DAVID WAX MUSEUM - December 22, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
HEAD-ROC Presents LA ORILLA: FACE, CRISTOPOLIS, and MAMA MOON AND THE FULL POWER BLUES BAND - December 13, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a chilly and windy winter afternoon as I headed towards the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see the latest Chocolate City Rocks!-produced show which was named for “La Orilla” or “The Edge” which is a place where young artists gathered and interacted and it is where the host Vance “Head-Roc” Levy has called his artistic home for the last few years as well as many other artists from all walks of life. So tonight's show features three regular acts from La Orilla, and the first performer tonight is spoken-word artist Face and he is basically the “King of Black Broadway” which was part of the U Street entertainment corridor and he hit the stage running with a raging piece called “Homelessness” which was about rising above life's obstacles and roadblocks. Next the “Latin Tour de Force” trilingual emcee Cristopolis came to the stage with two sexy dancers and his DJ E-Boogie and he launched into his rapid-fire delivery over a sparse hip-hop beat and quirky melodies. He had nice flow and his words had something to say about life and all of its many interactions and his singer Heather Renee had a rich and full soprano voice that just soared over the dense rhythms. They even performed a number that was based on local dance music sub-genre “Moombahton” made famous by local DJ Nadastorm and the music just swirled around the venue and they urged everyone to jump to the beat as the Latin rhythms flowed. DJ E-Boogie had a nice groove going on the decks that had a serpentine and mysterious Eastern- feel to it and Cristopolis dedicated it to all of the strong women of the world and he rapped a heartfelt appreciation for them in his song called “Goddess”. The DJ flowed into a song called “What Ya'll Gonna Do” and I liked his lyrical dexterity as he spoke about striving and making your life better by facing any problems head on. They finished the song and Face returned to the stage and raged on a poem called “Do You Recognize Me” and I really enjoyed his flow and how he structured his words and what he had to say about the world and his place in it. Next up was Mama Moon and the Full Power Blues band and the band rocked out on some deep delta blues and vocalist Mama Moon sang her heart out on Elvis Presley's “Steamroller Blues” and saxophonist Murray Green let a sensational horn solo rip with total abandon. The guitar of Sam'i Nuriddin sang the melody of Howlin' Wolf's “Smokestack Lightning” with a gentle ease and Mama Moon just let her voice howl the words in an almost eerie way as the guitarist made his guitar moan and cry beautifully as the rhythm section of drummer Calvin Newbill Jr. and bassist David Jackson got down and dirty. The band changed pace with an exquisite down-tempo version of Ray Charles' “Drown In My Own Tears” that gave me the chills as Mama Moon's voice bought the song alive as the band played the music righteously as they moved on to a raucous cover of Etta James' signature song “Tell Mama” and they tore it up with red-hot passion and the drummer Calvin Newbill Jr. kept excellent time as his rock-steady groove drove the song and the musicians made their instruments sing in glorious unity as the song reached its powerful conclusion. The show finished up with spoken-word artist Face who was accompanied by guitarist Reg Banks on a powerful call-to-arms piece called “Defrance” that showed the true face of the powers that be and it was a well-written poem to “Fight The Power” and improve the lives of the people around you. It was a truly enjoyable musical experience that touched me and I must say kudos to Chocolate City Rocks!.
HR, THE SCOTCH BONNETS, and THE CAPTIVATORS - December 5, 2014
Comet Ping Pong - Washington, DC
THE EMPTY HEARTS and DOT DASH - December 4, 2014
The State Theater - Falls Church, VA
It was another typically dreary winter evening in Washington DC as I bundled up to head to the State Theater in Falls Church, Virginia at the far end of the metro to see a supergroup of sorts called The Empty Hearts and who featured Wally Palmar the vocalist of The Romantics, guitarist Elliot Easton of The Cars, bassist Andy Babiuk of The Chesterfield Kings, and Blondie's hardworking drummer extraordinaire Clem Burke, plus one of my favorite local bands, Dot Dash, who seem to be the “band du jour” for snagging great opening slots on the best tours like tonight and in January when they open for The B-52s, and besides the drummer Danny Ingram is a friend of mine. I arrived at the club and I was not surprised by the small crowd but I did expect there to be more people. I hope The Empty Hearts bandmates play some songs by their more famous bands because I really hope Eliot Easton performs his classic “Drive” by The Cars but I do not know which Blondie song I would want Clem to play, however it should be an interesting show. Finally it became time for the show to begin and Dot Dash took the stage quietly and picked up their instruments and jumped right into their brand of toe-tapping post-punk rock that was full of guitar riffs and Hunter Bennett's funky bass lines as Danny Ingram tastefully filled the rhythm with crisp sharp drumming and Terry Banks sang some exquisite Buzzcocks-esque vocals about the melancholy side of life. Their songs were beautifully executed as they meandered through their set with some sensational guitar solos from Steve Hansgen. Danny and Hunter were in total sync with each other as they rode the groove and the guitars soared over the rhythm as Bill plaintively sang their songs' meaningful lyrics. I really liked Hunter Bennett's bass style because he plays his instrument like a guitar and has a rich punchy sound that drove the songs. I really liked their song “Ghosts Of The Past” with its chiming guitars and Danny's driving beat. It has been really cool watching them progress musically as they get tighter and better over the past few years and I really hope they bust out big time. Their nine-song set was marvelous and full of passion and it was great seeing fellow musicians with staying power because I have been following Danny's career for years. The crew set to work in changing the stage over for The Empty Hearts and then they took the stage looking the part of power-pop gods and the band cranked out a powerful groove and Elliot Easton played some great spastic guitar on their opening number, a fabulous “90 Miles An Hour Down A Dead End Street” from their debut album on 429 Records and Wally Palmar sarcastically crooned, “I took you home from a party and we kissed in fun, a few stolen kisses and no harm was done, instead of stopping when we could we went right on, until suddenly we found the brakes were gone...”, and they went into a swampy groove that pulsed and turned into their next song “I Don't Want Your Love, (If You Don't Want Me)” that had everyone singing along. They charged on through their set with their glorious harmonies and super-charged guitars as they pounded through “(I See) No Way Out” and a soulful “Fill An Empty Heart” that had me bopping out to the beat. They did not sound like any of their previous bands which was a nice surprise and I did not know that Elliot Easton was such an amazing guitar player particularly on the songs “Soul Deep” and “Loud And Clear” with their big fat riffs that roared over Clem Burke's pounding percussion. Elliot stepped to the microphone and led the band in a hard-rocking rendition of The Cars new wave classic “Good Times Go” from their 1978 debut album and I liked it better than the original and Elliot oozed the sarcastic words, “Let the good times roll, let them knock you around, let the good times roll, let them make you a clown, let them leave you up in the air, let them brush your rock and roll hair, let the good times roll...”, as he made the guitar riff more muscular and I just loved the brilliant drumming of Clem Burke that made the beat throb as they proceeded into a fantastic song called “Don't Wanna Live In Your Perfect World” with its catchy melody and toe-tapping beat. Next they played a country-esque song called “I Found You Again” or as the band called it, “a cowboy song”, and it was full of twang and country swing as they put their hearts into it, then the band blew me away with their revved-up version of The Romantics' 1983 chart-topping song “Talking In Your Sleep” and it sounded great as Wally made the words come alive and Elliot tore it up on the guitar with electrifying riffs that rode the waves of the thundering bass of Andy Babiuk, and they turned it out. I liked the band's originals from their debut album particularly “Drop Me Off At Home” and “Just A Little Too Hard” which they played next and they were catchy and one could sing along with them and the musicianship was spectacular especially Clem because his crisp drumming held everything together and Wally blew a mean harmonica during their next song “Jealousy” which was one of the best songs of the night. The surprise of the evening was a rather spicy version of Blondie's “One Way Or Another” that was more manic and crunchy than the original and it was kind of weird watching Clem playing in a band covering his song by his other band, however Elliot played an amazing and fiery guitar solo but I really missed Debbie Harry's voice as Wally sang, “One way or another I'm gonna lose ya, I'm gonna give you the slip, a slip of the lip or another, I'm gonna lose ya, I'm gonna trick ya, I'll trick ya, one way or another I'm gonna lose ya, I'm gonna trick ya, trick ya, trick ya...” The band finished their fifteen-song set with a really cool song called “Meet Me 'Round The Corner” and I was quite surprised how good they were in concert and how catchy their songs were to my ears. They took turns introducing each other and cranking out some really hot solos on their instruments, it was a very good night indeed as The Empty Hearts left the stage. The enthusiastic audience brought them back to the stage for an encore and they charged into a rocking “I Wanna Be Your Man” by The Beatles then they went into a really raucous version of the 1978 debut single “Just What I Needed” by Elliot's day-job The Cars, and they finished the show with a fantastic version of the 1980 break-out single “What I Like About You” by Wally's day-job The Romantics and he heartily sang, “Keep on whispering in my ear, tell me all the things that I wanna hear, 'cause it's true, that's what I like about you...”, and then the band left the stage and I rushed out of the venue to catch the late metro home humming that song as I thought that this was one fun and fantastic gig and I was glad I went to see them.
THE DELARCOS, KING MIXER, and THE CHARM OFFENSIVE - December 1, 2014
Iota Café And Club - Arlington, VA
It was an oddly dreary night as I headed to Clarendon in Arlington to go to Iota for the first time in a long while to see a really cool three band bill. When I reached the club the first band The Charm Offensive had just taken the small stage and they played their lovely post-punk songs with the sound chock full of winding and twisting guitar lines and pulsing punky bass and the deceptively gentle drumming of Mike Blau as singer/guitarist Chris Lehman sang his worldly lyrics with a nice plaintive voice. I really liked the interplay between the guitarists and they played an exceptional cover of Johnny Thunders' “Something On The Radio” and the two guitarists, Geordie Grindle and Chris Lehman really shredded with some dark intensity. There were times when the beat got real swampy and full of subterranean bass that the guitars sounded like The Cramps on 78RPM but they were quite cool and pleasant to listen to in the dim club. They also really reminded me a bit of The Replacements in the way that they made their guitars sound and when Geordie sang, his voice had a Paul Westerberg quality to it. I was genuinely entertained by The Charm Offensive and their blistering nine-song set even included a cover of The Buzzcocks' “What Do I Get” and their last song called “Impossible” was real catchy and I found myself humming it all night long. The second band King Mixer featured my friend drummer Danny Ingram who also plays in Dot Dash, but tonight his “side” band was doing a bang-up job with some well-constructed power-pop. The singer/guitarist James Lee had a mellifluous voice that made you feel they lived the lyrics as Danny Ingram's driving drums propelled the band as bassist Steve Engel and guitarist Dan Marx bashed away at their instruments. James and Dan traded vocal duties throughout their set in a way that reminded me of the vocals stylings of Gang Of Four, particularly on their “five year old new song” called “Dead Reckoning” and it also featured some great guitar work. It was nice to hear Danny sounding fresh in a different style that was unlike his main band Dot Dash because he was on the mark as Dan Marx finished the song with a blazing solo. They blew me away with their boisterous cover of David Bowie's “Heroes” that just throbbed and pulsed with a languid “j'eune ce quo” as Danny pounded his drums skillfully and Dan made his guitar scream with a controlled ferocity. Their song “Just A Zero” was my favorite one of the night as it lumbered along majestically as the guitars weaved in and out of Danny's dense percussion. The Buzzcocks must be hip again because they played a Buzzcocks cover like The Charm Offensive did earlier, to close their ten-song set and I was quite impressed by King Mixer and their full-bodied music and I cannot believe Danny Ingram has any time to play for them because I am seeing him and his band Dot Dash on Thursday at the State Theater in Virginia opening for The Empty Hearts who are a minor supergroup featuring Blondie's Clem Burke and The Cars' Eliot Easton. The third band tonight was The Delarcos and their sound was a bit haphazard and they reminded me of a low-budget version of trash-rock heroes The Factory and I found them a bit dull and they were just “too Dad rock” for me and their songs all sounded the same but featured some decent guitar work from Mike Lasort. It was getting late and a whole lot colder so I left before they finished their set to catch the last metro home so hopefully I can catch them again.
ELIJAH JAMAL BALBED AND THE JOGO PROJECT - November 28, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a dull wintry day as I made my way to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see local legend saxophonist Elijah Jamal Balbed and his new band The JoGo Project play their funky amalgamation of jazz, funk, R&B, rock, and pop that has its basis in homegrown go-go music. Elijah has quite a band backing him tonight, nine members in all, including pianist Mark Meadows and vocalist/trombonist Isaac “Izzy” Bell. The band hit the stage and opened with a rather lively rendition of “Be-Bop” by Dizzy Gillespie that had a nice go-go kick and Elijah blew a mighty saxophone that had great swing as it weaved in and out of the dense rhythm and trumpeter Brad Clemente finished the song with some jazzy blasts from his instrument, it was fantastic. The second number was an original song called “One For Pops” that was written for the recently departed bandleader Chuck Brown and vocalist Dante Pope, who co-wrote the song with Elijah, came onstage and sang of the legend and legacy of Chuck Brown, and the band percolated with the DC sound as the musicians made their instruments sing so gloriously as the audience clapped along to the groove as the trumpeter Brad Clemente blew one mean solo that heralded the start of Barry White's “Playing Your Game” and Dante's voice sang as deep as he could and the horn section danced in between the notes with ease. Jocelyn Imani took to the microphone with her gorgeous voice and the band took off on a musical journey as they pumped out Jill Scott's “It's Love” that had the right amount of swing as Elijah blew his saxophone madly as he led the crowd in a bit of traditional call-and-response chanting and he led the band into their next number, a soulful rendition of “People Make The World Go 'Round” by soul titans The Stylistics that had me tapping my toes and bopping my head to their beautiful beat and particularly during the guitarist DeAnte Haggerty-Willis' amazing solo and plus I really loved The Stylistics when I was a kid back in the sixties and the seventies. Next the band played the “Chuck Brown Jazz Medley” and it was arranged by Chuck Brown before his death and the band rocked with pizazz as Isaac led the crowd in singing in a bit of Duke Ellington's “It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)” that Chuck famously re-wrote by adding “if it ain't got that go-go swing” as the musicians added lovely little riffs to the upbeat rhythm that made it really dance as the band segued into James Moody's “Mood For Love” and they got a deep jazz groove going on as the horns wailed away as Dante Pope sang his heart out. Elijah and his band changed up the mood with a quirky cover of “Woody The Woodpecker” by famed bandleader George Tibbles and Ramsey Idriss and Dante sang about “getting a brand new groove” as the horns played the signature riff...”dun dun dun dun dun dun ha ha ha”...and drummer Allen Jones kept the beat on the down stroke as bassist Eliot Seppa followed him. Elijah Jamal Balbed took the time to introduce all the musicians onstage with him to the audience and he promoted his and their musical releases which was really cool of him. Next the band got deep into a go-go groove with a cover of Rare Essence leader Sugar Bear's “Umm Bop Bop” and they got wild and loose as Isaac Bell ferociously rapped about the joys of go-go music and the audience really got into it by dancing and bouncing with abandon as the band morphed into a go-go-fied version of Richard Strauss' “2001 (Space Odyssey)” that made the song surprisingly palpable and fresh and each musician contributed a nice solo particularly the percussionist Leroy “Boogie” Greer who rocked the house with a fantastic congas solo. The JoGo Project finished their lively twelve-song set with an original song called “Too Loud” that urged us all to come together to save the human race. I had a really enjoyable time and I heard some incredible music and I walked to the metro with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.
