Mr. Jimijam



ROOSEVELT DIME - December 28, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was a dull and cold December day right before the new year so I decided to go to the Kennedy Center to see the roots music with soul of the ever fabulous Roosevelt Dime who are what they call “The King's County Steamboat Soul” tear it up on the Millennium Stage. The band started their set off with a banjo solo from Andrew Green that burst into a driving song about the state of the working class with the brilliant clarinet playing of Seth Paris as Andrew plaintively sang the insightful lyrics and then the band went right into another uptempo song called “Slow Your Roll” about the pitfalls of being someone's sugar daddy. A languid saxophone wail from Seth began their next song as drummer Tony Montalbano laid down an almost jazzy groove as Andrew sang their well-thought out and well-written lyrics about life and love and the song had a nice lilt that made me feel like dancing and swaying to the beat. The very disparaging elements to their music blended well together as the band flowed with saxophone fills and very intricate banjo parts that gave them a very unique and original style of music. Andrew made a few jokes about the District's lack of a senator and what he would do about it and then he kicked into an eerie banjo part as bassist Eben Pariser introduced the next song, “Down On Your Luck” from their brand-new album “Full Head Of Steam” and he crooned some nice lyrics as Seth wailed on the clarinet. The next song “Crazy About You” was written by Seth and it was in a traditional jug-band blues kind of song and I was really impressed by their musicianship and the genuine feel their songs had as they plugged away and giving it all they got. Next they played the Andrew Green-penned lead-off track “Ode To Be” from their new album and he played some really cool banjo licks as he sang the powerful words of longing and love. Andrew picked up his Telecaster and launched into an old school blues number called “I'd Be Lying” that had his guitar soulfully wailing as bassist Eben crooned the words so nicely as Tom kept a sparse beat and Seth made his saxophone howl and wail with deep emotion. The next song was a classic R&B song with a chiming guitar lick as Eben spoke/sang the lyrics about looking for love in the wrong people and Tony made the song groove along with his smooth and crisp drumming as Seth once again made his saxophone soar majestically and the band segued into a melancholy number called “Calvary” and Andrew brought the song's words to life as he prayed for the world's salvation over his staccato guitar riff that chugged along with the rhythm section so beautifully as Seth played them out with his saxophone. Eben grabbed his gut-bucket bass and charged into the classic-sounding “Abilone” and they each took turns showcasing their musical skills as the song careened and tumbled along like a traditional jug-band. They closed their eleven-song set with the jump-up New Orleans-style of “I Want Mo'” from their new album and they had that beat a'swingin' as their voices and instruments blended perfectly together in harmony, particularly Seth Pariser on the saxophone and Roosevelt Dime were one of the more enjoyable bands that I have seen lately and I would go see them again.

LAST TRAIN HOME - December 22, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

KOKAYI - December 20, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was an oddly warm evening as I made my way to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see one of the most inventive and innovative artists in the local area, Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter/producer Kokayi. Earlier this year he went to Senegal as part of the Sister Cities program and he worked with local musicians to showcase their creativity. Tonight he is backed by a four-piece band and the visuals are provided by Sojournals so it should be quite an experience. Kokayi and his band took the stage and he introduced them to the audience, drummer Jon Laine, keyboardist Dan Paul, guitarist Darrell "DP" Perry, and vocalist Alison Carney, and they launched into their first number and he had incredible flow as he rapped on many topics. The band was fantastically tight and they played real original music and no samples. The band continued on with a song called "Slow Down" and the guitarist Darrell Perry played some nice riffs and the drummer Jon Laine dropped a sexy beat as Kokayi sang nicely as the video showed different sides of DC. The guitarist played a nice stutter-y lead as Kokayi gently sang "Summer Winter Spring Fall" which had a nice haunting rhythm to it, and the keyboardist Dan Paul played some melodies on top of the percolating rhythm. Next they played a full-fledged rock song called "Love Will Be" and it flowed real groovy as Kokayi's brilliant words rolled off his tongue in sync with the keyboardist and it was a beautiful song and my favorite of his set tonight. Alison Carney added some great vocals to the song with her powerful and soulful voice, and his songs have great swing to them as he rocked the microphone on the next song with its big beat from the drummer Jon Laine and keyboardist Dan Paul's delivery was smooth as silk as he accented its happy groove. The next song "Who's Gonna Take The Weight" was very reggae-influenced as the lively beat skanked along and Kokayi and Alison's voices sounded great together, and the song had a real feel to it and Kokayi even sang in a Jamaican accent. Next the band kicked back with the loping hip-hop beat of "She's A Real Good..." and he sang about the beauty of his wife as keyboardist Dan Paul played a melody that danced all around him and the band segued into "I Seen It All Before" and they rocked it. The band switched gears again and played some jazzy hip-hop as Kokayi read bad rappers in "That Ain't My Hip-Hop" and I liked how the words just seemed to tumble out of his mouth and he even scatted a bit and the audience went crazy. Then the band finished with a lovely ditty about a girl and then the band went metal and thrashed out and then they reverted back to the gentle melody that drove the song and then they went back to the hard beat as vocalist Alison Carney wailed beautifully with her expressive voice. They finished their eleven-song set with an upbeat number called "Party With Me" and Kokayi got the audience to clap along to the song as he asked everybody to party with me. I have not enjoyed hip-hop for years but I find that the local talent to be quite listenable, especially when they are backed by a live band and they do not use samples because that just means their sound is unoriginal and they are lazy - write your own damn music.

OWEN DANOFF - November 27, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was a dreary night before Thanksgiving as I headed down to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see Owen Danoff who is the son of Bill Danoff who won two Grammys for his seventies classic "Afternoon Delight" by The Starland Vocal Band and he also wrote the John Denver classic "Take Me Home, Country Roads", but thankfully Owen developed his own musical identity. Owen has played his bass and sang at every venue in the area from Jammin' Java to RFK Stadium. He just released the new EP "Never Trust A Man" and it is an elegant and wistful look at love, loss, and regret with meaningful lyrics and superb arrangements that touch one's soul. He is currently recording his new album for release early next year but tonight should be a nice gig full of old songs and new ones. Owen and his band took the stage at 6PM and they launched into a loping beat with swirling keyboard lines as Owen plaintively sang the sad lyrics of "Hometown" that told a marvelous story. The band played skillfully as they followed Owen's bass and his touching words about falling in love in the song "Have I Ever Fallen" and the drummer Mike Nasta drove the rhythm with his sparse playing which he picked up the tempo for their next song "On And On And On" and I really enjoyed Owen's clever words as keyboardist Eric Montgomery delightfully tinkled away and Adrien Godat whipped out a tasteful lead on the guitar. Owen had a nice rich tenor voice that made his words sound pleasant as he sang "It's Alright" and the band took turns playing tasteful solos as they began playing several new songs from their forthcoming album. They started with an uptempo rocker called "Juliet" and they turned it out with its toe-tapping beat and cool lyrics and it was my favorite song of the night. The next song "I Wish I Knew Better" started off with Owen strumming an acoustic guitar and the band slowly joined in as Owen sang about a girl and then he switched back to the bass and and happily sang "Amsterdam" which he said was the first song that he wrote outside the country and it was a nice flowing and lilting number. Finally the band played a nice crunchy rocker called "Nowhereland" and Owen played some incredible bass as the melody danced with Mike Squillante's deft guitar playing and Mike Nasta pounded away on the drums, and Owen could really paint a picture with his lyrics. The darkest song of the night was a somber number called "See This Though" and it had a killer bass line that weaved through the rhythm and keyboard melody lines and Owen played a lovely bass solo that was just beautiful as Adrien Godat wailed away on his guitar with these great searing riffs. Owen Danoff and his band finished their ten-song set with his latest single "Crazy" and it had a nice beat and a cool guitar hook that propelled the song. I was quite impressed by his genuine and heartfelt lyrics and his impassioned singing and the great performance of his sharp and tight band. Well done!

PINK and THE KIN - November 24, 2013
Verizon Center - Washington, DC - Section 112/Row J/Seat 9

Winter came down with an Arctic thud as it landed on Washington and killed my tomato plants but no worries, I get to see the phenomenal Pink on her sold-out "Truth About Love" tour and being that I missed her back in March, I had to see her this time. I meandered down to the Verizon Center in the freezing cold and I made my way to my fabulous seat in my favorite section that was close to the stage and I had a fabulous view. Pink is probably my favorite modern female pop star and she was the first concert I went to see after my stroke so I hold her special in my eyes. But first tonight I have to endure the opening act who are from Australia and are called The Kin and they are a trio and there is no bass player. They reminded me of One Direction with guitars and I was horrified. They are touring in support of their "Get It On" EP and I did enjoy two of their songs, "The Hope Machine" and their new single "On The Rise", the cool thing was the drummer Shakerleg played with his hands and it gave their sound a little punch but the vocalist/guitarist Thorald Koren was kind of bland in his playing as he and his brother vocalist/keyboardist Isaac Koren sang their somewhat inane lyrics. They played a ten-son set and I was really glad they were done with their "music". During the break a strange man dressed like a circus ringleader walked around the arena messing with people as classic disco played. Finally the lights dimmed and the eight video screens showed Pink's Cover Girl ad and then it changed to a video parody of "Truth About Love" and then a red light lit up the stage as it was behind a scrim then it rose high above the audience and fireworks went off and the circus ringleader guy appeared onstage and yattered away as Pink and her band launched into a stunning "Raise Your Glass" from 2010's "Greatest Hits...So Far!!!" album and Pink joyously sang, "Right, right, turn off the light, we gonna lose our minds tonight, what's the deal-e-o, I love when it's all too much, 5 am, turn the radio up, where's the rock and roll...", and her guitarist Justin Derrico played a scorching solo that set the tone for the night. The video screens showed Pink lounging about sexily and her dancers were stomping around the great stage set as she launched into a sassy "Walk Of Shame" from the "Truth About Love" album and she delivered some powerhouse vocals about taking control of your sexuality and her background singers Vivian Saunders and Jenny Douglas-McRae did a fantastic job with the harmonies that gave Pink's vocals punch. She owned her stage as she let loose with "Just Like A Pill" from 2008's "Funhouse" album and she sounded great as guitarist Kat Lucas made her guitar howl as the band segued into "U+UR Hand" from 2006's "I'm Not Dead" album. The band played a dance-y beat lead by drummer Mark Schulman that had the crowd bouncing and Justin Derrico played a grinding guitar groove that drove the stellar rhythm that pulsed out of the band as Pink sneered, "I'm not here for your entertainment, you don't really want to mess with me tonight, just stop and take a second, I was fine before you walked into my life..." The band continued with a punchy "Leave Me Alone (I'm Lonely)" also from the "I'm Not Dead" album and the videos showed a "Dork-o-Meter" and a bunch of bad dancers causing it to buzz, and the stuttering riff from guitarist Justin went well with other guitarist Kat Lucas' scorching hot solo lead work. It was just brilliant. The ringmaster appeared in a strange interlude where he babbled about sexual fetishes as people carried strange temple carvings onto the stage and Pink was strapped into an aerial rig and she took to the air and emotionally sang "Try" from the "Truth About Love" album, and I was amazed by how she could be flying through the air and sing so well over the throbbing and pulsing beat of the song. Pink came back to the ground but her dancers stayed in the air and simulated fighting as they bounced about above the stage, and the band launched into a beautiful cover of "Wicked Game" by Chris Isaak that featured some incredibly soulful crooning from Pink and a great crying guitar riff from Justin Derrico. Pink and three of her dancers disappeared in an opening in the stage and the band started a lovely "Just Give Me A Reason" from the "Truth About Love" album and Pink and company rose out of the stage and while high above the audience she sounded lovely as she sang, "Just give me a reason, just a little bit's enough, just a second we're not broken just bent, and we can learn to love again, it's in the stars, it's been written in the scars on our hearts, we're not broken just bent, and we can learn to love again...", and the audience sang the chorus as the video screens showed Nate Ruess of Fun. who co-wrote the song with her singing along as Pink disappeared in the floor. The lights dimmed and there was another interlude with the ringmaster dressed as a cherub in the aerial rig talking about the beauty of love with a full moon shining on the video screens. The band re-appeared and guitarist Justin Derrico played the signature riff of "Trouble" from 2003's "Try This" album and Pink sounded great as drummer Mark Schulman punctuated the beat with tasty little fills underpinned by Eva Gardner's funky bass lines. The band followed that with my favorite song of the night, an inspirational "We Are All We Are" from the "Truth About Love" album, and it featured a squealing guitar riff from Kat Lucas and Pink led everybody in a raucous sing-a-long and then the band broke the song down as Mark Schulman played an amazing drum solo then Pink joined him on the drums as keyboardist Jason Chapman played an eerie melody over the sparse beat. Pink and three dancers were strapped in a round contraption and it rose high above the stage and began twirling and her dancers were amazingly athletic and body parts spun everywhere and Pink sang a heartfelt "Sober" from the "Funhouse" album and she sounded lovely as she sang, "I'm safe up high, nothing can touch me, but why do I feel this party's over, no pain inside, you're my protection, but how do I feel this good sober...", as she spun around and around with her dancers. Pink returned to the ground and showcased her beautiful voice on "The Great Escape" from the "Truth About Love" album and Kat Lucas shined on a slow blues-y guitar solo that made the song exceptional. The band left the stage and Pink and Justin on an acoustic guitar took to the stage and performed a rather lovely "Who Knew" from the "I'm Not Dead" album and I am amazed by the rich tone in her voice. Justin switched to an electric guitar and played a nice crunchy riff that accented Pink's vocal delivery as she sang her smash hit "Fuckin' Perfect", her other new song from 2010's "Greatest Hits...So Far!!!" album, with great pizzazz, "Pretty, pretty please, don't you ever, ever feel, like you're less than, fuckin' perfect, pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel, like you're nothing, you're fuckin' perfect to me...", and the band kicked in with a raucous finish with guitarist Kat Lucas playing a soaring solo. The band was smokin' hot by now as they pumped out a sassy medley of "Most Girls/There You Go/You Make Me Sick" from 2000's "Can't Take Me Home" and Pink showed her R&B roots as she sang and danced her way around the stage and she was giving Janet Jackson a run for her money with her wild dancing as she sang the songs with incredible soul and Justin played some wonderful wah-wah guitar that segued into the killer guitar riff of "Slut Like You" from the "Truth About Love" album and it was great as it rang out big and loud in the arena. The song had some amazing percussive waves of rhythm that made the audience bounce to the beat as Pink showed off her rapping skills and she had a nice flow as she preached female empowerment. Pink and her band closed her set with her latest single "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)", also from the "Truth About Love" album, and she belted out passionately, "I think I've finally had enough, I think I maybe think too much, I think this might be it for us, blow me one last kiss, you think I'm just too serious, I think you're full of shit, my head is spinning so, blow me one last kiss...", as the bassist Eva Gardner and drummer Mark Schulman played off each other beautifully as the groove swayed seductively and the guitarist Justin Derrico played the song out as Pink introduced everyone in the band and the song finished and they left the stage. After a few minutes the circus ringmaster character appeared onstage and started emphatically preaching the power of love and sex in its many forms and then Pink ran out onto the stage and pushed him into the opening in the floor and she got rigged up in the aerial contraption and she soared high above the crowd and spinning all around and the upper tiers got a good view of her as she started singing with attitude her smash hit "So What" from her break-though album "Funhouse" and you could tell she meant every word, "I got a brand new attitude, and I'm gonna wear it tonight, I'm gonna get in trouble, I wanna start a fight, na-na-na-na, na-na, na, I wanna start a fight, na-na-na-na, na-na, na, I gonna start a fight..." The band was outstanding as each of them got to show off on their instruments one last time as they finished their eighteen-song set with a bang. The thing that amazed me the most was how great her control of her voice was as she flew through the air tied to elastic ropes while singing, overall it was a great performance from Pink and her fantastic band and the visuals and dancers all added up to one helluva rock and roll show. I was glad I got to catch her in concert this time!

ERIN DRISCOLL and JON CARROLL - November 24, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

VANESSA WILLIAMS (Gospel)- November 23, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

ELTON JOHN AND HIS BAND and TWO CELLOS - November 14, 2013
Verizon Center - Washington, DC - Section 112/Row Q/Seat 3

It was a cool brisk autumn night as I arrived at the Verizon Center to see one of my favorite pianists, the inimitable Sir Elton John along with his spectacular band on his “Diving Board Tour” and he is also celebrating the 40th Anniversary of his classic album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”. I must be getting old because last night I saw Cyndi Lauper who was celebrating the 30th Anniversary of her debut album “She's So Unusual” and it seems that a lot of bands are on the road for some sort of anniversary in their careers these days, and most of the time it is to play their “celebrated” album in its entirety and so hopefully Elton will be doing the same. I have seen Elton John perform many times over the years but he seems to be having a revival these days and when I saw him from the third row back in March 2011 in Baltimore with Leon Russell and I was blown away by their dual performance. So tonight I will get to see a full performance from my rather lovely seat near the stage. I kicked back in my seat and watched all the old wheezing geezers hobble into the arena and I felt really young in comparison and I cannot believe some of them are still going to rock concerts. I guess it shows just how much drawing power Elton still has it. Tonight's show began with the opening act 2Cellos who are the Croatian duo of Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser and they opened with an instrumental version of Michael Jackson's “Smooth Criminal” and they proceeded to turn it out into a full percussive breakdown on their cellos and then they segued into Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and they made it their own as they played their modern electric cellos with a fury as the song hummed with power and vibrato and breadth of tone, and then they bowed to the audience and left. After a few minutes Elton John and his longtime band members came to the stage and took their positions and launched into the eerie sounds of the ethereal and swirling piano riffs of “Funeral For A Friend / Love Lies Bleeding” from his second 1973 album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” as waves of billowing smoke poured onto the stage as his longtime guitarist Davey Johnstone laid down one of his signature guitar solos that made the song such a sweeping epic as they reached the “Love Lies Bleeding” part of the song and Elton began singing, “And love lies bleeding in my hand, oh it kills me to think of you with another man, I was playing rock and roll and you were just a fan, but my guitar couldn't hold you, so I split the band, love lies bleeding in my hands...”, and then he just wailed on his piano like a concert master and it was just beautiful. The band followed up with three more songs from the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album and they first started with the anthemic “Bennie And The Jets” and it was just spectacular and each member showed off on his respective instrument as they played so well with each other and the sound was crisp and the drums were full-sounding and Elton's voice sounded great as he rocked out on the piano. Nigel Ollson drummed out a nice and taut intro to “Candle In The Wind” as the band jumped in with its mournful melody and they were tight as they made the smooth groove melt like butter in my ears and then Davey just lit up his axe as his electric fingers flew across the fretboard with a thousand little riffs flying everywhere and I was blown away by his skill. Next the band kicked into the sparkly and bouncy rhythms of “Grey Seal” as the four back-up singers, Tata Vega, Jean Witherspoon, Rose And Lisa Rose, took the stage and started crooning in harmony as Elton began twinkling away very intricate and delicate and the band laid down a solid groove as these pink lights began swirling around and Davey and Elton began playing these amazing riffs that alternated with each other on the guitar and piano and it was a real “wow” moment for me as Davey began playing a real “metal” riff for a couple of bars to close out the song. Then it became time for my all-time favorite song by Elton, he sat down at the piano and played an incredible intro with a cavalcade of fluttery notes and shimmering chords as “Levon” from his 1971 album “Madman Across The Water” wafted out of the speakers and the two members of 2Cellos joined the band onstage and together they let the music flow as the two cellists sweepingly accented the song as the dancing percussion of the rhythm section led the way as Elton emotionally poured his heart out and very much to the audience's delight. They beautifully segued into a lovely version of “Tiny Dancer” and the hairs on the back of my neck were electrified as Elton gently crooned, “But oh how it feels so real, lying here with no one near, only you and you can hear me, when I say softly slowly, hold me closer tiny dancer, count the headlights on the highway, lay me down in sheets of linen, you had a busy day today...”, and I got lost in the swirling multi-colored lights as the band grooved in perfect sync and then Davey showed off again with a great solo on a double-neck guitar that just awed me. Next they played a song that I was not too familiar with called “Holiday Inn” from the same album and green lights began to wash the stage as the touching and emotional words fill the air over the throbbing bass line as Elton brought the song's words to life with his expressive voice and it had just a soaring chorus that took me away, and they continued on with a pastoral “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters” from his 1972 album “Honky Chateau” and it had him playing some beautiful chords on the piano as he sang so thoughtfully and Davey began plucking an ukelele as the music danced between the long sweeps that 2Cellos played on their instruments. It was just lovely! The band switched the mood up with a very gothic and haunting rendition of “Believe” from his 1995 album “Made In England” and it was a typical nineties rock song with big vocals and a sharp guitar solo but it had nice flow and put a smile on my face...what more can you ask for! A funky bass line started off “Philadelphia Freedom” from his 1975 album “Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy” and the band played it “very American” under very patriotic red, white, and blue flashing lights and the cellists added great flourishes as Elton sighed, “I used to be a rolling stone, you know if the cause was right, I'd leave to find the answer on the road, I used to be a heart beating for someone, but the times have changed, the less I say the more my work gets done...”, and you know I did have a faint feeling of being proud or something. Elton said a few words about the next album being forty years old and what it means to him and everybody applauded and cheered as the band began playing the opening chords of the title-track “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” from his second 1973 album and he played the piano like his life depended on it as his fingers waltzed across the keyboard as he sang the profoundly deep lyrics about one's choices in life and making the the right one and the song swirled with soaring guitar solos and swooning cello riffs and Elton's skill on the piano was beyond compare as he tickled the keys with pizzazz and then he started playing the long and exquisite piano solo intro to “Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long, Long Time)” from his 1972 album “Honky Chateau” and it had a groovy new arrangement that was a bit faster with a little more swing in it that was driven by a warm acoustic country guitar riff that gave it a modern sound. Next the band got punchy with the jaunty groove of “Hey Ahab” from his 2010 album “The Union” that he did with the great Leon Russell and it featured some great piano work with its grinding rhythm section and wailing cellos that made the song really powerful and muscular as everyone sang the chorus over the crunchy beat, and they picked up the rhythm with a blues-y and upbeat version of “I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues” from his 1983 album “Too Low For Zero” and the band gave it a stomping beat as the back-up singers wailed and moaned and Elton sang, “And I guess that's why they call it the blues, time on my hands could be time spent with you, laughing like children, living like lovers, rolling like thunder under the covers, and I guess that's why they call it the blues...”, and singer Jean Witherspoon let loose with some sensational soul wails that just caught my ears with their beauty as the band left the stage and leaving Elton alone with his piano where he began gliding his hands over the keys ever so elegantly as the soulful melody of the title-track from his 1992 album “The One” played and it featured some very deft piano-playing from Elton as he sang the insightful lyrics to this very lovely song. A large cross appeared on the video screens and the band returned and slowly began his tribute piece to World War II and its heroes, the aptly-named “Oceans Away” from his recent album “The Diving Board” and it had a lovely little melody with a nice lilting beat that made you feel like you were drifting in the currents of rhythm in an ocean of sound that segued into a thought-provoking version of “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” from his 1975 album “Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy” and it was a real rocker with driving bass that pushed Elton's vocal delivery to the fore and it was touching and beautiful. Elton then brought his four back-up singers to the front and their voices rose in gospel-like harmony for an exquisite “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” from his 1984 album “Breaking Hearts” and Elton played several melodious intricate movements on his piano along with the singers until he burst into the poignant words, “Turn them on, turn them on, turn on those sad songs, when all hope is gone, why don't you tune in and turn them on, they reach into your room, just feel their gentle touch, when all hope is gone, sad songs say so much...”, and Davey played some nice and squonky guitar that made the song jump and this was one of the two songs from the eighties that the band played tonight and the crowd just ate it up. Since Davey was getting wild on his guitar, the band kept things rocking with the trippy and psychedelic swamp boogie of “All The Girls Love Alice” from his feted second 1973 album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and Elton let loose as he boogied on the piano and Davey played some wicked guitar that gave the song such an edge that it made it one of the highlights of their set and they took my breath was totally awesome! They jumped back to future with a sad and touching rendition of “Home Again” which came from his latest album “The Diving Board” and the band was incredible and Elton played a comfy feel-good melody that had these classical strains intertwined in his groove and then he stopped and made the band introductions and each of them had a moment to shine with a sizzling solo and then they went back into the song and then brought it to a crashing end, and next they brought the house down with a superlative reading of “Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me” from his 1974 album “Caribou” and it was his best song of the night and the band were just beyond in their performance and Elton and his girls gave a full and rich vocal performance that just thrilled me to the bone as I watched enrapt with their every move as they seemed to move in sync with the drums that were just great and very propulsive that it felt like Nigel was directing the audience with his drumming as he really got the crowd going as they segued into an anthemic and hope-filled “I'm Still Standing” from his 1983 album “Too Low For Zero” and Elton had everyone on their feet cheering madly as he belted out the positive words, “Don't you know I'm still standing better than I ever did, looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid, I'm still standing after all this time, picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind, I'm still standing, yeah, yeah, yeah...” , and the band was rocking full-force through the song and it had a wonderful guitar and cello duet that was a sight to behold. It was almost overwhelming in its scope with hit song after hit song coming at us non-stop and then the band pumped it up with a ferocious “The Bitch Is Back” from his 1974 album “Caribou” and the pounding rhythm highlighted the stomping vocals as Elton yelled, “The bitch is back...”, and then they lit the stage up with spinning white lights as the band went into the modern rock-a-billy sounds of “Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock'n'Roll)” from “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and it had this great searing guitar riff that sawed its way through the song with some more fantastic syncopated drumming from Nigel Ollson. It was time for the last number from “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, and it was a raucous “Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting” with a driving and rolling rhythm that had everyone singing along, “Don't give us none of your aggravation, we had it with your discipline, Saturday night's alright for fighting, get a little action in, get about as oiled as a diesel train, gonna set this dance alight, cause Saturday night's the night I like, Saturday night's alright, alright, alright, Saturday night's alright...”, and Davey Johnstone who was being a guitarist extraordinaire once again tore up his axe with a smokin' solo that left scorch marks on my ears. It was just a fantastic rendition that was awe-inspiring to see! The band quietly left the stage as the audience lost their minds as they erupted with so much love and appreciation that it overwhelmed me as I was lost in the noise. They quickly returned and burst into a splendorous version of “Your Song” from his 1970 album “Elton John” and it rocked with a fury and it was so tuneful that one could not stop from singing along and it was electrified by Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser's cellos which gave the song a wonderfully neon edge, An exhilarated Sir Elton John and his band finished their lovely twenty-eight-song set with an over-the-top showstopping version of “Crocodile Rock” from his first 1973 album “Don't Shoot Me (I'm Only The Piano Player)” that had the whole house a'rockin' as the band let it rip and Elton howled,“Well crocodile rocking is something shocking, when your feet just can't keep still, I never knew me a better time and I guess I will never will, oh lawdy mama those Friday nights, when Suzie wore her dresses tight, and the crocodile rocking was out of sight...”, and the band wrung the muscular groove down to the last drop of soul and sweat until the band collapsed and left the stage. The audience lost their minds for a few minutes as they screamed and shouted for more until the house lights rose as the ushers started pushing us to the exits. I went out into the chilly night and made my way to the metro to hop on home and I had a silly smile on my face as I recalled the wonderful selection of songs from his entire career and the band performed them so fantastically as each of them shined on their respective instruments with such intense skill that it just blew my mind and left me stunned. Bravo Sir Elton....I can not wait to see you again!

