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Phil Cook @ Songbyrd - 6/9/2018

Phil Cook @ Songbyrd - 6/9/2018

Is there a more accurate album title this year than Phil Cook’s People Are My Drug? By now, our love for Phil Cook should come to nobody’s surprise - the Hiss Golden Messenger and Megafaun guitarist has been on our podcast twice to talk life and his love of people and connection. But take one listen to his sophomore album, and you’ll get the same notion that everyone at Cook’s sold-out Songbyrd already knew - he can create some damn uplifting music. Cook drew heavily from gospel and Mississippi Delta music as well as contributions from friends like Mountain Man (which includes Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath) and Richmond’s No BS! Brass Band. It’s a considerate and uplifting collection of songs for people going through struggles of their own.


The Posies @ The Hamilton - 6/16/2018

The Posies @ The Hamilton - 6/16/2018

Except for a brief spurt of popularity in the early-to-middle 1990s, power-pop legends the Posies have carried on a quiet existence outside of the spotlight of the media for years, touring as a duo of lead songwriters Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer. They were around long enough to make a commercial splash in their hometown of Seattle well before the rise of grunge, get included on the soundtrack to Reality Bites, and then soldier on gamely after the major label attention had waned. 


U2 @ Capital One Arena - 6/17/2018

U2 @ Capital One Arena - 6/17/2018

The days of stadium rock would seem to be mostly behind us, as the bands that once filled those huge venues wind down, either finishing their careers or moving on to smaller spaces as the audiences dwindle, and few new artists find their way that far up in the ranks. Last year, U2 proved themselves to be one of the few bands still capable of carrying a stadium-sized venue, as their massive 30th anniversary tour for The Joshua Tree packed FedExField and similarly big venues elsewhere across the country. But even U2 has come to recognize the value in closeness to their audience, and their latest tour production for their latest album, Songs of Experience, follows in the footsteps of their last regular tour for 2014’s Songs of Innocence in bringing the band as close as possible to as many of their fans as possible, despite the still large arena spaces that they’re playing.


Bruno Major @ U Street Music Hall - 6/5/2018

Bruno Major @ U Street Music Hall - 6/5/2018

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.


Daryl Hall and John Oates @ Capital One Arena - 6/11/2018

Daryl Hall and John Oates @ Capital One Arena - 6/11/2018

As they approach their 50th year as a performing duo, Daryl Hall and John Oates are showing no signs of slowing down. While chart success may have come and gone for the pair over the years depending on where they’ve stood with the musical trends of the day, their hits – 34 total in the US Billboard Hot 100, including six number ones – have stood the test of time and remain some of the most instantly recognizable songs out there. Last year, the duo embarked on a co-headlining tour with Tears for Fears, and this year they returned, sharing the stage with San Francisco rock band Train.


The Bevis Frond @ 100 Club (London, England) - 5/27/2018

The Bevis Frond @ 100 Club (London, England) - 5/27/2018

They’re far from being a household name, but no history of psychedelic rock in the last three decades would be complete without a significant section dedicated to The Bevis Frond. Since Miasma, his first self-recorded and self-released album under the name, came out in 1986, Nick Saloman has been one of the most prolific musicians out there, having put out a total of 22 regular albums (the most recent being Example 22, released in 2015), not to mention several live records and other releases, as well as working with other artists including Current 93, Country Joe McDonald, and Mary Lou Lord. Many of The Bevis Frond’s records have been hard-to-get collector’s items for years, but a reissue campaign started by Fire Records in 2016 has looked to change that. Last year, Fire hosted a one-day music festival called This Corner of England (named after a song off of the Frond’s 1990 album Any Gas Faster), and this year repeated the event at the 100 Club in London, with the band as the stars of the show.


Tune-Yards @ 9:30 Club - 5/21/2018

Tune-Yards @ 9:30 Club - 5/21/2018

Merrill Garbus has a lot on her mind these days, and her sound is changing as a result of it. I can feel you creep into my private life is a rumination of white privilege and the divided state of America. While Garbus and newly-official bandmate Nate Brenner have done a very admirable job in calling out injustices in their previous work (like with “Gangsta” and “My Country”), they set out to confront their privilege head-on and in doing so created the most focused work of their career. (You can listen to our podcast episode on I can feel you creep into my private life here.)