MOONSHINE SOCIETY - November 25, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
The holiday season was quickly approaching as I decided to venture down to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see some blues-based R&B/jazz from the award-winning band Moonshine Society which features one of my favorite local musicians...the sensational saxophone player Ron Holloway, so I am hyped to see them perform. The band also features the husband-wife team of vocalist Black Betty (Jenny Langer) and guitarist Joe Poppen, bassist Christopher Brown, and drummer extraordinaire Barry Hart. The vocalist Black Betty is known as “The Blues Pin-Up” because of her good looks and her soulful vocals have earned her several Washington Area Music Association Wammies even though she is from Boston via California and the rest of her band have played with everyone from The Inkspots to Danny Gatton to American Idol contestants. The band take the stage and they kicked things off with a funky rendition of Ruth Brown's “Mama” and Black Betty could really wail and the guitar and saxophone sparkled with riffs and licks as the rhythm section provided a deep bottom full of groove. They kept the beat taut and slinky as they moved into an Albert King song and guitarist Joe Poppen was sensational as he burned up the fretboard during the number as Ron Holloway blew a killer sax solo that was full of life. Next they played a funky-sounding original called “How Long” that was propelled by Christopher Brown's throbbing bass lines that underscored yet another amazing solo from the guitarist that flowed into the next song by contemporary blues artist Lisa Mills out of Chicago and it was a gorgeous song about a wronged woman called “I Deserve Better” and the band laid down a slow-burning blues groove that was exhilarating as they rocked it and Black Betty's luxurious voice just melted my heart. The band picked the tempo back up with some New Orleans-style jazzy blues with a song called “Conga Square” and it pulsed and throbbed delightfully and then the drummer Barry Hart broke the beat down in the middle of the song with a quick solo as Christopher Brown got all funky on the bass until guitarist Joe Poppen took over with a scintillating solo that blew me away with his speed and dexterity, and lastly Ron Holloway blew the roof off the place as he made his saxophone howl with unbridled passion until the singer Black Betty broke into the final verse of the song with some “Nawlin'” pizazz in her voice. The band next played a stellar version of BB King's “Dangerous Mood” and they were tight and full of subtle rhythms and once again Joe Poppen shined on the guitar with soaring riffs that just electrified me and they did BB proud on their cover of his song. They continued with a touching tribute to legendary guitarist Johnny Winter from the vocalist then proceeded into red-hot cover of his “Miss Me When I'm Gone” that was out of this world and the guitarist tore it up with a spectacular solo that just exploded like a firecracker. Next they played a slow soulful blues original ditty that Black Betty wrote to celebrate her marriage to the guitarist Joe Poppen and it featured a wonderfully slinky saxophone solo from Ron Holloway that had notes just floating everywhere like rose petals with his delicate touch on his instrument. The skill that the musicians played with was just incredible and they blew me away as they traded riffs with such ease that it was phenomenal to behold. The Moonshine Society finished their nine-song set with a raucous and crunchy version of “What Is Hip” by Tower Of Power and they turned it out as they made the song pulse and throb and Black Betty went full throttle as she sang the words like she meant it. It was a thoroughly enjoyable show from some quality musicians who played some rather cool music that had a lot of soul and they put me in a good mood as I walked back to the metro to head home.
HOMEBODY, PLEASURE CURSES, and STRONGER SEX - November 21, 2014
Comet Ping Pong - Washington, DC
It was a very chilly Friday night as my friends and I headed to Comet Ping Pong in upper Northwest for a night of groovy electronica from three local acts, Pleasure Curses, Home Body, and Stronger Sex. We arrived and made our way into the club to the back where DJ Chris was playing some breezy indie-synth music that had me moving and grooving to the pulsing beat. The first band Stronger Sex took the stage and commenced their ethereal and trance-y music with melancholy lyrics about lost love that the singer sang so forlornly as the synthesizer tinkled away like they were in synth-band She Wants Revenge who I really love. They were pretty decent for a synth-duo except when the singer tried to sing in a falsetto, but they were fun to listen to as they tried to be The Pet Shop Boys but they have no stage presence or personality to draw you into their music. Stronger Sex played a pleasant if mundane six-song set that the audience seemed to enjoy and I really liked their song “Temptation Calls For Me”. After a quick set change the second band Home Body took the stage with their much more expansive sound was reminiscent of the Future Sound Of London crossed with Tori Amos as the vocalist sang beautifully with her rich and wide-ranged voice that conveyed a lot of emotion as it danced over the synth player's vibrant washes and perky percussion. The vocalist had quite a voice that she let soar all over the place as she sang about love and loss, the music was almost danceable as it lurched and lumbered across my ears with military precision. The band even got a bit dubby in the middle of their set with lots of echo and reverb in the vocals. I liked how they experimented with various styles of EDM and they brought some warmth to their music unlike so many other bands of their genre that often comes off as cold and detached. My only complaint was that sometimes the singer's rather nice voice was so drenched in effects that it got lost but other than that they were excellent. Home Body played a sensational eight-song set that featured the lovely ditty called “Tits To The Sky” and they had the crowd dancing away happily. Lastly brash upstarts Pleasure Curses finished the night with their brand of hard-driving EDM that they augmented with some live bass as the singer Jahn Alexander Teetsov sexily crooned his lyrics about the follies of mankind. Their music was full of quirky rhythms from their synthesizer and Evan Maxwell Grice's throbbing bass lines but the vocals were hard to understand as they bounced through their ten-song set. It was a pretty good show but all of the bands needed some lessons in how to interact with the audience to counterbalance the lively beats and rhythms.
CONCERT FOR VALOR - November 11, 2014
National Mall - Washington, DC
ROBIN TROWER and ELI COOK BAND - November 1, 2014
Howard Theatre - Washington, DC
My friend Sean Bush and I headed to the Howard Theater for some bluesy rock with seventies guitar hero Robin Trower and local boy Eli Cook and his band and it should be a fun night for all. The weather had taken a turn for the worse and it had gotten rather chilly as we waited in line to get in the club because you got to get to the Howard early to get a good seat and we were seated right at Robin Trower's feet. First up tonight was Charlottesville trio The Eli Cook Band which was led by guitarist Eli Cook and he seemed to be in the vein of blues upstart Joe Bonnamassa so we shall see how it goes. Eli and his rhythm section of bassist Rob Richmond and drummer Wade Warfield hit the stage and launched into some heavy blues that was very derivative of a hundred other blues songs except that Eli's vocals were a bit lost in the mix. As their set progressed they played a fairly decent cover of Elmore James' “Dust My Broom” and Eli showed some skill as a slide guitar player but I cannot stand his voice. Also they performed a fairly decent cover of a Lightning Hopkins song and it featured some decent percussion where the drummer played the fills in all the right places as the bassist quietly rode the groove. Their best song of the night was called “Sweet Thang” which was from their latest release but it reminded me of some old song but I cannot place it, but Eli does play a mean guitar with the right biting tone but it never seemed to go anywhere. The rest of his set was a blur of styles and genres from Chicago to Mississippi which is too bad because he is a pretty good guitar player. The Eli Cook Band finished their six-song set with a John Lee Hooker tune that they played pretty decently except for when the drummer dropped his drumsticks and missed a few beats before they finished the song and left the stage. The stage crew quickly changed the stage over to Robin Trower's rig and you could feel the anticipation in the audience as it got close to his set time. A remarkably well-preserved 69 year-old guitarist Robin Trower walked on stage with his band, bassist/vocalist Richard Watts and drummer Chris Taggart, and they immediately launched into “Somebody Calling” from the 1977 album “In City Dreams” and Robin showed that he could play rings around most other guitarists in the world as he made his axe squeal, groan, and sing like no other as he let a magnificent solo rip as his band kept a sparse back-beat. Next they stomped out an elegiac “Rise Up Like The Sun” from the 1994 album “20th Century Blues” and the bassist wailed out the words, “I close my eyes to sorrow, I shut my mind to see, the truth is like tomorrow, it shall rise for me...”, and Robin burned up his fretboard as they segued into “See My Life” from his 2013 album “Roots And Branches” and he stepped to the microphone and sang as he played a Hendrix-esque melody that soared as he made his guitar sing and moan like no other. He was absolutely stunning on the guitar as he got a bit bluesy on the beautifully languid “Daydream” from his 1973 album “Twice Removed From Yesterday” with these spiraling guitar riffs and particularly during his extended solo and the bassist Richard Watts sang the obtuse lyrics, “We were laughing in a daydream, with the world beneath our feet, and the sun shined on the water, where the skies and the ocean meet, we were spellbound, ohhhh spellbound...”, and the melody flowed so wonderfully over the deft drumming of Chris Taggart and Robin's rolling tremolos and extended bent notes, and they followed that with a raucous version of “Lady Love” from his brilliant 1974 album “Bridge Of Sighs” and Robin was turning it out on the nice and crunchy melody line as the bassist Richard crooned the revealing lyrics and I must tell you...it was sensational! They played an unremarkable “Snakes And Ladders” which was the title-track from his 1980 album of the same name, but the surprise of the night came next when they erupted into a spectacular “Day Of The Eagle” from his “Bridge Of Sighs” album and I was glad that album was the one he favored on this tour because it was this album that I loved in high school. Robin made his guitar sing like it was on fire and the bassist Richard sang the words with an intensity that paralleled Robin's playing as they went right into an exhilarating version of the title-track from his 1974 masterpiece “Bridge Of Sighs” and it was the highlight of their set as Richard laconically sang, “The sun don't shine, the moon don't move the tides, to wash me clean, why so unforgiving, and why so cold, been a long time crossing bridge of sighs...”, and Robin made his guitar do things that only he could do as it screamed for mercy as waves of notes, riffs, and licks exploded everywhere with sonic fury. It was my favorite moment of the night and I have been waiting many years to see him play it live with such passion because the seventies were so long ago. Robin continued with a real blues stomper by Big Mama Thornton, a raucous “That's Alright Mama” from his critically-acclaimed 2013 covers album “Roots And Branches”, plus it was the first song released by Elvis Presley, and his band tore it up as Robin made his guitar come alive and the bassist sang the words with so much soul. They stayed in the same vein with a biting “Confessin' Midnight” from his 1975 album “For Earth Below” and Robin's playing was out of this world as his axe moaned and squealed as his nimble fingers burned up the fretboard. The band pulled another cover from the “Roots And Branches” album and this time it was Willie Dixon's “Little Red Rooster” and it showcased Robin's more delicate finger-picking as he made his guitar weep with his skill and passion and then he went into an up-tempo freeform jam that had him making all kinds of faces as he made his guitar jump through loops that morphed into a stunning rendition of “Little Bit Of Sympathy” from the “Bridge Of Sighs” album and Robin played faster and faster until my head was spinning and he was spectacular as he croaked, “If the sea was glass and the land all gone, would you still be a friend to me, when my time has passed, is it too much to ask, for a little bit of sympathy...”, and I even took a few cool photos of him playing with my tablet camera. Robin Trower and his rhythm section left the stage to tremendous applause and the audience brought them back with their ardent cheering and the band jumped into an otherworldly “Too Rolling Stoned” also from “Bridge Of Sighs” and they tore it up as Robin made his guitar sputter and spark with amazing skill as they made their instruments howl with beautiful music and Robin Trower just outdid himself on the guitar. They finished their fourteen-song set with the earthy blues of “For Earth Below”, the title track from his 1975 album of the same name, and over the sparse back-beat of drummer Chris Taggart, bassist Richard Watts forlornly sang, “Please don't wonder oh, how they know, while you dream a child is weeping, and each tear's a soul, for earth below, for earth below...”, as guitarist extraordinaire Robin Trower played some amazing notes that he made cry beautifully to the very end. They left the stage and I had to sit a few minutes in total awe of Robin's guitar skills and elegant songwriting, this was probably one of the best shows I have seen this year and I walked out of the place stunned.
FLEETWOOD MAC - October 31, 2014
Verizon Center - Washington, DC
It was turning into a lovely but chilly fall evening as the sun was setting and the clouds faded away to reveal a lovely sky on this Halloween night. I was killing time at my favorite bar before I had to meet my friend Adrian Salsgiver and we were going to see Fleetwood Mac who had just recently reunited with Christine McVie to complete the formation of their classic line-up with Stevie Nicks, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and Lindsey Buckingham. I saw them last winter and they were fabulous celebrating the thirty-fifth anniversary of their classic “Rumours” album and Lindsey Buckingham was particularly stunning on the guitar but something was missing. Then they announced that Christine McVie was re-joining the band so I knew I had to see them while I can because Mick Fleetwood was having issues with his heart and his health. The time arrived and we made our way to the arena and you could feel the excitement in the air and not just because it was Halloween. We found our rather excellent seats which were in the front row right off the floor and eyeball level with Christine McVie and we waited for the show to begin and Fleetwood Mac took the stage at eight o'clock and they opened with a spectacular version of “The Chain” from their classic 1977 album “Rumours” from which they performed all but two songs and their vocal harmonies meshed together and carried me away on the lyrics, “And if you don't love me now, you will never love me again, I can still hear you saying, you would never break the chain...”, and 68-year-old bassist John McVie finger-picked an absolutely amazing solo over 67-year-old drummer Mick Fleetwood's precision percussion. The band segued into “You Make Loving Fun” and 71-year-old vocalist/keyboardist Christine McVie sang her heart out as she harmonized with 66-year-old vocalist Stevie Nicks while 65-year-old vocalist/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham just blazed spectacularly on the guitar. Stevie took the time to welcome Christine back to the band and just where she'd been, to which Christine replied I'm not telling, and Stevie let her voice soar on “Dreams” and the band played nice and melodic and the bass line was groovy as vocalist/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham stepped the microphone and gravelly sang the words to “Second Hand News” like he had lived it and he let a killer guitar solo rip that amazed me. Then it was time for the first showstopper of the night and from the opening riffs of “Rhiannon” from their 1975 album “Fleetwood Mac”, the band let the gorgeous melody spiral beautifully as Stevie grabbed the microphone and belted out, “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, all your life you've never seen a woman, taken by the wind...”, and she harmonized with Christine and touring keyboardist Brett Tuggle followed her voice with some intricate little fills as they segued into the reggae-ish “Everywhere” from their overlooked 1987 album “Tango In The Night” with Christine on the lead vocal and I loved their instrumental interplay as they weaved in and out the rhythm and Christine took a moment to thank everybody for their kindness and support in welcoming her back. Then came what I term as the “low point” of the show when Lindsey took the lead vocal on “I Know I'm Not Wrong” from their 1979 double album “Tusk” and it was bit chaotic and jumbled but it did feature a fabulous guitar solo from touring guitarist Neale Heywood that morphed into the title-track, a eerie and haunting version of “Tusk” with Christine playing a lovely accordion solo that slowly lead to a futuristic-sounding “Sisters Of The Moon” that Stevie made shimmer with the words, “She asked me, be my sister, sister of the moon, some call her sister of the moon, some say illusions are her game, wrap her in velvet, does anyone, ah, know her name...” Mick was phenomenal on the drums because he was like a human metronome as he kept the beat as the music flowed into a brilliant “Say You Love Me” from their album “Fleetwood Mac” and Christine sang like an angel as the bass and guitar intertwined so gracefully and Stevie took the lead and dreamily sang “Seven Wonders” from the “Tango In The Night” album and the band played melodic layers and layers of surging rhythm that danced with the flashing geometrical shapes on the video screens and Stevie dedicated the next song “Big Love” also from “Tango In The Night” to her friends on the cast of FX's “American Horror Story” with whom she was a guest star and Lindsey joined her on the acoustic guitar as he let loose on it as he strummed away with grunts and groans. Stevie said the next song was from their first album in 1975 with this line-up, the brilliant “Fleetwood Mac”, and this was one of her favorite songs from the album and she dedicated it to the Wounded Warrior Project and Stevie let her voice soar on the pastoral lyrics of “Landslide”, “I took my love and took it down, I climbed a mountain and I turned around, and I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills, till the landslide brought me down...”. Lindsey rocked out on the acoustic and the audience joined in singing the words at the top of their lungs and Lindsey finished the acoustic segment with a lovely reading of “Never Going Back Again” from the “Rumours” album as Stevie joined him in singing as their voices warmly harmonized in rapturous glory. The rest of the band returned and the crew brought a small drum kit for Mick which they put center stage and Christine took the microphone and let her voice gently floated through a warm and intimate “Over My Head” from the “Fleetwood Mac” album as the other voices joined hers as they merged to sing “Gypsy” their sole song from their 1982 album “Mirage” and the vocals were out of this world and Stevie said that her and Lindsey wrote it way back in the sixties after they had opened for Jimi Hendrix and later on she had a premonition of the future and then she wrote the lyrics to the song. Next was probably my favorite performance of the night, an outstanding rendition of “Little Lies” from their “Tango In The Night” album that was highlighted by Christine's crystalline voice as she sang, “Close my, close my, close my eyes, but I couldn't find a way, so I'll settle for one day to believe in you, tell me, tell me, tell me lies, tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies...”, and the band followed her with rolling rhythm and intricate vocal harmonies that was chased by a richly-toned guitar solo that was out of this world as Lindsey's fingers were blurs on his fretboard. In what was the showstopper of the night, the band unleashed an extended version of “Gold Dust Woman” from the “Rumours” album and Stevie really shined on the lead vocals as the others harmonized exquisitely over the excellent rhythm section with its nice doomy bass as they turned it out as the band segued into the percussion wizardry of Mick as he tersely pounded out the intro to “I'm So Afraid” from the “Fleetwood Mac” album and Lindsey slashed away at fiery riffs as Christine chased him with a haunting keyboard run until he took the spotlight with his guitar and played a dark and heavy solo that seem to go on forever. The band took a deep breath and jumped into a raucous rendition of “Go Your Own Way” also from “Rumours” and they played it fast and sloppy but it was cool with its nice stuttery bouncing beat as the three of them mournfully sang, “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...” Lindsey grabbed the microphone and lead the band in playing the perky “World Turning” from their “Fleetwood Mac” album and Mick had an almost rock-a-billy feel to his playing as he jokingly taunted the audience into singing along with them and then the band left the stage and the spotlight shone on Mick as he gave us a tremendously percussive performance on his drums and he had rhythms flying in every direction and it was amazing and he sounded like a whole band then he took the time to thank and introduce everyone in the band and Christine and company returned to the stage and she played a lovely little melody on her keyboard that kicked off a boisterous “Don't Stop” from “Rumours” and it just lit the place up. They flowed into the heavenly harmonies of “Silver Springs”, which is a non-album b-side from the “Rumours” period and but it was not released until 1997 on the “The Dance” album, and the band was brilliant as they made the song come alive with the vivid words, “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...”, and their voices intertwined so beautifully as the band took turns playing farewell solos as they morphed into the last song of their twenty-four set, an ethereal “Songbird” from “Rumours” and Stevie gave a shout-out to their back-up singers, Sharon Celani and her sister Lori Nicks, and then she sang her heart out as the band played as one then they took their bows and left the stage to tumultuous applause. I was completely stunned by how intense and interesting Fleetwood Mac was and I felt I overlooked them all these years and even though they stuck to the songs from their late seventies period, the band sounded real fresh and vibrant and I forgot they were all over sixty-five. The band sounded really good and my friend Adrian swears that Christine waved to us because we were the only ones sitting in our section so I guess we stood out. I bought a cool tour shirt and we left the arena and walked to the metro and went our separate ways.