Warner Theatre - Washington, DC - Row T/Seat 13

It was the coldest day of the year so far and I was tightly bundled up in layers of coats as I headed to the Warner Theatre to see the sensational Cyndi Lauper on her “The 'She's So Unusual' 30th Anniversary Tour” and that fact alone made me feel so old as I contemplated the fact that it has been over thirty years since her game-changing debut album and her smash hit single “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”...and where did the time go! I arrived at the venue and went on in and found my excellent seat and settled in for the evening, and I watched and laughed at the hordes of party-boy gay couples and desperate housewives waiting for Cyndi to appear as they acted so nervous like swooning teenagers. At 8PM the opening act Hunter Valentine from Toronto, Canada, stormed the stage and let loose with some crunchy, seventies-inspired rock and roll that reminded me of the iconic Joan Jett as they cranked through their latest album “Collide And Conquer” and a couple of older songs. The band consisted of guitarist/vocalist Kiyomi McCloskey, drummer Laura Petracca, guitarist/keyboardist Aimee Bessada, and new bassist Leanne Bowes, and their ten-song set was nice-sounding and textured with some cool guitar inter-play that was melodic but nothing really stood out and they were not very engaging but Laura Petracca did keep a chugging beat that gave the songs some groove that reminded me of a punkier Melissa Etheridge. The crew set to changing the set over to tonight's headliner as they were very quick as they got it done and the house lights went down and Cyndi Lauper flashing her red hair and leather outfit took to the stage with her five-piece band consisting of guitarist Keith Mack, drummer Scooter Warner, bassist William Wittman, keyboardist Bette Sussman, and keyboardist/pianist Steve Gaboury, and the band kicked the show off with a swinging version of “Money Changes Everything” by new-wavers The Brains to start the celebration of her debut album and Cyndi's voice sounded rich and full of tonal range as she yelped the words, “Money changes everything, money, money changes everything, we think we know what we're doin', that don't mean a thing, it's all in the past now, money changes everything, money changes everything...”, and immediately the audience was on their feet as her guitarist Keith Mack let a scintillating solo rip as he made it dance in between the chugging squonks on the melodica from keyboardist Steve Gaboury that propelled the song along and then Cyndi greeted us and went straight into a hard-rocking “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” that had everyone on their feet and dancing away as the keyboardists Bette Sussman and Steve “Fingers” Gaboury traded all kinds of quirky riffs and melodies on their instruments while the audience sang along with such joyous glee and they went wild with applause when they finished. Next the band performed an absolutely fabulous rendition of “When You Were Mine” which was written by Prince and she sang it like some kind of adoring tribute to him and the driving synthesizer riffs just pulsed and throbbed at mid-tempo as she crooned the song until Keith Mack capped off the song with a riveting guitar solo that took my breath away. Cyndi then spoke a bit about her time with WWF pro-wrestling personality Captain Lou Albano and what a nice and generous person he was and the band bathed in purple lights started playing an emotionally touching “Time After Time” and it was the best song of her set as the beautiful melody swirled about so gently until the big groove of bassist William Wittman and drummer Scooter Warner kicked in with a thick slab of percussion as she belted the words and then Keith Mack played yet another scorching guitar solo that was just sensational. Cyndi talked to the audience about some of the stories behind her lyrics and her work with producers The Hooters, and she was amazed by how well the next song “She Bop” did with the public and became such a huge hit single for her, and then the band launched into the bouncy propulsive beat as she belted out the double-entrendre-laden words, “We...hell...I see them every night in tight blue jeans, in the pages of a blue boy magazine, hey I've been thinking of a new sensation, I'm picking up...good vibration...oop...she bop...they say I better stop or I'll go blind, oop...she bop...she bop...', and she danced about the stage while Keith played this crunchy riff on his guitar that kept the beat surging as the audience danced themselves into a frenzy to William Wittman's funky Motown bass that kept the beat light. A huge disco ball descended from the roof and the sparse rhythms of “All Though The Night” which was written by Jules Shear began slowly playing at a gentle beat and Cyndi really touched me with her delivery, and then the band kicked into the sprightly “Witness” that grooved along at a reggae-like pace and their vocal interplay was fantastic and full of rhythm as they gave it all they was just fantastic! They continued with the sharp and angular riffs of “I'll Kiss You” and it was smart and very dance-y and everybody was dancing lost in ecstasy as they finished the song and quietly left the stage as Cyndi picked up an ukelele and began strumming an ethereal version of Helen Kane's “He's So Unusual” and she sang of her love for her husband and for always being there to support her and her music all these years. The band returned to the stage and they immediately jumped into the jangly beat of “Yeah Yeah” and Cyndi sang, “Now the mountain is high, and the river is deep, we always knew, and we hold the key, violets blue, roses red, love you baby, till I'm dead, yeah yeah, yeah yeah, yeah yeah, yeah yeah, yeah yeah...”, and the band was rockin' and rollin' to the end of the song, and then Cyndi took the time to tell us about the important of helping victims of crime and to bring an end to the practice of racial profiling and help people like Trayvon Martin getting lost in the shuffle because of trigger-happy people and especially racist police officers. Then they went into the light and airy rhythms of the song “The Goonies 'R' Good Enough” and this was her fifth Top Ten single and it was from the 1985 movie soundtrack of “The Goonies” and they turned it out with a nice percussive groove that led to drummer Scooter Warner giving one of the most intricate drum solo that was all over the place and then he went into a taut groove and Cyndi introduced the him and then she moved to the bassist and keyboard players and finally she introduced guitarist Keith Mack who then just when crazy on his axe as his fleet fingers flew up and down the fretboard with such melody and control that you could not help staring agape at his marvelous playing skills until the whole band joined back end and played the coda to “Goonies...” to the end as it came to a crashing halt. The audience erupted with applause as Cyndi stood there at the microphone and keyboardist Steve Gaboury began slowly playing the opening chords of Etta James' timeless love song “At Last” from her 2003 covers album of the same name and her voice was beyond compare as her beautiful voice sang the words so heartrendingly that I could almost cry and Etta James would have been damn proud, and then she said we need to lighten the mood up with a buoyantly flamboyant “Sex Is In The Heel” from Cyndi's 2012 Broadway soundtrack album to the Tony-winning musical “Kinky Boots” which she helped to bring to the stage by writing all the songs, and she burst into the upbeat disco of the song and sang, “The sex is in the heel even if you break it, the sex is in the heel, honey you can't fake it, jack it up cause I'm no flat tire, mack it up six inches higher, the sex is in the heel so just embrace it, from London to Milan, stilettos are an ism, in red and neon life...”, and the pulsing and throbbing beat made me think of the golden age of New York City's Studio 54 where everybody happily danced into a frenzy, and usually because of cocaine, and so did the audience who joined in with wild dancing. Cyndi said she was having a wonderful time and then she started soulfully singing the heartfelt and straightforward “Fearless” from her 1996 album “Sisters Of Avalon” that had her singing her heart out and it was just beautiful as the band chugged along in an almost funky way. Cyndi Lauper and her band wished us a goodnight and then they closed their fifteen-song set with an over-the-top heartwarming rendition of the title-track from her 1986 album “True Colors” as Cyndi crooned with her dulcimer, “And I'll see your true colors, shining through, I see your true colors, and that's why I love you, so don't be afraid to let them show, your true colors, true colors are beautiful, like a rainbow, if this world makes you crazy, and you've taken all you can bear, you call me up, because you know I'll be there...”, and I really think that she took the song to a higher level with its new arrangement and gently subtle percussion as the band provided some very sparse accompaniment and it was the best moment of the night as the words rang true and it even made me tear up a little bit as the song faded into the night and Cyndi and her band left the stage and the house lights burst on and I rushed out of my seat and I bought a commemorative t-shirt celebrating the tour for this album and then I ran out the door and into the metro thinking what a great show I just saw....cheers...Cyndi Lauper and thanks for sticking around after all these years!

MARGARET CHO and JIM SHORT - November 9, 2013
Warner Theatre - Washington, DC - Row R/Seat 14

I had to be out and about all day attending business errands but tonight I get to see the fabulous comedienne Margaret Cho at the Warner, so I hurried about town and did my errands and such until I had to meet my friend Chad and then we were off for a night of laughter. We arrived at the theatre at 7:30PM and we pushed through the crowd to get to our lovely seats and we sat down and cattily talked about everyone sitting around us and finally at 8PM comic/commentator Jim Short took the stage and he was an Australian with a skewed view of the world and related to us all his frustrations in a witty and urbane style. He started on a spiel that began with how weird it felt to be in the city where its former mayor was on crack and he just came from Williamsburg and he decided that Virginia is for breakfast judging by the number of restaurants that served it 24 hours a day but now he lives in San Francisco and he found a dildo in the street on his first day there...he said he was originally from Australia then he moved to Texas and then Canada and he hated that he had to learn all kinds of extra and different national anthems because he was just a failure at it...and watching too much late night television can make you jerky and that host Craig Ferguson...there are so many accents that he made you feel like you were watching PBS...and just what was up with Al Gore and global warming...and he thought 35 was too young to be President...and he was angry that it was hard to tell the difference between “real” Christians and “false” Christians...and what the hell was Russia up to and Putin was the gayest world leader because one cannot be homophobic with no shirt on while riding a sucks because it has been reduced to a barrage “dick pics”...he thinks that we should elect our presidents in the style of a “President Idol” show and Donald Trump was just too orange...he really wished that the world would just get rid of the stupid game of cricket and give up their fascination with the Royal family...he finished up with how that now he has been living in America he finds Australia strange and it seems that a dingo will nick your baby is its new catchphrase and they drink far too much for English people and he ended his set by saying “you are Australia”. His set seemed to perplex many of the people in the audience but I really enjoyed and want to check out some of his pod-casts. Margaret Cho immediately took the stage and exclaimed that her pants were riding up in her vagina much to her annoyance but she got a “meaty” vagina that you got to eat it with a fork...and she loves “camel toe”...she said she was a total “fag hag” and she finds it funny that when a boy hangs out with dykes he is called a “Dutch boy” and Liz Taylor was the greatest “fag hag” ever and southern queens are the best in the world and the city of Athens “faghagged” Fred Schneider of The B-52s and Elton John was the king of the “trophy fags” and Zachary Quinto was the best “new fag” and gay bars always had the most gorgeous bar-backs to look at and admire...when her parents came to San Francisco from South Korea they bought a gay book store and her mother would look at the pornographic magazines and wonder what an “Assmaster” was because she said you must have ass in moderation...Margaret said she was bisexual because she said that there was a side of her that liked dick...on the inside...she said she had been fucked a lot and she had sucked a dick but she was not really into it but she did it just to get it over with because penises come in so many different shapes and sizes and they can be quite disgusting...and she found that if you seen a pussy then it must mean that you got to be into it to keep on looking at it and she likes to get smart introductions on what she wants try before she does it and she proclaimed that having a pussy was work and that is how she knows that being gay is not a choice...but none of that stuff matters when you have TMJ...and then Margaret stated that she does not like to be eaten out (cunnilingus), she feels like she has a Muppet down there poking away at her vagina like a beaver and it helped her to realize that a lot of “lezs” have a lot of adult toys and stuff to bring them to climax without penises but sometimes that would caused it to be stretched out and there ain't nothing worst than a stretched out vagina...then the topics just flowed as she said she loves Grindr and wished she had an “all-bear” dream team to take care of her...she is totally perplexed by the “closet lesbian” thing that is hip right now but it always seemed like they were standing around like they were on exhibit like an animal reserve...she always thought Asian women were hot until the Star Wars' Yoda came along and now that is all that she sees when she sees a hot Asian woman...and she hates when she goes out to a gay bar and having a good time until it turns into “dick o'clock” and suddenly all the straight females starting catching the “fag-hag shuttle” to somewhere else...and P-town has changed with so many straight people crowding up the place and she went on another high-velocity reading of your average lesbian, first she loves a butch and bossy head-set lesbian, you know the one, the short-haired alpha working at every pride march and girl-power concert ever with their head-set giving and following orders and such...ooh..she just loves them...their whole persona, but she also loves that woman who has a “femme Marcia-complex” because she loves being the “Peppermint Patti” to her “Marcia” but she looks like Korean totalitarian Kim Jong-un much to her chagrin and this cracked up the audience because it got the biggest laugh of her set. Margaret proclaimed that she loves “bears” (fat gay guys) and she always imagine them in the wild swiping at cock like they were salmon swimming upstream and when hanging out with them meant that you know you are gonna eat...and then she said she was never into cocaine because she liked to eat and besides it made you want to fuck until you were dead...getting dick was easy but with women you need to give up a PIN number for any action...said she just wants to fit in but she just does not and she doesn't know why...then she said liked BUTCH women, ones who can roll their own tampons...she was too cheap for internet porn but she loves “sexting”...her mother was mean to her non-white friend and it freaked her out and she swears her mother is a “MILF”...and that Miley Cyrus twerking at the Grammies with old-ass Robin Thick was so embarrassing for all...her mother used to tell her to shake out her luck to make it better and when she was a kid, her family was “so Asian” that all her food in her lunchbox had eyes and scared all the other children...Margaret had them rolling in the aisles with razor-sharp observations that gave her humor that self-deprecating edge that made the joke, and she said that since she has all these platforms of social-media broadcasting that she felt it was her duty to help gay kids and she loves that she gives them a smile to help improve their day and reach for higher goals in their lives...she is that point in her career where she does what she wants, when she wants, and with who she wants from buying her mother these fabulous high fashion Hermes scarves, and further away from home, it means the more she has to shit and the harder she works to make more money to buy nice stuff for her mama who had a heart attack five years ago...then she switched up in to “celebrity dirt” and she told about a run-in with Patti Labelle where she called her “crazy” on a plane and it almost got out-of-control with physical violence while they were in France...she loves the English and their quaint ways...she said she was fascinated by foreskins...what was God thinking she exclaimed as she confessed her obsession with Yoko Ono...she confessed to sleeping with Chris sides were starting to hurt from the deep laughter coming out of me as she riffed on the subject of her glamorous life and the events she gets to attend where she makes sure that she lets the farts out because she want to fart in front of rock stars and other celebs...she commented that there should be easier methods to get abortions and doctors should milk her pussy like a cobra and use it to make the HPV virus and I was hysterically laughing my skinny white ass off and then she said that she was finished for the evening but she was gonna close with a song about her fat pussy and a guitarist came out and made his instrument scream as Margaret cracked me up with the song's satirical lyrics over the pulsing beat until she wished us good night and vanished off the stage and the audience erupted with so much love and affection for Margaret Cho and she deserved it. I tremendously enjoyed her set that was part joke, part therapy, and part awareness, and left the building in such a good mood that I felt like a beer and some fun company. Yey! Margaret Cho!

Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was a lovely fall evening as I headed to the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center to see The Morrison Brothers Band who are DC's premier country rock band. They formed in 2008 when brothers, vocalist Willie and guitarist Truman Morrison, met brothers, drummer Matt and guitarist Kevin Nolan at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and their musical fusion was seamless and beautiful as they added a few more musicians including Nashville Star finalist Alyson Gilbert on vocals. They are a great band and they play compelling music that stands alone behind their first-rate performance and their exceptional virtuosity. The band took the stage and started off with their good-time music and the vocals of Willie Morrison and Alyson Gilbert meshed nicely as the band backed them with a sprightly country-rock beat that had Matt Nolan laying down the funky rhythm as the guitarists played riffs that danced together nicely. I really liked their song "Goodbye To Your Love" which featured a nice fiddle solo from Alex Ruiz and a reggae-ish beat. Truman started the next song with a nice chunky guitar riff that intertwined with little brother Willie's voice as it skipped over the smart back-beat provided by the tight rhythm section of drummer Matt Nolan and guest bassist Mike Tony Echols. The next number "Southern Nights" showcased Alyson as she sang the lead beautifully and Willie's backing vocals accented her voice with great skill and Kevin Nolan played a lovely slide guitar solo that made my neck hairs stand on end, and then Truman finished the song with a nice clean solo on his guitar that segued into Alex Ruiz's masterful and soulful violin. Their most rocking song was "Gimme All Your Love" and it was the best sung of the night with spectacular vocals harmonies from Willie and Alyson, also the band just flowed as the groove carried the battling riffs of the guitarists. Next they stretched out into a bluesy drinking song called "Pass The Bottle" and Alyson really shined as her vocals soared above the churning guitars and even Kevin chimed in with a nice vocal line. The audience responded loudly and raucously as they launched into their latest video single "Little Miss Whiskey" and they said it is burning up the charts at country powerhouse 98WMZQ, it was a sassy swinging song with great lyrics about alcohol-fueled love and Matt showed why his crisp drumming carries the band because he was fantastic. The next song "Civil Wars" started with a taut riff from guitarist Truman and the band sounded great as Alyson and Willie's voices intertwined terrifically as they wailed the words to the song's eerie beat. The band kicked back for the next song "I'm In Love" as each member took turns playing these tasty solos on their respective instruments, and it was a quite nice number. The band slowed things down to let Alyson wail like a diva as her voice melted all over the groove like butter and she cried, "I'm Guilty", and then Alex Ruiz played a sensational solo on his violin that just lifted the song. The band decided to play a nice cover of Otis Redding's "Trouble" and their voices melded together nicely as they sang their hearts out and the band backed them skillfully with a light touch that made the melody shine. They were sounding good as they played a lovely ditty called "Every Little Sunday" and it sounded like the perfect country-rock song as its melody danced on the back-beat of Matt Nolan as his drumming drove the rhythm as it flowed into "Why Don't You Call Me, Liza Jane" which was a jaunty number and Alex Ruiz just shined once again on his fiddle. The band finished their fourteen-song set with a rocker called "Treat Me Right" and it was a nice and tight uptempo number and it was a great way to the end of their set. I was quite impressed by the band and their performance, especially Alex Ruiz's playing on his fiddle and Alyson Gilbert's exquisite vocals, and I recommend you go see The Morrison Brothers Band.

BLUE OYSTER CULT - October 31, 2013
The Hamilton Live - Washington, DC

It is Halloween 2013 and the Blue Oyster Cult are playing at The Hamilton downtown and I was quite excited to see them to play once again, and I think that this gig makes it about the fiftieth time that I have seen them since 1975 because they are kind of my “comfort band” like some people have “comfort foods”. Original member keyboardist Alan Lanier succumbed recently to cancer so maybe they will dedicate a song to him or something for his invaluable contributions to the band. I arrived at The Hamilton a bit early and I got a great seat up front so I cannot wait for them to start rocking my little world. Their intro music started playing as they hit the stage with geriatric fury as they opened with a crisp and loose “The Red And The Black” from their 1973 album “Tyranny And Mutation” and original member guitarist/vocalist Eric Bloom sarcastically sang the humorous words about the RCP, “Canadian mounted baby, a police force that works, red and black, that's their color scheme, get their man, in the end, it's all right, oh yeah my honey knows it's all right...”, and they have always had that off-beat sense of humor and Eric Bloom and original member guitarist/vocalist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser sounded great as they blew my mind with their squealing and intertwining dual guitar leads and Richie Castellano added some flashy keyboard crescendos and Kasim Sultan played a trippy bass interlude that made me shudder as they segued into a really cool acappella vocal intro to a rough and tumble version of “Golden Age Of Leather” from their 1977 album “Spectres” and Buck Dhama intoned their lifestyle mantra, “Motorcycles, partying, women, and beer...”, with glee as the band revved up for an electrifying performance that was driven by Jules Radino's precision percussion and the sweeping bass ripples of Kasim Sultan that just drew me into the swirling groove. One of the highlights of the night was a stunning performance of “Burnin' For You” from their 1981 album “Fire Of Unknown Origin” and Buck's sang the amorous words with an air of exquisite “j'un sais quoi” as Eric languidly joined him in singing these great vocal harmonies that just soared as they traded all kinds of guitar licks back and forth and the drummer Jules played these sharp and clean fills in all the right places with a perfect sense of timing, and the song was just wonderfully executed and brought back so many great memories. The next song “Shooting Shark” from their 1983 album “The Revolution By Night” was started with a propulsive drum beat from Jules and then Eric started playing this melodramatic keyboard melody that followed along with a searing guitar riff from Buck as he sang the words to probably my least favorite song of the night and then in the coda Richie scorched on the guitar with these lightning fast riffs flying everywhere as the band segued into the newest song on tonight's set list, an almost mainstream pop-sounding “Dancin' In The Ruins” from their 1985 album “Club Ninja” and Buck looked positively cherubic as he crooned, “Tomorrow soon turns into yesterday, everything we see just fades away, there's sky and sand where mountains used to be, time drops by a second to eternity, it doesn't matter if we turn to dust, turn and turn and turn we must, I guess I'll see you dancin' in the ruins tonight...”, and the band joined him with these wonderful vocal harmonies that gave the song a really lush feel that carried me away. Eric Bloom greeted the audience and asked if we were having a good time and he started strumming the opening riffs to “O.D.'d On Life Itself” from their 1973 album “Tyranny And Mutation” and he sang the sarcastic lyrics with a gleam in his eyes as his voice rode the waves of throbbing and pulsing rhythm and then Eric, Buck, and Richie showcased their legendary three-prong guitar attack and there was a lot of thrilling guitar interplay to see as it was propelled by a punchy bass line and staccato drumming that made the song so exciting as they morphed into an anthemic “Then Came The Last Days Of May” from their 1972 self-titled debut album and Buck made the song magical as he told the reportedly true story of two friends that were killed in a drug deal gone bad in the West and then he went crazy on his guitar showcasing his formidable skills with some really lovely licks and chords, and he was followed by Richie playing an extended solo on his guitar like a beast as he made his instrument scream and squeal and howl like a demon cat in heat, but all in all, a prime example of their outstanding storytelling skills. Then they came to one of my all-time favorite B.O.C. songs ever, a brilliant and intricate “The Vigil” from their 1979 album “Mirrors” and Buck Dharma outdid himself as he growled, “In a purple vision, many thousand years ago, I saw the silent stranger, walk the earth alone, twenty-seven faces, with their eyes turned to the sky, I've got a camera, and an airtight alibi...”, and I really love the lyrics to this song and Buck played one of the most beautiful guitar solos that I ever heard as the band pounded on like a freight train that was driven by a mass of intertwining riffs and twisted rhythms and Eric's eerie melody on the keyboard that flowed into a crunchy and chugging “ME 262” from their 1974 album “Secret Treaties” and it was noisy and clattery with a vaguely rock-a-billy sound to it as Eric Bloom sang the obtuse lyrics. Finally it came time for them to play the song that everyone wanted to hear tonight, a totally stomping “Godzilla” from their 1977 album “Spectres” that began with these totally twisted intertwining triple guitar leads that melted all over drummer Jules Radino's stomping beat that was sharp and crisp as guitarist Eric Bloom sang the ominous lyrics with a sneer and a wink and then he led the crowd in singing the song's chorus like we were losing our minds while Buck Dharma and Richie Castellano played these atmospheric riffs that swirled about the venue. Kasim Sultan played the most amazing bass solo as he talked about the other famous songs that he had played bass on and then the band launched into a medley of Joan Jett's “I Love Rock And Roll”, Todd Rundgren's “Bang The Drum All Day”, and Meatloaf's “Bat Out Of Hell”, and then Kasim finished with another brilliant bass solo over some really sparse percussion and then Jules played a rather boring drum solo that was a bit sloppy and then the band joined in to finish the song with a bang. The band left the stage and Buck Dharma greeted the audience and said a few nice words about their recently departed member keyboardist Alan Lanier and he dedicated the next song to him, a scorching “Buck's Boogie”, a live favorite from their 1975 live album “On Your Feet Or On Your Knees”, and he made his guitar make these unearthly noises as he slashed away at his instrument like a demon and his fingers flew like lightning up and down his fretboard until it collapsed in a squall of feedback and the crowd loved it. The rest of the band returned and dedicated the next song to Halloween, a marvelous “Don't Fear The Reaper” from their 1976 album “Agents Of Fortune”, and Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser and Eric Bloom made their voices flow together like butter as they sang the haunting words with such beauty and then Buck Dharma let the most amazing guitar solo rip as he played the song's signature riff so well that it was etched into my mind forever. The band closed their thirteen-song set with an awe-inspiring “Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll” from their 1972 self-titled debut album and Eric maniacally growled the words, “My heart is black, and my lips are cold, cities on flame with rock and roll, three thousand guitars they seem to cry, my ears will melt, and then my eyes, oh, let the girl, let that girl, rock and roll, cities on flame now, with rock and roll...”, and that's what the band was trying to say all these years as they laid everyone in their musical path to waste. They update the song so it was all muscular and pulsing with menace as it wound its way through my ears and then Buck Dharma blew me away with a fantastic guitar solo that caused a seismic ripple effect on the others. Eric put on the most outstanding vocal performance as he made his voice soar like an eagle and he it brought back to earth and led the audience in a giant sing-a-long that was almost, dare I say, a love fest...shocking...but it was very heartwarming and nice to see some decent people acting decent in public, and the band capped the evening off with an extended mass solo-fest as Eric, Buck Dharma, and Richie Castellano traded riffs and licks in a mad whirlwind of guitar pyrotechnics and electric cacophony and the three of them lined-up in a row and head-banged with their guitars in unison just like they did so famously in the seventies on their endless tours across America. It blows my mind that I have seen the Blue Oyster Cult at least five times in each of the past five decades...just mind-boggling to me...and I loved them every time! They finished the song to mass adulation from the audience and they put their instruments down and got together for their final bows and then they vanished in the back. I got up and left the venue with “Don't Fear The Reaper” stuck in my brain going round and round and round and I grabbed a B.O.C. 40th Anniversary shirt for only twenty dollars before I headed out the door and ran to catch the metro.

