When Holy Ghost! comes around, you better believe they’re keeping the disco ball lit up all night.
She may be off of an album cycle now, but her message is still sharp, both timely, and perennial. Like a cutthroat progressive missionary, she returned to the capital of Trump’s America on Sunday night to enthrall a slightly smaller crowd at U Street Music Hall with her confrontational poise and an exhilarating ensemble of musicians.
At first glance, the two bands’ music seem to be polar opposites of one another, but in fact their similarities can be found finely interwoven in the steps they take to further themselves from being confined to a genre at all.
Delivering what could best be described as an intergalactic dance party, this particular comet crashed into a nearly sold out room delivered not destruction, but ascension for the duration of their sixty-minute set.
The funky (and Daft Punk-cosigned) bunch from Australia by way of Germany sold out U Street Music Hall weeks in advance for good reason. Did you bring your dancing shoes?
From his days as a music student at George Washington University to a sold-out U Street Music Hall, multi-instrumentalist Cautious Clay has seen his stock rise for good reason.
Let’s Eat Grandma’s latest album I’m All Ears is an aural treat. At their U Street Music Hall show, though? Well…partially.
Imagine you have a piña colada in hand while laid-back grooves get people up and dancing. In Poolside's world, 'daytime disco' rules at all times of the year, no matter the climate.
The road to music stardom is paved with wedding cover bands, restaurant gigs, and teaching guitar lessons. Nobody knows this better than Bruno Major, who has done all three. Major told Interview Magazine that shortly after leaving college, he did whatever he could to earn money for two years, including playing three nights a week in Italian restaurants for 50 pounds and a bowl of pasta. But starting in 2016, he released one song a month online, starting with the track “Wouldn’t Mean a Thing.” For the next eleven months, the hype grew for Major to the point where he was able to release the songs as a compilation, his debut album A Song for Every Moon, in August 2017. The icing on the cake? He landed an opening gig for Sam Smith’s European arena tour this past March/April. Now that his opening stint has ended, Major promptly made his way stateside for a few summer gigs, including at U Street Music Hall.
Joywave's live show is growing up. Given the themes of their sophomore album Content, fans shouldn't be surprised. A feeling of dread permeates the slicker, darker production and lyricism of their album. But throughout their quick rise (thanks to the one-two punch of “Tongues” and the Big Data song “Dangerous”), they were known as live circuit jokesters who would make many a tongue-in-cheek statement wherever they played. See: their introduction of "Destruction" as the greatest song in the world - a song that they would play twice during the same set. But thankfully, Joywave hasn’t lost their sense of fun.
In the world of DC live music, there was a lot to write about in 2017. I.M.P. made its broad presence even broader with the 6,000-capacity Anthem. Songbyrd solidified its niche in the up-and-coming R&B/hip-hop scene with clutch bookings like Xavier Omar, Jamila Woods, and Noname (and booked its first show at The Fillmore, with more co-bookings to come). Competition in the 200-500-capacity space increased with new venues like Union Stage, Pearl Street Warehouse, and The Miracle Theatre. Mount Pleasant DIY venue OTHERFEELS hosted its first DMV music showcase at 9:30 Club, with a second coming in late December. There really is no shortage of opportunities to catch live music in our nation's capital.
I covered 47 shows and one three-day festival for ChunkyGlasses this year, and it’s been a wild ride covering shows in venues big (Capital One Arena) and small (Dew Drop Inn). While most of there were a lot of great shows, the following ten best showcase why the live music experience is so essential. These artists convey emotion and energy in a way that can’t be contained within the confines of an album. With these shows, it was hard to walk away without the lingering feeling of ‘holy shit, they REALLY put their heart and soul into it tonight.’
So with that, here are my ten favorite shows of 2017. Click the headers to see more pics and a full recap of that show.
PS - And if you're still interested in knowing what my favorite songs from this year were, here's my Spotify playlist - Mauricio's Favorite Fifty of 'Seventeen!
English indie rockers Maximo Park released their sixth album, Risk to Exist, this year, and it’s both the most directly political they've ever been and their most engaging record in quite some time. While the album was mostly completed prior to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, the songs (unfortunately) ring as true now as they did when they were conceived, taking on a diverse range of topics from the wage gap to the refugee crisis. Though the band has never made it as big in the US as they are in the UK, they have fortunately made it a point to tour here with each new release regardless. This time through, their tour made its Washington, DC stop at U Street Music Hall, where they played to a small crowd of dedicated fans.