THE DAMNED, T.S.O.L., and THE BRIEFS - October 26, 2014
Black Cat - Washington, DC
It was a beautiful fall evening as I strolled down Fourteenth Street to the Black Cat to see the oldest surviving English punk band The Damned and my favorite old school West Coast punk band T.S.O.L. (True Sounds Of Liberty) but without my old pal drummer Mitch Dean, and the pride of Seattle since 2000 - The Briefs, so it should be a punk rock night for this old geezer. I arrived early but there was already a line so I waited in it until the club opened the doors and I entered and went up the stairs to the main room and sat on my favorite stool at the end of the bar that had the best sight lines to see the bands and I bought some tour shirts and then I settled into my seat. The Briefs took the stage and started up with their crunchy fast-paced punk rock and they barreled through their set as they opened up with the song “Stuck On You” from their 2005 album “Steal Yer Heart” and vocalist/guitarist Steve E. Nix snottily sang the words, “You're pretty cute, you're pretty tough, I'm stuck on you, yeah, I know I'm stuck, don't wanna chit chat on the telephone, I wanna stay after I walk you home...”, and I just loved its catchy chorus and punchy guitar riffs and they kept it up with a wry “I Think My Baby Is A Communist” from their 2003 album “Off The Charts” that rocked the crowd. The drummer Chris Brief had a nice rhythmic style that drove the songs and the bassist Steve Kicks bounced a killer groove all over the place as Steve and the other guitarist Dan J. Travanti traded guitar licks like crazed maniacs as they plowed through their set. The band had a nice sense of melody as the guitarists played off each other over the splendid drumming of Chris Brief during the song “Ain't It The Truth” from their album “Off The Charts”. They played their best song “Destroy The U.S.A.” from their 2004 album “Sex Objects” with great pizazz as they channeled their anger with a great song with great lyrics that Steve snarled, “Destroy the USA, its gonna happen anyway, destroy the USA, George said that its ok, destroy the USA, its gonna happen anyway, destroy the USA, destroy the USA today...”, and then they followed with another catchy song “Anti-Social” also from their album “Sex Objects” and I just loved it. The band reminded me of The Buzzcocks sometimes, but mostly they were very original songs that they played one after another without pausing. The Briefs finished their nine-song set with the fantastic “Poor And Weird” from their 2000 debut album “Hit After Hit” and Steve sarcastically sang, “I'm poor and I'm weird, I'm getting weirder by the second, I used to have somebody but my alter ego spent it, I was talking to a lady sellin' something at a mall, thinkin' 'bout a donkey, I was talkin' to a wall...”, and it really got the audience going as the chorus rang in my ears. I really liked their catchy well-played songs and they had a nice “pop” edge to them that made me smile. The crew set to work and readied the stage for the legendary T.S.O.L. from Long Beach in California and they have been together in one form or another since 1978 and they made one of my favorite punk rock albums ever in 1984, the eloquent and powerful “Change Today”. My old buddy Mitch Dean drummed on several of their best albums but he has abandoned the rock and roll world and has not been seen. These days original members vocalist Jack Grisham and guitarist Ron Emory are leading the charge as they got back to their punk rock roots, so I am quite interested in seeing how they come across to the audience. T.S.O.L. (True Sounds Of Liberty) hit the stage with a righteous fury as vocalist Jack Grisham screamed his condemning words, “In the world war three, world war three, where do I stand in this form of power, where do I fit in this government, I find no choice, third world war, and you're the victims...”, as they plowed through “World War III” from their 1981 debut recording “T.S.O.L. EP” with its metal-infused guitars over the driving punk rock rhythm and they joked that the song was so old that it's been through seven Presidents. The band careened through their set like madmen as they pumped out “In My Head” and ”Terrible People” from their 2001 reunion album “Disappear” and the band sounded pretty good as they went back to their 1981 debut EP and got nasty with the song “Superficial Love”. One of the highlights of the night was a sensational version of “Sounds Of Laughter” from their 1981 debut album “Dance With Me” and Jack it sang with hysterical abandon, “I can hear the sounds of laughter, could it be they're laughing at me, I can hear the roar of thunder, I'm mad, I'm deranged...”, and Ron Emory was a monster on the guitar. As usual in punk rock the drummer carried the band and Matt Rainwater did an excellent job providing relentless waves of rhythm on three songs from their debut album, a raging “I'm Tired Of Life”, a pulsing and serpentine “Dance With Me”, and a dark and scary “The Triangle”, and the bassist Mike Roche rode the beat with some nice doom-y bass lines that gave the guitarist Ron a chance to played some searing riffs and crunchy licks. The youngest song they played tonight was the ten-year old “Fuck You Tough Guy” from their 2005 album “Who's Screwin' Who?”, and Jack Grisham spit out the angry words, “Walking in the hallway terrified and feeling like a worm in the dark, laughing in the classroom, tripped up on the stairs and the teacher doesn't know who you are hey...fuck you tough guy...”, while the band pounded away behind him. It was nice to see that they were off junk because the music had a nice clean edge to it and not some downer junkie vibe as they plowed through a spectacular and lively “Wash Away” from their 1982 album “Beneath The Shadows” and it had a nice punk rock groove that made me want to dance as Ron wailed on the guitar with his best solo of the night. Next they got real punk rock with one of their oldest songs, a raucous “Abolish Government/Silent Majority” from their 1981 debut EP that they played at break-neck speed and Ron made his guitar scream and squeal as he roared through two newer songs, a menacing “Serious” from their 2003 album “Divided We Stand” and a hysterically political-incorrect “Sodomy” from their 2001 reunion album “Disappear”. The band finished their fourteen-song set with a pounding “Code Blue” from their 1981 debut album “Dance With Me” and Jack Grisham sarcastically growled, “I never got along with the girls at my school, filling me up with all their morals and their rules, they'd pile all their problems on my head, I'd rather go out and fuck the dead...”, and the band cranked out one last blast of punk rock fury and the band left the stage to an appreciative audience as they welcomed back T.S.O.L. from punk rock obscurity. Once again the crew rushed on the stage and changed the stage for tonight's headliners...The Damned from London. I have loved them since the beginning when I discovered them in the pages of Creem and Hit Parader magazines when they were championed by writer Lisa Robinson and scaring the mainstream press in the seventies. The Damned walked onstage and guitarist Raymond “Captain Sensible” Burns was the same goofy git as he ever was and vocalist David “Dave Vanian” Lett looked completely different but still suave as they kicked into a menacing “Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde” from their 1980 album “The Black Album” and the band played it so elegantly as Dave Vanian slyly growled, “My clothes will impress you, and my claws will undress you, I'm normal outside, he's evil inside, I'm Dr. Jekyll and he's Mr. Hyde...”, and they warmed up as the music flowed like wine into the lovely melody of “Plan 9 Channel 7” from their classic 1979 album “Machine Gun Etiquette” and it featured an awesome guitar solo from Captain Sensible and some fantastic drumming from Andrew “Pinch” Pinching. Then they kicked into a punky “Love Song” also from “Machine Gun Etiquette” that they made jump and throb as Dave Vanian spat out the words with disdain and Captain Sensible made his guitar angrily drone away over Pinch's skillful drumming that gave way to the stuttering beat of “Machine Gun Etiquette” the title-track from the album and Dave sneered as he sang, “I remember what you said, second time around, don't you wish that we were dead, second time around, no more getting pushed around, second time around, not that we've gone underground, second time around...”, and then the band flowed into a melancholy “I Just Can't Be Happy Today” also from the same album and it started pulsing out of the speakers and the crowd loved it as Dave sang the meaningful words of wisdom. Next they burst into a giddy “Wait For The Blackout” from their groundbreaking 1980 album “The Black Album” which the next few songs came from and the song was an excellent rendition that found me singing along, “Wait for the blackout!”, and Captain Sensible was just brilliant on the guitar as he made it howl. They got the beat jumping with a jaunty “Lively Arts” and Dave crooned ever so lovely over Captain Sensible's squealing guitar that burned a hole in my ears and keyboardist Monty Oxymoron played an intricate melody that danced elegantly on top of the bubbly percussion as they segued into the quirky rhythms of “Silly Kids Games” that had Dave gleefully crooning, “I just want my fortune now, I don't care where or when or how, I don't want the dustbin or a cuddly toy, I'm going for the jackpot, boy oh boy oh boy...” From the opening piano chords and the fuzzy guitar sound that began the vicious “The History Of The World (Part 1)” and it lit up the audience as they made their instruments scream over Pinch's pounding percussion as Dave sang his heart out and the band followed up with their last song in this stretch from “The Black Album” which seemed to be the band's favorite album on this tour, and they unleashed a haunting and dark “13th Floor Vendetta” that had Dave howling in anguish as Captain Sensible made his guitar cry. He asked everyone to sing along as he made his guitar howl with fat riffs as they played a fiery “Ignite” from their 1982 album “Strawberries” with its scatter-shot rhythms pounding away over Captain Sensible's scorching guitar licks as he led the rowdy audience in singing the chorus. The bassist Stu West laid down a throbbing bass line as Dave began singing the dangerous “Stranger On The Town”, also from “Strawberries”, with bemused detachment as the band joined in by singing the chorus, “And I only want a place to rest my head, if looks could kill I might as well be dead, 'cause I'm a stranger on the town, yes I am...”, and the band made their instruments furiously crank out the song. Next came a bombastic version of “Eloise” which was a Paul Ryan cover from their 1986 album “Phantasmagoria” with its over-the-top sing-a-long chorus as the band played lightheartedly until Captain Sensible played a grinding guitar solo that ended abruptly and then they performed a sarcastic tongue-in-cheek version of their classic “Disco Man” from their 1981 EP “Friday 13th” that was pretty funny as Dave danced about maniacally as the band plowed through it. They revved things back up to that full-speed throttle of punk rock and blasted through a scintillating version of “New Rose” from their 1977 debut album “Damned Damned Damned” and it was full of guitar squeals and a throbbing bass line that reminded of the beauty and power of punk rock. The band kept the pace up with a powerful “Neat Neat Neat” also from their debut album and it brought down the house with its electrifying guitar and pounding beat as Dave Vanian disdainfully sang, “Then these words upon me creep, I said neat neat neat, she can't afford a cannon, neat neat neat, she can't afford a gun at all, neat neat neat...”, and then they broke the song down to the rat-a-tat-tat drumming of Pinch and some punk-a-billy piano from Monty Oxymoron and then The Damned left the stage in a squall of feedback. The audience loudly screamed for them and the band returned and launched into a grunge-y “Curtain Call” from the 1980 album “The Black Album” that they featured so many songs tonight and Dave Vanian soulfully sang over the sparse beat until the band kicked in with some driving riffs that just exploded into the frenetic rhythm. Captain Sensible started playing the signature guitar riff to the spastic beat of the song “Nasty” which was the B-side to their 1984 single “Thanks For The Night” and the audience was a swirling mass of people as the band pounded away and then they raged on a fervent “Anti-Pope” from their 1979 album “Machine Gun Etiquette”, which was the other album that they featured a lot of songs from in their set, with its screeching guitar licks and crunchy drumming and Dave Vanian crooning the vicious words until Captain Sensible balanced his guitar on his head as the band rumbled through the coda. He babbled on a bit and the band cranked out a spectacular version of “Smash It Up (Parts 1 & 2)” and also from “Machine Gun Etiquette” and Dave Vanian held these incredible notes with his voice as he defiantly sang, “We've been crying now for much too long, and if we're gonna dance to a different song, I'm gonna scream and shout til my dying breath, I'm gonna smash it up til there's nothing left, ohh oohh, smash it up, smash it up, smash it up...” The Damned played a twenty-song set that generally focused on their early years that just rocked my world but it would have been nice if they played a few songs off 2008's “So, Who's Paranoid” album which was a great return to form, however it was a perfect end to a great show as I rushed out of the club and into the warm night to the metro to go home.