ASHERU - October 26, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

Verizon Center - Washington, DC- Section 121/Row M/Seat 11

It was a beautiful autumn day and I was going to see Nine Inch Nails' “Tension Tour 2013” in support of their “comeback” album “Hesitation Marks” and I was excited to see Trent Reznor and company at the Verizon Center because I have not seen them in many years. NIN had been on hiatus since 2009 and Trent even got sober after years of living in the downward spiral of addiction. His new album “Hesitation Marks” is brilliant and featured Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham and Adrian Belew on guitars and the songs blew me away. I remember seeing NIN over twenty years ago at the old 9:30 Club on F Street and I was working as a roadie and we had stuffed the club with band equipment and that did not leave much room for the audience but he put on a devastating show that brought the house down anyway. I saw them play several more times around the DC area particularly during the “Downward Spiral” era and he had the hit single “Closer” that was everywhere so I guess that was his heyday. Trent ventured into making movie soundtracks and incidental music until he faded from the public conscience and then out of the blue he announced a new album and tour in 2013. I arrived at the arena and the crowd was milling in and the spectrum of fans was quite perplexing and odd, from old goth geezers looking dumpy and depressed to teenagers in brand new clothes and accessories and it was quite the sight to behold. I sat in my pretty cool seat in Section 121 and waited for the spectacle to begin, but first I had to endure the opening act God Speed You! Black Emperor and, my god, they were awful. Their instrumental music was a long cacophonous drone with atonal bits and pieces of violin and guitar and sparse percussion thrown in the mix. The stage was dimly lit and black and white video fragments flashed above the musicians on the overhead video screen and none of it made any sense, but thankfully their onerous six-song set was brief and they left the stage. A scrim dropped and the stage crew set to quickly changing the set to Nine Inch Nails' futuristic rig before the big moment when the scrim fell away and revealed a smoke-filled stage that made me feel strangely claustrophobic as the pulsing and throbbing music began to fill the venue and multi-instrumentalist Trent Reznor looked good as he sang “Copy Of A” from his brand new album “Hesitation Marks” and the words were quite telling as he growled, “I am just a copy of a copy of a copy, everything I say has come before, assembled into something into something into something, I don't know for certain anymore, I am just a shadow of a shadow of a shadow, always trying to catch up with myself, I am just an echo of an echo of an echo, listening to someone's cry for help...”, and you felt that he really meant it. His bassist Pino Palladino kicked off “1,000,000” from the 2008 album “The Slip” with a taut and crisp bass line that had the place rumbling as the guitars sounded like giant buzzing insects as the band roared through the song and into an awesome version of “Terrible Lie” from his 1989 genre-bending debut album “Pretty Hate Machine” and Trent blazed on his guitar as he screamed, “Hey God, I think you owe me a great big apology...”, over the crunchy groove that his fantastic band laid down like concrete. A large wall of lights was lowered onto the stage and blinding me as drummer Ilan Rubin's hands moved like lightning on the percussive intro to a pounding “March Of The Pigs” from his 1994 release “The Downward Spiral” and the band kicked in ferociously as Trent screamed with animosity, “All the pigs are all lined up, I give you all that you want, take the skin and peel it back, now doesn't that make you feel better, shove it up inside, surprise, lies, stains like the blood on your teeth, bite, chew, suck away the tender parts...”, and like the sky clearing up after a storm the song's coda got all quiet and gentle as guitarist Robin Finck strummed his instrument and keyboardist Alessandro Cortini tinkled out an intricate melody that segued into a slow and dirge-y “Piggy” also from his 1994 release and it was just sparse percussion wrapped in layers and layers of feedback and distortion and the sound was fantastic. Trent greeted the audience and said that they were going to perform several songs from his new album and he started things off with the electro-funk of “All Time Low” and the beat was taut and razor-sharp as it cut through the air like a whip and he writhed and howled the words in a metal cage in the middle of the stage lost in the murky lights as the rhythm churned and the lights turned into a picket fence that flashed a cool green glow as his tight band emerged into the dark and grinding electronica of the “Disappointed” that bombarded its way into my head with a ring. In one of the best moments of the night, Trent and the band really got down on a menacing “Came Back Haunted” that was driving and full of angst as Trent cried, “Everywhere now reminding me, I am not who I used to be, I'm afraid this has just begun, consequences for what I've done, yeah, I don't believe it, I had to see it, I came back, I came back haunted, c-c-c-came back haunted, I said goodbye but I, I had to try...”, and the sound was full of great sound effects and manipulations that just blew my mind as they lurched into the sparse beat of “Find My Way” and it featured some great heartfelt vocals from Trent and his two back-up singers, Lisa Fischer and Sharlotte Gibson. Bassist Pino Palladino got to show off his chops again with a funky bass line that pulsed and throbbed its way through a terse “Various Methods Of Escape” that had some really overwrought lyrics and vocals from Trent as they moved into the searing guitar attack of “Satellite” with its weird off-kilter rhythms and plowing slab of percussion as the light fence rose back up to the stage and these cool animations flashed on the video screens. The stage darkened and an image of a wall appeared on the scrim behind the band as they launched into the funky swagger of “The Big Come Down” from his 1999 release “The Fragile” and Trent wailed away like he was in physical pain and guitarist Joshua Eustis played a phenomenal solo that gave me chills as he made his instrument howl so gloriously from his fluid fretwork. Next they played a ominous and menacing rendition of “Survivalism” from the 2007 album “Year Zero” and the band was bathed in these swirling eerie green lights as Trent barked, “I got my propaganda, I got revisionism, I got my violence, in hi-def ultra-realism, all a part of this great nation, I got my fist, I got my plan, I got survivalism...”, and it was almost hardcore rock in its delivery and style and the song was capped off with a bombastic synthesizer solo from keyboardist Alessandro Cortini that reminded me of Sparks a little bit. The drummer Ilan Rubin got a work-out on the next number as he led the band through a tight and dense “Running” from “Hesitation Marks” but it had really gentle vocals like a bedtime lullaby as the lights flashed a full-color spectrum and the beat got squonky but it was a great new song. A wispy fog billowed onto the stage as the light fence went back into the ground and these bright white lights swirled overhead onto the band as they segued into the lovely “A Warm Place” from the 1994 album “The Downward Spiral” and the critics try to say that it was based on David Bowie's 1980 single “Crystal Japan” and Trent never said it was or was not but his love and admiration of Bowie is well-documented. The band revved up things once again with a slow and percolating version of “Somewhat Damaged” from the 1999 release “The Fragile” with its gentle rhythms and swaying beat and Trent's introspective lyrics that have something meaningful to say and then it exploded into a jackhammer beat that almost ruptured my eardrums as they finished the song. Trent picked up his guitar and jumped into the grinding groove of “Wish” from the 1992 release “Broken” and it was full of eerie atmospherics and strange noises as the song weaved its sonic tapestry that had the audience moshing like crazy in the mosh pit with bodies flying everywhere as the band merged into the pounding beat of “The Hand That Feeds” from the 2005 album “With Teeth” with its maniacal beat and tornado of guitar riffs that spun my ears around and around like it was never going to was truly amazing! The band was rolling like a well-oiled machine as they exploded like a terrorist bomb into a raucous version of “Head Like A Hole” from Trent's 1989 debut album “Pretty Hate Machine” and it sounded as fantastic as it did when I first heard the song, and Trent raged, “No you can't take it, no you can't take that away from me, head like a hole, black as your soul, I'd rather die than give you control, head like a hole, black as your soul, I'd rather die than give you control, bow down before the one you serve, you're going to get what you deserve...”, and the song was beautiful as ever as Pino made that bass pump and Robin and Joshua made their guitars howl like two dentist drills and Trent led the rambunctious crowd in singing the chorus with such conviction and then the light fence went back down and the band rocked out bathed in bright orange lights until the song ended and the lights went down and the band vanished and the crowd went crazy for more. After a few minutes Trent and his band returned to the stage and it erupted with lights and strobes and the plodding rhythms of “The Day The World Went Away” from his 1999 release “The Fragile” and the song was awesome as the roaring percussion stampeded on by as these barre chords bounced over the beat in waves until it slowly turned into a gentle groove that ebbed and flowed in my ears and then Trent grabbed the microphone and said it was time to introduce these fantastic players that comprised his band and how much he appreciated their time and effort that they have put into this tour. Trent brought vocalist Lisa Fischer to center stage and he said she was just great to sing with and they burst into an introspective “Even Deeper”, also from “The Fragile”, that I just got lost in its muscular bass groove that just twisted and turned its way through the powerful song as their voices soared above the crowd in a fabulous duet of sorts, and then Trent grabbed his guitar and starting madly slashing at it as the band began playing the serpentine rhythms of “While I'm Still Here”, a bonus track from his new album “Hesitation Marks”, and it just pounded me into submission with a thunderous thud and the audience loved it. And once again Trent had to show his love and admiration of David Bowie with a sensational cover of “Black Noise” from his new album and he made it sound eerie almost elegiac as his plaintive vocals rang truth and the drummer Ilan Rubin provided a minimalistic beat for him to follow and it was quite a beautiful performance as the melody faded into nothingness. Trent Reznor once again thanked the audience ever so humbly and then he and his band blew me away with his stunning rendition of “Hurt” from his 1994 release “The Downward Spiral” and it was beautiful and otherworldly as Trent half-whispered, “What have I become, my sweetest friend, everyone I know, goes away in the end, you could have it all, my empire of dirt, I will let you down, I will make you hurt...”, and the melancholy words danced among the flowing rhythms and ragged riffs and then I was blown away by an unexpected saxophone solo that was out-of-this-world as it soared over some very jazzy percussion that gave the song a whole new angle as it flooded my ears and I completely forgot that Johnny Cash's fantastic version ever existed. The band waved good night to the audience and then vanished into the night. It was an over-the-top spectacle for the eyes and ears and their twenty-four song set was just fantastic and covered all aspects of his career and he did not have to play “Closer” which must be an albatross around his neck, so cheers mates. Well done!

Music Centre At Strathmore - Bethesda, MD - Row O/Seat 102

Autumn was crashing down upon us as I rode the metro to the Music Centre at Strathmore to see Scotland's finest, the rocking quartet Franz Ferdinand who are on tour in support of their stellar new album “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action”, and I am looking forward to seeing them because they are one of the few bright spots in modern rock these days and they do it with panache and style. I arrived at the venue and I got my really excellent ticket on the floor and I sat in the lobby in the corner and watched people and started writing my review. After a while I bought a really cool Franz Ferdinand tour shirt and headed to my seat to enjoy the music and the opening act tonight was Frankie Rose whom I know little about but I will give them a chance. The house lights dimmed and Frankie Rose took the stage and launched into their rather mundane modern rock. Frankie Rose are a four-piece that plodded and throbbed in all the right places as they played some basic guitar chords but they seemed a little lackadaisical. The band plodded on in that modern rock band way but their songs were not very interesting, but I always find that bands from Brooklyn always lack something in their sound. The bassist Scott Rosenthal was pretty decent, he actually was the most interesting thing about the band, and the drummer Brian Beck was alright even though he always seemed to be behind and out of sync with the rest of the band. The guitarists Drew Citron and former Dum Dum Girls/Crystal Stilts member Ariel Loh a.k.a. Frankie Rose were way too atmospheric in their playing for my taste, at least Frankie's voice was not annoying to the ear. They reminded me of Kitchens Of Distinction with less feedback, but their eight-song set was thankfully over quickly as they finished in a thunderous feedback squall. They did have one decent song called “Street Of Dreams” that caught my interest for a few minutes but I was glad when they left the stage. The roadies went right to work and changed the stage set rather quickly and it was ready for Franz Ferdinand. The band hit the stage with a hello and the frenetic fury of their pounding rhythms as they kicked things off with a raucous “Bullet” from their new album “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action” and it was the right blend of pounding rhythms and searing guitar riffs that accented the band's wonderful vocal harmonies as they moved into a sparkly version of “The Dark Of The Matinee” from their 2004 self-titled debut album that was crisp and pulsing with dance rhythms as guitarist Alex Kapranos howled, “Find me and follow me through corridors, refectories and files, you must follow me, leave this academic factory, you will find me in the matinee, the dark of the matinee, it's better in the matinee, the dark of the matinee is mine, yes it's mine...”, to the lovely melody of the song and it was an A+ performance and the crowd went wild. The band paused and Alex jumped started things with a big and crunchy guitar riff that began a raucous “No You Girls” from their 2009 album “Tonight” that reminded me of the agit-funk of Gang Of Four as the stuttery beat was electrified by Nick McCarthy's driving keyboard wizardry that crash-landed into a groovy “Tell Her Tonight” from their 2004 debut and Alex and Nick, who switched to guitar, traded dueling riffs on their guitars over the wild stop'n'go drumming of Paul Thomson as they traded exquisite vocal harmonies that made the song fabulous. Next the band played an eerie “Evil Eye” from their new album and it was one of the highlights of the evening's show with its careening melody and Bob Hardy's chunky bass line that were bathed in red lights as Alex hissed the biting lyrics with a sardonic sneer and they segued into the seventies bubblegum-glam sound of “Do You Want To” from their 2005 album “You Could Have It So Much Better” with its big riffs and stomping rhythm section and Alex crooned the sly come hither words, “Oh I woke up tonight I said I, I've gotta make somebody love me, I've gotta make somebody love me, and now I know, now I know, now I know, I know that it is you, you're lucky lucky you're so lucky...”, and they reminded me of The Bay City Rollers and then Alex had a moment on the guitar as he walked through the audience strumming it like he was Mick Ronson as the crowd clapped along to the poppy beat. The band slowed things down to the gentle loping beat of “Walk Away” from “You Could Have It So Much Better” and the guitars went slow then fast then slow again as the lovely melody hung in the air and Alex played a twisting and turning guitar solo that introduced the almost funky “Stand On The Horizon” from their new album with its clipped drumming and angelic vocal harmonies that made it stand out. The next song started with a western-style guitar duel between Alex and Nick until Alex let loose with the deeply passionate vocals of “Can't Stop The Feeling” from their 2009 album “Tonight” and he belted out, “My soul starts spinning again, I can't stop feeling, no, I won't stop feeling, the fun's not fun anymore, I can't stop feeling, no, I won't stop feeling, and you leave me here on my own, you leave me here on the floor...”, as he swayed in the blue stage lights and the band broke the song down and they played a few bars of Donna Summers' “I Feel Love” before they segued back into their song and the crowd really loved it even when they sounded a bit too much like The Prodigy. Next they burst into the bright and sunny melody of “Brief Encounters” from their new album and Nick showed his chops on the keyboards again in a Beatles-esque style and Alex got quite a vocal work-out on the lyrics as his guitar raged away with some fat riffs as they moved into an electrifying “The Fallen” from their 2005 album and it was loud and raucous and full of chaotic drumming and blistering riffs from the band as they angrily raged their way through the song. In what I am calling their “best song of the night”; the band outdid themselves with a very catchy riff-driven version of “Take Me Out” from their 2004 debut and Alex was charmingly cool as he crooned, “So if you're lonely, you know I'm here waiting for you, I'm just a cross hair, I'm just a shot away from you, and if you leave here, you leave me broken, shattered, I lie, I'm just a cross hair, I'm just a shot, then we can die...”, and he was lifted in the air with his guitar and whipped off riffs and hooks and licks that flew everywhere over the roar of the adoring crowd...we just loved it...totally rocking! They kept an upbeat tempo going with a sassy and spastic “Love Illumination” from their new album that reminded me of early eighties new wave with its driving beat and really great guitar riff that made me want to dance the night away in the swirling lights as they gracefully morphed into the similar-sounding “Ulysses” from their “Tonight” album and it featured some nice percussion from Paul Thomson that gave it a nice dance groove as they worked the audience into a frenzy. It was marvelous! Next the band got a full work-out on a sensational rendition of “This Fire” from their 2004 debut with its dual Gang Of Four-influenced guitar-playing by Alex and Nick and they had a great double solo as the drummer provide a taut tightrope of percussion and he got a chance for a mini-solo with a clattery outburst and then they broke the song down and Alex led the crowd in singing, “Burn this city!”, and then they went right back into the groove without missing a beat and closed with that really cool guitar riff that led to a smokin' hot “Goodbye Lovers And Friends” from their great new album “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action” with its spastic beat and frenetic rhythms as Alex coldly sneered, “Goodbye lovers and friends, so sad to leave you, when they lie and say, this is not the end, you can laugh as if, we're still together, you can laugh about it all, anyway, I hope you didn't bring flowers, hope you didn't write a poem, hope you remember every fight...”, and the band traded licks back and forth until the song collapsed in a fury of noise and feedback and the guys quietly disappeared offstage. After a few moments the band returned and keyboardist Nick McCarthy announced that their next song “Jacqueline” from their 2004 debut was dedicated to a local family that they knew and they slowly started the song in an elegiac way as Alex Kapranos gently strummed his guitar until suddenly the song went boom as it exploded into a thousand little notes flying everywhere as it faded into silence. An ominous and terse keyboard riff began a riveting “Treason! Animals” from their new album, and it was driving and pulsing and full of chaotic drumming that just crashed into my ears as Alex growled the insightful lyrics and then they segued into the glorious Ian Hunter-penned “Outsiders” from their album “You Could Have It So Much Better” and the band ended their nineteen-song set with a wall of sound that was dance-y and a little bit disco with its programmed beats and synthesizer crescendos and Alex just got funky on the guitar over Paul Thomson's pounding drums that just imploded into an agit-pop frenzy and then Alex just blazed on his guitar that again was reminiscent of Gang Of Four, then Alex Kapranos, Nick McCarthy, and bassist Bob Hardy picked up drumsticks and began thumping them on the drum-set like madmen as an outro to their magnificent set before they took their bows and vanished off the stage and the audience went hoarse from all their cheering and applause. The house lights went up and I rushed out of the venue to catch the late train home with memories of a fantastic concert performance in my head.

BLACK ALLEY - October 2, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was a gorgeous fall evening as I arrived a little late for the show on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center and I rushed in, and lo and behold, the band was late and the audience was not allowed to sit in the seats yet. Black musicians are known to be late but this was egregious and we were not allowed to sit until 5:45PM, sometimes stereotypes are real and it is sad when someone lives up to their stereotype...don't you know how to tell time. Well anyway, today we have multi-genre band Black Alley who call their music "soul garage" and they have been playing many gigs around town and garnishing a lot of attention so I am looking forward to seeing them. The band took the stage a little after six and they opened with a percussive march as each band member got ready on their instruments and the rhythm morphed into a psychedelic guitar-fest as the rhythm section of bassist Josh Hartzog, drummer Danny "The Animal" Henderson, and percussionist Walter "Bo Beedy" Clark pounded away and vocalist Kacey Williams let her words flow. The band was tight as they switched to the upbeat R&B of "A New Day" and it was layered and inventive and full of poly-rhythms that gave the singer Kacey plenty of room to shine. Next they played their newest video single "Bad Girl" and it was full of swirling guitar riffs and throbbing bass licks over a bed of intense and intricate rhythm and they turned it out. I was surprised by how guitar-driven their sound as guitarist Eric Champaloux tore it up on his instrument. They continued on with a sultry version of "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons and Hope Udobi and Mack Tyson played gently on the keyboards as they tinkled beautifully behind Kacey's sensational voice as Eric let loose a sensational guitar solo that just sparkled, plus it went over really well with the audience as they morphed into another cover song that did not sound like a cover. Their next number "Artist Prayer" was dedicated to their fans and the band got down with the insistent rhythm that pulsed and swayed as they let the groove flow and the guitarist Eric let fly yet another stellar riff. Their genre-defying music was exquisite as they jumped from funk to jazz to soul to rock and back and all the while the beat was swinging and made me want to dance. The band switched into a song that had a great go-go beat and they had the audience jumping up and dancing madly to the rhythm, and they even did a little bit of Macklemore & Ryan's "Thrift Store" that led to a great breakdown by percussionist Bo Beedy in which he played wildly and in the pocket, it was fantastic. They switched it up to a real head-banging rock number call "Get Back" that incorporated The Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" and they raucously stomped it and guitarist Eric melted ears and minds with his molten riffs, so Kacey left the stage and the musicians finished with a tuneful instrumental jam that just blew the place up. Black Alley left the stage after their nine-song set and the audience cheered wildly and I was quite impressed by their joyful performance and great music that I will go see them again soon.

CAROLYN MALACHI - September 29, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was a lovely autumn Sunday evening as I ventured down to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see the wonderful singer Carolyn Malachi and her band drop a fantastic set of hip-hop-infused R&B and it is the second time that I have seen her perform on this stage and I am looking forward to seeing her. The venue was full up for her and when she and her band took the stage, they were greeted with warm and enthusiastic applause. Carolyn and piano-player James McKinney opened the show with the gentle jazz number "Here's To You" that showcased her phenomenal voice as her pianist skillfully tinkled away. The rest of her band appeared and joined in and played the lilting beat of "Ready For The World" that slowly grew with melody as the musical notes filled the room. The band picked up the beat for her tribute to her jazz forefathers and her pianist great-grandfather and James McKinney had excellent touch and control as the tinkled away on the piano as drummer Steve Evans kept a sparse beat and Carolyn scatted away beautifully. The band changed the tempo and turned more R&B as she sang about what she wants in a man and the band was in the groove as she told us all about it while switching back and forth from a speaking voice to a singing voice. The band continued with a lovely laidback number called "Space Cowboy" and her voice went up and down the scales with ease, and she even rapped an interlude that was catchy and cool. She commented about how her music brought a diverse crowd together and it was beautiful. It was time for another tempo change and the band dropped a swinging hip-hop groove and Carolyn let loose with a flow that encompassed all kinds of pithy observations about life and people. They morphed into a new song and it had a haunting piano line with a propulsive beat driving it and I was quite impressed by the song and their execution because Carolyn is what Janelle Monae wants to be. The band slowed things down and got all jazzy for "Into Darkness" and she crooned the song soulfully and then she rapped once again with a nice flow. Carolyn dedicated the next song "Alright" to radio station WHUR and led the audience in a sing-a-long with the slinky rhythm swaying in the background as she wailed the inspiring words and then she gave Nicki Minaj a run for her money when she spit some fierce lyrics and she said, "Hip-Hop is the love of my life," and bassist Tarus Mateen, drummer Steve Evans, and percussionist Jabari Exum broke down it down as the percussion flowed madly. The highlight of the show was when they performed the title track from her new album "Gold" and it was about lifting yourself out of self-imposed limitations that you put on yourself and her band played majestically as Carolyn sang her heart out as she hit the high notes and the low notes easily. The band finished their nine-song set with "Beautiful Dream" which was an uplifting and positive song that crescendo-ed and throbbed with rhythm as she hit some incredibly high notes. It reminded me of some abstract indie-rock band with its subtle rhythms and melody. It was a fantastic show that was really inspiring and I will come hear Carolyn Malachi again and again.

SOUTH RAIL - September 27, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

I arrived at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage on this lovely autumn evening to see locals South Rail whom play a more rock-n-roll version of Americana so they should at least be mildly amusing to hear. The band has four musicians who come from musically diverse backgrounds; the vocalist/pianist Lara Supan is very jazz-orientated, guitarist Jay Byrd is a blues-rock aficionado and has written several award-winning songs, Wes Christenson is straight-up rock bassist, and Ben Potok is the drummer and he plays all genres. The crowd was a bit small but enthusiastic as South Rail hit the stage and took us on a musical journey with their first number called "In This World" and it had a gentle loping rhythm that was accentuated by Lara and Jay's exquisite vocal harmonies and his inventive guitar licks. They continued in this vein as drummer Ben Potok kicked a nice steady beat as Lara played some wonderful piano and Jay made his guitar soar and Lara sang the song "If I See Your Face Again" with heartfelt emotion. Their songwriting was tremendous as their voices intertwined with the guitar over a sparse rhythm during the next song "I Wouldn't Know" which was their best song to me because it had a nice twangy sound and seemed really old. Next the band played "In The Wires" from their new EP and it was a quite lovely number that had a nice groove to it that made you want to sway. Lara told us how they all met on Craig's List for an audition for another band and they went off to form South Rail and now they are playing their first song that they wrote together, "I Know The Signs" and it had an incredible lead riff weaving its way through the dense rhythm. The band jumped into an uptempo song called "Not Your Angel" that careened along nicely and Lara poured her heart out in the words that she sang so beautifully because she said even her happy songs seem sad and Jay strummed his guitar with passion and skill. Lara said the next song "Wandering Soul" was really sad and slow and it was the most popular song on their new EP but it dragged a bit for me, however Jay stretched out the guitar notes in an exquisite solo. The band picked up things a bit with their new song "Be That Way" from their forthcoming EP in January and their voices sounded fabulous together as they hit all the right notes and Jay shined on the guitar when he played his best solo of the night that reminded me of Jerry Garcia's playing. They continued with a soul-bearing song called "Jealousy" and I liked how she revealed so much about herself in the her lyrics as Jay's guitar soared behind her voice. They picked up the tempo again for "Lie Awake And Dream" and the song was driving and elegant as Lara's voice danced with Jay's guitar as wailed away as drummer Ben and bassist Wes laid down a solid rhythm. They performed a dark and haunting version of the traditional song "Wayfaring Stranger" and Lara's voice reached into my very soul as she languidly sang the words with such emotion and it was tremendously beautiful. Soul Rail finished their twelve-song set with a raucous "Fallin'" that had them rocking the hardest they had all night, and overall their set was quite enjoyable and they had me tapping my toes to the beat and I would not mind seeing them again.

THE PET SHOP BOYS - September 19, 2013
Music Centre At Strathmore - Bethesda, MD - Row G/Seat 109

It was a pleasant fall-like evening as I headed to the Music Centre At Strathmore on the metro to see The Pet Shop Boys on their “Electric” tour, and even though I did not have a ticket and it was supposedly sold-out, I went anyway because I always have good luck when it comes to getting tickets and I did tonight...Row G Seat 109 in the center. So I found my way to my fabulous seat and I sat down and I remembered how I had tickets to their September 3, 2009 show at Constitution Hall but I had a stroke right before the show and I missed it...remember kiddies, please check your blood pressure. But I saw them many times before that because I am a super Pet Shop Boys fan and I just could not miss them this time around and not only because their incredible new album “Electric” totally rocks like crazy, so I sit and wait for them to start their show and finally the house lights dimmed and The Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe kicked their show off with a fabulous rendition of “Axis”, the first track off the “Electric” album and first a bar of red light appeared on the video screens as the swirling rhythmic electronic percussion started playing as the images on the video screen morphed into a rushing tunnel as the clattering beat surged forward and the Pet Shop Boys suddenly appeared wearing pointy hats and furry arm-pieces and Neil sounded great as he intoned, “Turn it on, electric, electric energy, turn it on, electric, electric energy, power it up and turn it on, electric, turn it up, electric, feel the power...”, and the beat picked up as they moved into a oddly fitting mash-up of the lushly romantic “One More Chance” from their 1987 album “Actually” and the exotically syncopated beat of “A Face Like That” from their 2012 album “Elysium” and it was really cool with an almost driving progressive rock sound. Chris Lowe turned the tempo up for an updated version of “Opportunities (Let's Make Lots Of Money)” from their 1986 album “Please” that was muscular and slinky and full of serpentine keyboard melodies and the scrim showed two over-sized heads that slowly rotated and morphed into two dancing figures until the scrim dropped and two real dancers appeared with these surreal outfits as they twirled to the relentless electronic beat as it morphed into an elegant “Memory Of The Future” from “Elysium” and it was eerie and throbbing with these lovely keyboard flourishes as the scrim showed all these wild dancers getting all frenetic as Neil Tennant sadly crooned, “You seem to be inevitable to me, like a memory of the future, I was and will be with you, over and over again, I keep tasting that sweet Madeleine, looking back on my life now I'm in, asking if not later then when, it's taking me all of my life, it's taking me all of my life to find you...”, to an enthralled and rapturous audience. Chris Lowe tinkled out a very pastoral intro to a real thumper as they launched into “Fugitive” which was an extra track to their 2006 album “Fundamental” and the scrim showed the giant heads spinning around and around and they had clocks for eyes as circuit boards rushed underneath them and the music swirled and twirled with electronic precision as it segued into a very Kraftwerk-esque “Integral” also from “Fundamental” and the layers of music soared and crescendo-ed over the robotic beat and I loved Neil's sarcastic words, and then they walked off the stage and Igor Stravinsky's classical masterpiece “The Rite Of Spring” began its symphonic journey through the sound-system and two horned dancers ballet-danced their way across the stage in an antagonistic combat style. Neil and Chris returned to the stage in different costumes and dived into a sensual “I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing” from their 1993 album “Very” and they updated the arrangement and made it even more driving than before as Neil drolly sang the apologetic words, “Ask me why, I say it's most unusual, how can I even try to explain, why today I feel like dancing, singing like lovers sing, when I wouldn't normally do this kind of thing, I wouldn't normally do this kind of thing...”, and I really felt like dancing like a ballerina like the dancers on the scrim. Chris ran offstage and changed into this oversized accordion-style shirt and began to play some deep, dark and swirling rhythms on his keyboard and Neil's voice sounded wonderful as he sang the melancholic and angsty words to “Suburbia” from their 1986 album “Please” and then smoke started billowing everywhere with green lasers shooting every which way and a big beat kicked in over the loping rhythm of “I'm Not Scared” from their 1988 album “Introspective” and as usual Neil has a way with words and he verbalized my exact feelings so my emotions almost overwhelmed me. I love their fabulous new album and I was quite pleased by the pulsing neon-colored dance rhythms of their single “Fluorescent” and it had a bass line like it was humming as it danced in and out of the flashing purple lights and shooting lasers that seemed to float on the buoyant and bubbly beat that faded into the night. In what I consider one of the peaks of the night, they launched into a lively version of their first hit single, a bombastic “West End Girls” from “Please” and it was full of Latin-tinged syncopated rhythms and blasts of the synth horns as Neil nonchalantly crooned, In a west end town a dead end world, the east end boys and west end girls, in a west end town in a dead end world, the east end boys and west end girls, west end girls...”, and the dancers dressed in bright orange leotards pirouetted and twirled amongst the flashing lasers, and the song has stood up remarkably well for its age. The beat morphed into an lovely version of Leonard Bernstein's “Somewhere” from their 1996 album “Bilingual” and it had a swaying groove that was full of these over-the-top symphonic flourishes over a turgid disco beat and the song just soared as Neil and Chris left the stage and their dancers worked it from one end to another on the stage as the lights dimmed like one was falling asleep. They returned in a car wrapped in rainbow colors and Chris had a large disco-ball head and they had the mellifluous rhythms swaying with a happy laidback groove as Neil so elegantly sang about love and loss and being comfortable in your own grief with the beautiful song “Leaving” from their 2012 album “Elysium” and it was my favorite song from that collection so it was nice to hear it played live. They returned to the pumped up techno rhythms of “Thursday” from new album “Electric” and the dancers appeared in large boxes with these weird orange heads as they gyrated to the layers of dense percussion and sparse keyboard riffs that seemed to twirl around and around likes falling leaves. Two upright beds rose out of the ground with Neil and Chris leaning up against them as a flurry of human images flashed on their bodies and they launched into a sensational “Love Etc.” from their 2009 album “Yes” with its driving bass line and punchy melody line and Neil sardonically sneered, “A big bucks Hollywood star, don't have to drive, a super car to get far, don't have to live, a life of power and wealth, don't have to be, beautiful but it helps, don't have to buy, a house in Beverly Hills, don't have to have, your daddy paying the bills, don't have to live, a life of power and wealth, don't have to be, beautiful but it helps...”, and then the two of them burst out of the beds as a scrim with a large image of a circuit board on it dropped to the ground and the burst into the joyously hedonistic “I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too)” which was a B-side single from their 1988 album “Introspective” and it was swimming in deep poly-rhythms and pulsing synths as it got a bit dark and moody. I loved it! The music surged into a percussive segue as the dancers appeared in these metal suits jumping and leaping to the glacial rhythms of a scintillating “Rent” from their 1987 album “Actually” and Neil sarcastically sang about the ways of a hustler and a “sugar daddy” with jealousy and disdain with the grandiose sweep of the synthesizers the song morphed into the edgy and hard-driving “Miracles” which was a non-album single from their 2003 singles compilation album “PopArt” that rushed over me like a percussion tidal wave that open the way for a beautifully delivered “It's A Sin”, also from “Actually”, with a new arrangement that made it more pulsing and strident as Neil crooned, “When I look back upon my life, it's always with a sense of shame, I've always been the one to blame, for everything I long to do, no matter when or where or who, has one thing in common, too...”, and to me, it was the best performance of the night as I watched Neil singing bathed in red lights and strobe flashes amongst the poly-rhythms and swirling synth riffs that seemed to vanish into the darkened stage with Neil and Chris and the audience erupted into explosion of applause and cheering to seem to bring the house down. It was epic! The cheering continued for a few minutes until the dancers returned dressed in all gold while riding pogo sticks and it was spectacular as the synthesizers soared into the Euro-disco of their smash dancefloor hit “Domino Dancing” from their 1988 album “Introspective” and Chris took a moment to give us a joyous and complex keyboard solo which surprised me and the updated arrangement had more syncopated drums that flowed with the pulsing rhythm in the flashing rainbow lasers that were blinding me. Next they slowed down the tempo to a gentle rolling lope that was punctuated by a synth riff as Neil dressed in an orange suit and a fez as he crooned the thoughtful lyrics of the Willie Nelson-penned classic “Always On My Mind” also from “Introspective” with a droll ease that was just beautiful and he even got the audience to sing-along with him and the dancers twirled around him dressed in these surreal mesh hats and blasts of the confetti cannon that rained orange pieces of paper everywhere and they segued into the Village People's “Go West” from PSB's 1993 remix album “Go West” and it was driving and pounding and once again the crowd sung along with mad abandon as the dancers pranced around on stilts with the big pointy orange hats on, it was like the Circus Soleil on ecstasy! The audience was in heaven as they madly danced and twirled and whistled and cheered their hearts out to the appreciative joy of the Pet Shop Boys whose faces wore these huge grins. They finished their twenty-three song set with an ecstatic “Vocal” from their new album and it pretty much summed up how perfect tonight was as Neil Tennent wailed, “And everything about tonight feels right and so young, and anything I wanna say out loud will be sung, this is my kind of music, they play it all night long...”, as the lasers danced in the smoke with the swirling and throbbing rhythms that went round and round like a great closing number until the last notes and Neil and Chris took their last bows and disappeared in the dark as the audience lost their minds until the house lights went up and I rushed out the venue feeling great. The show was phenomenal with plenty of high points and the presentation was a visual delight from the dancers to the lights and lasers that made me want to dance with joy and I cannot wait to see the Pet Shop Boys again.

