider this: Sylvan Esso’s debut album was recorded in a living room. By two people. It combines elements of electronic music, folk, soul, indie pop and more, all coalescing into a simultaneously sparse, yet lush, groove that speaks as much to the listeners heart as it does to their ass.