JUDAS PRIEST and STEEL PANTHER - October 24, 2014
Pier Six Concert Pavilion - Baltimore, MD
It was a beautiful fall day as my friend Joel Sklar and I headed to Baltimore to see Judas Priest and Steel Panther at Pier Six Pavilion on the Inner Harbor, and it is a bit chilly since it is fall but it should be alright. The traffic was hell on Interstate 95 as we headed north but I remained cool as we crawled along the busy highway. We finally arrived and I went to the box office and I only got a pair of lawn tickets, so I was disappointed but we got a prime location at the front of the lawn and a seat to sit on so we said good enough and they turned out to be actually excellent seats with a really good view of the stage. There was a beautiful sunset on the harbor as night and the chill crept up on us as we waited for the show to start, and the opener is Los Angeles' joke-metal superstars Steel Panther who have been around since 2000 and I did not know what to expect but I will give them a chance. The band hit the stage in a bombastic manner and they looked like every hair band ever and they opened with the lovely ditty “Pussywhipped” from their new album “All You Can Eat” and it set the tenure of their show with every song being about sex, sex, sex, but their songs had a ring of familiarity to them as they mocked/imitated every glam metal band that there ever was, however they mostly sounded like Poison as the vocalist Ralph “Michael Starr” Saenz yelped, “Hey! You said the boys were gonna hang tonight, the guys are here but you ain't anywhere in sight, your excuses are getting pretty lame, the malady you suffer has a name...” Their music was so contrived and the vocals were so processed, but somehow they came across as genuine as they joked and cajoled each other and the audience just like we were all in on the joke. After the second song “Party Like Tomorrow Is The End Of The World” also from “All You Can Eat”, the vocalist Ralph “Michael Starr” Saenz and the guitarist Russ “Satchel” Parrish wasted a lot of time on their “comedy act” as they introduced the songs with gay jokes and crass sexual innuendos and they plowed through “Asian Hooker” from 2009's “Feel The Steel” album and “Just Like Tiger Woods” from 2011's “Balls Out” album. Their lyrics' subject matter was so inappropriate and I felt dirty from just hearing them and the song “Community Property” from 2009's “Feel The Steel” album was one of the worse even though it was the best played one tonight and from the same album the song “Eyes Of A Panther” in which the vocalist screeched, “She's got the eyes of a panther, she's got lips like Satan, she's got the eyes of a panther, and soon you'll be a-matin', she's got the eyes of a panther...”...oy...you just cannot help from laughing at the absurdity of it all. Their over-the-top sexual schtick became rather tiresome after a while as they roared though a vulgar “17 Girls In A Row” from 2011's “Balls Out” album and the absurdly homophobic “Gloryhole” from their new album “All You Can Eat”, but the rhythm section of bassist Travis “Lexxi Foxx” Haley and drummer Darren “Stix Zadinia” Leader did lay down a rock-solid bottom for “Party All Day (Fuck All Night)” from 2009's “Feel The Steel” album and they really made it jump for Satchel's spastic guitar. Steel Panther played a ten-song set that stretched the limits of good decency in sexual lyrics and they were relentless as they plunged into their closing number “Death To All But Metal” from the “Feel The Steel” album and Michael Starr was extra flamboyant as he led the audience in singing, “They can suck a dick, they can lick a sack, everybody shout, heavy metal's back, death to all but metal, death to all but metal, death to all but metal...”, which seemed like an appropriate end to their show as the cheering died down and the lights went up and I went “damn” and I should not have laughed but I did. The crew scurried about the stage removing their equipment and setting up for Judas Priest and the crowd anxiously awaited their arrival until the lights went down and “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath began pumping out of the speakers and a really cool video collage began playing on the onstage screens and then guitarist Glen Tipton began playing the opening riffs to “Dragonaut” the opening number from their new album “Redeemer Of Souls” and vocalist Robert Halford came out howling, “Welcome to my world of steel, master of my onion, cower as the pain's unsealed, disasters where I'll reign, father of sin, I'll drag you all in, bow down as I petrify...”, and the sound swirled into the night as the guitars sawed away trading riffs and their new guitarist Richie Faulkner let a fantastic solo rip. I found it weird seeing them without founding member guitarist K.K. Downing but I will live. The next song was a re-vamped and crunchier version of “Metal Gods” from their classic genre-defining 1980 album “British Steel” but Robert's voice was not as high as it used to be but he had some nice screams, and Glen played a killer guitar solo over the lumbering rhythm section of bassist Ian Hill and local-born drummer Scott Travis. Halford started cajoling the audience to cheer until everyone had their Dio metal hands held high as they chanted “Priest! Priest! Priest!” and the twin guitars grinded away as they played a fast-paced “Devil's Child” from their 1982 album “Screaming For Vengeance” and then came the first highlight of their set, a stellar version of “Victim Of Changes” from their 1976 album “Sad Wings Of Destiny” that blew me away as Halford howled, “Takes another look around, you're not goin' anywhere, you've realized you're getting' old and no one seems to care, you're tryin' to find your way again, you're tryin' to find some new...”, and the intertwining guitars gave us solo upon solo over the stuttery percussion and Glen lit up the place with a spectacular solo that showed how fast his fingers could move as he played the powerful and haunting intro to “Halls Of Valhalla” from their new album “Redeemer Of Souls” which was about viking folklore which was so “metal” and Halford was looking svelte unlike how he looked on the 2009 tour. They followed that with a slinky “Love Bites” from their 1984 album “Defenders Of The Faith” and Robert said it was the thirtieth anniversary of the album and then he let out a mind-boggling scream as the band got all dark and eerie and bassist Ian Hill propelled the groove with a deep throb as images of the vampire Nosferatu appeared on the video screens. They continued with a heavy-sounding “March Of The Damned” from their new album and Scott Travis' drumming was relentless and overpowering as Richie Faulkner played a searing guitar solo, then Halford got the audience riled up as he roamed the stage in a wild silver coat as they launched into “Turbo Lover” from their 1986 album “Turbo” with winding and serpentine guitars and Halford voice was in fine form as it danced on the taut rhythm and led the audience in singing the chorus. Halford talked about how unbelievable it was that the band has been together for forty years and then the band performed the awesome new song “Redeemer Of Souls” which was the title-track from their new album and Halford brilliantly howled the great lyrics, “Now he's setting the tune, they know the stare down is soon, vengeance comes at high noon, redeemer of souls, on the skyline, the stranger draws near...”, as the guitars weaved in and out of the thunderous rhythm. Then came the next great moment of the night, an awe-inspiring version of “Beyond The Realms Of Death” from their 1978 album “Stained Glass” which was the oldest song that they played tonight and it aged fantastically as the musicians shined on their instruments especially Glen Tipton who made his guitar scream and squeal as he blew up his solo with sizzling riffs that segued into the witty double-entendre of “Jawbreaker” from their 1984 album “Defenders Of The Faith” and they proved why they are the masters of the dual guitar attack. The band had the audience pumped up now as they exploded with a crunchy “Breaking The Law” from their classic 1980 album “British Steel” and the beat was grinding and Richie Faulkner played a killer guitar solo that just lit up the place until the lights went down and it got quiet and then Robert Halford rode his motorcycle onto the stage in a cloud of smoke and thunder and the band burst into a raucous “Hell Bent For Leather” from 1978's “Hell Bent For Leather” album and Halford roared, “Wheels! A glint of steel and a flash of light! Screams! From a streak of fire as he strikes! Hell bent, hell bent for leather, hell bent, hell bent for leather...”, and the video screens showed all kinds of biker colors as the guitars howled and the audience sang along until the noise subsided and the band left the stage. The crowd ecstatically roared their approval and chanted for more until the band returned and rocked out on “You've Got Another Thing Comin'” from 1982's “Screaming For Vengeance” album and its driving beat was crunchier than I remember it to be and the twin solos from Glen Tipton and Richie Faulkner totally rocked and Richie played a wild extended solo that was totally amazing and then Glen tore it up on his guitar and left me speechless and then Halford finished the song with some call-and-response as the crowd screamed, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!”, with him as the band segued into a shimmery “Living After Midnight” from their ground-breaking classic 1980 album “British Steel” and Halford belted out, “Living after midnight, rockin' to the dawn, lovin' 'til the morning, then I'm gone, I'm gone, I took the city 'bout one am, loaded, loaded, I'm all geared up to score again, loaded, loaded...”, and Glen Tipton let his fingers fly up and down the fretboard of his guitar with lightning-fast speed and then drummer Scott Travis got a work-out with the manic beat as he rocked the crowd with a blistering drum solo and then he invited the audience to party with his family in Virginia. Robert Halford took the time to thank us for coming to the show and supporting them over the years and most of all, for loving the heavy metal lifestyle, and Glen played the dirty riff that signaled the start of the anthemic “Defenders Of The Faith”, the title-track from 1984's album of the same name, and the band pulled out all the stops as they brought the heavy metal thunder to the rapturous audience as they ended their sixteen-song set with a bang. I was totally blown away by the show, Judas Priest still rock after all these years since I first saw them in 1978 at Louie's Rock City in Northern Virginia where I had to sneak in to see the show because I just loved their “Stained Class” album which I had recently received from Columbia House when I was sick and alone in my room so I listened to the album over and over. My friend and I slowly walked out of the venue through the thongs of aging metal heads who were singing the praises of Judas Priest and that put an even bigger smile on my face.
PREE - October 22, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a dreary rainy day and the television was full of bad news as I left my house and headed towards the Kennedy Center to see local band Pree play the Millennium Stage. Tonight the band is giving us a preview of their new album “Rima” (which takes its name from geologic fissures on the moon) that comes out in February 2015 on Paper Garden Records. The organization Listen Local First DC presented tonight's show and they have been presenting some really good local bands lately so I hope they keep up the good work. Pree consists of May Tabol on keyboards, guitar, and vocals, guitarist Ben Schurr, bassist Ben Usie, and drummer Michael Zepeda and they have been at it for the past four years. Pree took the stage and opened with jaunty number that lumbered along chaotically with random guitar riffs and keyboard runs like some kind of demented beach band. Their sound was very “indie” and they reminded me of a lot of bands on the TeenBeat Records label with their weird elements and odd juxtapositions that played with more traditional music styles because I heard bits of surf music and lo-fi garage rock. Pink-haired May Tabol's voice was a bit whiny and hard to understand because the lyrics were a bit mushy-sounding sometimes. Their song “Hello Shadow” had a pleasant groove and a hummable melody that got stuck in my head, but I found them to be a bit disjointed on occasion especially the drummer Michael Zepeda. The lyrics seemed to be long-winded and verbose and never seem to really make a point or tell a story, but the guitarist Ben Schurr had some nice melodic riffs that he played in all the right places. On several songs they got downright discordant as they made their way through them and I was really tired of May's wispy voice and its lack of punch. But I did enjoy their song called “The Look Of Things” with its nicely intricate riff from guitarist Ben Schurr that bounced along to the drummer Michael's nice clipped beat. All their songs seemed to sound the same and they all had basically the same song structure and I found the bassist Ben Usie really boring as it seemed he played the same chord progression over and over. The band played some cover song that I did not recognize at first as May Tabol duetted with the drummer Michael Zepeda and it turned out to be “Some Velvet Morning” by Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra and I was like...really. I was getting tired of them and their apparent inability to find a nice groove with a nice melody on top of it so I will just bite my tongue and not become rude. Finally Pree came to the end of their eleven-song set and I was glad because I would not have been able to take too much more of their music.
THE FEEDEL BAND - October 16, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a lovely fall evening as I watched the sun burst through the clouds and ended the rain as I was walking to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see local band The Feedel Band play their warm and engaging “Ethio-Jazz”. The band is led by Araya Woldemichael and features the best Ethiopian musicians in the world like saxophonist Moges Habte and bassist Alemseged Kebede who have both played all over the world, and the people at the Kennedy Center had the Ethiopian flag's colors lit up on either side of the stage. They hit the stage and the pianist Araya started things off with a simple melody that he deftly played on the piano as the rest of the band added their parts as they took us on a musical journey through funk and jazz and touches of R&B and rock and roll. The saxophone work of Moges was brilliant as it intertwined with Ben Hall's jaunty trombone and the melody ebbed and flowed throughout the intricate percussion and booming bass. They made wonderful use of traditional instruments that gave the music some interesting textures as the band proceeded through their set. The guitarist Kaleb Temesghen played some groovy searing and concise leads that cut through the gentle groove like treacle and they got nice and funky on their third number and the pulsing sound reminded me a little bit of Earth Wind & Fire with its groove that 'swang' with a deep percussive rumble that made me want to dance as the music twirled and swirled with soul as the pianist Araya wailed away on his instrument. The next song they performed was called “Ethiopian Ocean” and it featured the traditional instruments “krar” and “masinko” and they gave the song a dark and mysterious feel as Minale Bezu and Seregn Atenaw coaxed the song's melody through the jazzy rhythm that reminded me of The Mahavishnu Orchestra in some places. The band kept the beat flowing as they made their instruments sing with great ease as the guitarist Kaleb played an excellent solo full of pulsing textures and clipped notes that led to a brilliant flute solo from horn player Moges. The next song once again featured the traditional Ethiopian instruments and the band kicked into some counter-beats as the rhythm section chugged along very squonkily in a bebop jazz kind of way until the song ended with a warm and delicious saxophone solo that centered the song. The band finished their eight-song set with an upbeat number called “Cabana” that was full of melody and a deep bottom that just grooved along as the musicians each added their parts with pizazz that made me want to get up and dance like I was in a psychedelic sixties movie, and particularly when the keyboardist Araya Woldemichael played his organ and it had a nice jaunty beat that propelled Moges Habte's saxophone over the twisting and turning melody as the band followed him. The Feedel Band were really incredible with excellent musicians who played amazingly well and they were a nice way to finish my day as I left the building to head home.
MARGOT MACDONALD, SAM McCORMALLY, and OLIVIA MANCINI - October 12, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a typical fall day as I ventured down to the Kennedy Center to the second day of the Magnificent Intentions Music Festival Artist Showcase preview on the Millennium Stage and today we get to see Margot MacDonald, Olivia Mancini, and Sam McCormally. First up was Derek Evry from yesterday's show and he introduced today's performers and spoke about the Magnificent Intentions Music Festival which happens next weekend and then he brought Olivia Mancini of The Mates and her sister Julia to the stage. Olivia reminded me of Melissa Etheridge as she strummed her guitar and harmonized with her sister on the song “Best Of You” and their vocals intertwined and soared while the guitar chugged along with them. Her voice sounded beautiful as she sang the next song which was about the joys of love and it had some nice lyrics that had a lot to say and her sister's voice perfectly complimented her voice as she added some nice harmonies. They played a song called “Action Monkey” and Olivia let her voice soar with passion as she sang the words about looking for love and the two of them sounded lovely as their voices melded together. They finished up with an upbeat song about “the one who got away” and it was her best performance of the night as their voices complimented each other beautifully. Derek Evry returned to the stage and babbled some more and then he brought Sam McCormally of The Fellow Creatures and his friend Julia to the stage and they jumped right into it with a song called “Construction Of The Dam” which was based on a painting he loved and they harmonized the lyrics with a lilting melody as he plinked away on the acoustic guitar. He had a very lovely tenor voice as he sang the lyrics of his second song “Terms And Conditions” as Julia accented his voice with some gorgeous soaring harmonies. Next he played a lovely ditty called “Mother Tongue” which lamented the loss of variety in languages that we use to communicate but I found Sam's guitar playing a bit lacking in originality as he plucked away with some forgettable riffs but his voice was pleasant to listen to as he told his stories. He then brought out his friend Will and they performed a song from their band Fellow Creatures and Will's voice sounded great singing the clever lyrics about surviving life and all of its pitfalls and their voices went great together. Derek Evry returned to the stage and babbled some more about something and he tried to be a comedian, but sadly he failed as he brought the final act to the stage, WAMA's Artist Of The Year Margot MacDonald, who only used a loop pedal with her guitar as she sang and created her music as she played her first song “Call Me The One”. Her voice sounded lovely as she built layers of percussion and melody that was quite intriguing to hear. Her next song “Sweater Sound” was built upon layers of sound that endlessly swirled about like smoke as her intense voice soared above the sounds coming out of her loop pedal and it reminded me of a beatboxer. Margot finished up the evening with a song called “Teardrop” and her loop pedal began to resonant with layers of the vocals as she lamented the loss of love in the modern world. She had a real lovely voice but I felt she was limited by her loop pedal which could only provide the barest of melodies and simple percussion. Overall it was an enjoyable show and I just might have to go to the Magnificent Intentions Music Festival next weekend.