SONIC CIRCUITS - September 16, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

ALMA TROPICALIA - September 13, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

THE GOOD THING - September 12, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

THE BAR-KAYS, BRICK, and A TASTE OF HONEY - August 30, 2013
Howard Theater - Washington, DC

It was a beautiful starry summer night to go see “The Monsters Of Funk Festival 2013” at the lovely Howard Theatre in Washington, DC, and tonight my friend Billy Griffin and I get to see some old-school funk with The Bar-Kays, Brick, and A Taste Of Honey and it should be quite a show. We arrived and we are shown our seats and we order some dinner and we drink some Heinekens and we wait for the show to start. It became time for the show to begin and first up was Memphis, Tennessee's The Bar-Kays and they came out jamming especially Tony Gentry on the guitar which he had wailing as the band kicked the show off with “Sex-o-matic” from 1984's classic album “Dangerous” and Larry Dodson turned it out with his sexy voice as he crooned, “I feel the girls in Paris, I make love in Spain, and all around the world, said the women know my name, they call, well, sex-o-matic...”, and James Alexander pumped his bass for all it was worth as him and the band morphed into “Move Your Boogie Body” from the 1979 album “Injoy”. The band kept the high energy flowing with a marvelous version of “She Talks To Me With Her Body” from 1982's “Propositions” album and the vocal harmonies were tight and on-key. They were incredible as the band let the rhythm flow as each member played his part with precision and skill as they laid down the funk with a beautiful rendition of “Shine” from 1978's “Light Of Life” album and as they finished the song and handed their instruments to the members of Brick who lightened things up with their jazz-inflected funk. Brick let it rip with “Ain't Gone Hurt Nobody” from their classic 1977 chart-topping album “Brick” which was punctuated by vocalist Jimmy Brown's trombone blasts and Regi Hickman's psychedelic guitar licks as Jimmy sang the words. The band stomped on with a powerful “Sweat (Til You Get Wet)” from the 1981 album “Summer Heat” and Jimmy growled, “Everybody, sweat till you get wet, sweat till you get wet, come on and sweat, till you get wet, everybody, sweat till you get wet...”, with a raw sexuality and then he played a beautiful flute solo over the booming and zooming bass lines of Ray Ransom. The musicians switched members back to The Bar-Kays and they slowed things down with the sexy grind of “Anticipation” from the “Propositions” album and the band flowed like butter and they were creamy smooth and Tom Gentry let a stellar guitar solo rip as his fingers burned up the fretboard. James Alexander and Larry Dodson left the stage and A Taste Of Honey's Janice-Marie Johnson came to the stage and gently cooed “Over Me” with the rest of The Bar-Kays, she was dressed as a Japanese geisha and flitted about the stage and danced with long streaming ribbons until the end of the song and she vanished. James and Larry returned to join the band as they started the romantic segment of the show and played a sensuous “What Grown Folks Do” which was a #1 smash hit last year from 2012's “Grown Folks” album and the three vocalists, Larry Dodson, and background singers Darrel Stanley and Archie Love, crooned their romantic hearts out as Larry walked through the crowd. The band next had a contest between the two background singers for the best sexy voice slow jam as the band languidly played “Let's Have Some Fun” from 1996's “Flying High On Your Love” album and “Mean Mistreater” from 1978's classic funk album “Money Talks”, and Larry Dodson returned to the stage in a fresh sequined jacket and the band brought the funk with a stompin' version of “Move Your Boogie Body” from the 1979 album “Injoy” as Larry sassily sang “You're gonna be dancing, dancing, dancing, dancing, you'll be the star of the show, come on, here to let you know, if you want to boogie, get out on the dance floor, let's go, let's go...”, and people went crazy with cheering and dancing, and it so rocked as the band flowed into the tight funk of “Holy Ghost” from their “Money Talks” album and the percussive groove was just swinging as the melody swirled around through the band as they finished the song and walked off stage as the members of Brick returned and they got things jumpin' with a pulsing and throbbing “Happy” from their 1977 album “Brick” and vocalist Jimmy Brown absolutely amazed me with the skillful deftness and tone that he played the trombone and the flute and the trumpet and all in one song. They continued on in a real jazzy old-school style with an uplifting version of Louis Armstrong's 1967 classic “What A Wonderful World” that had the audience singing along at the top of their lungs and Jimmy did a wonderful imitation of Armstrong's voice that really impressed me as the band put their instruments down and walked off-stage and The Bar-Kays returned and launched into some deep Philly soul with a stunningly gritty cover of “Theme From Shaft” which was the first song that was played on WHUR radio and they backed up the late great Isaac Hayes on the original 1971 version and drummer Victor Alexander and bassist Ray Ransom were locked in a groove that was indescribable as guitarist Regi Hargis played this fluttery riff over the heavenly melody runs of keyboardist Aaron Small. They kept the groove flowing with a smoking hot “Do What You Want To” from the 1977 album “Flying High On Love” and it was a beautiful amalgamation of disco and funk and it had the crowd dancing and moving to its syncopated beats and horn flourishes with smiling faces and then they went into a super funky version of their greatest hit “Shake Your Rump To The Funk” from their 1976 album “Too Hot To Stop” and the audience loved it as Larry cajoled them, “Don't stop dancing to the music, just let the music make you high, we've got rhythm, you can use it, don't let this feeling pass you by, by, by, don't fight the feeling in your soul, just boogie on back and, let the good time roll, yeah, we're here to move your soul...”, and the band made the funk crescendo like a tidal wave that rolled over me with its power. Larry Dodson brought A Taste Of Honey's Janice-Marie Johnson and her bass back to the stage and where he introduced her and then the band rocked out on her chart-topping disco anthem “Boogie Oogie Oogie” from her 1978 self-titled debut album and she worked that bass like Bootsy as she crooned, “Get on up, on the floor, cause we're gonna boogie oogie oogie, till you just can't boogie no more, ah boogie, boogie no more, you can;t boogie no more, ah boogie, boogie no more, listen to the music...”; and you could feel the spirit of her now-deceased partner keyboardist Perry Kibble, who co-wrote the song, dancing away and loving it and the crowd went crazy singing along with her in complete joy as the band broke down the song and Janice-Marie played an amazing bass solo that just swallowing the place. Brick returned to the stage and set it off right away as they turned it out with a spectacular rendition of “Dusic” from their 1977 self-titled album and the band made the funk flow wonderfully with musical skill and precision as vocalist Jimmy Brown jumped from horn to horn and Regi Hargis wailed on the guitar like Jimi Hendrix and they went right into a ferocious version of “Dazz” from their 1976 debut album “Good High” and it was a perfect blend of disco and funk and jazz with the lively music flowing everywhere driven by the tersely syncopated rhythms of drummer Victor Alexander and they had the crowd on their feet as Jimmy sang, “Everybody go on and dance if you want to, music makes your body move, well all right, funky dancing get up, get down, shake your booty, music makes your body move, well all right...”, and then the band broke the song down to rapturous applause as Jimmy played some excellent flute and Ray Ransom made his bass swing to the coda and the outro and the band rushed off-stage. The Bar-Kays returned to the stage and finished the show with a stompin' version of “Freakshow On The Dance Floor” from the 1984 album “Dangerous” as Larry sassily sang “Face to face, and cheek to cheek, they're dancing on the floor, for all to see, freakshow, baby, baby, on the dance floor, there's a freakshow, when you're out on the floor...”, and they played some tight and crisp funk that just bubbled along as James Alexander whomped his bass and the band segued into a bit of Sly Stone's 1969 barnstormer “I Want To Take You Higher” which blended with “Freakshow” so seamlessly as they finished the song. Jimmy Brown brought all the musicians to the stage and they took there final bows and announced that they were going to be available to take pictures with them in the lobby, and then the house lights went up and we rushed out of the place before it got to crazy at the front door with everyone jostling for photographs with the bands. I really enjoyed their twenty-one-song set and I liked how they formatted it like a variety show as the three bands rotated their playing slots as they kept the beat and mood very upbeat and hi-energy. Cheers to the Masters Of Funk for an awesome night!

THE TORCHES - August 25, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

Filene Center At Wolf Trap - Vienna, VA - Box 102/Seat 8

It was a beautiful night for a concert as I trekked out to Tyson's Corner on the metro in the oppressive heat to meet my friend Scott and we made the final hop in his car to the outdoor venue at Wolf Trap and it was quite crowded on the lawn but rather empty in the balcony where we were seated for the show. First up was some horrible pop-country songstress named Brynn Marie, she came out on stage with an acoustic guitar player Josh Roberts and they launched into her very forgettable music, her voice was not too bad but the delivery left me bored as she sang about love and loss and her guitarist seemed bored as he strummed along nonchalantly. Brynn finished her six-song set with her current hit single “Band-Aid On A Bullet Hole” and still I was not very impressed and I was glad when she was done with her set. After a few minutes Cheap Trick was introduced by a barrage of Cheap Trick ephemera on the video screens and they took the stage full-force with a raucous “Hello There” from their second 1977 album “In Color”, and then they plowed into a big riffed “Big Eyes” also from “In Color” which featured a squealing solo from guitarist Rick Nielsen. They continued with a pulsing “ELO Kiddies” from their 1977 self-titled debut album that was full of intertwining blazing guitar riffs and a throbbing bass line as frontman Robin Zander sang, “Hello kiddies, hello kiddies, whatcha gonna do when the lights start shining, hello kiddies, hello kiddies, whatcha gonna do when your head's exploding, so you missed some school, you know that school's for fools, today money rules, and everybody steals it...”, and Rick Nielsen got his famous square guitar out and ripped a killer guitar solo as the band let loose with a rock-a-billy-influenced “California Man”, originally by The Move, from their classic 1978 album “Heaven Tonight” and it pulsed and rippled with a powerful muscularity as drummer Daxx Nielsen, son of Rick, drove the song with his deft and succinct percussion, and vocalist Robin Zander got wild with some empathic “Yeah, yeah, yeahs'” as they finished the song. Rick Nielsen switched guitars again and he mentioned that the band just got back from Japan where they are huge, and they were jet-lagged, and then they jumped into a perky “If You Want My Love” from their 1982 album “One On One” and it was quite melodic and catchy as Robin Zander crooned, “If you want my love you got it, when you need my love you got it, I won't hide it, I won't throw your love away, oo...”, and with such passion and it proved that their songs have stood the test of time. The drummer Daxx played a marvelous solo full of soul with great authority to begin a fabulous version of the Fats Domino classic “Ain't That A Shame” from their 1979 break-through album “Live At Budokan” and it rocked as Rick shredded on his guitar on like a madman. With a nice clipped drum beat they plunged into a psychedelic “Need Your Love” from their 1979 album “Dream Police” and it had trippy vocals from Robin and these gorgeous extended notes from Rick and yet another guitar that morphed into a blistering solo that rattled me to my bones then he began to duel with Robin on guitar and it was pretty cool. Next the band kicked into the upbeat rhythm of “I Want You To Want Me” from their second album “In Color” and Robin led the audience in singing the chorus and Rick once again let loose with some exquisite riffage that blew my mind and that led to bassist Tom Petersson finishing the song with a deep and muscular bass solo that rumbled like an earthquake. Rick traded his guitar for another and it was nice to see that his vast collection was being played and Tom sang the lead vocals on “I Know What I Want” from “Dream Police” with his pleasant baritone, “I've been around the world and met a million girls, still, I know I wanna be with you, you've got more than anyone else, and I want you more than anything, cause I know what I want, and I know how to get it...”, and the band segued into the bristling power-pop of “Never Had A Lot To Lose” from their 1988 best-selling album “Lap Of Luxury” with ease. Robin picked up an acoustic guitar and began gently strumming their only Number One song, a gloriously beautiful “The Flame” also from the same album that he sang with such earnestness and then Rick whipped off a killer solo on his guitar that was just gorgeous and succinct, and then much to the delight of the audience they jumped into the theme song of Fox's “The 70's Show”, the wonderfully driving and crunchy “That 70s Song (In The Street)” which was originally written by power-pop legends Big Star and the crowd just loved it as they sang along with the band, plus it made me feel like a teenager again. They finally played a more recent song, a big-riffed “Sick Man Of Europe” from their 2009 album “The Latest” and it had a booming groove that drove the song as Robin growled, “This ain't the new, it's the old generation, it's all real, not a cheap imitation, everything is good for me now, I don't want to work it all out, all I wanna do is get myself home, I'm a sick man of Europe, I'm a sick man, sick man of Europe...”, and Rick made the song sparkled with all these neat noise effects from yet another guitar. The audience was hyped like crazy when they recognized the opening guitar riffs to “Dream Police” the title-track to their 1979 album and the song was punchy with a propulsive beat that made it dance and Rick even rapped a bit in the song's bridge which was quite hilarious to watch. The highlight of their set was a beautiful execution of “Surrender” from their 1978 album “Heaven Tonight”, which was my favorite of their discography, and Robin was a rock god as he crooned the words with his mellifluous well-aged tenor voice, “Mommy's all right, Daddy's all right, they just seem a little weird, surrender, surrender, but don't give yourself away, hey, heeeeeey, away, away,surrender, surrender, but don't give yourself away...”, and it was beautiful as he lead the audience in singing the memorable chorus and Rick made the song chug along with a magnetic guitar riff and then he switched to his iconic five-neck guitar and he just blew my mind with some of the most brilliant guitar-playing I have ever seen as he morphed into the last song of their sixteen-song set, an appropriately-titled “Goodnight Now” from their 1979 album “Live At Budokan” and Cheap Trick finished the song with pizzazz as they bid us goodnight and took their bows and quickly vanished off the stage to tumultuous applause. Wow...what a fantastic show! The stage crew got to work and changed the set for Pat Benatar with the quickest of efficiency...I was amazed. The houselights went down and Pat Benatar and her band took the stage and kicked the show off with a rather raucous “All Fired Up” from their 1988 album “Wide Awake In Dreamland” and Pat sounded phenomenal as her voice soared, “All fired up, now I believe there comes a time, all fired up, when everything just falls in line, all fired up, we live and learn from our mistakes, all fired up, fired up, fired up, hey, the deepest cuts are healed by faith...”, and her husband guitarist Neil “Spyder” Giraldo rocked on the guitar as the band pumped out their muscular blue-collar rock with incredible ease and style. They continued with a powerful version of “Invincible” from their 1985 album “Seven The Hard Way” that had Pat's voice sounding so skillfully controlled as Neil's squealing guitar gave the song drive as he noodled on his instrument like a true guitar god and then they segued into the stomping beat of “So Sincere” from their 1979 album “In The Heat Of The Night” and Pat really proved she still has it as she sang so sincerely and with a gravitas that gave me the chills. The band kicked into the driving R&B groove of “Go” the title-track from their 2003 album and Pat belted out the words, “You say you'll always be there, but I know you won't, you say you love me, you swear, but I know you don't, I got better things I can do, you know, than waste all my time on you, why don't you just go...”, with a heartfelt passion that gave you an emotional kick in the head and the crowd loved it. She paused for a few moments and said that the next song “Promises In The Dark” from their 1981 album “Precious Time” was the first song she wrote about her personal life and Neil played a lovely intro on the piano and then he switched back to the guitar and played a killer solo that was sharp and tight and had me on the edge of my seat because I really miss playing the guitar since I had my stroke and lost the use of my right hand. Pat paused again and made a joke about her age and growing old and then she told a story about her albums and having kids and doing this for thirty-five years and she is not doing “Heartbreaker” with a way...and then she brought Brynn Marie to the stage to join her in an anthemic “We Belong” from their 1984 album “Tropico” as Neil's fingers danced across the piano and accented Brynn and Pat's gently sung vocals superbly and when the song's tempo picked up, he switched to an acoustic guitar which he percussively played because the rest of the band was off-stage in the dark and the somber mood was kept up with Neil playing a haunting melody on the piano to introduce a brilliant rendition of “Hell Is For Children” from their 1980 album “Crimes Of Passion”, and you could feel the pain and despair in her voice as she sang the words so touchingly, “Because Hell, Hell is for children, and you know that their little lives can become such a mess, Hell, Hell is for children, and you shouldn't have to pay for your love, with your bones and your flesh, no, Hell is for children...”, and I must admit the words bought a tear to my eye being that this particular song was just a little too real for me and then Neil finished the song with an earth-shattering guitar solo that just rattled me to my soul. Next the band got a crunchy groove going with some slashing guitar work as they lumbered into a vivacious “You Better Run”, which was originally a Young Rascals song, from the “Crimes Of Passion” album and Pat let loose with some powerhouse vocal acrobatics and then she told a story about being in a cheap motel at the Rock-lahoma Festival and the wild escapades that ensued and they were watching the fledgling MTV network and the next song “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” also from their 1980 album “Crimes Of Passion” was the second video shown on the airwaves and Neil said he found watching to it very difficult because it reminded him of an angry and bitter woman from his past, and then he started to play a guitar lick from Rick Springfield's “Jessie's Girl” and he actually wrote the song for Rick, and the band played it rough and tumble with some crunchy lead guitar as Pat just wailed on the lyrics with her lovely soprano voice as some guy in the audience near me started dancing spastically like Elaine in that infamous “Seinfeld” episode. The band paused and then their drummer Chris Ralles and bassist Mick Mahan laid down a very crisp and staccato percussive groove as they went into “Love Is A Battlefield” from their 1983 album “Live From Earth” and Pat belted the words out with authority, “We are young, heartache to heartache we stand, no promises, no demands, love is a battlefield, we are strong, no one can tell us we're wrong, searching our hearts for so long, both of us knowing, love is a battlefield...”, as Neil played some great stuttery guitar and the band pounded away behind him as the audience erupted into a rapturous applause as the band rushed off stage into the dark. After a few minutes the band returned and they launched into a manic “Everybody Lay Down” from their 1993 album “Gravity's Rainbow” that had the audience on their feet screaming for more as they morphed into a romantic “Let's Stay Together” from their album “Wide Awake In Dreamland” that had the couples in the audience hugging and standing closer. Pat Benatar then took the time to introduce the band members and she joked about the last song of their thirteen-song set being an anchor around the band's neck but they loved playing it anyway as they launched into a riveting version of “Heartbreaker” from their 1979 debut album “In The Heat Of The Night” and Pat was captivating as she raged, “Your love is like a tidal wave, spinning over my head, drownin' me in your promises, better left unsaid, you're the right kind of sinner to release my inner fantasy, the invincible winner and you know that you were born to be, you're a heartbreaker, dream maker, love taker, don't you mess around with me, no, no, no...”, and the band was roaring like a freight train, and then Neil Giraldo showed off a bit on the guitar with a terse “Ring Of Fire” by Johnny Cash and then the band swept through a whirlwind of solos on their instruments until the coda and they finished the song to a deluge of applause then the band took their bows and wished everyone a goodnight as they left the stage for the night. Tonight was a great night for music and both bands proved that they were built to stand the test of time but I really wished they got to play some new songs and not just the ones from their heyday which seems to be the way for older bands these days. But rock on guys!

ELIKAH - August 17, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

THE HILL AND WOOD - August 16, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

CAZ AND THE DAY LABORERS - August 15, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was a lovely summer evening as I made my way to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see Caz And The Day Laborers mash it up with some nice and lilting reggae with some powerful and insightful lyrics. The band featured members of local legends The Pietasters and Caz herself used to sing for them, and they opened with a jaunty "Picture On The Wall" and they kicked into their airy reggae that gently loped along driven by Jorge Pezzimenti's spacey guitar and Danny Schneider's bouncy keyboard melody line. The rhythm section was tight as they flowed along as Jorge E. Banales deep bass lines and Curtis F. Reaves Jr.'s sparse drumming punctuated the song. Caz Gardiner's voice was exquisite as it followed the rhythm gracefully as she sang "Grateful" with its quirky beat that just made you want to dance. Jorge Pezzimenti was a tasteful guitar player as he led the band through the lilting rhythms with his succinct playing. Their music was light and breezy as it bobbed along with a reggae back-beat that was quite infectious and you want to dance. The band performed several songs from their recent self-titled debut EP and it was just released on vinyl and available for the first time at this gig. Sometimes they sounded very sixties-ish with their swirling keyboard melody lines and rock-steady drums particularly in the song "Locking The Front Door", and Jorge encouraged the audience to look at other albums in the reggae section at their favorite record store other than Bob Marley. They did a lovely song called "You Know You're Wrong" and it predicted the outcome of the Trayvon Martin trial and it was very accurate in its opinion of the matter and Danny played a wonderful keyboard solo that made my hair stand on end. They even played a The Who song with a nice ska-edge to it as everyone in the band danced and skanked away. Overall their fourteen-song set was uplifting and genuine and the beautiful rhythms and made me want to dance in the sunshine with sand on my feet, Caz And The Day Laborers were fantastic as they delivered another fine set of music and I would go see them play anytime.

SUNWOLF and MARY CHRIST - August 5, 2013
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC

It was quite a lovely evening as my friend film-maker Adrian Salsgiver and I made our way up to Fort Reno Park to see local bands Sunwolf and Mary Christ. Washington DC trio Sunwolf got things started with their garage-y punk rock, the vocalist/bassist Rob Tifford's vocals were a bit too high in the mix for my taste but the guitarist Tommy Bunnell had a nice tone to his riffs but he was not that inventive of a player. The band played a nice version of their local hit "The Sun And The Sea" that was nicely propelled by drummer Danny Bentley and an additional guest drummer and which I found unusual for their genre of music but they pulled it off. The counter-rhythms that they played gave their music an interesting edge and they reminded me of a jam band. The lyrics to the songs were hard to understand sometimes because the singer Rob did not articulate instead of sounding all mush-mouthed. The guitarist Tommy was getting these weird discordant sounds out of his guitar but they seemed to fit the band's groove that was reminiscent of The Stranglers. The audience seemed to appreciate their long-winded post-punk songs as they plodded through their pulsing seven-song set. I really liked the two drums set-up because their combined drumming added a whole new dimension, but I never learned the other guy's name. I must say that I did enjoy their performance because of their two drummers' intricate playing and the both of them stayed in the pocket regardless of the guitarist's random playing and rudimentary skill. The next band was the all-female quartet Mary Christ also from DC and they took to the stage for their final show with a righteous punk rock fury but they really did not appeal to me. The band was competent but barely and the singer Alex's voice was shot from screaming her lyrics at the audience. The words seemed to be political and meaningful but their delivery was abysmal and the band was boring and uninspired as bassist Diane Vashti and drummer Megan Hynes churned away at a basic rhythm pattern and guitarist Lara Lookabaugh slashed at her guitar. I can see why they are breaking up. Mary Christ delivered their eight-song set rather quickly, but I kind of liked the song "Concerned Cop" as I fled into the night.