The Slow Readers Club @ Islington Assembly Hall (London, England) - 5/25/2018

The Slow Readers Club @ Islington Assembly Hall (London, England) - 5/25/2018

One of the best indie rock bands to come out of England in recent years is The Slow Readers Club from Manchester, but if you live in the US you could be forgiven for not having heard of them, as they haven't had much exposure yet on this side of the pond. The band has taken on a very DIY ethos, self-releasing their first two records and relying on word-of-mouth rather than label promotion or radio airplay to get the word out. The band members even still have their day jobs, but nonetheless through nearly a decade of touring and playing festivals, they’ve managed to build a significant following in the UK. So significant, in fact, that when their third album Build a Tower came out at the beginning of May (this one released by indie label Modern Sky UK), it debuted in the UK album charts at number 18. It seems only a matter of time until the band sets their sights internationally.


The Beat/Buzzcocks/Stiff Little Fingers/The Selecter @ The ForUm Hertfordshire (Hatfield, England) - 5/26/2018

The Beat/Buzzcocks/Stiff Little Fingers/The Selecter @ The ForUm Hertfordshire (Hatfield, England) - 5/26/2018

The late 70s in the UK were a time of musical turbulence, as the young bands of the era rebelled against the excesses of the prog rock, disco, and other forms that had come to exemplify the decade. The result was a very distinctive version of punk, which while it shared much in common with its American counterparts such as The Ramones and The Stooges, had a sound that was very much its own. At the same time, labels like 2 Tone were fronting a new second wave of ska and rocksteady, which fused these sounds with punk. While many bands of the period have long since disappeared, recent years have seen a renewed interest in this music which has resulted in a number of reunions. Last Saturday, four of the best of these reunited bands – ska legends The Beat and The Selecter, and punk legends Buzzcocks and Stiff Little Fingers – came together for a co-headlining show at The Forum Hertfordsire in Hatfield, England, just north of London. The show – which was originally scheduled to happen outdoors, but got moved inside due to the threat of thunderstorms – was utterly packed with fans, many of whom had been there the first time around.


Lawrence @ Union Stage - 5/17/2018

Lawrence @ Union Stage - 5/17/2018

Lawrence has some “New Stuff” to unleash upon the world.

The brother and sister duo of Clyde and Gracie Lawrence (alongside seven of their best friends) have performed all over the country and overseas - even the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (We covered them twice in 2016, at Songbyrd and U Street Music Hall in DC - both shows were in support of their debut album Breakfast.) Now, the tremendously upbeat band is prepping for the release of their sophomore album, Living Room. Though it won’t be released until September, the Union Stage crowd in DC were the first on this tour to hear a few of the songs from the upcoming album.


Shakey Graves @ 9:30 Club - 5/15/2018

Shakey Graves @ 9:30 Club - 5/15/2018

As Alejandro Rose-Garcia’s foreboding tweet went in December: “Next album. New sound. Sell your suspenders.” How true it was.

Can’t Wake Up did away with the Americana-influenced busker music that helped him gain fame and instead embraced the music of Harry Nilsson and The Beatles to create dreamlike, woozy soundscapes that embraced a different kind of guitar sound. As he said to Billboard in May, “Some part of me feels compelled to poke the bear about why people have such issues with growth or change because everything is changing so obviously around us.” Even with the change in sound forthcoming, it wasn’t hard for Shakey Graves to sell out two nights at 9:30 Club, though some may have come to the show wondering which version of Rose-Garcia they would see that night.


Hinds @ U Street Music Hall - 5/11/2018

Hinds @ U Street Music Hall - 5/11/2018

The banner hung up on stage said it all: “Hi, we’re Hinds, and we came here to rock.” Hailing from Madrid, the garage rock quartet enlisted producer Gordon Raphael (known for producing the first and second Strokes albums) for their sophomore album I Don’t Run. With that production muscle behind them, the quartet felt more empowered to no longer write about being ‘one of the guys’ with songs like “Tester” confronting cheating boyfriends, and “Linda” mourning the loss of true love in a relationship. Thankfully, what didn't change was their bubbly and raucous garage rock sound.


James Grant @ The Lemon Tree (Aberdeen, Scotland) - 5/18/2018

James Grant @ The Lemon Tree (Aberdeen, Scotland) - 5/18/2018

Any list of 80s bands that should have been much bigger than they were would be incomplete without the inclusion of Love and Money, a Glasgow, Scotland-based group whose combination of strong pop hooks with the soulful baritone voice and intelligent songwriting of frontman James Grant resulted in a stream of songs that were radio ready. But even though the group had some moderate success at home in the UK, they failed to even make a dent in the US charts. Perhaps it was because by the time their biggest UK hit “Strange Kind of Love” came out in 1989, the US market had already moved on from the New Romantic sound that the band was building on to other things. Whatever the reason, when the band split in 1993 after their fourth album Littledeath, they did so largely unknown outside of their home country.