ANDY ZIPF, DEREK EVRY, and RYAN WALKER - October 11, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a dreary overcast fall day as I ventured down to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see the “Magnificent Intentions Music Festival” artist showcase featuring Derek Evry, Andy Zipf, and Ryan Waller who founded the festival take turns at rocking the house with their music. The “Magnificent Intentions Music Festival” was created by the crew at Arlington, Virginia's Iota Cafe & Club to celebrate local music and it is being held on October 17th thru 19th and tonight's show here is a preview of the festival and it kicks things off with a taste of some of the artists on the bill. Derek Evry kicked things off with a beautiful stripped down version of his song “So Hard” and he played some lovely acoustic guitar that carried his rich tenor voice as he sang the lyrics of unrequited love. Ryan Walker of The Beanstalk Library came onstage next and joined Derek and they sang a lovely ditty called “Easier Down” from Derek's new album “Down To The Wire” and their voices blended beautifully as they harmonized about a girl and Ryan played a catchy riff on his guitar that sounded great as the rhythm chugged along. Next Derek played a song by his band called “Wait For You” which had some great wordplay in his lyrics and it was propelled by a stuttering guitar riff and I bet it would sound amazing with his Band Of Misanthropes backing him, so I guess I might go see them play next week at the festival, as he burned up the fretboard with some intricate finger-picking on his acoustic guitar and it was my favorite song of the night. Ryan Walker returned to the stage and invited Derek to play with him as he introduced the song “Big Dumb Hooks” which was about the glories of rocking out onstage as the world watched but his voice did not have the punch that Derek's had as he sang with great enthusiasm, then Derek let a killer guitar solo rip that really impressed me with his dexterity. Next Ryan invited Andy Zipf of The Cowards Choir to the stage and they jumped into a song called “Whiskey Mountain” that really reminded me of Neil Young and he accented it with some lovely extended notes that just seemed to float in the air he ethereally harmonized with Ryan. He continued playing with a song called “The View From Here” by his band The Beanstalk Library and he stripped the piece down to a chiming riff as he sang about his world view while the other two joined him on the stage and their guitars added punch to the song as their voices intertwined in perfect harmony. Next Andy Zipf took the lead and launched into “Sold Out” from his band The Cowards Choir's new album “Cool Currency” and he played some nice driving guitar as his rather pleasant tenor voice carried me away and Ryan added some lovely harmonies and some excellent guitar work. Ryan sat down at the piano and began tinkling away at a song called “The Woman I Found” as Andy gently sang about a girl in his southern-sounding voice and his guitar sounded lush and fuzzed out as he played, he continued on with a song called “Maybe I” which was about being a musician and how a former friend called him a fool for leading such a life. All three musicians joined up for the last song called “Business Is A Wrecking Ball” and they sang in angelic harmony as their instruments intertwined beautifully and the intense words tumbled out into the room as it built up to a crescendo and the audience went crazy. Overall it was a great show and preview of next week's Magnificent Intentions Music Festival and I just might have to go and see the three of them with their respective bands.
DC LEGENDARY MUSICIANS BAND - September 21, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a beautiful first day of autumn and I headed to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage with a song in my heart to see the DC Legendary Musicians Band perform some of the classic songs that made them legendary. The band was organized to be the backing band to touring performers and vocalists in the DMV, they have backed Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Al Green, and The Manhattans to name a few. Tonight the band is led by the unimitimable Jimi Smooth (Hittime) and the one and only Sir Joe Quarterman (Free Soul) and they are accompanied by guitarists Greg Gaskin (Elvis Presley, The Manhattans), Jackie Lee, and bandleader Mike Jones (Skip Mahoney And The Casuals, Simba), saxophone master Johnny Long who has played with everybody, drummer Craig Campbell (The Orioles), keyboardist Tony Vaughn (Betty Davis, Father's Children), bassist Steve Thomas (Hittime), and finally trumpeter Buzzie Kendall (Free Soul), and between them they represent over fifty years of music as the band members rotate and change instruments when they perform with their own bands. So the show tonight should be a musical treat. The band takes the stage and they kick it into gear with a wah-wah pedal-infused version of “Shaft” by Curtis Mayfield and that segued into The Isley Brothers' “It's Your Thing” and the band sounded tight and crisp as a brand new dollar bill as they laid down the funk of the ages. Then guitarist Greg Gaskin took the lead and led the band in a lovely cover of Elvis Presley's “Break My Heart” and the band turned it out as they morphed into Elvis' “Sweet Inspiration” and the band laid down a taut rhythm as Greg made his guitar sing as he mixed in the opening riff from Wild Cherry's “Play That Funky Music” and the band got deep and funky as they made the song into an instrumental and the horns were playing morphed into a freeform funk jam as Greg name-checked some of today's biggest hip-hop stars and the band made that shit swing as he rapped about everything. Next up was Sir Joe Quarterman and he made his smooth tenor voice soar as they performed “Thank Dad” and his voice still sounds beautiful as the band's horn-driven funk kept the groove rolling as they got the place jumping with a cover of his 1973 smash “(I Got) So Much Trouble In My Mind” and the band made it jump and swing like a classic James Brown song and Jackie Lee played the most amazing guitar solo that just electrified my ears and ass. Sir Joe was still smooth as ever as the musicians took turns soloing on their instruments until Buzzie Kendall let loose a mad run on the trumpet as the band turned the song into an extended jam. DC Councilwoman Anita Barnes came out on the stage and read a proclamation from the city council that thanked the D.C. Legendary Musicians Band for their contributions to music and DC history. The music resumed with showman Jimi Smooth and he belted out Sam and Dave's “Hold On” with pizazz and he danced and sang in a shiny red suit as the band cranked out the big beat. Next they played a cover of Wilson Pickett's “Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You” as Jimi worked the crowd, he sure knows how to bring a song to life in a way that makes you feel it as his soulful voice followed the horns and then they played a funked up version of “Soul Man”, also by Sam and Dave, that worked the dancing people upfront into a frenzy as the taut bass line played by Steve Thomas drove the song as the horns and guitars danced in harmony as they got wild on a version of “Shout” by The Isley Brothers that they made come alive with glorious abandon as the band rode the groove until they left the stage. This was one of the best shows that I have seen on the Millennium Stage and I was glad I came to see it, the musicianship was impeccable and the showmanship was spectacular, it was one great performance.
ERASURE and NINA - September 20, 2014
The 9:30 Club - Washington, DC
PAPERHAUS - September 19, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a lovely “last days of summer” kind of day as I sped about the city trying to make all my appointments before I arrived at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see one of the leading proponents of the exciting DIY scene – Paperhaus. The band has been together since 2009 and consists of longtime musical partners Alex Tebeleff and Eduardo Rivera and a couple of bassists and drummers, and they have released two EPs. They reside at the Paperhaus and it serves as a rehearsal/performance space and they have hosted bands from around the world, and it is in this spirit of cooperation and community that drives the band and their actions. Paperhaus have become a popular draw around the city and tonight will give them a chance to extend their reach. They take the stage and open with their new single “Cairo” from their forthcoming album and it was full of intricate psychedelic guitar riffs that danced hypnotically over the rock-solid rhythm section with ethereal vocals as the song which was about the history of the Cairo building on Q Street and it is the tallest building in DC. Their bassist John Delascio was quite amazing as his thick rich bass lines made the song jump and pulse. Their second song was called “Wash My Eyes”, also from their new album and it was dark and mysterious as the guitars chimed and the vocals soared as the drummer Brandon Moses kept a nice and sparse beat over the driving rhythm that was very reminiscent of Radiohead, and the second part of the song found them getting a bit funky with the beat. They continued with the groovy atmospheric groove that they were playing as the guitars intertwined with their vocals and the drummer Brandon kept up the tempo with his deft drumming skills. They played a lovely song that did not have a name and it grinded its way into my ears with its haunting melody and pounding rhythm that reminded me of The Editors as they made the song careen through the murky groove. The next song “Misery” was written as an answer to Fugazi's “Repeater” and it opened with a dark swampy riff from guitarist Eduardo Rivera as Alex Tebeleff moaned the meaningful lyrics and the drummer kept the sparest beat like an old blues guy until the song wound up in a ball of fury as the band raged into a swirling mass of feedback and noise, and it was the best song of their set. They finished their six-song set with a rocker called “All Through The Night” and it was their most traditional song and it kind of plodded along and it was a bit anti-climatic compared to the previous song, but it was a catchy number about surviving the ways of the world. Overall I found them to be enjoyable with their better than competent playing and rather lovely songwriting skills, so I would not mind catching them again in the near future.
AN EVENING WITH BOOTSY COLLINS - September 18, 2014
The State Theater - Falls Church, VA
RA BROWN, ASHERU, THE POEM-CEES, DEHAIYA, and DJ STYLUS - September 14, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a lovely September afternoon bathed in sunshine but one could just feel summer slipping away and transforming into autumn as I walked to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see the “I Remember U: A Live Mixtape Experience” which combines elements of poetry, spoken word, emceeing, and hip-hop beats in a celebration of the famed U Street corridor's progressive music and arts scene of the late nineties and showcases performers Ra Brown, Asheru, The Poem-Cees, Dehejia Maat, Navasha Daya and DJ Stylus. So being an ex-9:30 Club roadie/DJ who was lucky enough to have experienced the burgeoning scene firsthand, I thought I would check it out and see if they remember it like I do. Tonight started off with DJ Stylus pumping a nice laidback groove that gave the room some spacey sample-driven funk as he worked the turntables with a plethora of songs from local DC music history. Local “cultural architect” Risikat Okedeyi came to the stage and presented her version of that era with a full slate of artists and she let DJ Stylus get the party started with his keen ears and deft and agile hands as he made the rhythm flow and Ra Brown hit the stage with her unique spoken word style as she juggled words that expressed many emotions and feelings in her amazing poem. Then Wes Felton came on stage and let his outrage at humanity show in his stylish flow that declared he was an artist who painted portraits of reality as he worked the stage. Next up were local legends Poem-Cees who dropped a fierce rap over DJ Stylus' taut beats as they rapped about life in the 'hood....”I don't wanna hear it...”...and it was a real cool song and their lyrical flow was unparalleled as they juggled words as they spread the truth with their insightful lyrics. Next rapper Asheru hit the stage and he reminiscenced about the nineties heyday of U Street and cleverly let his words flow as they tumbled everywhere over a jazzy beat as he told us...”Jamboree...alright y'all...”...The beat slowed down and Dehejia Maat took the microphone to a classical music beat as she rapped about how we must be good to Mother Earth with her sultry voice and DJ Stylus kicked it with a smooth jazz rhythm that flowed with a melancholy groove and the song extolled us to remember the old days and how it feeds new artists and helps them grow. The Poem-Cees came back and they chatted about the ladies and how they can still remember the click of their shows as they walked down U Street and hurried by the various men staring at them and they rapped...”Watch the way that you talk...”...Asheru returned and performed a number dedicated to the urban cartoon “Boondocks” and then he let some knowledge flow about the importance of education and you should do everything possible to educate yourself...”Judo flip chop chop chop...”...Next Ra Brown took the stage again to the upright bass of Donnie West as he accompanied her with rhythmic waves of his instrument and she rapped about finding peace with yourself and the rest of the world and not being a victim of circumstances but just be human...”I been here before...”...DJ Stylus kicked into some reggae beats as Dehejia Maat and The Poem-Cees returned to the mic and Dehejia Maat sang a lovely ethereal song as The Poem-Cees beat-boxed behind her beautiful voice...”I just wanna be free...”...and finally Navasha Daya came to the stage and sang her breezy neo-soul and her voice got a good workout as it soared as she told us to be informed and positive with her uplifting words...”Well just sit and watch the sun...”...and then Navasha led the audience in clapping as she sang from her heart about treating other people as your equals and to be natural. Asheru finished the show with some shout-outs to the DMV and then he performed a roll-call of the various neighborhoods and towns that make up the DMV...”Funkin' for DC...”...and then he lead the audience in a little bit of traditional call and response and Dehejia Maat joined him with her rich warm voice and she rapped about her stand strong attitude over DJ Styles' jazz-fusion groove and then The Poem-Cees appeared onstage and beat-boxed and rapped about fighting on U Street and getting buck-wild back in the old days on the famous street. They brought Wes Felton to stage to sing a song about the various monsters that we have to fight everyday to survive and how we can become shallow and destructive just like them if we do not remain strong as he says in the song “Art Hurts” as he crooned...”I am a real monster...”...Ra Brown returned to the stage and cleverly rapped about her memories of hanging out on U Street back in the day...”I remember U...”...and she recounted the clubs and the groovy people and the creative arts scene and how wonderful they were and she will always hold those memories dear. Finally Risikat Okedeyi came back to the stage and thanked everyone for coming and celebrating with them and she brought all tonight's performers to the stage for a final curtain call as they were shouting and singing “Rest In Peace Chocolate City” as they left the stage. It was quite a wonderful and well-paced show that celebrated the creativity of the period and I was quite impressed as I walked out in the night.