BLACK SABBATH - August 2, 2013
Jiffy Lube Pavilion - Bristow, VA - Section 103/Row N/Seat 19

All hail the almighty gods of heavy metal! It was a lovely sun-drenched summer afternoon as my friend and driver Dave Coleman and I headed out on the highway in his car to Jiffy Lube Pavilion in Manassas, Virginia to see the original metal gods Black Sabbath bring the noise and thunder with their wonderfully brilliant music. Black Sabbath are on what appears to be their last tour and it is in support of their stellar new album “13” and it is a welcomed addition to their much-celebrated back catalogue and it featured the return of iconic vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, but however, original drummer Bill Ward is not playing on the album or on the tour because of several very well-publicized contract disputes over money with Sabbath's management team and rumoured poor health that has affected his drumming skills. Plus guitarist Tony Iommi recently had a brush with death when he was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer and he had to fly regularly between Los Angeles, where they were recording their new album with legendary producer Rick Rubin, and London, England where he was receiving his life-saving chemo-therapy. So when they announced their world tour, I had to run out immediately and get some tickets to this show and they were quite spectacular, and then the day of the show finally arrived and we reached the venue and walked in and found our seats and the stage-set was a wall of amplifiers and a huge video screen that was hewn out of faux-stone and soon after we arrived, DJ Andrew W.K. appeared on a raised dais in the middle of the stage and started grinding out some killer tunes on a DJ deck for an half-hour or so. Finally the houselights dimmed and the sound of sirens wailed in the distance and Ozzy Osbourne let out a fiendish laugh and the band kicked the night off with an ominous “War Pigs” from their seminal 1970 album “Paranoid” that had a menacing ferocity as Ozzy growled, “Generals gathered in their masses, just like witches at black masses, evil minds that plot destruction, sorcerers of death's construction, in the fields the bodies burning, as the war machine keeps turning...”, and Tony Iommi burned up his guitar with the song's signature riff. The band flowed effortlessly into “Into The Void” from 1971's “Master Of Reality” album and Tony never sounded better as he made unnatural sounds with his guitar while bassist Geezer Butler plodded along on his instrument with ease and then Tony finished the song with a hair-raising guitar solo that showed why he is the best in the business. The next song “Under The Sun/Every Day Comes And Goes” was from their 1972 album “Black Sabbath Volume 4” and it started off nice and crunchy with a grinding riff from Tony's guitar that intertwined with the swirling bass of Geezer Butler as the video screens showed a church blowing up in flames as drummer Tommy Clufetos pounded out the dense percolating beat and Ozzy sang about how we should just “abort religion” and be better people. A pulverizing bass line kicked off a stunning version of “Snowblind” also from “Volume 4” as images of people snorting huge piles of cocaine swirled on the video screens and Ozzy howled, “Don't you think I know what I'm doing, don't tell me that it's doing me wrong, you're the one that's really the loser, this is where I feel I belong...”, as the band erupted into an all-enveloping thunderous sound that just electrified me. Ozzy said that he was glad that the band was getting to play some new music for us tonight and he introduced their first new song, a darkly majestic “Age Of Reason” from their outstanding new album “13” that featured an ominous guitar riff that seemed to swing like a pendulum over the deep and swirling bass lines of Geezer Butler that twisted and turned through the dense and sludgy percussion that drummer Tommy gleefully supplied with his deft hands as Ozzy sang of man's stupidity. Then came what I considered to be the show's zenith was their performance of a suite of songs from their eponymous 1970 self-titled debut album, first the sound of falling rain filled the pavilion and Tony started stoically playing the monolithic opening riffs of the album's title-track “Black Sabbath” and Ozzy sounded great as his voice rolled on waves of doomy bass and Tony finished the song with a supernatural guitar solo that soared into a haunting and eerie “Behind The Wall Of Sleep” from their 1970 album “Black Sabbath” and Ozzy said this was the first tour that they played it on as he charged into the melancholy lyrics as Tony made his guitar howl and sigh as the video screens showed this writhing zombie girl with her mouth sewed shut and Geezer played a phenomenal bass solo that morphed into the intro to “N.I.B. (Nativity In Black)” from their 1970 album “Black Sabbath” and it was their best song of the night as Ozzy wailed, “Your love for me has just got to be real, before you know the way I'm going to feel, I'm going to feel, I'm going to feel, oh yeah...”, and Tony played some careening guitar over the rolling bass of Geezer as Tommy kept the thunderous percussion deep in the pocket. They next kicked off the pounding rhythms of “End Of The Beginning” from their new album with a fury and it harkened back to their old days as the incisive playing of Tony made the song just bristle with white-hot riffs and it had great lyrics that Ozzy brought to life until Tony finished the song with an inventive solo that gave me the goosebumps. Then the band blew me away with a beautiful rendition of “Jack The Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots” from their penultimate album “Paranoid” and it was the best song of their set and probably my favorite Black Sabbath song ever. Tony and Geezer were so musically locked in synch as the video screens showed dominatrix girls as dancing fairies that glided along to Tommy's pounding drums and Tony's soaring guitar solo and the sound was fantastic and full of depth. They segued into their best new song, a crunchy and very modern “Methademic” from “13” that had these great crescendo-ing drums that drove Tony's screaming guitar as Ozzy growled the song's great anti-hard drug message, “The epidemic from a crystal lie, puts you in super overdrive, the methademic that is so hard to hide, insanely staring with wide eyes...”, and he sang the telling lyrics like he lived it and barely survived but he lived to tell this story. The band was smokin' by now so they did a pair of classic songs from “Paranoid”; first they performed a sinister-sounding “Rat Salad” and it was a sensational instrumental with this spiralling guitar that showed Tony's speed and dexterity until it crashed and burned and Tommy took over with an obligatory drum solo that was almost funky in its feel as he pounded out these cataclysmic poly-rhythms that showed just how fast he could drum as he went crazy with a blur of hands and arms flailing everywhere but it became a little long for me as he got lost in the sound of crashing cymbals, but suddenly he switched up tempos and Ozzy, Tony, and Geezer returned to the stage and launched into an anthemic and muscular “Iron Man” and it sounded fabulous. The song was crunchy and heavy with a powerful sound that was pulsing and percussive and Ozzy stills sounds in fine form as he howled, “I am iron man, has he lost his mind, can he see or is he blind, can he walk at all, or if he moves will he fall, is he alive or dead, has he thoughts within his head, we'll just pass him there. Why should we even care...”, and the Tony and Geezer dueled it out with a brutal guitar solo and a earth-swallowing bass that I got lost in as the band segued into the eerie beauty of “God Is Dead?” from their recent album “13” and the Geezer Butler-written well-thought out lyrics were so deep and thought-provoking that I was impressed when Ozzy brought them to life while accented by Tony's razor-sharp guitar riffs and Geezer's funk-like bass line that made the song incredible. Ozzy announced that the next song was about their old wild days and the women who were their “companions” on the road and he got everyone to stand and cheer as the band roared into a crunchy “Dirty Women” from their 1976 album “Technical Ecstasy” and it had a nice swaying beat with throbbing bass that was covered in layers of sound and a spectacularly beautiful solo full of punch from Tony that led to another achingly beautiful and haunting guitar solo that started off “Children Of The Grave” from their 1971 album “Master Of Reality”, then a big galloping beat kicked in as Ozzy crooned to the audience, “If you want a better place to live in, spread the words today, show the world that love is still alive, you must be brave, or you children of today are children of the grave, yeah...”, and they seemed to be fitting words to end the show and Tony and Geezer raged on their instruments as the drums crashed behind them until the band left the stage in a swarm of feedback and noise. The audience went ballistic with bombastic applause that got louder and louder until the band returned and finished their eighteen-song set by playing a segment of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”, the title-track from their 1974 album, and then it morphed into their classic perennial set closer, which was originally a throwaway track that became their biggest song, a fantastical “Paranoid” which was the title-track from their 1970 album and Ozzy sang it with a world weariness that was palatable, “Make a joke and I will sigh and you will laugh and I will cry, happiness I cannot feel and love to me is so unreal, and so as you hear these words telling you now of my state, I tell you to enjoy life I wish I could but it's too late...”, and the electric thunder of Tony Iommi's guitar and the boom of Geezer Butler's bass danced the final dance of the night in a sonic whirlwind that spun away into the darkness as Black Sabbath left the stage as the audience exploded in heavy metal ecstasy but the house lights went up and so did I as my friend and I hurried out of the venue and rushed back to my friend's car in order to beat the parking lot traffic jam, which we did, but I think that this was the best Black Sabbath concert that I ever was amazing...what a performance!

Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC

It was a beautiful evening as I made my way to Fort Reno Park to get my weekly dose of local rock, and this week I got to see three young bands, The Accidentals, Humble Fire, and Priests. First up are The Accidentals who are a guitar and drums duo that feature the legendary High Back Chairs/Colour School's bassist Charles Steck's fourteen-year-old son Brady on guitar and vocals and drummer Caleb Scheibel, and they played a fuzzed out brand of rock and roll that just makes you want to pogo and bounce all over the place. Brady played nice angular guitar riffs over a sparse beat which Caleb pumped out with ease, and Brady's voice was a bit hypnotic as he sang songs with titles like "We Had A Plan" and "What Can You Do" and my favorite "Brainwash". For such young guys they had a nice sense of tempo and rhythm and the guitar chords were well-placed and the lyrics were insightful and meaningful which was unusual for someone his age. I was quite surprised by their skill and musicianship and even more so that they are one of my friends' children. The best song of their set was "I Don't Wanna Laugh With You" with its weird bounce-y guitar line and clever lyrics, and overall their nine-song set was driving and propulsive and they showed great promise and I am looking forward to seeing them play live again. The next band Humble Fire was a quartet from DC and they launched into some driving post-punk that reminded me of Paramour without all the bombast. The music wound around and around and careened all over the place and I found the vocalist/bassist David Epley's voice to be a bit thin and noisome as the band played their set. The guitarist Xaq Rothman had some nice licks but they never seemed to go anywhere as he churned away at it over the chaotic percussion of drummer Adam Stern. The band seemed a bit poppy in some places because of keyboardist Nefra Faltas' melodies and I really did not enjoy them that much, and besides, they kept mentioning Beyonce who was in town to perform at the Verizon Center tonight. However they seemed to be loved by the audience who gathered in the front of the stage but their sound was not my cup of tea. Overall their eight-song set was tedious but the band had some memorable bit especially the guitarist, and oddly they reminded me of the legendary DC band Strange Boutique. Finally the last band was called Priests and they were yet another DC quartet who play politically-tinged punk rock with shades of surf rock in their back-beat. The singer Katie Alice Greer was abrasive as she screamed the lyrics and the band was a bit discordant and drove me away after just a few songs. I split the park and rushed to the metro and headed home.

NEW ORDER and HOLY GHOST! - July 28, 2013
Merriweather Post Pavilion - Columbia, MD - Row QQ/Seat 115

It was an overcast day as my friend Joel Sklar and I headed to Merriweather Post Pavilion to see one of my all-time favorite bands, New Order, and I am quite thrilled to be going because I love them, and I have loved them since they were Joy Division way back in the late seventies and early eighties. This is my ninth time seeing New Order and my fourth time at Merriweather Post Pavilion, and this time around they are a five-piece band but without stalwart bassist Peter Hook who is acrimoniously split with the rest of the band due to pointless hang-ups and petty money and control issues. Right now DJ Whitney Fierce is doing a lovely job of providing delicious house beats and techno grooves as the audience filtered its way into the venue. First up however was Brooklyn's Holy Ghost! and they consist of the duo of Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel on vocals and synthesizers and they are backed by a four-piece band and they came out with some pulsing and dance-y music and they reminded me of sped-up New Order. The beats were relentless as the guitarist played some nice decorative leads as Alex Frankel sang his heart out as Nick Millhiser followed him on the synthesizer. Their songs were nice but they did not change tempo very much, the synths and percussion swirled wonderfully together as the band propelled the heartfelt groove but I found them to be too reminiscent of too many bands like Mirrors and Cut Copy that I felt that they did not have their own identifiable sound. The singers' vocals were pleasant to listen to though as the band layered and layered the sound and textures of their music until it was almost a blur. Overall their ten-song set was highly enjoyable with songs full of wistful vocals and swirling synthesizers backed by a driving and relentless beat full of percussive fills, but they were a tad derivative. Holy Ghost! left the stage and DJ Whitney Fierce was back with her happy house beats as the roadies ran around and prepared the stage for New Order. They quickly set up the stage and then the lights went down as Ennio Morricone's “The Ecstasy Of Gold” played as their intro music and the audience roared as New Order hit the stage and opened with the dramatic instrumental “Elegia” from 1985's “Low-life” album and the video screen showed all these rising bubbles as the band went right into a crunchy “Crystal” from their 2001 album “Get Ready” as Bernard Sumner sang, “We're like crystal, it's not easy, with your love, you could feed me, every man, and every woman, needs someone, so keep it coming, keep it coming, keep it coming, keep it coming...”, and they showed the clever and witty video where they had pre-pubescent boys playing instruments as them on the video screens and Stephen Morris' drumming was cold and relentless and that somehow made the song feel warm and cuddly. Next the band played a melancholic “Regret” from their 1993 album “Republic” that was loud and punchy and punctuated with manic drumming, and then they reached into their back catalogue and played a crisp “Ceremony” that was their debut single as New Order in 1981 after the demise of Joy Division and Bernard played a wonderful guitar solo as their new bassist Tom Chapman filled the spaces between the notes with a throbbing bass line. They were onto “Age Of Consent” from their 1983 album “Power, Corruption, Lies” with its swirling synthesizer washes from keyboardist Gillian Gilbert and Tom's biting bass line as Bernard wistfully crooned, “Do you find this happens all the time, crucial point one day becomes a crime, and I'm not the kind that likes to tell you, just what I want to do, I'm not the kind that needs to tell you, I've lost you, I've lost you, I've lost you...”, as he slashed away at his guitar. Much to my elation, they launched into a sparse rendition of “Isolation” from Joy Division's 1980 album “Closer” and they had really cool lights flashing all around as they added layers of sound and rhythm. The band changed things up with a pulsing rendition of The Chemical Brothers-produced “Here To Stay”from the 2002 “24 Hour Party People” movie soundtrack and it was very electronic and rave-y as the beat jumped around spastically and they segued into an upbeat and perky “Krafty” from their 2005 album “Waiting For The Sirens' Call” that made me want to dance. The band took a collective breath before they cranked out a spectacular “Your Silent Face” from their 1983 album “Power, Corruption, & Lies” and keyboardist Gillian Gilbert played these lovely sweeping synth washes as Bernard intoned, “Sound formed in a vacuum, may seem a waste of time, it's always been just the same, no hearing or breathing, no movement no lyrics, just nothing...”, and then he let an epic pastoral guitar solo rip across the band's dreamy soundscape as they morphed into the loping bass of “World” from their 1993 album “Republic” and Stephen played some really intense and intricate poly-rhythms that were amazing in that he created such subtle textures and moods with his drums. One of the highlights of their set was an out of this world “Bizarre Love Triangle” from their 1986 album “Brotherhood” and it was a classic as Gillian's keyboard oozed beautiful melodies that swirled in the air with blue and white lasers flashing across their backdrop as Stephen's drums drove the song behind Bernard's plaintive vocal delivery. The band continued with the stunning crowd-pleaser “True Faith” from their 1987 compilation album “Substance” and they gave it a new arrangement with punchier percussion and Bernard passionately sang, “I used to think that the day would never come, I'd see delight in the shade of the morning sun, my morning sun is the drug that brings me near, to the childhood I lost, replaced by fear, I used to think that the day would never come, that my life would depend on the morning sun...”, then Gillian's dark and scary melodies floated out of her keyboards in the form of the song “5 8 6” from their 1983 album “Power, Corruption & Lies” and it was very electronic and full of driving percussion that was propelled by waves of pulsing bass that carried me away on a sonic journey. A light shined on Gillian and she began playing this tinkly keyboard intro to “The Perfect Kiss” from their 1985 album “Low-Life” which is my favorite album by them and then guitarist Phil Cunningham began playing big fat riffs over the swirling rhythm and percolating percussion until Bernard poured his heart out in his words and I was enraptured as they segued into their biggest song, a larger than life version of “Blue Monday” also from their classic album “Power, Corruption & Lies”, and it was incredible with pounding rhythms driven by bassist Tom Chapman's totally awesome counter-beat melodies and Gillian added some synthesizer crunch as they all swayed joyfully in the shimmering blue lights as the video screens showed pulsing spheres circling the globe to the beat. It was a sight to behold! They closed their set with a grinding “Temptation” from their 1987 compilation album “Substance” and the crowd was ecstatic as they danced and clapped along with the band as Bernard coyly sang, “Oh, you've got green eyes, oh, you've got blue eyes, oh, you've got grey eyes, and I've never seen anyone quite like you before, no, I've never met anyone quite you before...”, and that basically summed up tonight's performance. It was just marvelous as they discretely left the stage to a roaring crowd demanding more. After a few minutes New Order returned to the stage and Bernard nonchalantly said they were going to do a couple of songs by their former band Joy Division and they kicked into their very first single in 1980 called “Atmosphere” and it was eerie and haunting as the video screens showed a film of deceased frontman Ian Curtis in action as the band got real slow and dirge-y like we were at his funeral and in a way, maybe we were, and the band segued into a sharp and angular “Shadowplay” from their 1979 album “Unknown Pleasures” and Bernard played a real cool murky guitar solo and the video screens show iconic quotes from the dead and famous that floated by slowly. New Order finished their nineteen-song set with Joy Division's iconic anthem “Love Will Tear Us Apart” from their second single released in 1980 and the music swirled like wisps of smoke floating in the wind as Bernard moaned, “When routine bites hard, and ambitions are low, and resentment rides high, but emotions won't grow, and we're changing our ways, taking different roads...”, and it was a fitting end to the best show of the summer. I sat back totally blown away by their performance and presentation and I remembered just how much that I love Joy Division/New Order and their music and I hear that they are planning a new album so I am excited for things to come and hopefully they will tour again.

Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC

We finally got a break in the heat that has been plaguing the area this summer as Adrian and me headed to Fort Reno Park to catch the latest in local underground bands and tonight features The Mauls and Southern Problems, and judging by their names, it should be an interesting night. The Mauls are a trio who play old school punk rock that had a nice beat that reminded me of The Ramones. The drummer Mike was pretty good as he drove the songs with his concise playing that was relentless. There was a horrible buzz coming from the monitors as the guitarist Pete played, however I found his musicianship to be pretty indistinguishable, it was just a lot of feedback and basic chord progressions and the bassist Kirk was not much better. The lyrics were clever and made a point even though I sometimes found the words hard to understand. There were moments of inspired playing and I liked how their voices sounded together, but overall their nine-song set was consistent in quality and they were competent musicians who have something to say and they delivered their music with a sassy crunch but I would be hard-pressed to say I would want to see The Mauls again. The next band Southern Problems was also a trio with a female bassist and they played loud aggressive power-pop with some very blase lyrics about the stupidity of the drone lifestyle. The guitarist Dan Schwartz and bassist A.M. Bowen took turns singing but I found the lyrics hard to understand because they kept getting lost in the mix. The song "Jennifer" was the best of their nine-song set and they had great instrumental interplay but the drummer Andrew Graber really stood out as he stayed in the pocket and accented the songs with nice percussive fills. The guitarist got a little chaotic in his playing with these high-toned squeals that just blared out of the speakers as the bassist punctuated them with these rolling bass lines. Their playing was a bit unfocused and messy but their energy made up for it as they pounded away to the delight of the audience.

MISSION SOUTH - July 17, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC

It was the start of a summer heatwave in the urban part of the Mid-Atlantic area but I trekked to Fort Reno Park anyway for the weekly concert and tonight featured Joy Buttons, The Obsessives, and Thundermilk, and so it should be a nice punk rock night. First up was Joy Buttons and they are a supergroup of sorts with various members being from assorted noteworthy bands like Typefighter, Paperhaus, and Laughing Man. The Joy Buttons hit the stage and guitarist Ryan McLaughlin led off with a fat riff as the rest of the band joined in with some chaotic lumbering noise as vocalist Brandon Moses wailed away and they lurched forward into their next number with a nice crunchy bass line. They plowed on with their loud driving music but all the songs did sound the same and I could barely understand Brandon's words. They were a bit overwhelming with their endless driving rhythm that just rolled over me with blistering guitar riffs and belly-rumbling bass, but I was kind of annoyed by Brandon's screaming vocals that was leading up to his voice being blown out. The band played a seven-song set that was powerful and relentless and they did not sound like any of their other bands they are in, but they were competent musicians, however I really was not impressed by their songs and I could not understand a word that vocalist Brandon sang the whole set, so I wish them the best of luck. Second up was The Obsessives from Bethesda and they are still in high school but they are one of those annoying guitar and drums duo, and actually the guitarist/vocalist Nick Bairatchnyi was quite tuneful but he was drowned out by the bashing of the drummer Jackson Mansfield because Nick's guitar just did not have enough volume. Nick sang some nice introspective lyrics about the pains and struggles of growing up in the 21st century, but there was not enough texture in the songs. They had very deep and literate lyrics that expressed a wide variety of emotions and they were nicely sung but the drummer just bashed away at his kit almost counter to the pleasant guitar playing with a nice sense of melody. Their nine-song set was bearable and I was pleasantly surprised by their sense of melody and their insightful lyrics but dudes - get a bassist! Finally the third band was Thundermilk from DC and it seems they brought quite the crowd as the band set up to play. They are a quartet and they are playing their last gig before a name change to Speed Beef. They play a pretty sludge-y concoction of music with lots of angular riffs and plodding bass lines over the fairly decent drumming of Kristof Aldenderfer. Vocalist/guitarist Ryan Biller played a eight-string guitar which seemed a little much for a punk band but the drummer played some nice grooves as he stayed in the pocket. They played a little intricate for a punk band and their riffs that just got in my head but I hated his voice and their slap-dash song structures that just seemed to fall apart at the end of each song. They did play a lovely instrumental which drew a nice audience response and bassist Matt Holmwood and guitarist Dan Epstein particularly shined on this song. They played a rather short six-song set and they almost sounded like a thrash metal band on some of their songs with all the intricate guitar leads but they had really dumb and inane lyrics. After a while I just wanted them to stop so I headed on home on the metro.

Jiffy Lube Pavilion - Bristow, VA - Section 101/Row T/Seat 18

It was a beautiful afternoon as my friend Andy and I headed to Jiffy Lube Pavilion in Manassas to catch Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company on their respective 40th Anniversaries; Lynyrd Skynyrd for their first album and Bad Company for their career, and gosh, that makes me feel old...forty years...damn...and I saw both of them in the seventies when I was in high school. But first youngins Black Stone Cherry opened the show with their brand of gut-bucket boogie and they were excellent as the musicians took the stage to the strains of “Eastbound And Down” and kicked their set off with a pounding “Maybe Someday” and frontman/guitarist Chris Robertson charged into the song and roared, “I was a young boy, sittin' in an old house trippin' on rock and roll, you were, a pretty little girl who never listened to what you were told...” Lead guitarist Ben Wells just lit up his guitar as his fingers flew up and down the fretboard as he bounced about the stage as they played “Change” with its grinding guitars and pulsing bass. They were almost like Pantera in their approach to music by incorporating rock, jazz, and hardcore inventively. Next the band did a great “Yeah Man” with drummer John Fred Young pounding away ferociously and bassist Jon Lawhon followed him deftly providing low-end rumble. The next song “In My Blood” was a solid mid-tempo number and drummer's lyrics showed gratitude to his relatives and how music is in his blood and Richard Young from The Kentucky Headhunters happens to be his father. The band played my favorite song of theirs, “White Trash Millionaire” from their new album “Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea”, and they performed a surging and throbbing version as Chris sang, “I wanna be a white trash millionaire, ain't got much and I don't care, count your cash and kiss my ass, the whole damn world gonna know I'm here...”, and Chris and Ben had battling solos as they burned up their fretboards with big riffs. They launched into “Blame It On The Boom Boom” and they slammed their way through the power chords as the audience sang the words. Black Stone Cherry finished their set with their power ballad “Lonely Train” and it was a real slow-burner as he screamed, “Big train rollin' down the line, makes me lonely, sometimes I wish to ride away, sometimes I want to ride away yeah, big plane flyin' through the clouds, makes me worry, sometimes I wish to fly away, sometimes I want to fly away...”, and the band closed their set with a raucous “30 Seconds Of Death Metal” and riffs flew everywhere in a mad frenzy. Overall their eight-song set was a driving slab of good time rock and roll and I liked it and want to see them again. The stage crew changed the stage-set lightning fast and left the stage amazingly quick and Bad Company took to the stage as Booker T And The MGs' “Green Onions” pumped out of the speakers and they roared to life with a thunderous “Rock'n'Roll Fantasy” from 1979's “Desolation Angels” album and Paul Rodgers bellowed, “Hey, yeah, here come the jesters 1-2-3, it's all part of my fantasy, I love the music and I love to see the crowd, dancin' in the aisles and singin' out loud...” I really miss Boz Burrell but Todd Ronning was a decent replacement. The lights were excellent as they rolled into a throbbing “Burnin' Sky” from 1977's album of the same name and Mick Ralphs played some crunching power chords as Simon Kirke pounded away on the drums. Paul Rodgers started “Run With The Pack” from 1976's album of the same name with some nice piano playing and Mick Ralphs and Howard Leese followed with some exquisite riffs as they intertwined beautifully. They complimented each other rather nicely with their instruments. Mick played some lovely mandolin as the intro to “Feel Like Makin' Love” from the 1975 album “Straight Shooter” and Paul sounded so soulful as he crooned, “Baby, when I think about you, I think about love, darlin', don't live without you and your love, if I had those golden dreams of my yesterdays, I would wrap you in the heaven 'til I'm dyin' on the way...”, and he wailed on the harmonica briefly. The crowd went wild and the band dedicated the next song to Boz, a driving “Gone, Gone, Gone” from the “Desolation Angels” album and written by Boz and its killer riff propelled the song forward as they segued into “Electricland” from the 1982 album “Rough Diamonds” and Paul played some booming barre chords on the guitar and Mick played his best guitar solo of the night as Paul ominously told the dark story of survival. The strains of my favorite song by Bad Company floated into the audience and Paul hypnotically crooned “Ready For Love” from their 1974 debut album and he wailed, “I'm walkin' down this rocky road, wonderin' where my life is leading, rollin' on to the bitter end, I'm finding out along the way what it takes to keep love living, you should know how it feels my friend...” and Mick electrified the crowd with a sensational guitar solo. Paul masterfully sang “Honey Child” from the 1977 album “Run With The Pack” as Mick Ralphs and Howard Leese traded licks as they tore up their guitars. The band plowed into “Movin' On” from their self-titled debut album with a cockiness that comes from being in a band for forty years and they have hit their stride as they played all their classic seventies hits and crowd favorites. Next up, was a splendid “Shooting Star” from 1975's masterpiece album “Straight Shooter” with its heartfelt message/warning and Paul's voice sounded great as he sang with a melancholy gusto, “Johnny was a schoolboy, when he heard his first Beatles song, love me do, I think it was, and from then it didn't take him long, got himself a guitar, used to play every night...” and the crowd joined in with an incredible sing-a-long driven by their signature hyped up twin guitar sound. They finished up with a pulsing “Can't Get Enough” from their debut album which most of the songs came from tonight and the whole audience was singing along with them joyously as the band grooved away with abandon. The band left the stage as the crowd erupted into one loud roar and they returned to encore with a stellar “Bad Company” also from their 1974 debut album and Paul Rogers pounded on the piano and menacingly sang, “Company, always on the run, destiny is the rising sun, oh, I was born six-gun in my hand, behind a gun I'll make my final stand, that's why they call me, bad company, and I can't deny...”, as the soaring guitars lit up the night and the song gave me the chills as they punctuated it with multiple blasts of smoke and thunder. Bad Company's twelve-song set was awe-inspiring since they have been together forty years and they are still together basically except for their deceased bassist Boz Burrell. I really enjoyed their show but I would have loved to have heard a few more songs, but oh well. The house lights went up and the roadies made haste with the set change as we got ready for southern rock heroes Lynyrd Skynyrd who are also celebrating their fortieth anniversary by featuring songs from their 1973 genre-defining debut album “(pronounced 'leh-'nerd 'skin-'nerd)” on this tour with only one of the original members. The lights dimmed and the entire audience stood on their feet and welcomed Lynyrd Skynyrd to the stage as they opened with a booming and swaggering “What's Your Name” from 1977's swansong album “Street Survivors” and Johnny Van Zant, the younger brother of lengendary late frontman Ronnie Vant Zant, and who has been with the band since they re-formed in 1987 and he heartily sang, “Well, its 8 o'clock in Boise, Idaho, I'll find my limo driver, mister, take us to the show, I done made some plans for later on tonight, I'll find a little queen, and I know I can treat her right...”, and the triple guitars roared behind him as the keyboardist Peter Keys tinkled away on his piano then guitarist Rickey Medlocke of Blackfoot fame blazed with a killer solo that gave me the chills. Johnny welcomed us to the show and the band kicked in with the driving rhythm of the J.J. Cale-penned “Call Me The Breeze” from their 1974 breakthrough album “Second Helping” and Johnny put his heft into the song's lyrics as Peter played a brilliant piano solo and then the guitarists Gary Rossington, Rickey Medlocke, and Mark Matejka lined up and played dueling guitars much to the joy of the crowd as the band segued into a raucous “I Ain't The One” from their 1973 debut album “(pronounced 'leh-'nerd 'skin-'nerd)” and it had the most awesome stomping bass line from former Black Crowes bassist Johnny Colt and then Gary had his guitar just a'squealin' like a greased pig, and it was brilliant! Rickey Medlocke was the star of the show with his fleet-fingered picking on his guitar as he heralded a stompin' “Down South Jukin'” which was a b-side from the debut album era and Peter Keys gave the song a little shine with his rollicking piano-playing that got the song stuck in my head. Rickey Medlocke was exquisite as his guitar mournfully wailed as he started a showstopping version of “That Smell” from “Street Survivors” and it was about deceased member guitarist Allen Collins who had his problems but the band made it a touching tribute to him and others as Johnny crooned, “Whiskey bottles, and brand new cars, oak tree you're in my way, there's too much coke and too much smoke, look what's going on inside you, oooooh that smell, can't you smell that smell, oooooh that smell, the smell of death surrounds you...”, then Rickey joined Johnny in singing “You Got That Right” also from “Street Survivors” and it had a nice chiming guitar that drove the song over the terse drumming of Michael Cartellone and then Gary Rossington topped things off with a scintillating slide guitar solo that gave the song some heart. Michael Cartellone took the lead and delivered a wide-range of percussion with a pounding drum solo that got the crowd going as the band erupted into an ominous and dark “Saturday Night Special” from their 1975 album “Nuthin' Fancy” and Ronnie Van Sant's words still ring true in this age of too many psychos with guns on the streets as Gary played a killer guitar solo that was electrifying. The surprise of the night was a rather jazzy-sounding “I Know A Little” from 1977's “Street Survivors” that had a deep groove that danced with the counter-beats of the drummer Michael and Rickey Medlocke played a clean guitar solo that was just beautiful. Johnny Van Sant took the microphone and spoke about meeting with several wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital and how they affected him and the importance of the Wounded Warriors Project and how we all must support them and their sacrifices so he dedicated the next song “Simple Man” from their debut album to the troops and he wistfully sang the wise words, “Oh, take your time, don't live too fast, troubles will come and they will pass, you'll find a woman and you'll find love, and don't forget, son, there is someone up above...”, and Gary and Rickey blazed on a fantastic guitar duel that had riffs flying everywhere with ease as they blasted into “Mississippi Kid” also from their debut and they slowed the beat down to a slow and bare march as Rickey played a sensational mandolin solo and then he switched to the guitar and finished the song with a blistering duel with Gary that made my hairs stand on end. Johnny stopped the band and turned to the audience and thanked everyone for their forty years of support and love and then he went to each band member and introduced them to the crowd who responded with whistles and cheers and they were especially responsive to the only original member, the sensational guitarist Gary Rossington who stepped forward to thank the crowd as he played the opening chords to “Gimme Three Steps” also from their 1973 debut album and the band turned it out as the waves and waves of guitar riffs filled the pavilion. Finally they were at the end of their set and the audience was hyped for the next two songs because they knew what they were, and soon as the rolling bassline of “Sweet Home Alabama” from their 1974 album “Second Helping” started, the crowd was on their feet cheering and dancing as Johnny sang the immortal words, “Big wheels keep on turning, carry me home to see my kin, singing songs about the Southland, I miss Alabamy once again, and I think it's a sin, yes...”, and the back-up singers Dale Krantz-Rossington (Gary's wife and former Rossington-Collins Band vocalist) and Carol Chase outdid themselves with their Southern belle charm and exquisite vocal harmonies that took my breath away as the guitars intertwined and weaved all over the place. The band left the stage to a roaring crowd who started chanting for them to come back to the stage, and the band promptly returned and Johnny somberly thanked his brother Ronnie as he pointed to the heavens and the dueling guitars of “Free Bird” from the 1973 debut album “(pronounced 'leh-'nerd 'skin-'nerd)” rang out and charged through the song with great grace as it surged and pounding until Johnny sang, “Lord, I can't change, won't you fly high, free bird, yeah?...”, and the guitars faded away and the show was over. I was absolutely blown away by their thirteen-song set of their seventies classics, but I wished they played some of their newer songs like “God & Guns” from their 2009 album of the same name or “Ready To Fly” from their latest album “Last Of A Dyin' Breed”. Overall it was a fantastic show from Bad Company and Lynyrd Skynyrd or should I say a reasonable facsimile of the band and I was impressed by the quality of the musicianship that just took me away.

Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC

It was a humid and overcast afternoon as my pal filmmaker Adrian Salsgiver and I headed up to Fort Reno Park for the annual concert series and tonight was the second show and some local bands are about to delight our senses. First up we have a young band called Feed The Bird from Bethesda and they are a fresh-faced middle school quartet and they opened with a song called "Home" and they reminded me of a slower version of The Ramones. The band stood on the stage looking awkward as they played their simple but interesting music, but the drummer was quite good as he pounded away skillfully. They performed this instrumental that rocked and the guitarist played an inventive solo that made me go 'wow' and he sang some pretty interesting lyrics for a tween. This band made me glad that the spirit of rock and roll is still alive in today's youth. They had a really cool song called "Mouse In A Cage" and it rocked as the bassist and the guitarist each had a lovely solo that belied their age. Feed The Bird played an impressive nine-song set that was full of their unique point of view and very competent musical skills and all I got to say is "Bravo". Next was DC's own Blockhead, a quartet of scene stalwarts who play aggressive punk rock and the singer shrieked away as the band delivered big gnarly riffs and thunderous bass driven by pounding drums. The singer's socio-political lyrics were biting and sarcastic but his voice was one that was quite unique as he expressed himself. Blockhead played a rather short five-song set but the last song they played called "Kill Yourself And It's Going To Be Wonderful" and it was based on some documentary film about the dangers of rock and roll, so the singer wrote about the whole nonsense of it all, and the band grinded away at some classic hardcore in the vein of Void that was exceptionally nice and then they abruptly left the stage. Lastly, Typefighter took the stage and they are a quartet from DC and they played some slash'n'burn rock in the vein of Social Distortion but with a little groove in the mix. The vocalist/guitarist Ryan McLaughlin had a nice voice and cool lyrics and the guitarist Erik Anderson played some fantastic searing licks as the bassist John Crum kept the groove flowing with loping bass lines as the drummer Will Waikart just pounded away at the same beat. Their songs became rather tedious as they were borderline pop music and they sounded all the same for their entire seven-song set. I got bored rather quickly and I hope Typefighter finish soon. They were not bad, just boring.

THE EVENS - July 8, 2013
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC

It was a gorgeous summer evening for the kick-off concert at Fort Reno Park and it is the 46th year for these shows, and this year the annual series' first concert is The Evens in support of their new album "The Odds". There is quite a large turnout for them and I am looking forward to hearing them perform some new songs and some old favorites. I find watching old punk rockers with their brats is very disconcerting, and besides, some of them just should not be having children, and then to have to watch them die in the impending apocalypse, I find that terribly sad but I digress. So I sit and eat my food that I bought from Whole Foods and people-watch and as Jim Morrison said, "People are strange". The Evens, guitarist/vocalist Ian MacKaye and drummer/vocalist Amy Farina took their place on the ramshackle stage and began by thanking everybody and they started the show with an intense "On The Face Of It" and it is about the hypocrisy of society and how it affects the masses, I just love their lyrics. They continued on with three new songs from "The Odds", a stellar "Warble Factor", a raging "Wanted Criminals", and an introspective "Broken Finger"; Ian and Amy's voices go great together and his guitar playing is simple but powerful, and Amy provided rhythmic accompaniment as they screamed, "Jails in search of prisoners!". Ian joked about the latest NSA scandal because of a lone microphone that was on one side of the stage. The simple song structure to their sound was effective and powerfully conveyed their positive message as they continued with their set, and they went from punk rock to soft rock to almost jazz as they proceeded through their set, an angry "All These Governors" and a hopeful "If Its Water" from their 2005 debut album, and my favorite song off the new album "I Do Myself", plus a great song called "Cut From The Cloth" which was the only song they performed from 2006's "Get Evens" album. Ian thought it was great that there was a stage in a field and people came together to celebrate life and creativity as he strummed away on his guitar, and Amy's drumming was delightful as she played the bass parts on the drums and she could keep a sparse beat that conveyed so much as they played four new songs from "The Odds" album; a stunning "King Of Kings", a wistful "Sooner Or Later", and they played this lovely instrumental song "Wonder Why" and Ian made sounds on his guitar that I have never heard, and finally they played "This Other Thing" that reminded me something by an old bluesman except that he does not sing the blues. The two of them played solid all set and they exploded with a raucous "Mt. Pleasant Isn't" from their debut and then they got everyone in the audience to sing along to an uplifting "Shelter Two"..."It's all downhill from here"...and Amy joked that Ian would make us sing until we were louder than them and then she laid down the beat to "Around The Corner", and both were from their debut album. Ian said that he wanted to make one political statement - this government is making a terrible choice in allowing murderous robot-planes to fly over other countries and kill people viewed as targets - and they performed a beautiful version of "Architects Sleep" from their new album that was chilling and insightful but the people can make a change if we just wake up from our walking slumber. The Evens finished their seventeen-song set with a melancholy "Until They're Clear" and then they thanked the audience and left the stage. It was a really enjoyable show with songs that had meaning and nice arrangements and I had a good time, maybe they will play here again next year and they will have a new album.

BILLY IDOL and CAT POWER - June 20, 2013
Filene Center At Wolf Trap - Vienna, VA - Row LL/Seat 10

It was a lovely summer evening as my friend Chaz and I made our way to Wolf Trap to see eighties icon Billy Idol on his big comeback tour...Billy Idol you say...I thought he was dead...he had attempted a comeback in 2001 but it fizzled out and when I saw that he was coming to Wolf Trap I was surprised but it was selling well, so maybe he has got his shit together. I just loved him in the eighties, particularly the songs he played with Generation X, plus he was one of the most innovative video artists of his time. Anyway, the notorious Cat Power was opening the show so I do not know what to expect but I will give her a chance. She and her band took the stage and she silently stood there for a few minutes and the guitarist began to lanquidly play a bluesy solo and then Cat Power intoned the words like a sullen blues temptress as they wound the song up to its climax. The audience just stared at her and thought what the fuck is this shit as they politely clapped like they had to do it. Her music never seemed to go anywhere, it was long and winding riffs from the faceless guitarist and plodding bass lines that went nowhere. The band was a little more rocking when Cat and the keyboardist picked up guitars and they had some interesting licks as they played off each other as the drummer kept the simplest beat. They were a disappointment because I expected more but they were rather lackluster and ram-shackled and the songs lacked hooks to catch my attention, but they should be over soon. Cat Power finally ended her long and tedious set and the band left the stage and the roadies rushed to change-over the equipment for Billy Idol and genuine guitar god Steve Stevens and their rhythm section. The band took the stage and launched into Gen X's classic 1978 song "Ready Steady Go" from their debut album and it was fueled by Steve's soaring guitar riffs over the pounding rhythm section, and the new drummer Erik Eldenius was hard-driving with a nice groove. Steve's guitar solo was electrifying as his fingers burned up the fretboard but the song itself has lost some of its edge over the years. His rather excellent band was in the groove as they launched into "Dancing With Myself" which was his spectacular 1981 single, and Billy sounded great as he sneered, "When there's no one else in sight, in the crowded lonely night, well I wait so long for my love vibration, and I'm dancing with myself, oh dancing with myself, oh dancing with myself, well there's nothing to lose and there's nothing to prove, I'll be dancing with myself, oh..." A menacing guitar riff opened the next song "Pumping On Steel" from 1990's "Charmed Life" album and the band pounded it out as drummer Erik Eldenius played a groovy propulsive beat that segued into a wonderfully sinful "Flesh For Fantasy" the title track from his breakthrough 1984 album. Steve Stevens played a searing guitar intro and then the rhythm section kicked in and bassist Stephen McGrath let loose with a wonderful rolling bass line that gave the song a funky edge as Billy did a striptease to the beat and he looked good. He announced that the next song was called "Love And Glory" and it was a new song from his forthcoming new album and it had a slower tempo with a nice stuttering guitar line from second guitarist Billy Morrison that intertwined nicely with the angular melody line played by keyboardist Derek Sherinian. Billy began singing the next song "Cradle Of Love" from 1990's "Charmed Life" album, and he sounded good as he snarled, "This love starts my rollin' train, you can't stop it, it ain't in vain, I ain't nobody's fool, come on, shake it up, whatever you do, ooh, oh yeah...", and it was the most rock-a-billy song of the night with some tremendous guitar interplay from Steve Stevens and Billy Morrison. Billy Idol followed that song with some light-fingered acoustic guitar and he sounded pretty good, but he babbled about some nonsense for a bit too long before the band kicked in on a gently loping "Sweet Sixteen" from 1986's "Whiplash Smile" album, and I liked the new arrangement so it was not so plodding. It was onto a stellar "Eyes Without A Face" from the "Flesh For Fantasy" album which seemed to be the album they favored tonight, but that was cool as Billy shamanistically sang, "I'm on a bus on a psychedelic trip, reading murder books tryin' to stay hip, I'm thinkin' of you, and you're out there so, say your prayers, say your prayers, say your prayers..." My favorite moment of their set was a stunningly elegant "L.A. Woman", their gritty Doors cover off the "Charmed Life" album, and they breathed new life into the song as the band broke the song down until they stepped back and Steve Stevens took center stage with his guitar. He took an extended guitar solo break and he just dazzled and amazed me with his virtuosity as trills and notes and riffs flew everywhere as his fingers were a blur on his guitar, he even played a bit of Spanish flamenco. Steve started playing faster and faster as he segued into "King Rocker" from Gen X's 1979 album "Valley Of The Dolls" and Billy returned to the stage and let loose with a punk rock snarl, "Jailhouse rocker roots training down in Memphis, Liverpool Johnny rocks out round Paul's place, seconds away as the rhythm comes down, king faces king in the ring for the crown, king rocker, king rocker, rock rock rock...", and then the band crashed into "Love Like Fire" also from the "Valley Of The Dolls" album and they turned it out, however, oddly the guitar riff kept reminding me of Cream and Eric Clapton. Billy and the band finished the set with a pair of songs from "Flesh For Fantasy" which seemed to be the favored album of the night; first they played "Blue Highway" and Steve went wild with another fantastic guitar solo as he made his ax squeal and scream and then he played a crunchy riff as he slid into a phenomenal "Rebel Yell" and Billy Idol stood in the spotlight and took his shirt off and seductively sang, "Last night a little dancer came dancin' to my door, last night a little angel came pumping on the floor, she said, come on baby, I've got a license for love, and if it expires, pray help from above because, in the midnight hour, she cried more, more, more, with a rebel yell...", and it was absolutely awe-inspiring from the new arrangement and different ending to Steve Stevens who played another fantastic guitar solo and the crowd was going crazy as Billy and his band walked off the stage. After a few minutes they returned and launched into a lovely acoustic version of "White Wedding" from his 1982 debut album and he sounded great as he wailed, "Hey little sister, what have you done, hey little sister, who's the only one, hey little sister, who's your superman, hey little sister, who's the one you want, hey little sister, shotgun, it's a nice day to start again, it's a nice day for a white wedding...", and then the band roared into an electric finish full of bombast and then Billy Idol thanked us and guitarist Steve Stevens for making his life so wonderful as they segued into his cover of "Mony Mony" by Tommy James & The Shondells which was his first single in 1981. I never really cared for this song as the crowd joined in singing "Get laid, get fucked" much to my annoyance so we got a head-start for the parking lot to beat the crowd out of there. Other than that it was an incredible sixteen-song set that got me pumped up but some of the crowd disgusted me with their stupidity but we got out of there ahead of the crowd and we sang "White Wedding" all the way home. Thanks for a great night Billy Idol. Cheers!

Merriweather Post Pavilion - Columbia, MD - Row N/Seat 111

We are off to the big heavy metal show at Merriweather Post Pavilion and I am looking forward to it to getting my metal itch scratched. It is called the "Masters Of Madness Tour" and it is being headlined by venerable music icon Alice Cooper and Paris Jackson's favorite band Marilyn Manson, and on the side-stage those metal gods from Richmond, Virginia, GWAR. We find a picnic table and sit and relax and get ready to be delighted and horrified by Gwar and their antics. We watched the plethora of people from the underside of humanity stroll about the grounds of the venue in their exotic clothing, especially all those girls in their thick platform shoes, mini skirts, metal jewelry, and dark make-up. Finally Gwar assaulted the side-stage and launched into "Horror Of Yig" from their bestselling album on Metal Blade Records, 1990's "Scumdogs Of The Universe" and Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie) maniacally growled, "Yig now in coming, Yig now is here, Yig now he makes things impossibly queer, piles of maggots, clouds of flies, putrid breath and bulging eyes, Yig comes and you die, you all die..." but I found their music to be rather pedestrian metal but their costumes and effluvia set them miles above over metal bands as they pummeled and drenched the audience in 'fake' blood and gore as they performed "Womb With A View" from the band's favorite album, 2004's "War Party" which was their first on DRT Entertainment and a crunching new song called "Madness At The Core Of Time" from their forthcoming thirteenth album "Battle Maximus". Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie), the Gwar frontman threatened to kill everyone for just being human and the new guitarist Pustulus Maximus (Brent Purgason) slashed away at his guitar as riff after riff flew willy-nilly everywhere. Their costumes must be hot in this weather but they grinded away on "Saddam A Go-Go" from their 1993 album "This Toilet Earth" and actually they have improved greatly since I worked for them back in the early nineties. There was quite a gore-fest in front of the stage as they sprayed blood everywhere and they bludgeoned us with "Bring Back The Bomb" from the "War Party" album and the highlight of their set, also from "War Party", was their anti-Hitler screed "Krosstika" and Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie) said Hitler was a "snappy dresser" but he deserved to have his head cut off as he growled, "Symbol of hatred, symbol of fear, the Krosstika proclaims our cause, luring the humans with blood, sex, and beer, don't worry, we take queers, the hour is nigh, let the Krosstika fly..." The band raged on with "Metal Metal Land" from their 2009 album "Lust In Space" and crowd favorite "Immortal Corrupter" from 2001's "Violence Has Arrived" album and they were brilliant. Then at the start of "Let Us Slay" also from the "Lust In Space" album and the band members crucified Christ again and ripped his bloody limbs asunder on stage because he was trying to save the humans and the guitars sounded great as they shredded eardrums everywhere. After a few more songs; "Have You Seen Me?" from 1992's "America Must Be Destroyed" album, "Hail, Genocide!" from 2010's "Bloody Pit Of Horror" album which was recently deceased guitarist Flattus Maximus (Cory Smoot) last recording, and a brutal "War Is All We Know" from 2006's "Beyond Hell" album, the band really started to plod onerously and get on my nerves as they began the only song from their unmentionable and least favorite album, "A Short History Of The End Of The World" off the "We Kill Everything" album from 1999. Gwar finished their fourteen-song set with a gleeful "Sick Of You" from 2006's "Scumdogs Of The Universe" album as Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie) screamed, "So don't you know, I am so sick of you, with all the things you say and all the things you do, don't you know, I'm so sick of you, with all the things you say and all the things you do, sick of you, so sick of you..." I was highly entertained by their music but I had to hurry to my seat in the pavilion to catch Marilyn Manson, this show was a dream line-up for shock rock as we made our way to our fabulous seats. I have been following Marilyn Manson since his beginnings in Florida and I am amazed by his career path, and actually, he was the first show that I DJ'ed for at the new 9:30 Club and I watched the audience hock globs of spit lit by fluorescent green lights all over him. The Black Sabbath song "Iron Man" blasted out of the PA speakers just before Marilyn Manson went on as him and his band got ready to take the stage. His intro song "The Flower Duet (Lakme)" by Leo Delibes began to play and the scrim dropped and Marilyn Manson opened with "Angel With The Scabbed Wings" from 1996's "Anti-Christ Superstar" album and the guitars grinded on and the bass throbbed as Marilyn next sang "Disposable Teens" from 2000's "Holy Wood (In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death)" album with fiendish glee, "And I'm a black rainbow and I'm an ape of God, I've got a face that's made for violence upon, and I'm a teen distortion, survived abortion, a rebel from the waist down...", much to the joy of the crowd and they played with all the anguish they could muster as the crowd bounced up and down madly, but sadly they used backing tapes for the chorus. The menacing guitar riff that opened "No Reflection" from his latest album "Born Villian" sawed into my brain as Marilyn spewed out the words that he screamed. The guitarist Twiggy played a great solo that morphed into "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" by The Beatles which the band used as an intro to "The Dope Show" from 1998's "Mechanical Animals" album and the song was their most commercially successful and Marilyn Manson strutted around the stage pantomiming taking drugs as the beat bounced seductively and he coyly sang, "The drugs they say make us feel so hollow, we love in vain narcissistic and so shallow, the cops and queers to swim you have to swallow, hate today, no love for tomorrow, we're all stars now in the dope show...", all while he was standing in front of a giant neon sign that said "D R U G S", it was hysterical in its irony. The band paused and then the synthetic beat began pounding out the beat to "Rock Is Dead" also from the "Mechanical Animals" album and the guitarist Twiggy careened chaotically through the dense rhythm of bassist Fred Sablan and keyboardist/drummer Chris Vrenna and the audience responded enthusiastically. It started snowing, yes you heard me, it started snowing on the stage as Marilyn started crooning "Coma White" again from the "Mechanical Animals" album and the band rained notes upon the audience especially guitarist Twiggy Ramirez. After a few stage alterations, i.e. upside down American flags, they blasted out their inventive cover of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" and it rocked from the pounding and driving drums of Chris Vrenna to the throbbing and pulsing bass of Fred Sablan to Marilyn Manson's sarcastic sneer which he kept on his face as the band interluded with "Prelude (The Family Trip)" from 1994's classic "Portrait Of An American Family" album and then the band roared into "mOBSCENE" from 2003's "The Golden Age Of Grotesque" album and Marilyn cavorted on a giant chair and random LED devices spooled "Be obscene" across the screens and he put on some stilts and prowled the stage as he lasciviously sang The Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" with his unimitimable scream and the guitarist Twiggy played the stuttering beat and the crowd sang along gleefully. Marilyn said he was drinking and drugging every fifteen minutes and then he launched into a bombastic "This Is The New Shit" from "The Golden Age Of Grotesque" with its sparse beat and spiraling guitar and then the band went right into the title-track of "Antichrist Superstar" which he sang from a mic-ed up raised podium as if he was The Joker pretending to be Hitler and he screamed, "The time has come it is quite clear, our Anti-Christ is almost here, it is done..." Marilyn Manson closed with a stunning "The Beautiful People", also from "Antichrist Superstar", and it was full of cascading guitar riffs as he squealed, "Hey you, what do ya see, something beautiful or something free, hey you, are you trying to be mean, you live with apes man, it's hard to be clean, there's no time to discriminate, hate every motherfucker that's in your way, the beautiful people, the beautiful people...", and confetti rained down on the audience as the band raced to the end of the song. Overall it was an overwhelming thirteen-song set that left me stunned by its beauty and socio-political satire as the band ran off stage. The house lights went up and the roadies prepared the stage for Alice Cooper and his band. I saw Alice Cooper two years ago with Rob Zombie and it was amazing, but he has released "Welcome To My Nightmare 2" since then and it is his best album in years so I am looking quite forward to his brand of spectacle. The house lights dimmed and "The Underture" started playing and Alice Cooper and his band took the stage with a rousing "Hello Hooray" off his classic 1973 album "Billion Dollar Babies" and it was written by Rolf Kempf and made popular by Judy Collins in 1968 but sparks fell from the ceiling and Alice dramatically wailed, "Hello! Hurrah! Let the show begin, I've been ready! Hello! Hurrah! Let the lights grow dim, I've been ready, ready as this audience that's coming here to dream...", as his three guitarists attacked their guitars ferociously and most particularly guitar goddess Orianthi who had just joined the band, she was unbelievable. The band immediately segued into "House Of Fire" from 1989's "Trash" album and it pounded the beat mercilessly into my skull particularly the inventive playing of guitarist Orianthi who play the intro to "No More Mr. Nice Guy" from the 1973 breakthrough album "Billion Dollar Babies" with great flair as Alice Cooper sang, "I got no friends 'cause they read the papers, they can't be seen with me, I'm getting' real shot down, and I'm feelin' mean, no more Mister Nice Guy, no more Mister Clean, no more Mister Nice Guy, they say, he's sick, he's obscene...", and the audience just loved it as they sang along happily. The drummer Glen Sobel was fantastic as the band segued into the title track from "Billion Dollar Babies" and Orianthi played a delicious guitar solo and the other two guitarists, Ryan Roxie and newbie Tommy Hendriksen, played well with each other as the three of them exchanged guitar riffs and licks as they slid into new song "I'll Bite Your Face Off" from the stellar 2011 album "Welcome To My Nightmare 2" and it was Alice's best song in years and the guitarists really shined with brilliant solos. Alice appeared out of the dark with his medicine bag asked the audience "Is It My Body" which comes from the 1971 album "Love It To Death" and during the guitar solos Alice pulled out his boa constrictor and he let it crawl all over his body. The three-guitar attack gave the next song "Under My Wheels" from the brilliant 1971 album "Killer" bite as Alice leeringly sang, "The telephone is ringing, you got me on the run, I'm driving in my car now, anticipatin' fun, I'm drivin' right up to you, babe, I guess that you couldn't see, yeah yeah, but you're under my wheels, why don't you let me be...", Alice led the crowd in chanting "Hey Stoopid", the title track from their 1991 album as the guitars battled over the pounding beat of the drums. Orianthi played an incredible ear-melting intro on the guitar to "Poison" off the 1989 album "Trash" which was pretty cool but the rest of the song dragged a bit providing the evening's low point. Alice has always surrounded himself with quality musicians and his current band is killer as they attacked the title track "Dirty Diamonds" from his 2005 album but this song did not use them at their best, it was a bit lackluster but Glen Sobel broke the song down with a fantastic drum solo and he shot fire from his drumsticks and then he was joined by bassist Chuck Garric and Orianthi just shredded on her guitar as the rest of the band revved things back up with a stellar version of "Welcome To My Nightmare" the title track from his 1975 album and it was full of venom as he shrieked "Welcome to my nightmare, I think you're gonna like it, I think you're gonna feel you belong, a nocturnal vacation, a necessary sedation, you wanna feel at home 'cause you belong, welcome to my nightmare...", and it had a lot of swagger as it morphed into a pulse-pounding "Go To Hell" from the 1976 album "Alice Cooper Goes To Hell" with its serpentine guitar riffs and Alice swung a bull whip like a mad Indiana Jones. He put on a bloody lab coat and they performed a crunchy "Feed My Frankenstein" from the 1991 album "Hey Stoopid", and then Alice donned a gas mask and he was shoved into an electric chair and he was electrocuted and he was transformed into a giant Frankenstein and he attacked the various band members as they played their instruments with a grim ferocity. Without stopping the band plowed into "Ballad Of Dwight Fry" from the brilliant 1971 album "Love It To Death" as a demented nurse put Alice in a straitjacket as he crooned, "Said to myself this is very strange; I'm glad it wasn't me, but now I hear those sirens callin', and so I am not free, I didn't wanna be, I didn't wanna be, I didn't wanna be...", and while the guitarists have a guitar battle and they were in stereo as they raced speaker to speaker to great effect as the three of them played a bit of "Killer" the title track off his 1971 album and Alice gleefully escaped from his straitjacket and he viciously attacked and strangled the demented nurse and several mad orderlies grabbed him and put him head-first into a large guillotine and beheaded him. I loved it! The band was on fire now as the soaring riffs of the three guitars sonically dueled with each other and Orianthi stole the show with her swagger and out-of-this-world guitar pyrotechnics. I was blown away by her playing and she led the band in stomping through a leering "I Love The Dead" from the classic 1973 album "Billion Dollar Babies" and then Alice stopped the music and said a few nice things about his band members as he introduced each of them as they played a quick solo. Alice Cooper and his band finished their eighteen-set with the best song of the night, the rock'n'roll masterpiece known as "School's Out", the title track of his 1972 album of the same name, and Alice Cooper let his famous prophetic words rip as he wailed, "Well we got no class, and we got no principles, and we got no innocence, we can't even think of a word that rhymes, school's out for summer, school's out forever, school's been blown to pieces..." The band played incredibly tight as they weaved in an excerpt from Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall Pt.2" and Alice Cooper led the rapturous audience in some raucous singing of "We don't need no education, we don't need no thought control, no dark sarcasm in the classroom, teacher, leave them kids alone...", and I was really impressed by how the band wove the two songs together as they all crescendo-ed and left the stage in a squall of feedback. After a few minutes they all came bounding back with their instruments on stun and they launched into a riveting "I'm Eighteen" from the "Love It To Death" album and Marilyn Manson joined them on the stage as Alice and him sang, "Lines form on my face and hands, lines form from the ups and downs, well, I'm in the middle without any plans, I'm a boy and I'm a man, I'm eighteen, and I don't know what I want...", and it was gorgeous to the ears as the band finished the song. Everyone onstage took a bow and left the stage for the night and we hightailed to our car and drove like a bat out of hell out of Columbia and we were on Route 29 ahead of the crowd and on our way home. It was an amazing show and a great way to spend a summer night because Alice Cooper is forever.