The French are known for great dance-oriented musicians like Daft Punk, Phoenix, and Justice. Yelle is no stranger to this group. Starting with their breakout hit “Je veux te voir” in 2008, Yelle has been entertaining audiences on our side of the Atlantic to rave reviews. It’s been a few years since we've been graced with an album from the duo of Julie Budet and GrandMariner. All signs are pointing to an imminent album announcement very soon. Over the last few months, they've released three new songs, "Romeo,” "Interpasion," and “Ici & Maintenant (Here & Now)” that continue to bridge the pop and electronic gaps in new and exciting ways that span continents and languages.
UK trio The Cribs have been playing their own brand of anthemic punk and power pop for fifteen years now, and show no signs of slowing down. Consisting of twins Ryan Jarman on guitar and vocals and Gary Jarman on bass and vocals, along with younger brother Ross Jarman on drums, the band released their latest, Steve Albini-produced record 24-7 Rock Star Shit in August. For this album, the brothers chose to do away with the production and multi-tracking that they’ve engaged in with their more recent releases and go back to the raw, straight-to-tape sound that defined their early years. Their US tour brought them to U Street Music Hall precisely two years two the day after the last time the band played at the venue.
Twenty-one years after forming !!!, singer Nic Offer is still channeling his inner Mick Jagger. The band came to prominence amongst the crop of early-2000s dance-rock bands, most notably with 2004 album Louden Up Now. Though many dance-rock bands came and went in a flash around the same era, !!! have thankfully stuck around and released their seventh album Shake the Shudder (available through Warp Records). The album continues to light up your friendly neighborhood hipster dance floor with funky songs that retain the punk-rock energy that made them so beloved in the first place. Fresh off a set at Primavera Sound in Spain, !!! kicked off their US tour at U Street Music Hall.
In a 2016 interview with music site Nothing but Hope and Passion, Lauber described what he wants out of the live music experience: “I’d like to see something, well, ‘larger than life’, something that’s bigger than the tragedy of everyday life. That’s what pop culture is all about, to create something that’s bigger and in a way more important than life.”
Hailing from Cologne, Germany, Marius Lauber has been doing just that by writing, recording, and producing music under the name Roosevelt since 2012. Following the likes of groups like Escort and Hot Chip, Roosevelt brings together the live instrumentation and slick bass lines of disco with modern pop melodies that are a perfect addition to summer and late-night dance club playlists. On a three-show pit stop in the US in-between European shows this spring and summer (including Governor’s Ball in NYC), Lauber brought a live band to a sold-out U Street Music Hall to turn his self-recorded creation to life.
Norwegian singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche has been a musical chameleon throughout his career, going where his whims take him. Past dalliances have included rocking out, acoustic ballads, jazz quartets, and Brazilian Tropicália, but his latest album (his eighth proper studio album) Pleasure sees him wandering in the direction of the dance clubs, with synth sounds coming straight out of the 80s. The opening track to the album, “Soft Feelings,” begins with a driving synth that’s a direct homage to New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle,” setting the tone for Lerche’s most consistently upbeat (musically, if not lyrically) record yet.
For an hour and a half, U Street Music Hall became Studio 54. Contemporary disco band and well-oiled machine Escort came with one goal in mind: to get people dancing on a Friday night. In doing so, the six-piece group, fronted by keyboardist Eugene Cho and singer/bassist Adeline Michele, took U Hall back a few decades to a time where big hair, light-up dance floors, and funky bass lines ruled the day.
Forget what you know about the saxophone, because Moon Hooch breaks all expectations of what it can do. From their subway busking days in New York City to their breakout Tiny Desk Concert performance in 2014 to now, Moon Hooch has continued to wow larger and larger crowds with their mix of rock, jazz, and EDM - ‘cave music’, in their words. In support of their third album Red Sky and the surprise free EP release Joshua Tree, the trio of Mike Wilbur, Wenzl McGowen, and James Muschler brought their intense saxophone sounds to a sold-out U Street Music Hall. (And yes, they brought the giant traffic cone.)
There are bands whose appeal can span generations. Thankfully, Kero Kero Bonito is not one of those bands. It’s music crafted exclusively for millennials’ ears. You can conclude as much after listening to a song like “Graduation”, where singer Sarah Midori Perry sings “Today's my graduation, so long to education / Didn't learn a thing anyway.” But like other artists signed to unique pop label PC Music, Kero Kero Bonito has found a passionate audience for their quirky and very niche take on bubblegum pop, one that takes cues from J-pop, dancehall, and video games. And judging by their performance, they know exactly what they are doing and the audience they’re going for.