AEROSMITH and SLASH AND THE CONSPIRATORS - September 6, 2014
Jiffy Lube Pavilion - Bristow, VA - Deck 5/Row GA2/Seat 39
THE BUZZCOCKS and THE LOUD BOYZ - September 4, 2014
Black Cat - Washington, DC
It was a humid end of summer evening as I wandered down trendy Fourteenth Street to the venerable punk rock institution known as the Black Cat and I going to see one of my favorite first wave bands – The Buzzcocks! They are on tour in America and they have a new album called “The Way” and it is pretty stellar and I am quite looking forward to seeing them perform. The Buzzcocks came about in the late seventies along with The Stranglers, Wire, The Damned, and The Clash and all of them brought light to my dismal teenaged life in that hellhole known as Manassas, Virginia, and I would go to the local hippie record shop called The Rainbow Tree which always had the latest records from England and I would buy them, in fact I was the only one who bought them along with the latest issues of Creem, Circus, and Hit Parader magazines which were my connection to the punk rock world. But man, did I love The Buzzcocks and all their songs on the album “Singles Going Steady” and especially “I Believe” which was my theme song at the time. Later on I roadied for them a couple of times in the nineties at the old 9:30 Club on F Street and tonight I am wearing one of their t-shirts from back then and I am feeling good. I arrived at the club and got my usual spot at the end of Alex's bar where I ordered a Stella Artois and I started writing and waiting for the opening band, The Loud Boyz from the Mount Pleasant neighborhood in Washington, DC, and who I am feeling indifferent to but we shall see. The Loud Boys take the stage and launch into some energetic punk rock that they played at breakneck speed in the style of The Bad Brains crossed with British hardcore like GBH and The Exploited. They were bland but entertaining and they took way too long between songs so I kept getting distracted, but the vocalist Kenny Brown was quite amusing as he sang and cajoled the crowd and the guitarists Rory Sheridan and Alex Anderson grinded out fat riffs over the rather sludgy rhythm section of bassist Mitchell West and drummer Devin. However all their songs sounded the same as they plowed through their set and I really liked their song “Hard Feelings”, but they had this other song that really annoyed me and did not catch the name of it but it seemed to be based on the riff from The Dead Kennedys' “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” and of course that song had to get stuck in my head. They played a nine-song set that was a bit derivative but there is always room for improvement and the singer was quite likeable and fun to watch as they stepped off the stage. The anticipation in the room was building as The Buzzcocks' road crew mucked about the stage as they got their equipment ready and I was excited when they walked onstage and they jumped furiously into their first number “Boredom” from their 1977 debut EP “Spiral Scratch” and vocalist/guitarist Pete Shelley and vocalist/guitarist Steve Diggle let the riffs fly like it was the seventies and they were young and they joyfully sang, “I'm living in this movie, but it doesn't move me, I'm the man that's waiting for the phone to ring, hear it ring-a-ding-a-fucking ding, you know me, I'm acting dumb, you know the scene, very humdrum, boredom, boredom, boredom...”, and then they went right into “Fast Cars” from the 1978 album “Another Music In A Different Kitchen” and they let it rip and Steve Diggle sounded great as he slashed away at his guitar with a sly grin on his face. They continued on with a saucy “I Don't Mind” also from “Another Music In A Different Kitchen” and Steve and Pete's voices intertwined with a passion that was stunning as the band pounded away non-stop and they took a breath and jumped back in with a jaunty “Keep On Believing” from their self-released new album “The Way” and Pete Shelley was amazing even though age has caught up with him and Steve Diggle played a scintillating solo on his guitar that was full of texture as he brought an end to the song and then he counted off 1-2-3 and they let fly another great new song called “People Are Strange Machines” and it showed that they still have it as they buzz-sawed their way through the quirky melody. Their drummer Danny Farrant, who has been with them since April 2006, was fantastic as he gave them a sharp edge with his tight percussion as the band barreled into a crunchy “Autonomy” from their first full-length album “Another Music In A Different Kitchen” and the beat just pounded away ferociously and the song still sounded fresh as they played it with military precision and Steve sang the sarcastic words, “It's a thing that's worth having, yes, I would, buys you your life sir, if I could, I, I want you, autonomy...”, and then they went into a muscular “Get On Our Own” also from the same album and Pete Shelley sounded great as he rolled his voice and yodeled, and without missing a beat they cranked out “What Ever Happened To?” from their 1977 album “I Don't Mind” quite beautifully with its cool ringing guitar solo. The band kept it up with a riff-heavy version of “The Way (You Are's Not The Way You Were)” from the new album “The Way” and Steve Diggle played his best guitar solo of the night as his fingers caressed the fretboard. They were amazing as they continued with a pulsing “When Love Turns Around” from the 1978 EP “Twice Bitten” with its fierce melody that drove its way into my head, and the band was cranking full on as they punched out a lovely version of “Why She's A Girl From The Chain Store” from the 1979 compilation “Singles Going Steady” that had riffs flying everywhere as Steve coyly sang, “Why she's a girl from the chain store, why she's a girl from the chain store, she told me my attitude was wrong, I had to find out where she came from...” I was amazed by how the band kept up the pace as they went through their set and how they still seemed relevant and fresh. They slowed things down a bit and Steve sang “Sick City Sometimes” from the 2003 album “Buzzcocks” with a nice wistfulness as the band pummeled us with dizzying riffs as his lovely voice danced among the melody and it was my favorite song of tonight's set. The drummer Danny Farrant pounded out an intro and then the guitars jumped in with a squeal and Pete Shelley sang “Nothing Left”from the 1978 EP “Twice Bitten” with a melancholy sadness and Steve played some groovy riffs that was like an earwig drilling into my head as the band broke the song down that ended with a killer guitar solo full of short and bristling notes from Steve as he made his instrument howl as riffs flew everywhere. The band caught their collective breath and launched into a new song from “The Way” called “Third Dimension” and it had a wonderfully melodic bass line from bassist Chris Remington, who has been with them since April 2008, and it hammered its way into my head and it featured another exquisite solo from Steve Diggle. Pete counted the next number off and the band roared into a perky “Noise Annoys” from the 1978 EP “Twice Bitten” and it sounded great as Pete's vocals slurred and elided all over the place as he sang, “Pretty girls, pretty boys, have you ever heard your mommy say, noise annoys...”, and then they plowed into a fast-paced “Breakdown” from the 1979 compilation “Singles Going Steady” and they followed that with a nice version of “You Say You Don't Love Me” from the 1979 album “A Different Kind Of Tension” and Pete let his pithy lyrics say it all. Their playing was non-stop the whole night as the band continued with a bouncy “It's Not You” from the new album “The Way” and it was co-written by the drummer Danny Farrant and Steve played yet another concise soul-shattering guitar solo. Their pace was relentless as they played “Chasing Rainbows/Modern Times” also from their new album and it reminded me of The Ramones with its clipped melody and cascading riffs, and without missing a beat they delivered a swinging “Promises” from the 1979 compilation “Singles Going Steady” that had the audience going mad with excitement as they went right into a lovely “Love You More” from the 1978 EP “Twice Bitten” and it sounded great as their voices harmonized in sync as they plowed into a driving “What Do I Get” from the 1979 compilation “Singles Going Steady” with its perky beat and clever words that Pete lustfully sang, “I just want a lover like any other, what do I get, I only want a friend who will stay to the end, what do I get, what do I get, oh oh what do I get, what do I get, oh oh, what do I get...” until the band left the stage in a squall of feedback and random noises. The very appreciative audience screamed and clapped for more music and after a few minutes the four of them returned and delivered a raucous “Harmony In My Head” from the 1979 compilation “Singles Going Steady” that had Steve Diggle singing his heart out with sweaty passion over stuttering guitar riffs as the band stretched the song out and the crowd sang along with the words as they bounced around the stage and they exploded into a fast and furious “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)” from the 1978 album “Love Bites” that had a beat that was relentless as the manic percussion burst into the endless groove of “Orgasm Addict” also from the compilation “Singles Going Steady” and it was wonderfully driving and full of piss and vinegar as Pete Shelley snidely sang, “Well, you tried it just for once found it all right for kicks, but now you found out that it's a habit that sticks, and you're an orgasm addict, you're an orgasm addict, sneaking in the back door with dirty magazines, now your mother wants to know what all those stains on your jeans, and you're an orgasm addict, you're an orgasm addict...”, and they finally plowed into their last song of the night, “Oh Shit!”, also again from the compilation “Singles Going Steady”, and they delivered it with a vicious sneer and grinding riffs until they left the stage while greeting and fist-bumping their fans and Steve Diggle said, “Let's keep rock and roll alive!” I was blown away by the show and The Buzzcocks delivered twenty-six songs full of passion and fury that left me breathless with their non-stop pace and wonderful playing and I was glad I was there and I hope to see them again real soon because this was one of the best shows that I have seen in a while.
GODISHEUS and THAYLOBLEU - August 23, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a frightfully overcast and rainy Saturday afternoon as I wandered down to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see Chocolate City Rocks: A Washington DC Go-Go Artist-Produced Funk, Rock And Soul Music Concert and it featured funk-rock band Godisheus and rap collective Thaylobleu. It should be quite an interesting night of music and culture as the Kennedy Center shows that it has moved into the mainstream public consciousness and I can not wait to see what they have to offer us. The event was hosted by local promoter Risikat “Kat” Okedeyi and she talked about this show and the next three shows that she is producing, and then she introduced the first group Thaylobleu and they took the stage and let loose with some DC-style punk rock that was full of angular riffs and thick rat-a-tat drumming as Terence Nicholson spat out his furious lyrics about life on the streets of America. The four of them thrashed and rocked with a deep intensity as guitarist Darrell Perry boomed and zoomed on his instrument and drummer Joe Hall was kicking a vague-sounding go-go beat as bassist William Vaughan rode the groove. They played a great song called “Amnesia” which was about cognitive dissonance and it had a nice rhythmic flow as the guitarist Darrell played a groovy solo full of a bunch of change-ups in the chord progressions that flowed with the singer Terence belting these amazing lyrics. Their brief five-song set was strong and driving as they finished with a song called “Locked” that just chugged along at a nice click and the guitarist Darrell Perry tore it up on his axe as vocalist Terence Nicholson screamed, “I got it locked up, I got it locked up...” Thaylobleu left the stage and Kat came back and lavishly heaped praise on the band as the second band Godisheus quickly set up their gear as their vocalist Vance “Head-Roc” Levy and the band got ready to rock and roll and then they launched into a bass-heavy intro and Head-Roc started into his insightful lyrics to their first song “Bootlicker” and guitarist Dwayne “Super Bad III” Lee lacerated the song with his searing guitar style that was reminiscent of the Bad Brains' Dr. Know. I loved Head-Roc's lyrical flow as he eviscerated the extremist views and attitudes of his peers but his delivery could have used a little more finesse. The band was tight but lacking in the clarity department which is why I liked Thaylobleu a lot more, but the guitarist Super Bad III had some nice moments where his playing was spectacular and the bassist Bryon “BJ” Jackson kept a nice and steady groove and the drummer Kenny “Kwick” Gross bashed away on his kit with incredible skill. They played a great song called “Save Our People” with great lyrics about making the world a better place for everyone and the band played at a nice clipped beat with restrained guitar work. Godisheus finished their seven-song set with a song about their indignation over the way people treat each other and the ways they try to justify their behavior and their furious noise just about said it all as they ended the night to some exhilarating applause. It was a quite enjoyable show and I liked how it was presented to world and I hope to hear more.
ROBYN, ROYKSOPP, and ZHALA - August 21, 2014
Filene Center At Wolf Trap - Vienna, VA
X and NOT IN THE FACE - August 20, 2014
Black Cat - Washington, DC
It was a hot and overcast August day but with bits of sunshine peeking through the clouds as I wandered down Fourteenth Street to the Black Cat for the fantastic X from Los Angeles. I have been excited for this show for a few weeks because it is the original line-up, John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom, and DJ Bonebrake, and their first four albums, “Los Angeles”, “Wild Gift”, “Under The Big Black Sun”, and “More Fun In The New World”, would help to shape my musical and cultural landscape to become more modern and aware of the world around me. I have seen X many times over the past thirty years, from the old 9:30 Club to the “Ain't Love Grand” tour at the Warner Theatre, and my all-time favorite show in 1984 at The Whiskey in L.A.. So tonight I sat in my favorite spot at the end of the bar where I like to watch shows and write my reviews and I ordered a Stella Artois and waited for the show to begin. First up was Not In The Face, a noisy quartet from Austin, Texas that played pretty standard bar rock with flashy guitar riffs over a pounding and relentless rhythm section that was in the vein of The Replacements. They were tight but their song structures were lacking something that I could not put my finger on. Their best song was called “Downtown Girl” and it had a nice beat and cool guitar parts except when the guitarist got a bit too Slash-y in his playing sometimes. I must say the sound was amazing but that only highlighted the fact that they were not very original and their guitarist's riffs all sounded vaguely familiar to my ears. The last song of their eleven-song set was called “Brass Tacks” and they actually showed a little originality with its snaky beat and smoking hot guitar riff...why could not their other songs sound like this. Not In The Face left the stage to a smattering of applause and the crew hurriedly removed their equipment so X could take the stage. The moment arrived and X lumbered onstage and they immediately launched into a raucous “The Hungry Wolf” from 1982's “Under The Big Black Sun” album as Exene and John sang, “I am the hungry wolf and run endlessly with my mate, I see the gutter feed on the foolish outrun and kill the strong, at daybreak I roam awake to who follows me, I roam, I roam...”, and without missing a beat the band let DJ play a little drum solo and then they jumped into a sputtering “Beyond And Back” from 1981's “Wild Gift” album and Exene looked like a demented bag lady but her voice sounded excellent as the crowd roared enthusiastically. They kept up the frenetic pace with a fantastic version of “White Girl” also from “Wild Gift”, and John and Exene's voices intertwined beautifully as they let their insightful lyrics flow. They stopped and caught their breath and then they roared into a pulse-pounding “We're Having Much More Fun”, the title-track from their 1983 album, with their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks as they sarcastically sang, “We're having much more fun, you don't know where we've gone, we're having much more fun, well crawl through your backyard, and whack your yappin' dog, we're having much more fun...” John Doe said this was a punk rock show and JD Bonebrake got the beat chugging along on the drums and they spitted out a gnarly “Your Phone's Off The Hook, But You're Not” from 1980's debut album “Los Angeles” and the crowd loved it and they rolled full-force into “Sex And Dying In High Society” also from their first album and Billy Zoom let the lightning fast riffs fly off his guitar as he grinded away over the rat-a-tat rhythm of DJ. The band kept the pace up with an explosive “How I (Learned My Lesson)” from “Under The Big Black Sun” and its hardcore beat and Billy played a scorching solo. They crashed through a propulsive “It's Who You Know” from “Wild Gift” and Billy looked like a history teacher as he stoically played the guitar as if his life depended on it as Exene crooned, “Baby, you look like somebody, ooh to know, like a rose comin' out of a photo, all your lipstick shows, I don't wanna make you cry...”. Next they said they were going to play three songs from their album “Los Angeles” and they started with an urgent “The World's A Mess, It's In My Kiss” that they dedicated to the people in Ferguson, Missouri, and the manic rhythms seemed to say it all about that disturbing situation...cops vs. criminals with everyone else stuck in the middle in the crossfire. The band dedicated the title-track “Los Angeles” to themselves for surviving all these years as they jack-hammered through the song with ease as their vocals soared above the cacophony. They continued on with a metal-ish version of their battle-cry song “The Unheard Music” with its crunchy guitar riff and funky back-beat and John and Exene raged, “Friends warehouse pain, attack their own kind, a thousand kids, bury their parents, there's laughing outside, we're locked out of the public eyes, some smooth chords on the car radio, no hard chords on the radio...” DJ kicked off the next song “Year One” from “Wild Gift” with a staccato drum beat as Exene's voice soared with passion and the band went into “When Our Love Passed Out On The Couch” also from “Wild Gift” with a manic fury as they let the music flow with a driving intensity as they went into a fresh-sounding “Breathless” which was a Jerry Lee Lewis cover off the “More Fun In The New World” album and the rock-a-billy beat was infectious and I just wanted to dance the night away. The band paused for a few moments while the crew fixed some equipment problems and then they launched into “In This House That I Call Home” from “Wild Gift” with breakneck speed and John's bass filled the space in-between the guitar notes with a nice funky groove as Exene moaned, “In this house that I call home, in this house that I call home, nobody knows the party rules, I gotta get in but there's no room, in this house that I call home...” The crowd was loving it as the band uproariously let it rip with a frenzied “I'm Coming Over” also from “Wild Gift”, which they followed with a rather staid version of “Poor Girl” from “More Fun In The New World” but it had stuttery guitar lines and a pulse-pounding bass that made it fun to hear. The best song of the night was an electrifying “Nausea” from the “Los Angeles” album and Exene beautifully emoted the touching lyrics and Billy played another metal-ish big guitar riff that made the room reverberate, and they immediately went into “Sugarlight” also from “Los Angeles” with its great lyrics and hooky guitar riffs, and they followed that with a delirious “Motel Room In My Bed” from “Under The Big Black Sun” that had the crowd going crazy as Exene sang, “Put the doorknob on my side, if you don't mind, I don't care, put the doorknob on my side, it's self-locking, give me your key...” and Billy Zoom made his guitar howl like a banshee as the band careened into a lurching “Soul Kitchen”, their cover of The Doors classic from their debut album, and it was a pretty groovy interpretation of the song and Billy played his best guitar solo of the night as the band finished their set. X left the stage and the audience gloriously roared their approval and we wanted more. X returned to the stage and encored with a raucous version of “The New World” from their game-changing “More Fun In The New World” album that they dedicated to the U.S. Government and it was a fantastic rendition as Exene and John gloriously sang, “Flint Ford Automobile, Alabama Windshield Wiper, Buffalo, New York, Gary, Indiana, don't forget the Motor City, Baltimore and DC, now all we need is, don't forget the Motor City, this was supposed to be the new world...” They roared into a stellar “Some Other Time” from the incredible “Wild Gift” album that Exene sang with some venom in her voice as the band pounded their way through the song with heart and passion. Next they played a pulsing “Because I Do” from their breakthrough album “Under The Big Black Sun” that showcased their beautiful vocal harmonies as they intertwined like graceful birds flying into the sunset. DJ Bonebrake stopped to fix something on his drums as Exene thanked everybody for their love and support over the years and then they launched into a killer version of “Devil Doll” from the “More Fun In The New World” album with its pounding voodoo beat and screeching guitar and Exene growled, “People turn their heads, she scares little kids, eyes narrow, jaw is set, she'll fix you with a stare, she keeps her body hidden, let's her eyes make her bid, I'd wrap her up in a bullet and shoot her round the world...”, and they finished in a squall of noise and feedback as they left the stage. I was totally blown away by their incredible twenty-four song-set that was drawn from their first four albums but I would have loved to hear some new songs or some of their later period albums or even better, some of their various solo songs, but alas...they still got it though and they showed that you can age gracefully and still be punk rock.
ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN - August 18, 2014
The Fillmore - Silver Spring, MD
CARDINAL SINS - August 11, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was one overcast day as I rushed about town doing my errands until it was time for me to go to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see the Shirley brothers' band Cardinal Sons who were given a must-see rating in the Washington City Paper. They are a trio of brothers from New Orleans via Mississippi and they play a kind of hybrid of indie rock that has their heavy synth lines and folksy but crunchy guitar grounded by rock-steady drumming going in a progressive direction. The band have just released their new EP “The Echo Chair” that was produced by the legendary Charlie Sexton whose services they won as part of their 2013 New Song Contest winners package and they have been spending their summer touring behind it. They take the stage and start into what they call “funk” but it was not, however it was a nice song full of nice melodies flowing over a nice uptempo beat that had me bopping my head. The guitarist John Shirley was an adept player as he lead the band through several tempo changes as he soulfully sang of love. The drummer Dave Shirley kept the beat crisp on their new single “Day Of Summer” as the other two traded riffs on their respective instruments and their vocal harmonies were on point as they soared beautifully. It had an infectious melody as they laid down the groove with ease and I almost wanted to buy their new album, oddly enough they reminded me of English band Yes in the way that their vocals intertwined over the lush melodies they play. I found them to be more progressive rock than indie rock in my learned opinion judging by the layered sounds the keyboardist Joe Shirley played while the guitarist John played these intricate melodies over drummer Dave's metronomic playing. The lyrics to their songs had some real interesting stories to tell as John wrapped his nice tenor around the words as he laconically sang with a quiet ease and Joe played layers and layers of melodies and riffs that reminded me of a New Wave Greg Allman. The song called “Solo” was my favorite one of their set with its waves of synth riffs over a nice clipped drum beat that sounded amazingly like a drum machine and the lyrics were amazing, “I tried to pull some sins out of you...”, as John played some lovely open chords on his guitar that danced with the percolating rhythm. They played the first track off their new EP called “Rival” and it was impressive with all of the neat things they did musically to make the melody carry you away...”All my friends are scattered now...” Another cool song that they played was called “October Rolls” which was the first song that they ever recorded and it had a nice loping beat with cool accents from the keyboardist Joe as guitarist John chugged along on his instrument. He changed guitar and the band launched into the rock-steady rhythm of the song “Veridian” from their new EP and it was a laidback number with a real cool synth line and cool lyrics. Another highlight of their set was the song “Drummer” that they dedicated to their drummer and it had a catchy guitar riff and swirly synth part soaring over a marching drum beat, and I must say it was pretty funny in its commentary on drummers in general. Cardinal Sons finished their twelve-song set with a cover of the blues standard “Monster” and they played it with real feeling and emotion that added real depth to their music. I had a really enjoyable time and I immensely enjoyed them and their songs. Cheers!
PETER MURPHY and MY JERUSALEM - August 9, 2014
The State Theater - Falls Church, VA
PHIL WIGGINS AND FRIENDS - August 6, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a hot muggy and overcast day as I headed to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see DC blues legend Phil Wiggins with some of his musical friends and they were going to play some “Piedmont Blues” for our entertainment. This is the first time I have seen Phil since the recent death of his musical partner of over thirty years, the incomparable John Cephas, and they were known as “The Ambassadors Of Piedmont Blues” and they brought their version of the blues to a worldwide audience. Tonight Phil is playing with three accomplished musicians and they plan on rocking the house and making the audience dance. The band took the stage and Phil Wiggins opened with a brief lecture on the “Piedmont Blues” and how it is dance music for regular folks and he talked about updating the music for the modern age. He then proceeded to wail on the harmonica and it was deep and heartfelt as the song expressed his love of the blues as he wound his way through the song's haunting melody. He brought his friends to the stage and they launched into a jaunty dance number as guitarist Rick Franklin played a solid melody line and violinist Marcus Moore's playing fluttered all over the place and was followed by dancer Julius Brickhouse as he moved and grooved like he was at a backyard summertime jam, I could practically see the fireflies. Next they segued into a laidback number that was written by the legendary Mississippi John Hurt and Phil soulfully sang about the trials and tribulations of life, and the song featured violinist Marcus and he was quite good and his playing lifted the song as Phil jammed out on his harmonica. They then kicked into the funky blues of The Mississippi Sheiks and their oft-covered hard blues standard “Smokestack Lightning” and they just let loose and let it flow with the driving rhythms that seemed to carry me away to the past. The next song Phil said he wrote in the eighties back when he worked with inner city at-risk kids in Anacostia with his friend guitarist Archie Edwards and he said that he got sick and tired of the lyrics so he made the song “Anacostia Two-Step” a dance instrumental and he blew a sharp stuttering riff on the harmonica as the other two musicians provided a muted back-beat. Then it was on to a nice somber number with the guitarist Rick singing the chilling words of the song and the violinist Marcus was exquisite as he played some soaring riffs as he made his instrument sing. They launched into another Mississippi John Hurt number called “Louis Collins” which was a funeral elegy that featured yet another sensational violin solo and their voices harmonized beautifully and then Phil finished the song with a soul-stirring harmonica solo after they sang, “...the angels laid him away, they laid him six feet under...”. They continued with an old traditional song called “Do You Call That It Buddy” and the lyrics were quite humorous but the song had a violent undertone as they had the beat marching along like a machine until Phil finished it up with a flourish on his harmonica. The guitarist Rick said that all the songs they performed tonight are all true but they did not happen to them, and they continued on with a nice hopping beat with some rather violent lyrics as Phil sang, “I ain't going that way...”. They finished their twelve-song set with two nice upbeat numbers, one was a soulful love song called “Roberta” and the other was a wonderful instrumental that had them trading driving solos joyously that made me want to dance, overall it was a really fantastic show that made me really thankful to the Kennedy Center for putting these shows on for free.
ORRIN STARR - August 4, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
BABY BRY BRY AND THE APOLOGISTS - August 3, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a pleasant but cloudy day as I headed down to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see local upstarts Baby Bry Bry And The Apologists rock the place with their unique take on punk and power-pop as they sing of life's downside. The band took the stage at 6PM and they played some quirky intro music that sounded like a game show theme and then they brought out vocalist Baby Bry Bry or as his mother calls him, Bryan Gerhart to the stage from out in the audience where he was throwing flowers. The band kicked into some hyper-kinetic punk rock and he pranced all over the stage as he sang his heartfelt lyrics of lost love and such. The guitarists played some nice intertwining leads as the rhythm section pounded away with a controlled fury as they flowed with the danceable beats of drummer Adam Stern. They reminded me a little bit of The B-52s crossed with Fitz And The Tantrums with a little more edge. Their songs were well-structured and the band was nice and tight and full of energy that made one want to dance as they played several songs from their 2013 album “Is It Anything Or Is It Everything?”. Bryan took a moment to ask everyone to smile and then he made the stupid political comment “Free Palestine” but I will refrain from writing anything demeaning or controversial. Their quirky rhythms were intoxicating and they had the whole place dancing and shaking to the beat and they really reminded me of a sixties band at a sock-hop. The band stretched out into a funky jam as Bryan introduced his fellow band members. I liked the way Bryan commanded the stage with his electrifying personality as he prowled all over the place and sang in several different voices. The band finished up their twelve-song set with a number called “Reluctantly Inspired” that was full of all kinds of melody and a throbbing rhythm section, Bryan brought some fans up on the stage but they were quickly shuttled off by a Kennedy Center employee for some reason. This is their last gig for a couple of months but I really enjoyed them even though I wholeheartedly disagreed with some of their political opinions.
GIVE and PROTECT-U - July 31, 2014
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
It was a spectacular summer evening that was just right for the last show of the 2014 Summer Concert Series, and this year it was the “punk-tronica” of local duo Protect-U and DC hardcore upstarts Give who closed the truncated season after a difficult start. I have seen both acts and I was not really impressed by either of their performances. So tonight I am giving them one last chance to impress me and my ears. Protect-U's keyboardists/vocalists Mike Petillo and Aaron Leitko spent a few minutes twiddling with their electronic gear as renown sound man Marty Shepp set up his sound equipment, and he has been doing this for over twenty years now. Finally Protect-U got it together and began pumping out their quirky electro-beats and swirling synth riffs that seemed to slow down time as their grooves floated across the park. Their music was lush and dreamy and it had me bopping my head in silent reverie as they laid down the pulsing and driving groove. I found it hard to write much about them because they never engaged the audience or even looked up from their equipment for that matter, they seemed like just part of a band. They “played” their all-instrumental musical confection for a little over a half hour and they quickly vanished from the stage and my mind. Give were already set-up and they should start momentarily and when they did, they did it with a primal fury as Ben Schultz and DF made their guitars snarl and sneer and the bassist Ian Marshall throbbed on his axe as the drummer Gene Melkisethian pounded away frenetically, and then the vocalist John Scharbach let his ungodly gargle wail and howl with impunity. He's seemed to have improved in his enunciation and projection of his words but his voice still makes me cringe even now just thinking about it, but the band was quite tight with everything in its place as their crunchy melodic groove seemed to enthrall the audience. I found the whole thing quite funny as the bands were polar opposites in their sound. The bassist Ian Marshall was quite good as he made his bass lines ride the groove of the drummer's bass drum with ease as he weaved his deep and doomy bass through the grungy swirl of the two guitar players that seem to have them slowly evolving into a metal band. They played an eleven-song set that was crunchy and catchy despite the singer's horrid voice, and the songs “Burning At The Stake” and “Beyond The Gun” were exceptionally good with the interplay between the instruments showing the depth of their songwriting, so I just might go and pickup their new album “Electric Flower Circus”. Amanda MacKaye who has been in charge of bookings for the past several years took the microphone to thank us for our support and today is the 91st birthday of the woman who first started concerts at Fort Reno, Barbara Luch, and I must say that I salute you for your efforts. Another summer at the park comes to an end and as I walk to the metro, I wonder who will be playing next summer.
THE BLACK SPARKS, STEREOSLEEP, and THE RAISED BY WOLVES - July 28, 2014
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
It was a lovely breezy and temperate Monday evening in the city and I am going to Fort Reno Park to see my favorite kiddie punk band The Black Sparks perform along with The Raised By Wolves and Stereosleep, and it should be a real rockin' show and as I arrived at the park, I was amazed by the number of small children running around the crowd as everybody stood in line to get a piece of cake from a small table set up for “The Annual Night Of 1000 Cakes” that was being celebrated tonight. First up was The Raised By Wolves from Bethesda and they sounded like a pretty typical rock and roll band as they gleefully thumped their way through their set. The band is a project of longtime collaborators Dusty Durston on vocals and Ben Eskin on guitar and they recently released a nine-song album called “Sadie Hawkins” and the two of them then put a touring band together and the drummer John was actually quite good as he played a rock-steady beat and the bassist rode his kick drum with a nice walloping bass line, but the guitarists were kind of lackluster and the vocalist Dusty had an interesting voice as he clung to the microphone stand languidly and expressed his view of the world. He reminded me a little bit of the Psychedelic Furs' vocalist Richard Butler with a little less rasp in his voice, however their songs were kind of dull but they played with energy and they were interesting to watch and they actually got better towards the end of their six-song set. The second band tonight is Stereosleep who are a trio from the District and they play jazz-inflected hard rock driven by a muscular rhythm section and a guitarist who played overblown riffs as he danced around the stage. The vocalist/guitarist Donny Ray had a nice warm voice as he raged against the injustices of the world as he played cool riffs that chugged along as the bassist Bruce Fulton filled the space between the notes as new drummer Billy Wood pounded out some intricate percussion. They kept reminding me of Living Colour in the way that they structured their songs and their guitarist CJ Uy blew my mind with some phenomenal solos that he played on several songs and I could tell that he was greatly influenced by the playing of Jimi Hendrix. They played a six-song set that just got my adrenalin flowing especially during the songs “Black Heart” and “Fail”, I was thoroughly impressed by Stereosleep and I hope to see them play live again real soon. Finally we reached the last band of the evening...The Black Sparks...who are a local teen punk rock sensation making waves around the area, and they hit the stage with a fury and laid down their vintage sounding punk rock that brought the good-sized crowd to their feet with their instrumental intro and the vocalist Andrew Salfi ran onstage and they launched into their furious punk rock that reminded me of the legendary Ramones. The guitarists Jonah Antonelli and Sam Grove let gnarly dueling riffs fly as drummer Ray Brown pounded away like a jackhammer and bassist Nathan Salfi played some nice doomy bass lines as Andrew growled and howled into the microphone. Their fury and anger was nicely expressed the singer's words, particularly in my two favorite songs from their set, a pummeling “Anti-Crap” and the crunchy “Fruit Loops”. As a band they have really matured since I last saw them, and their songs have improved by leaps and bounds with them being more textured and the singer's vocal has matured for the better. Their nine-song set was a blast of punk rock fury that made me want to get up and scream at the absurdities of life and hope they keep getting better as they get older...the future of rock and roll in our own backyard. I was quite pleased with tonight's show with a good showing from all three bands and I went home with a smile.
TITLE TRACKS, THE EFFECTS, and MYRRH MYRRH - July 24, 2014
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS and NICOLE ATKINS - July 23, 2014
D.A.R. Constitution Hall - Washington, DC - Orch/Row J/Seat 102
THE CLIENTELE and DOT DASH - July 22, 2014
Black Cat - Washington, DC
It seemed to be a perfect summer night to enjoy some rock and roll so I headed down to the Black Cat to see one of my favorite bands, Dot Dash, open for The Clientele, and I arrived early to pick up some tickets to some upcoming shows, X, The Buzzcocks, and The Damned to be exact, which seemed so weird because it was like an eighties flashback given that it is 2014 and I am also going to see Echo And The Bunnymen and Bauhaus' Peter Murphy, so I guess that it is true...everything operates on a thirty year cycle...so weird but cool. Well anyways, Dot Dash is one of my favorite local bands and I have not seen them in a while, so I am looking forward to seeing them. Dot Dash hit the stage with some well-crafted songs that made you think. For this show they were playing as a trio because guitarist Steve Hansgen was out of town, but it did not take away anything from their original sound. Danny Ingram has always been one of my favorite drummer since his days in the legendary Strange Boutique and his drumming was precise as ever and Hunter Bennett rode the groove with his stellar bass playing and Terry Banks punctuated it with his punchy guitar riffs as he delivered his insightful and wry lyrics. Their songs were full of wonderful textures and lovely percussion as Terry crooned his words over the driving rhythm. The highlights of their set was “The Color And The Sound” and “Shopworn Excuse” and the best thing was that they did not remind me of another band but stood on their own and that is very important to me and my ears. I just love how Hunter plays the bass and his playing is rich and full and the notes just resonant with the guitar and give the songs some extra dimension. They played a pleasant and enjoyable ten-song set that was catchy and toe-tapping and they played two new songs that showed why they are one of the best bands in town. The headliners are called The Clientele and I do not know anything about them so I shall have to give them a chance to impress me. They take the stage and they played some rather mediocre post-modern rock that just left me cold. I stayed for their first couple of songs and they were full of chiming guitar riffs and sad melancholy lyrics that said nothing and the songs went nowhere so I left.