THE XX and GRIZZLY BEAR - June 16, 2013
Merriweather Post Pavilion - Columbia, MD - Row L/Seat 105

My friend Joel and I set out for Merriweather Post Pavilion and he drove a different route than I was used to but it was nice and in the countryside. We arrived at the venue and slowly made our way to our seats, but first I used the loo and I got a beer, and I then payed thirty dollars for a cool The XX tour shirt, and we found our fantastic seats in the center and we waited for the show to start. The band Grizzly Bear from Brooklyn opened the show and I am not that familiar with their music but I am willing to give them a chance to impress me. The house lights dimmed and the five members of Grizzly Bear took the stage and opened with "Speak In Rounds" and it was a bass heavy song with swirls of synthesizers and clattery drums that was delivered in an almost emo-style and they plowed into "Adelma" which was a quiet lovely song, but I could not understand the lyrics. The band continued on with new song "Sleeping Ute" from their upcoming album "Shields" and "Yet Again" and they pretty much sounded the same, particularly the bassist Chris Taylor, however they were very in synch with each other and the vocalists/guitarists Daniel Rossen and Edward Droste slashed away on their instruments. I found their music to be rather simplistic as they chugged on, they played "Knife", "Ready, Able", and "While You Wait For The Others" in the exact same tempo and I tired of them rather quickly. The most enjoyable song of their was "On A Neck, On A Spy" with its trippy groove and spacey guitars and the drummer Christopher Bear kept a very sparse beat. The crowd-pleaser was "Gun Shy" but it was very disjointed and lacking in melody and the band tried so intensely to to play their music. The song "Two Weeks" was another pretty decent number that featured intertwining vocal harmonies that wound their way through my ears. Grizzly Bear closed their twelve-song set with "Sun In Your Eyes" which had a lovely driving beat and delicate piano notes that drilled their way into my head, they were okay but I was glad when they were done because I gave them a C- for their performance. The house lights came back up and the stage crew quickly off-loaded Grizzly Bear's equipment and I patiently waited for one of the only new bands I really like, The XX. The houselights once again dimmed and bright klieg lights on the stage panned around the venue and Jamie Smith began to make his synthesizer sing, and the vocalist/bassist Oliver Sim began singing "Try" from their 2012 sophomore album "Coexist" with heartfelt conviction, "We bide our time, though the time is fine, oh to be there, I can be there, say you'll be there, you know the way I can't resist you, I say to myself, I try...", and with all of its textures floating in my ears I was in aural heaven and the vocalist/guitarist Romy Madley Croft sang beautifully as she plucked her guitar. The band played the next song exquisitely as Romy and Oliver traded vocals during "Heart Skipped A Beat" from their 2009 self-titled debut album and Jamie Smith created a beat that was driving and sparse. The song "Crystallized" also from their debut opened with its haunting guitar riff as beat-master Jamie worked his magic on the synths and drum machines that lined the platform he's on in the back of the stage and Oliver's bass was dark and relentless as he propelled the song forward. They continued with an ethereal "Reunion" from the "Coexist" album and it sounded lovely as Romy and Oliver traded vocals, "I could stop dreaming, and start believing in forever, and ever and ever and ever again, reunion, reunion, reunion, reunion...", and Jamie made great use of a steel drum as they segued into one of his solo songs called "Far Nearer" and he made the steel drum sound cool and mysterious. Then they did a pair of songs from the "Coexist" album and Romy stood in the swirling white light and smoke and started playing the sparse sweeping guitar riff of "Sunset" that Oliver punctuated with fat throbbing bass fills as they traded vocals and the soundman had the mix perfect as the sound was crystal-clear and in stereo. Jamie played the percussion intro to "Fiction" on these great sounding synth drums, the bass drum just whomped you upside the head while Romy and Oliver sadly sang the languid words, "Fiction when we're not together, mistaken for a vision, something of my own creation, I wake up alone, with only daylight between us, last night the world was beneath us, tonight comes, dear love...", as the notes floated off the guitar and fell like raindrops and then Romy played this guitar solo of long drawn out notes that just seemed to hang in the air, it was my favorite moment of the night. Next the lights dimmed on the stage and Romy began playing "Night Time" from their debut with an almost bluesy guitar line that was full of long flow-y notes and then the band kicked in with this deep low-end bass throb that danced with the lilting synth rhythm and Jamie played a melancholy melody on the keyboards and lasers were shooting everywhere in beat with the music. With only two albums to their credit so far, they mixed the songs well with each other as they started playing my favorite song on "Coexist", the bombastic and epic "Swept Away" with its great soaring guitar that skipped over the percolating synth percussion as these blinding white lights made it impossible to look at them. Then they played my favorite two songs off their debut album; a stunning "Shelter" where Jamie got down and funky on the keyboards and made the beat jump as Romy and Oliver sang some beautiful vocals, followed by a knockout version of "VCR" with its sullen vocals from the two of them as they sneered, "You, you used to have all the answers, and you, you still have them too, and we, we live half in the day time, and we, we live half at night, watch things on VCRs with me and talk about big love...", the song was perfect from the delicate intro on the keyboards to the haunting guitar riff that drove the song along over the terse synth rhythms. The band was cooking as they did "Islands" also from their debut album and Romy and Jamie had some great interplay between her guitar and his keyboards as Oliver provided a deep bass sound that filled the venue. It was back to the "Coexist" album for a melancholic "Chained" that was just sad and touching as Romy propelled the song with her gentle guitar and Jamie tiptoed through the slow and sparse rhythm with a haunting keyboard melody that stuck in my head for hours after the concert. They finished their set with a eloquent "Infinity" from their debut and it sounded great as Romy played some beautiful guitar as she mournfully sang, "Had I seen it in your eyes, there'd have been no try after try, your leaving had no goodbye, had I just seen one in your eyes, I can't give it up, to someone else's touch, because I care too much...", and Oliver really made the song jump with his solid and throbbing bass lines and Jamie's percussion was outstanding as the three of them finished the song with pizzazz as a large "XX" lit up with lasers twirled around it and then they quietly left the stage. The audience and me exploded with rapturous joy as we screamed for more of their beautiful music and after a few minutes The XX returned to the stage and launched into an extended version of the first song I ever heard by them, "Intro" from their debut album and Romy played a great riff on the guitar and Jamie provided thunderous percussion as Romy and Oliver took turns giving some heartfelt and soulful vocals that touched my soul. They finished their sixteen-song set with the song "Angels" from their brilliant album "Coexist", and they sang, "And every day, I'm learning about you, the things that no one else sees, and the end comes too soon, like dreaming of angels, and leaving without them, and leaving without them...", and they did it with such humility and gratitude for the audience's support and that it was nice to see a band be so appreciative of them. Romy graciously thanked everybody involved and what a great tour they had the past couple of months, and they will always remember it since they are going back to England in the morning and The XX walked off stage. The crowd erupted in a raucous roar but the house lights went up and everyone began streaming out of the venue and Joel and I strolled to his car and hit the road. I was still quite abuzz about what a tremendous concert that The XX had just played and I could not wait to their next album and tour. I babbled excitedly about the concert until I got home and fell into my bed and went to sleep.

Filene Center At Wolf Trap - Vienna, VA - Row FF/Seat 120

Well tonight I get to see The Go-Go's and The Psychedelic Furs at Wolf Trap and I got really good tickets, and this eighties package is touring all across America this summer with rotating bands on the bill, I was hoping to see The Go-Go's perform with the B-52s but vocalist Cindy Wilson got sick and they were scheduled to play at Celebrate Fairfax on June 6 but alas the band cancelled at the last I am here tonight to see The Go-Go's with one of my favorite bands The Psychedelic Furs. The day was overcast with dark clouds and thunderstorms but by the evening it had cleared up and the sun was peeking through the clouds as my friend Scott and I made our way to the venue and our lovely seats with a dead-on view of the stage near the soundboard so I was psyched. I saw The Psychedelic Furs back in the fall but I wanted to see them again. So we waited a little bit and then a didgeridoo began to produce its weird hum and the band hit the stage and they opened with a slinky "Highwire Days" from the 1984 album "Mirror Moves" with Mars Williams playing a lovely clarinet solo that weaved in and out of the subdued rhythm as Richard Butler languidly crooned, "And you put on your prettiest face, and you wait for the news that we made, in my highwire days, I can see all the way, I see through the games we play, in my highwire days..." The next song opened with a jaunty saxophone solo from Mars Williams as drummer Paul Garisto began pounding out the intricate beat of "Heartbeat" and Richard Butler began expounding on the intimate and heartfelt lyrics, and the band segued into "The Ghost In You" also from "Mirror Moves" and it elicited a warm response from the crowd and Richard Butler brought the song alive with his emotive singing and the guitarist Rich Good played the riff lanquidly as it melted all over the stage. The sax player Mars played the song's signature hook with great panache as he opened an exquisite "Heartbreak Beat" from the oft-overlooked 1987 album "Midnight To Midnight" and Richard sang the words so beautifully, "I'm a heartbreak beat, yeah, all night long, and nobody don't dance on the edge of the dark, we've got the radio on and it feels like love, but it don't mean a lot and it feels like love and it's all that we've got...", plus the guitarist Rich was fantastic as his riffs droned away. The band went immediately in to a brand new song called "Little Miss World" and Richard delivered the lyrics with a sneer and a smile and the sax player Mars wailed away sensuously and they segued into "Pulse" from their classic 1980 self-titled debut album and the bassist Tim Butler propelled the song with an ominous bass line and Richard sardonically sang, "My baby paints herself red, she paints her hair, her hair is dead, she's living in the city with the bodies that scream, we are all Jesus, we all dream..., and it sounded like he meant it as once again the saxophonist Mars added a soulful wail as it danced with the guitarist Rich as he grinded away and the band went into a clattery "Danger" from 1982's "Forever Now" album which they also played "Love My Way" and it was quite the crowd-pleaser and Richard sounded lovely with his voice not sounding so raspy as he sang, "There's an army on the dance floor, it's fashion with a gun my love, in a room without a door, a kiss is not enough in, love my way, it's a new road, I follow where my mind goes...", and the drummer Paul sounded great as he pounded out the poly-rhythms and para-diddles. The highlight of their set was a swirling "Heaven" and the guitarist Rich played a soaring and majestic riff as the bassist Tim throbbed away monolithically and Richard poetically sang his heart out, "Heaven, is the whole of our hearts, and heaven don't tear you apart, yeah, heaven, is the whole of our hearts, and heaven don't tear you apart..." The Psychedelic Furs closed out their ten-song set with a glorious "Pretty In Pink" that got the audience on their feet as Richard sarcastically sang, "All of her lovers all talk of her notes, and the flowers they never sent, and wasn't she easy, isn't she pretty in pink..." It was a great song to end their rather abbreviated set for this show, but I wish they would play "Into You Like A Train" which is my all-time favorite song by them, but the band was tight and they sounded wonderful and much better than they did at The Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland. The house lights went up and the stage crew set to work and I was getting excited for the band to hit the stage. I saw The Go-Go's two years ago here for their thirtieth anniversary and I was impressed so I came here tonight with high hopes. Their stage set had five columns in the back all lit in blue lights, and it gave the stage a classy look like a Las Vegas television set. The Go-Go's hit the stage and kicked things off with a jangly "Get Up And Go" from 1982's "Vacation" album as Belinda Carlisle perkily sang, "Quit talking, start walking now, quit talking, start walking now, so get up and go, if you're so tired of moving slow. Go, if you're so tired of moving slow, go, get up and go...", and then they performed the title-track "Vacation" and it was poppy and bouncy as they played their instruments with ease which is a long way from where they started in 1981 when they barely knew how to play them. The band pushed on with a great "Tonite" from 1981's game-changing debut album "Beauty And The Beat" and then they segued into another song from their debut, a shiny pop gem called "How Much More" and it was full of great vocal harmonies from guitarists Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey as Belinda belted out the lead vocals. They kept up the lovely harmonies as they morphed into the classic summer song, "Mad About You" from Belinda Carlisle's 1986 solo album "Belinda", and they have made it their own as they rocked it up and Gina Schock played some fantastic drums as she pounded out the beat and Charlotte played a tasty little guitar solo that just made the song crackle and Belinda gloriously belted out, "I'm mad about you, you're mad about me, babe, couple of fools run wild, aren't we, pushing the day into the night time, somewhere between the two, we start to see..." The band slowed things down for a slow and sensuous "Automatic" also from the "Beauty And The Beast" album and Charlotte put down her guitar to play a lovely melody on the keyboards and Jane played a wonderful buzz guitar that accented Belinda's vocals who Jane said there would be no live show without her, and the band went right into "Fading Fast" yet another song from their debut album, and after all these years it has become quite polished and Charlotte played some great melodies on the keyboards. The band paused for a moment and Belinda said are you ready and they played a great version of The Rolling Stones' 1966 classic "Paint It Black" that they sped up the tempo and played it all punky and dirty as Belinda screamed the words. They proceeded to do a sassy cover of "Cool Places" from Sparks' 1983 album "In Outer Space", and while Charlotte played a biting keyboard line, Belinda and Jane danced like idiots all over the stage to the sharp and pulsing beat as they sang the most amazing vocal harmonies. The girls began bringing people onstage to dance to their version of The Capitols' 1966 classic "Cool Jerk" and the energy from the audience was fantastic as everyone spasticly danced as Gina had her moment to shine with a cool and short drum solo that morphed into a throbbing bass solo from touring bassist Abby Travis. Everyone stopped to catch their breath from all the dancing and Belinda said they were going to play the first song they wrote together, a driving "This Town" from their first album, and the band tore it up as they played it with sleek angular guitar riffs dancing over a taut rhythm section and Belinda sounded wonderful as she sarcastically crooned, "We all know the chosen toys, of catty girls and pretty boys, make up that face, jump in the race, life's a kick in this town, life's a kick in this town, this town is our town, it is so glamorous, bet you'd live here if you could, and be one of us..." The audience really wanted to be one of them as they erupted in a frenzied applause and the band segued into a bold and jangly "Skidmarks On My Heart" from, you guessed it, the "Beauty And The Beat" album, and it was led by Jane's and Charlotte's nice chiming guitars and it rocked my world, and the song was the highlight of the set. Belinda made a few jokes as she introduced the next song, their first hit single "We Got The Beat", and it was driving and loose as they pounded away, plus Charlotte played a sensational guitar solo that exploded into the surprise of the night, a raucous cover of "Rock And Roll All Nite" from KISS's 1975 album "Dressed To Kill", and they rocked it and then they returned to playing "We Got The Beat" as they finished the song. The Go-Go's ended their set with a beautiful "Our Lips Are Sealed" that Jane co-wrote with Fun Boy Three's Terry Hall and she sang it with sultry passion, "Can you hear them, they talk about us, telling lies, well that's no surprise, can you see them, see right through them, they have no shield, no secrets to reveal, it doesn't matter what they say, in the jealous games people say, our lips are sealed..." The Go-Go's ran off the stage to wild applause and screaming and after a few minutes the band returned and drummer Gina Schock ran to the microphone and said she and the band would like to wish her "ma" happy 87th birthday and they rolled a cake out and made her mother come to the stage and blow the candles out, and then she laughingly said her drunk cousin Henry got kicked out of the venue and ran back to her drums and vocalist Belinda Carlisle began making the band introductions without ever mentioning departed bassist Kathy Valentine and she welcomed bassist Abby Travis to the band and Abby kicked things off with the rolling bass line of "Lust To Love" from their debut and it was smooth and sexy as their voices intertwined delightfully as Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey dueled on the guitars and they finished their seventeen-song set with a joyous "Head Over Heels" from their 1984 album "Talk Show". I never realized what a wonderful guitar player Charlotte was because she had some amazing riffs and licks. The song summed up tonight's show as Belinda happily crooned, "Head over heels, where should I go, can't stop myself, outta control, head over heels, no time to think, looks like, the whole world's out of sync..." as she danced around the stage and the band cranked it out until the final note when they took their bows and said good night. The audience and I totally enjoyed the show as we relived our fondest memories from the eighties as we walked back to the car and headed home.

DROP ELECTRIC - May 19, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It turned out to be a lovely day as I made my way to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see local favorites Drop Electric who have been performing their inventive and sweeping music since 2009. The band released their debut album "Finding Color In The Ashes" in 2010 to a receptive audience and they received accolades from the local music press. Their music is experimental rock that is based on melody and distortion and they perform with accompanying films that give their music a broader range and scope. Drop Electric take the stage as wisps of smoke swirled around as the video screen showed a man walking down a desolate alley and then the band walked on the stage and began playing a melancholic throb as the vocalist Kristina Reznikov took the microphone and mournfully sang over waves of guitar riffs as their visual imagery floated by on the video screen. Kristina's voice was ethereal and heartfelt as she wailed, and Sho Fujiwara delicately followed her voice on the keyboards as his notes punctuated the squall of Neel Singh's guitar. Ramtin Arablouei played the drums chaotically as they clattered along as Neel and Kristina made their guitars moan to the images on the screen. The band reminded me of a cross between My Bloody Valentine and The Kitchens Of Distinction as the song faded away. Kristina's voice reminded me of Tori Amos but the lyrics were basically unintelligible as the band pounded away behind her and then there was some introspective keyboard work from Sho and then it was back to the squalling guitars. Kevin Marimow provided some bass playing that seemed to anchor the music as the sound of the guitars swirled away in an almost psychedelic style. Sometimes the band's music was very haunting and gripping as the visuals showed exploding buildings and such as they grinded away but they never seemed to go anywhere musically as the music crescendo-ed and Sho finished the song with an exquisite run on the keyboards. They all switched instruments gracefully as they flooded the venue with some scintillating notes but sadly all of their songs sounded the same, a crescendo then an lull with a delicate keyboard part and then another crescendo as the song ended and most of the time the melody was lost in all the noise. Kristina had a lovely voice that seemed to be the only source of melody but the drummer Ramtin had a nice sense of rhythm, and Neel did everything to his guitar but actually play it. Kristina switched to keyboards and she played a subtle dance-able groove as the band thumped along behind her. The band played some nice instrumentals as they wove the melody throughout the noise they produced, and sometimes some very lovely keyboard melodies played by Kristina would show up in the song in the midst of a guitar thunderstorm. Overall Drop Electric's eight-song set was highly enjoyable and showed their musical range but then the band came back and played one last song that was full of distortion and it invaded my head and then, of course, a delicate melody would appear mixed in with the clattering drums and the feedback of the guitars. They became kind of tedious with this song as my head was filled with relentless noise and I was glad when they left the stage and not ruined my opinion of them.

Howard Theater - Washington, DC

It was a warm spring afternoon as I and my friend Peter Naraine headed to the Howard Theatre to see film auteur John Waters perform his “This Filthy World” stand-up routine and answer a few questions afterwards. John Waters has long been one of my favorite film directors of all time but it has been quite a while since his last film, but he has been making people laugh on the stand-up comedy circuit for several years now. We arrived at the venue and it was not too full to my surprise but there was a DJ who played classic rock and roll songs with that certain 'dirty' edge to them from the fifties and sixties and it was pretty cool. The place was slowly filling up with people as we got closer to the scheduled set time but I was amazed because last year I saw his annual Christmas show at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, and that show was completely sold-out. Peter Naraine and I sat at a really excellent table in the center of the room and not too far from the stage and we waited for John to begin his performance. At the top of the hour John Waters strolled onto the stage looking quite dapper in his stylish high fashion suit and he cheerfully greeted us and started immediately into a bit about how much he loved playing here at The Howard with its illustrious history and all of the great R&B and soul acts that have performed here over the years, but he felt like Justin Bieber playing The Apollo and the audience got a good chuckle out of that. John said that he had been thrown out of every school he had ever attended because of the way he looked and dressed and he said who cares what I look like when I leave the the room but they will look at me when I come in the place. As he did for most of his set, he careened from one topic to another like a mad bull in a china shop and he said to the audience that wouldn't you want your kid to be a drug dealer rather than a drug user, and that you should be glad your kid is the bad one in school because that is way better than being led astray by one. He said with a straight face that he just loves Kevin Federline and Justin Bieber and he would just love to do “To Catch A Predator” with Justin. The audience cackled with him as he changed course and went on to say he loves early horror filmmaker William Castle and that he is why he wanted to write and direct movies, and when he was in catholic school he loved it when the nuns read the list of banned movies and he would get so excited about taking a bus to downtown Baltimore to see each and every one of the aforementioned movies. He then careened through a blur of topics from men who pleasure themselves by watching birth videos to how they should send invitations postage due to big film premieres which led to him pontificating on the reasons why women actors have to show their tits on the red carpet and that he thinks that the male actors should be required to show their balls as they walk down the red carpet with all the cameras flashing for the world to see for some charity benefiting anal warts suffers. He also thought that they should put porno under the seats for everyone, but he loves the over the top titles they give porno films and his favorite over the years has been a little film called “My Ass Is Haunted”. John seemed to love talking about sex, especially the seedier kind, and he said that when people give out books, they should be rewarded with some nice sweaty sex, and then he was back on the hilarity of porn film titles. He switched topics and went off on menstrual odor and its arousing effects and then he switched again and began talking about the infamous drag queen balls in DC in the fifties and sixties and the scary pimps and bad girls with knifes who hung out on the perimeters of society, and then he told how he loved the sex clubs that were in DC in the seventies and he especially love the gay strip club “The Chesapeake House” and he was amazed by the number of times that the dancers ejaculated on stage. He continued on about how his superstar Divine was his muse but watching shim act was the equivalent of pig porn which is fat people fornicating for the unaware, and he waxed eloquently about how he loved poppers or amyl nitrate and he should be given a lifetime supply by its producers for promoting it on his tours, but then some guy in Baltimore committed suicide on it and he got kind of turned off by it, however the sad thing is he is almost out of the stuff. Next he rambled on about “bath salts” and the whole concept of them being a “recreational drug” and there are people going out of their way to try them, he just finds that mind-boggling, and then he was on to “cannibals” and how he finds that whole concept as “crazy” and he really does not want to end up as someone's dinner or late night snack. Another fascination of his was the over the top headlines on the leading tabloids of the day, and the New York Post had the best headlines especially when they involved death and destruction and the more garish the better, he just loved those as he gleefully commanded the stage. Next he told us about how he worked with inmates at the Patuxent Correctional Institute in Jessup, Maryland, and he showed them all of his movies, and he found it odd that harden criminals told him that he was fucked up. He cackled as he recounted how he learned that in prison slang that a feminine “top” was called a “blouse” and he found that as amusing as hell. This sent him off in the realm of odd sexual predilections, and he said that he hates those “perverts” that refer to themselves as “adult babies”, and they should be all locked up he said sarcastically, and then he talked about people who are sexually turned on by food, but at least you cannot date-rape a cake and the audience howled as he talked about men who had their testicle skin replaced with clear sheet plastic. Why...he does not know but the topic was funny as shit...clear plastic...really. He paused a few minutes to allow the audience to laugh themselves silly and he was off on his next topic, his “kids” as he referred to the actors in his movies, and the most asked about one after Divine, was Mary Vivian Pearce who played “Princess Coo-Coo” in “Desperate Living” and “Taffy Davenport” in “Female Trouble” who now lives the married quiet life in Knoxville, Tennessee, and she did not tell her husband about starring in John Waters movies until after she got married to him which John found hilarious. Another one of his stars, the glamorous plus-size Jean Hill from the 1977 genre-defining masterpiece lesbian melodrama “Desperate Living” who then went on to greater notoriety as a novelty greeting card model, and now he wants to re-make Lee Daniels' Oscar-winning movie “Precious” with her in the role of the lead which I found extremely hysterical as I laughed my ass off. Next he jumped to the topic of the infamous “Odorama” scratch'n'sniff cards that were handed out at the screenings of “Polyester” in 1981 and how the “lawyers” said the cards had to have a disclaimer printed on them that said “Do Not Eat” so they cannot be held liable in case anyone ate the cards, and he said that still cracks him up to this day because who would just decide they had to eat this card from a movie...what an idiot indeed! He stuck to his theme of weird comments about his films in chronological order as he proceeded to talk about his wonderful 1988 social commentary “Hairspray” and how he accidentally made a “hit” and then a week after the movie had a spectacular premiere and Divine was a smash hit and then he went and suddenly died and John said he was still heartbroken about it and still really misses Divine. He said that all of his “kids” had even got together and purchased a burial plot called “Disgraceland” so all of them could be buried there after all them died. On an aside he joked about how some “bears” (husky gay guys) brought a “retard” to the annual Baltimore Bear Fest and it turned out that the “retard” was a real “dick magnet” and John giggled to himself so quaintly. Then it was on to his 1990 film “Crybaby” which he said was about the glories of juvenile delinquency and it starred a youngster named Johnny Depp who he said lived the role and then he went off on another absurd tangent about there should be an approval board on who can and cannot come out and he wondered if any of the guys in the audience who were secretly gay and giving “bro-jobs” to each other when they go out to sporting events, then he laughed to himself and asked if the audience had ever heard of “butt blossoms” which are hemorrhoids that have moved to the outside of the rectum, there is no one like John Waters when it comes to making the gross and obscene sound so elegant. I think it has something to do with the tone of his voice. He wondered if straight people should start putting on “straight pride” parades and celebrations where the guys all dressed and looked like famed he-man actor Burt Reynolds and they would engage in traditional folk dancing like the “electric slide”, and everyone laughed heartily at the mere concept. John jumped back to his movie career and he told us that making 1994's out of left field surprise hit “Serial Mom” was a delight and he said it was about killing the people that annoy you and he would love to do just that, then it was on to 1998's “Pecker” which he said was basically a Disney film for perverts and then 2000's over-the-top filmmakers' psycho-fantasy “Cecil B. Demented” but he did not say much about it. Then he jumped to how much he loves rap music, the scarier the better, however he hates when “ex-poor people” brag about being rich and amassing its trappings, and then it was how he likes to go to Wal-mart and leave old porn on the shelf in the DVD section...he also thought we need some good old turd-terrorism like what happened to Divine in “Pink Flamingos” when she received a turd in the mail and she took a bite out one at the end of the movie.. He made me laugh non-stop as he raged on a variety of topics from the mundane to the perverse and he would love to write and direct a re-make of the “Wizard Of Oz”. He then got catch up in a whirlwind of these topics, he said he wished that the “liberals” would host a haunted house like the religious conservatives did to scare children straight, and instead of a “disease-ridden homosexual”, the former First Lady Barbara Bush would jump out at you and scare you “liberal”. Next he told us about one of his first jobs where he worked for the fashion magazine Vogue and he only took the job because he thought it would get a Press card and it would give him access to car wrecks and he would say what they were wearing as they lay dying. He said he would love to own a bar and he would call it “Pelt”, and he would also love to own a movie theatre, and then he let loose with a bunch of things that he wants; he wants to be a scary weatherman...he wants a star on Hollywood's Walk Of Fame...he wants his own film festival and more particularly, an abortion film festival, because he would love to piss off all the men that attend anti-abortion rally because they really hate him, and he got a good chuckle out of that...nowadays he would really like to teach film-making at some college, he recently taught a group of third-graders and he asked them what kind of movie would they make and they replied that they wanted to make a Justin Bieber vampire movie and the audience just lost it and laughed themselves silly. He told the audience that he had just finished hitchhiking from Baltimore to San Francisco and he wrote a book about his travel misadventures called “Carsick” and we should go buy it...he said sometimes feels like he is going to have a nervous breakdown on stage for the whole world to see and that makes him want to do “poppers” and eat mustard...what!?!...then he went off on some tangent about the music in his movies' soundtracks and how the publishers of a certain song he wanted demanded that he give them $500,000 for the music rights to the song that he wanted to put in his film that only cost $12,000 to produce in the first place. He had always wanted to do commercials that featured Divine and then he said, “Hi! I'm Divine and when I have crabs I use A-200,” and then he laughed to himself and said that his suit was like an acid trip. Then he told us about a certain African-American mayor that was presiding over a public event that he was attending and the man took one look at him and said, “I thought Richard Pryor was crazy!” He said that another one of his favorite actresses was Edith Massey and she was just great and he also really missed her and her antics. He finished his side-splittingly funny monologue with a bit on how he thinks that CNN's Nancy Grace is the “filthiest person alive” and he thought her head would explode when Casey Anthony was found her “not guilty” of killing her daughter by the jury at her trial who were obviously insane according to Nancy, and with that he said he was finished with his piece and now he would field some questions from audience members and then do his best to answer them truthfully. John playfully interacted with the audience but everyone seemed to ask mundane and pedantic questions like “Did Divine really eat a dog turd?” He tired of this rather quickly so he bid us a wonderful night and left the stage. My sides were aching from laughing so I was glad as Peter and me ran out of the theater feeling a little more lighthearted than usual so thank you, Mr. John Waters.

PUMP ME UP: DC SUBCULTURE OF THE 1980S - April 3, 2013
Corcoran Gallery Of Art - Washington, DC

FLEETWOOD MAC - April 9, 2013
Verizon Center - Washington, DC - Section 1/Row V/Seat 10

It was the most gorgeous warm spring day as I headed downtown on the metro to the Verizon Center to see Fleetwood Mac in concert, I arrived and I picked-up my ticket and it was for a phenomenal seat on the floor and really close to the stage, and boy, was I amazed. I have never been the biggest Fleetwood Mac fan but I did like the song “Hypnotized” from the 1974 album “Mystery To Me” and the lovely “Silver Springs” the b-side of the “Go Your Own Way” single, and most of all I liked their 1977 album “Rumours”, but the rest of their stuff was either forgettable British blues or it was muddled self-indulgent cocaine music, especially anything after the “Rumours” album. However I have really loved vocalist Stevie Nicks' solo work over the years and I have seen her perform live six times over the years, so I decided to give them a chance before they are dead and gone. So I arrived at the venue and made my way to my seat and what a fantastic view it was, there was quite the diverse crowd as I looked around at the audience, but it skewed towards the older generation of concert-goers. The pre-show music selection is now playing James Brown as I sat down in my seat and I took it as a good sign of things to come. They have quite a nice sound system with all the speakers hanging off the stage and they sounded fantastic with amazing clarity. The houselights dimmed and the members of Fleetwood Mac strolled onto the stage and they opened with a glorious “Second Hand News” from their landmark 1977 album “Rumours” which the band is .currently on tour celebrating the thirty-five anniversary of its release and the song's words sounded lovely as their vocal harmonies reached a crescendo as they sang, “I know there's nothing to say, someone has taken my place, when times go bad, when times go rough, won't you lay me down in the tall grass, and let me do my stuff...”. I was blown away by the great vocal interplay between Stevie and Lindsey because the sound was fantastic, and it was punched up in all the right places especially when guitarist Lindsey Buckingham let a killer solo rip. They next played two more songs from “Rumours”; a wonderful version of “The Chain” and the vocals were exquisite as they soared over John McVie's throbbing bass line and Lindsey's intricate guitar melodies, and that went into a crystalline and ethereal “Dreams” and once again Lindsey played another searing guitar solo that had me re-evaluating him as a guitarist and songwriter. I guess working with Trent Reznor on the latest Nine Inch Nails album re-invigorated him and his musicality. The band followed that with their first new song in ten years titled “Sad Angel” and it comes from 2013's “Extended Play” digital download EP. The song had a stuttering percussive beat that danced beautifully in between driving guitar riffs and a wonderful sing-a-long chorus that had the crowd singing and swaying along. Finally it was time for Stevie to step into the spotlight as she sang the opening bridge of “Rhiannon” from the 1975 album “Fleetwood Mac” which was the first album by their now classic line-up, and Stevie seemed to shine as she warbled, “Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night, and wouldn't you love to love her? Takes to the sky like a bird in flight, and who will be her lover?”, and Lindsey played a scintillating guitar solo that gave me the goosebumps as the video screen showed a being rushing through a dark forest. The stage went dark and then suddenly the band burst into the upbeat melody of “Not That Funny” from the 1979 double album “Tusk” as red and black images danced on the video screen. The driving beat of the song was almost rock-a-billy as they played with an intensity that was propelled by the jangly riff Lindsey was playing on his guitar as they finished the song, and they continued with three more songs from “Tusk”. Next after a space-y synthesizer intro propelled by the driving rhythm of the drums, Stevie and Lindsey traded vocals on the title track as the beat marched on with his guitar sound getting all spastic with riffs and licks sputtering everywhere, but I kept getting annoyed by these abrasive and yellow lights that lined the stage and kept catching me in the eyes. They segued into the next song which they have not performed in over thirty years, a dark and morose version of “Sisters Of The Moon” that had a slithery keyboard line winding through it courtesy of tour keyboardist Brett Tuggle along with a great fuzzed out guitar riff from Lindsey, and lastly, Stevie Nicks stepped into diva-mode and went ballistic with her platinum-selling voice, and turned the classic “Sara” into a monumental tour-de-force as she sang, “Where everyone would love to drown, and now it's gone, it doesn't matter anymore, when you build your house, call me home, hold on...”. The band was exquisite during this song with even more lovely piano from Brett that danced over John McVie's muscular bass lines and Lindsey's cascading guitar lines that followed Stevie's incredible vocal workout. The stage lights dimmed and the band slipped away as a scrim descended to the ground and Lindsey Buckingham took center stage all by himself and he was absolutely sensational on the guitar as he wailed away on “Big Love” from the 1987 album “Tango In The Night” and he finger-picked some gorgeous guitar melodies that just blew me away. Stevie Nicks joined him onstage and their voices intertwined magically as he played some lovely acoustic guitar on “Landslide” from their 1975 album “Fleetwood Mac” which he and Stevie made their debut with the band, they continued with one more acoustic number, the perky ditty “Never Going Back Again” from the “Rumours” album and I still love the signature riff that Lindsey deftly played with passion. The scrim rose and the rest of the band re-appeared and kicked into a lovely rendition of “Without You” from 2013's “Extended Play” digital download but it was originally recorded for 1969's “Then Play On” album and Stevie said it was her favorite Fleetwood Mac song from that era. The band gently jangled as they sang the meaningful words and Mick Fleetwood really shined on the drums with some driving percussion and intricate little fills. The band got their biggest applause of the night with a stunning rendition of “Gypsy” from the 1982 album “Mirage” and Stevie wistfully sang, “She is dancing away from me now, she was just a wish, she was just a wish, and a memory is all that is left for you now, you see your gypsy, you see your gypsy...”, and Lindsey wailed on a chiming guitar riff that just electrified the song. They flowed into “Eyes Of The World” also from “Mirage” and Mick Fleetwood pounded out a nice drum intro and then Lindsey stepped to the microphone and belted out the lyrics as the video screens showed thousands of flying eyes while he made his guitar sound like it was being strangled as it exploded with soaring notes. The best moment of the night came next as the band segued into a spectacular version of the classic “Gold Dust Woman” from their celebrated 1977 album “Rumours” and Stevie Nicks outdid herself as she let her 24-karat voice rip with an intensity that put her and me in a trance as Lindsey played the most haunting guitar riff over these percolating drums and images of writhing and dancing golden women floated above the band on the video screens as waves of rhythm filled the arena and then the band proceeded into a dark and powerful “I'm So Afraid” from their 1975 album “Fleetwood Mac” and they stretched it out into a largely instrumental song that Lindsey got to showcase his guitar skills as he played this really languid solo with these really intricate runs in it over the pulsing rhythms of John and Mick's excellent drum and bass interplay. Then came the surprise of the night, the band started playing the opening riffs from “Stand Back” by Stevie Nicks from her 1983 solo album “The Wild Heart” and the audience erupted in musical ecstasy as the band played the song with a little re-arrangement and a thicker guitar sound and a faster tempo that made it different from the original version so that it really sparkled as one of the best moments of the night. They finished the main part of the show with a bright and jaunty “Go Your Own Way” from their genre-defining album “Rumours”, and Lindsey and Stevie led the audience in singing, “You can go your own way, go your own way, you can call it another lonely day, you can go your own way, go your own way!”. Each of the band members got a chance to shine but not surprisingly, Lindsey set his guitar on fire with his fleet fingers burning up his fretboard with a controlled intensity that blew my mind. The band thanked us for being there and they vanished in the lights and the audience screamed and stomped for them to return to the stage. After a few minutes the band returned and they launched into a spectacular “World Turning” off their 1975 album “Fleetwood Mac” and Lindsey danced across the stage with his guitar wailing this truly rockin' riff as he played off the rhythm section, they broke the song down until only Mick was left on the stage and he played the most intricate and powerful drum solo that I have heard in a long time and especially at his age which I totally admire. Then 67-year-old drummer Mick Fleetwood stepped from behind his kit and took center stage and he began making band introductions as he brought 65-year-old vocalist/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham to the stage amid wild applause, and then 66-year-old vocalist Stevie Nicks who curtsied to us to an even louder roar, and lastly his best mate and co-founder of the band, 68-year-old bassist John McVie, and he thanked all of them for being with him all these years. Next he said he could not forget the fabulous musicians who are on tour with them, first there was the stellar keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Brett Tuggle who played some lovely keyboard lines, and the exceptional rhythm guitarist Neale Heyward whose succinct playing backed Lindsey's riffage perfectly, and their fantastic background singers Sharon Celani and Stevie's sister Lori Nicks who harmonized beautifully with Stevie and Lindsey's voices. He returned to his drums and started back into “World Turning” as the rest of the band joined him in finishing the song. Brett played the beautiful piano intro to “Don't Stop” from the 1977 album “Rumours” and the audience went wild and sang along with the band at the top of their lungs and they rocked it and I was quite impressed by their playing as they segued into a gorgeous version of “Silver Springs” which was the B-side to “Go Your Own Way” and it was supposed to be on “Rumours” but it was not released until 1997 as a live track on the “The Dance” album and it went on to win a Grammy that year. The song was about Stevie and Lindsey's dying romance and she was inspired to write it right after they had passed a sign for Silver Spring when they were driving on the Beltway between concerts, and her voice sounded like an angel as she sang, “You could be my silver springs, blue green colors flashin', I would be your only dream, your shining autumn, ocean crashing, and did you say she was pretty, and did you say that she loves you, baby, I don't wanna know...” The band was exceptional in their playing as they made the song shimmer like a diamond, and in a fitting end to their twenty-three-song set, they finished with a melancholic “Say Goodbye” from their 2003 album “Say You Will” and the crowd roared for more but the house lights came up as the band vanished from the stage. I sat there for a few minutes blown away by the sensational performance that I just saw and I was amazed that they still are playing live and sounding great. Fleetwood Mac rocked it to my surprise!

ROYAL TEETH - April 8, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was the first beautiful day of the year as I wandered down to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see indie-pop darlings Royal Teeth from New Orleans rock the stage. Royal Teeth have taken the world by storm and won Nikon's "Creative Input Award" which got them a free trip to Austin, Texas' "SxSW Music Festival" where they played with FUN. and the band secured the attention of media titan CNN (Cable News Network) and it resulted in them playing a special live session for and it was making their careers take off. So it should be quite a performance and at 6PM the members of Royal Teeth walked onstage and vocalist/guitarist Gary Larsen said, "Let's have some fun," and vocalist Nora Patterson joined him and they charged into their first song and their vocals meshed well together and intertwined in a mellifluous swirl as the rest of the band provided the pounding rhythm and atmospheric guitar. Next the band performed The Knife's 2003 retro-new wave hit "Heartbeats" and they made it into a melancholic torch song with Gary's piercing vocals that just wailed like a faraway siren. He then got the audience to clap to the beat as he sang higher than Nora's lovely alto voice and the song was full of atmospheric guitar and soaring background vocals. Gary was a striking singer as he emoted the lyrics with such passion and the drummer played a driving and propulsive beat that pushed the song forward as Nora and Gary's vocals intertwined beautifully. They just finished recording their first full-length album and they played a bunch of new songs like "Hold Me" that made you feel like you were floating in the clouds and singing "Whoa oh oh," and they sang a lot of them, and their 'sexy slow jam' "Honey" and they traded lyrics back and forth so elegantly and Gary hit some incredibly high notes. The band then did a fierce "Tell Me" that had a lovely guitar line that danced with their vocals and the band drove the song with some pounding percussion that had all four of the members playing it. Next they played a song their guitarist Stevie wrote about growing up and living in Louisiana and it had grooving poly-rhythms pulsing away as some gentle guitar chords fell like warm rain and Gary and Nora artfully sang and it almost sounded tropical. The band continued with a performance of David Bowie's "Under Pressure" and it's arrangement sounded good as a duet between the two singers and the band grooved along gently behind them, they continued with the driving rhythm of a song from their EP "Act Naturally" called "I Don't" and the band cruised along with Gary and Nora's vocals soaring like a bird into the sky. They played a new song called "Vagabonds" that reminded me of Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark as they careened along as the keyboardist played these lovely synth riffs and their vocals soared above the percolating rhythm and it was the best song of the night. Royal Teeth finished their twelve-song set with yet another "whoa oh oh" song and the band played exactly the same beat over and over, I hope they break big but I don't know, I like their lyrics but their songs had no tempo changes which can get rather tedious.

JANEL AND ANTHONY - April 5, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was a blah Sunday afternoon and I ran down to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see Lucy Wainwright Roche who comes from a long line of musicians that include her father Loudon Wainwright III, her siblings Martha and Rufus Wainwright, and her mother Suzzy Roche. She rebelled by becoming an elementary school teacher but she spent her childhood growing up around the stage and musicians, so in 2010 she gave into to her DNA and she released her self-titled debut album and now her new album which is called "There's A Last Time For Everything" will be released today on her record release tour. Lucy blended folk, pop, and indie music into a delightful mixture of the genres that will touch your heart with its genuine emotion. At approximately 6 o'clock she went on and she strummed the acoustic guitar and with a plain and melancholic voice she sang of why she was sure that life was so serious. She plucked on the guitar in an almost simplistic way as she sang her songs of loss and quiet despair. She joked about the people in the audience and she wanted to know who we were. She babbled on about roller-coasters and how they scare her and she played a song called "Coney Island" and she lamented the passing of an era and simpler times. Lucy had a way with words as she sang in a way that reminded me of the falling leaves swirling in the wind and she told us about her dog and how she always looked like she had just escaped from the set of a Sarah McLaughlin PSA for the treatment of animals. She told us about being in Australia and she was scared about everything being poisonous and hated how the Australians say "no worries" about everything all the time. She asked if anybody in the audience had been in a marching band and then she sang, "Look Busy" which is about being stuck in one, and "You play snare drum solo on Friday football nights!", but I found all of her songs had a melancholic edge to them which became tiring and she spent way too much time chattering about nothing between songs. I got tired of her sad songs and I decided to sneak out because her very basic guitar skills bored me with their poor execution, then she got asked by someone in the audience if she could play Macklemore and Ryan's hit single "Thrift Shop" and I was aghast but thankfully she did not play it. Lucy played a Roches song that she performed with her mother and it was about her musical family how they sing songs about each other. She loves sad songs and every one in her eleven-song set just got progressively sadder as she played them and she sang with her melancholy voice that made you want to cry. Lucy Wainwright Roche finished her set with a bit about how thankful she is to be playing guitar and singing and much to my surprise she ended with her happiest song.

Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was a lovely day as springtime crawled into the city and I made my way to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see Deborah Bond and Third Logic kick out some funky soul music for the people. Deborah Bond moved to Washington from New Haven, Connecticut, in 2002 and in 2003 she released her first album, "Dayafter", and she released her next album "AfterDay Remix" in 2006. Deborah and her band toured incessantly all over the world and then they took a break and concentrated on recording and perfecting the sound on their 2011 release "Madame Palindrome" and it became an instant classic and it even hit #1 for three weeks on the British Soul Charts. Her band Third Logic came out onto the stage and they played some intro music until Deborah appeared and introduced herself and then she sultrily sang "Come Together" as her eight-piece band flowed together and Federico Pena's keyboards and Nico Laget's flute intertwined and danced on the crack rhythm section of bassist Chuck Evans and drummer Kinard Cherry. The band flowed into her first single "See You In My Dreams" and the song was exquisite especially the keyboardist who played a beautiful solo. They next jumped into "Givin' Up" and the drummer Kinard was amazing as he kept a sparse beat as Deborah's voice was all creamy and dreamy and the guitarist Robbie McDonald let it rip with a crunchy solo. Then the band turned Crystal Waters' "She's Homeless" inside out and upside down and they played a jazzy arrangement of the song and it was sensational. They slowed things down a bit for "Everything's Perfect" as Deborah crooned it beautifully and the band accented her voice with such grace and ease that I was blown away. They flowed into "Say You Love Me" with superb clarity as the guitarist Robbie strummed away on an acoustic guitar and Nico played the flute so sublime and the melody danced with the rhythm section. Federico opened the next song with a few bars of Motown classic "Ain't No Mountain" and then the song segued into "It's So Easy" with it's heartfelt lyrics about rising about adversity. Deborah dedicated the next song "You Are The One" to her dressmaker and her husband and it was gorgeous as her voice soared up and down with the band. They continued with a song written by Peabo Bryson called "Femininity" and it was a lovely song about female empowerment as the band finished their set. After a few minutes they returned to the stage and Deborah and her background singers, Rona Rawls and Kenny Wesley, emoted the words so beautifully as they began "I Can't Wait" and the band was just grooving away and Nico played a languid saxophone solo and then the band stretched it out as Deborah Bond introduced the members of her band then she finished wailing her heart out and she abruptly stopped and thanked everybody for coming to see her her and her band and then she left the stage. I was totally blown away by her ten-song set and I hope I get to see them soon.

FM BELFAST, RETRO STEFSON, and SOLEY - February 24, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was a cold, cold afternoon that was filled with freezing sunshine as I made my way to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see Christylez Bacon with Nistha Raj and Wytold and they were going to play some cross-cultural music that combines hip-hop with Indian classical sounds with post-Western instrumentality that led to a melange of styles that boggles the mind. The three of them came together at a local performance venue and they rapidly expanded into a trio and began spreading their message of cultural-diversity and acceptance. Christylez Bacon played the guitar, djembe, spoons, and vocals and beat-box, Nistha Raj of local band The NRI's was on the five-string violin, and Wytold, Strathmore Artist-in-Residence 2012-2013, was on the electric cello and he added live tape-looping, and together they performed a swirling and pulsing musical accompaniment and Christylez told stories and he chanted and beat-boxed also. It was quite crowded in the room as the lights dimmed and the three of them hit the stage and Christylez showed off his beat-boxing skills and then he said that tonight they were going to do a little bit of James Brown then some bossa nova from Brazil and on to progressive hip-hop and he launched into "Bowl-cut" which was about a haircut style that was cheap and easy to do and everyone in the 'hood had one, and he even an app on his cellphone for adding his beat-boxing and he tried to lead the audience in a little call-and-response and Wytold played the coolest cello riff as he led the next song "My Regards" with its beautiful melody and Nistha played the loveliest violin as Christylez beat-boxed and played the spoons. The next piece "By Di Beh" was focused on Nistha and she played a wonderful raga on her violin as Christylez beat-boxed some more and the song was lovely as it droned away on a loop, and Nistha took the lead spot again and played a sprite melody and then Wytold came back out and solo-ed beautifully on his cello and he layered the sound with a lovely tape loop and he played a gorgeous melody on top of it. It was amazing and riveting to watch and listen as they made the notes dance in the air. The next song told the story of "gold-diggin'" or when one tries to get something for nothing, and it was called "Chillin' For Wi-Fi" and Christylez sang these crazy lyrics about his friend trying to get wi-fi free and the shenanigans that ensued. They got really experimental on the next number which was a remix of a Bach piece called "Prelude To Bach's Cello Suite No. 1" and it had tape loops, beat-boxing, and some straight musical parts and it was tremendous in its scope and range. They finished their eight-song set with a Hindu classical piece that danced over a droning tape loop as violinist Nistha Raj and cellist Wytold traded riffs and Christylez Bacon beat-boxed away. I thoroughly enjoyed their performance and I liked the juxtaposition of their diverse instruments as they played their glorious melange of styles and genres and I would see them again.

RA RA RASPUTIN and MIYAZAKI - February 15, 2013
Mansion At Strathmore - Bethesda, MD

My friend Joel Sklar and I drove up to the Mansion at Strathmore in Bethesda for the latest installment in the "Friday Eclectic" series and we arrived just in time to catch local band Miyazaki take the stage and they launched into their New Order-inspired synth-pop and they do it quite well. Their music was full of swirling poly-rhythms and atmospheric guitar with a throbbing bass propelling their dance-rock that the drummer Rob Hart backed with a rock-steady beat. The keyboardist Marisa Grotte drove the songs as she and the guitarist Eduardo Rodelo traded vocals over the pulsing and electric rhythms. Miyazaki are pretty much personality-less but they got the musical chops as they danced along to the beat, especially during the song "Down Time". Their dreamy lyrics are quite melancholic but they have some hope for a better tomorrow. Their last song was called "I Just Want To See You Happy And Dancing" and it was the best one of their ten-song set as they got lost in the swirling rhythm and they took me with them. Even though they sounded exactly like New Order, I found them interesting and compelling and I consider them to be one of the best new bands in the DMV and I am quite looking forward to seeing them again. During the break I found myself looking around the room and I felt quite old and jaded as I watched all these twenty-somethings getting drunk and acting stupid, so I just laughed to myself at the hilarity of it all. Ra Ra Rasputin kicked their set off with a song called "All The Time" and they have gotten a thicker sound since I saw them last and they added a percussionist who gave them a deeper and richer sound but they have lost their female singer Anna Rozzi and they added second guitarist Joshua Shepard. Their slight change in musical direction gave them a much more muscular sound with a more rock edge as they charged through their set. They have become funkier and it was cool and the guitarist Patrick Kigongo sounded richer in tone and more experimental than before as he flung notes and riffs everywhere and the singer Brock Ross has come into his own as a frontman as he sang his heart out on "Stereocutter" from their first album and the second guitarist Joshua Shepard added incredible textures to the song. They played an exquisite "I Got Love For You" and it pulsed and swirled like a slam-dunk radio hit, and the last song of their ten-song set was a new song called "Opaque Glass" and it was brilliant and it showed why they are my favorite local band. I just love how they put their songs together and make them dance beautifully and once again I really enjoyed their music and I will go see Ra Ra Rasputin again.

SHERYL UNDERWOOD and KYLE IRBY- February 9, 2013
DC Improv - Washington, DC

BAD INFLUENCE BAND - February 4, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was a sunny but freezing day as I made my way to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see local blues masters Bad Influence rock the house and it should be a real doozy. Bad Influence have been on the scene rocking audiences since 1988 and they play all across the area at every blues festival and NAMM industry show that comes along. In fact, their latest release "Under The Influence" was a finalist in the 2012 International Blues Challenge for "Best Self-Produced CD" and they received three Wammie Awards nominations just this month for "Best Blues Band", "Best Blues Instrumentalist" for guitarist Michael Tash, and "Best Blues Vocalist" for Bob Malardi, and they having been receiving them since 2003. They kicked things off with a harmonica-driven instrumental number and then Michael Tash stepped up and let loose with a finger-picked guitar solo that was explosive and concise at the same time. Next they laid down a solid groove as vocalist Bob Malardi shouted out about those wild women as he made his bass throb and moan. The band kicked out a jump'n'jive boogie beat that featured each instrument especially the drummer Michael Aubin. They kept the groove tight as they covered a Slim Harpo number and they made it shine as they played it like they have lived it, especially the guitarist Michael Tash. Bassist Bob Malardi gruffly sang "Do As I Say, Not As I Do" with great gusto as the band sped through the song, then they kept up the pace with the dirty blues of "I'm Your Mailman" and it featured Michael Tash playing his guitar with admirable skill and dexterity that was mind-boggling. They continued on with a slow song in the vein of B.B. King that was sensational and again Tash made his guitar sing like his heart was broken and then Roger Edsall let his harmonica rip and Tash finished the song with a solo that scorched beyond belief. Roger Edsall then sang his heart out on a song written by drummer Michael Aubin, who by the way, played with the Deanne Bogart Band for the past sixteen years, and it was a real house-jumper that had him singing, "I want a sugar daddy baby..." Roger picked up a guitar and Michael and him played an incredible twin lead that drove the song along as Bob sang his heart out for a woman as he extolled her to put on her dancing shoes. Next they played some laid-back blues that had some nice extended solos that groove along especially the slide guitar on the part of Roger. The band got really raucous on their next tune as they kept the beat four on the floor and they let their instruments do the talking for them, it was quite a number as they pounded away. Bad Influence finished their twelve-song set with a tight instrumental with Roger back on the mouth harp and they let it rip. Overall it was a very enjoyable show that made me want to rock out like a blues-loving fool.

THE RIVERBREAKS - February 1, 2013
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was a cold, cold day in the city as I made my way to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see The Riverbreaks who are originally from Chapel Hill, North Carolina but they are based out of Washington, DC, now and they have developed a devout following for their deep and meaningful music which was indie rock crossbred with old-school Americana. They released their debut album "Get Your Right" in the spring of 2011 and then they worked on their second album "Wildfire" almost immediately afterwards and they released it at the start of this month to much critical acclaim. The album was produced by The dBs' Chris Stamey and he did an awesome job of recording the band because the final product captured the beauty and essence of their music. The band started with a nice slow number that had vocalist Ryan Bailey softly strumming his guitar as he sang with great conviction as violinist Neela Rajendra made her instrument cry mournfully over the music. The second song "I Am Young" was quite impressive and the lyrics painted a vivid portrait of how he felt inside and the guitarist Jesse Prentice-Dunn made his guitar soar like an eagle as the band began to pick up the pace for the third song called "Tell The Girls" had a nice raucous groove to it that had everyone in the band putting on a show for us. The fourth number "Waiting On The Rapture" was a real showstopper and it had vocalist Ryan Bailey really turning it out as guitarist Jesse Prentice-Dunn let loose with some wild riffs as the band segued into "Paper Moon" with its smoky groove that showcased bassist Drew Ball. The drummer Ben Potok rocked as he played every song with a gentle but deft touch as he laid down the beat. They played a great cover of La Roux's "This Time" and theirs was completely different from the original version. The next song "When I Met You In Mexico" was my favorite one of their set as the guitarist Jesse forcefully played his instrument and vocalist Ryan sang his heart out with such emotion. The band continued on with a brand new song called "Burning Sage" that featured Andrew Satten tearing up the keyboards with these great swirling chords and he kept it up with the next song "American Son" and it had the audience clapping along to it. They continued with a lovely opening piece from violinist Neela Rajendra that danced with the notes coming from Andrew's keyboards as the rest of the band kicked in and finished the song. They did this emotional song called "El Dorado" and it swirled about as Ryan sang about the destruction of the indigenous people of the world and Jesse finished the song with a ringing guitar solo. The Riverbreaks finished their twelve-song set with a heartfelt song called "Corn Blue Night" which was a rather lovely number that had Ryan singing about the plight of the American Indians with his pleasant singing voice that just melted in your ears as each of the band members got showcase their musical prowess. I was truly impressed by The Riverbreaks and their take on Americana music and I would go see them again anytime.

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