ALARMS & CONTROLS, TALK IT, and DISSONANCE - July 21, 2014
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
Luckily it did not rain this Monday so I made my way to Fort Reno Park for my bi-weekly dose of original local alternative music, and this week the bands are Dissonance, Talk It, and Alarms & Controls. First up is Dissonance from Takoma Park and they are a duo who attacked the stage in a squall of feedback and clattering drums as they plowed through their set. I could not understand the lyrics that the vocalist/guitarist Declan Enright in his low atonal voice, but the drummer Charles Scheider was pretty decent as he pounded out a driving beat as the guitarist tortured his guitar as if he was strangling the instrument with bits of noise and random chords, but oh boy, they really needed a bass player and the band informed us that he was a no-show for the gig. Their music's lack of song structures and the jarring guitar riffs really got on my nerves after a few “songs” and I found myself praying that they would stop soon, particularly with all their onstage instrument tuning that I found to be very unprofessional. Their six-song set seemed to last forever but they finally finished much to the relief of my ears. Next up was Talk It who are a trio from DC and they played some pleasant psychedelic rock that also seemed to drone on and on as the guitarist Andrew Beaujon noodled away on his instrument and he perfectly complemented the organist Emily Rickman who played the bass parts with quiet ease. They were almost like a trance band with their gentle loping beats and spiralling guitar riffs that seemed to float in the air. They played a pleasant almost ambient seven-song set of instrumentals that reminded me of The Meat Puppets and Can, which may seem like an odd combination but they pulled it off. I do wish that they had a vocalist who sang some interesting lyrics because I kept getting distracted by random people around me, but they played a nice cohesive set that just flowed with a nice groove even without a singer. Talk It was a cool band that I enjoyed immensely and their drummer John Rickman sure knows how to keep a beat. Finally the third band took the stage and they were called Alarms & Controls who are also from here and they are a post-punk quartet who lumbered along with big guitar riffs and the throbbing bass line of Arthur Noll that was propelled by the clattery drumming of Vin Novara and vocalist/guitarist Chris Hamley sang these world-weary lyrics about life's ups and downs. They were were cohesive and had nice song structures but I found the singer Chris' voice annoying and distracted me from the music and since I have seen them play live before, I took my leave because I was tired from this recent spate of shows that I been to as of late.
PRIESTS, SOLTANO, and PUFF PIECES - July 17, 2014
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
It was a lovely summer evening as I headed to Fort Reno Park to see some local punk rock including hot punkers “du jour” Priests, and Sotano and Puff Pieces, so it should be pretty wild tonight. The last two shows were cancelled due to rain, so tonight there should be a big crowd to watch the show. The first band Puff Pieces are a trio from DC and they play taut agit-funk in the vein of early Gang Of Four, and the guitarist Justin Moyer played some pretty succinct melody lines as the drummer Amanda Huron kept the pace brisk and the vocalist/bassist Mike Andre rode the rhythm as he sang but there was a lack of variety in their songs. The lyrics seemed to delve in the futility of life and the many problems it causes with so much pain. The drummer Amanda was the best thing about the band as she played a sparse rhythm that I got lost in for a few times. They played a quick nine-song set that held the crowd's attention and got them dancing but I found that they sounded good but the songs had no meat to remember them by. The next band was Sotano who are a quartet also from DC and they hit the stage with a subdued fury and they reminded me of seventies-era Rolling Stones with a little bit of The New York Dolls thrown in for good measure. They were a very typical rock'n'roll band which was pretty unusual for the booking policy at Fort Reno which tends to the punk side of things, but they chugged along quite enjoyably and the vocalist/guitarist Dru Dunnaway and guitarist Brad Brown traded some nice and crunchy riffs over the deep groove of bassist Brian Hurtt. The highlight of their set was a song called “Sixteen” and it was toe-tappingly catchy and I found myself singing along to the chorus. However, musically, none of them stood out on their instruments and some of their songs seemed to plod on and on until I could not wait until they finished their eleven-song set, and once again their new drummer Paul Hutchins was the best thing about the band because he kept a nice steady beat with drum fills nicely placed to give their songs a little punch and he had a remarkably good sense of timing. The final band of the night was hardcore upstarts Priests and they are a hard-hitting quartet from DC and they are currently the most talked about punk band in the area and their new EP “Bodies And Control And Money And Power” on Sister Polygon/Don Giovanni Records is getting a lot of airplay and their fiery rhetoric about political change is getting a lot of notice. Thankfully they have gotten more musically adept and their music was much more palatable than it used to be, especially the drummer Daniele Daniele who has gotten much more rhythmic and the bassist Taylor Mulitz was able to get in the pocket more, but I still hate the vocalist Katie Alice Greer's delivery and the guitarist Gideon L. Jaguar's rather lackluster playing because they just bored me. But the large crowd really seemed to be into them as they gathered in front of the stage to hear Katie espouse her words of wisdom about changing society. The rhythm section was tight and in sync but the guitarist Gideon...ugh...after about six songs I had enough and decided it was time to go...but nice message though.
YES and SYD ARTHUR - July 15, 2014
The Warner Theatre - Washington, DC
AN EVENING WITH SANDRA BERNHARD - July 12, 2014
Howard Theatre - Washington, DC
It was a lovely summer evening that was not too hot for once and my friend Don Butler and I headed to the Howard Theater to see the inimitable comedy legend Sandra Bernhard perform her stand-up routine and song interpretations for our edification and amusement. I have seen Sandra many times over the years and I always found her humor and demeanor wonderfully hysterical and thought-provoking. So we ate a nice dinner and waited for her to take the stage and make us laugh, and she took the stage at 8PM on the dot with a jazzy power trio behind her and they kicked things off with an uptempo rocker and Sandra sang passionately about love with her sassy and brassy voice. Then she went right into her set and she joked about Michele Obama not showing at the club for her and here she was in toxic DC. These days you have to be up on things because she is #hashtag blessed. She rambled on about Native Americans and us the audience were eating our chicken wings at the Howard while she has to move through all the shit of life. She said she would be a star if she was transgendered like actress Laverne Cox, even though she respects that however she loves being an “au natural” woman. She said while she was driving here, she was horrified by all the people texting and planning their social agenda. She said she was currently in a summertime loll, a funk if you will, and it was because everybody else was busy and not around. She said she was having a good year because she was back on television in ABC Family's “Switched At Birth” and she was having a pretty good time playing a role. She talked about how long she had been with her girlfriend and she really hates the word “partner”, then her business manager suggested that the two of them should get married, but she decided it wasn't worth her time yet. She was in full-steam ahead mode and she talked about her daughter Cecily and how she went to Tanzania for the summer and that was interesting, and she talked about her travels to Italy and Prague and just how different life is there, and she went on about how scary it is in the Czech Republic especially when she went to eat and the restaurant's staff was not going to let her in with tennis shoes but she said fuck off, I am eating here! Plus anyone who says to you that you should visit Prague and how cool it is, must hate you or they have not been there themselves. Next she talked about visiting France for the summer and she was annoyed with having to deal with a daily drum circle who only played The Doors where she was staying and she was stunned by the beautiful horror of it all. She switched topics and she talked about hanging out with fashion editor Andre Leon Talley and going to his fabulous “Little Black Dress” runway show until she became bored with it all. She talked about shopping for fashion in New York and she found a cocktail dress with pockets and she loved it because it was the perfect dress and it was perfect for any occasion from an art opening in Soho to being homeless in LA. She talked about doing a gig at Frostburg State in West Virginia and that is a totally different world from her life and the things she saw, and why is every Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard always in a bad neighborhood, and then she talked about the 50th Anniversary of JFK's assassination and she loved how they somehow updated the 40th Anniversary stuff and she loved how all her generation has aged and she really hates it when people ask her where she was when she heard the horrible news that sad day. She just wants to say where were you and why didn't you stop it. She recalled her childhood and how she moved from Michigan to Arizona when she was a tween and just how soul-crushing of an event it was to endure. The audience loved it and Sandra fired up her band and sang a song about the horror of it all and the song painted a vivid picture of her experience as her soaring alto sang, “We were freaked out...” She took a few minutes to introduce her band, Robert DeMatto on keyboards, Kevin Andreas on guitar, and John Dadamo on drums, and they were tight and funky and they did a awful lot of quietly sitting on the stage. Sandra picked her routine right back up and she talked about being a mother of a sixteen-year-old and just how crazy that is, particularly her kid having two mothers, and the horror of taking her to the Gap and growing old in general because she told us about getting lost on a golf course. Then she said she despises the monster that is Halloween and everything that is associated with it, and she jumped to her daughter's love of SNL's Amy Poehler and singer Lana Del Ray and Sandra said she really hates Lana and her music and lyrics and how her daughter dresses just like her much to her annoyance. She signaled the band and they began playing her song “Gone” and Sandra sang it exquisitely and made it her own and Kevin played a stellar guitar solo. She went back to her latest obsessions like stupid fashion and other idiot trends, she said she has only let two people smoke in her apartment, Liza Minnelli and Chrissie Hyde, but she made them lean out the windows, she said she loves Patti Smith and she lamented the gentrification of NYC as she went on a rant and made fun of some of the various items that she had received in the mail and she has received some strange and unusual shit, then she thanked us and she closed the show by belting out a heartfelt “Listen To Your Heart” by Taylor Dane and then she disappeared in the back and the audience looked around and then applauded as the house lights went up and we fled the premises. I must say that Sandra Bernhard always gives you the unexpected and always gives you a good show.
CAPTIVATORS and MALATESE - July 7, 2014
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
It was a wonderful summer evening for the annual kick-off of the concert series at Fort Reno Park and it was almost cancelled this year due to a disagreement over how the National Park Service treated the security at the shows, the National Park Service wanted the people who put on the concert series to pay for a policeman to be on site but paying him would leave no money in the budget to pay the bands a small stipend for their performances, but after some haggling an agreement between the two parties was reached and eight concerts will be held this summer. So here I am at Fort Reno looking at a surprisingly loud and large crowd for tonight's festivities and the first band tonight is Malatese from Harrisonburg, Virginia and they are a quartet who play some kind of post-punk that is described by the band as “trance-punk” and they reminded me of early PIL but the vocals were way too effected to understand them as the band careened through their set with distorted guitar and angular and disjointed percussion. The vocalist/keyboardist Travis Legg was a bit annoying with his overuse of the vocal modulator which made the words to the songs totally unintelligible to my ears, however the drummer Jon Reed was a pretty cool percussionist and kept a nice steady beat even though it was slightly askew sometimes, and the guitarist George Dodson flung these odd riffs and intricate licks all over the place and over the muted bass lines of Graham Brouder. Their seven-song set was tiring on the ears as the band seemed to drone on forever and all their songs sounded the same and they were very repetitive as the singer made his unlistenable noise. But thankfully Malatese played a brief set and then they gave away a bunch of free EPs to cap the evening off. The second band tonight was The Captivators from DC and they set up their equipment rather quickly and they were a five-piece featuring two trombone players and they played some lovely third-wave ska music that was quite toe-tapping and it made me want to skank all over the place. The band was in sync with each other as they pumped out the riddim to their rather infectious melodies, and they were quite accomplished musicians who flowed together nicely as vocalist/trombonist Bill Wade sang some uplifting and invigorating words about the beauty of dancing and living one's life to the fullest, and particularly during the song “The Monster Beat”. The trombonists Bill and his band-mate Jaime Soto punctuated the skankin' groove with some slinky blasts of their horns that carried the melody with panache. They reminded me of The Specials particularly when the guitarist Dan Hauser whipped off some nice succinct solos that really accentuated the songs with a cool edge. My favorite song of their set was “Little Man With The Funny Beret” with its taut percussion coming from renown drummer Alex Daniels and pulsing almost funky bass line from Charles Freeman that was punctuated with driving blasts from the dueling trombones. The band played a twelve-song set that was upbeat and made for dancing and having a good time which is exactly what a band is suppose to do. I had a pretty good time at Fort Reno and everybody who loves live music should make an effort in supporting the local music scene.
GIRLS ROCK DC BENEFIT with GLITTERLUST, SISTER EX, FREEFORM RADIO, MORE AM THAN FM, FRANKIE & BETTY - June 28, 2014
Black Cat - Washington, DC
It was a lovely summer evening as I ventured to the Black Cat for the Seventh Annual Girls Rock! DC Benefit that was put on by the fine folks at Ladiesrockthis.com and this organization helps young girls to develop an interest in music and performance, and all of tonight's proceeds go to Girls Rock!, so that is a good thing. To start things off tonight was the duo Frankie & Betty along with their percussionist and they delivered an upbeat acoustic set that they started with a sassy cover of VV Brown's “Shark In The Water” that revealed to me that these days kids are really Disney/Nickelodeon kids and I will just not get it, but they punked it up like they were The Indigo Girls or Commonbond. The thing I hated was that they took a long time between songs just yakking but when they played their playing was nice and the singer had a lovely mellifluous voice and then I suddenly realized they were covering Snoop Dogg's “Gin And Juice” and I got a good laugh and then they were playing the “Jewish” version of Lourdes' “Royals” that was quirky and amusing but still I found it odd. Their six-song set seemed to be their version of the Top Twenty with a lesbian acoustic guitar edge to them that made them somewhat interesting. They left the stage and some Girls Rock! DC speakers paraded across the stage espousing their uplifting and rewarding experiences that they had in Girls Rock!. The next band on the bill was More AM Than FM who are a local female trio who played some driving rock and roll that just plowed into my ears with their fat riffs and crunchy rhythm section that got the room jumping to the beat. The vocalist/guitarist Selena Benally played some nice leads as she reminded me a bit little of Johnny Thunders and the bassist Melanie Mast and drummer Anjalee Sherma followed her with skill as they powered their way through their ferocious set and they played a few selections off their forthcoming EP and they sounded pretty good. Their songwriting was concise and well-paced and full of dark angular riffs and some brisk drumming that propelled their songs forward and they reminded me of Redd Kross with their “pop” aspirations. They played a wonderfully aggressive seven-song set that was fresh and showed that they had things to say, I really enjoyed the songs “Aimless Running” and “45” and I could really see this band going places. The third band took the stage and they were another power trio called Freeform Radio and they did not have a bassist but instead they had a keyboardist and they reminded me of a seventies boogie band with drummer Jared Pettinato's bouncy percussion and the driving guitar riffs of vocalist/guitarist Nikki Smith. She had some heartfelt lyrics about the human experience that she sang like an amped up Melissa Etheridge, in fact they played some pretty standard bar band rock and roll. The keyboardist Lauren Attard was a decent player and she played all the bass parts with a panache that I have not seen in a while but they were like a lounge band on a whole lot of coffee, but then again they reminded me of the Atlanta Rhythm Section when their sound got a bit more bluesy and swampy sounding on other songs. Overall their eight-song set was upbeat and breezy and the band was pleasantly cohesive and the drummer played a nice steady beat that grounded the soaring guitar into decent songs. The fourth band of the night was the lovely Sister Ex who are a female-fronted quartet who have made a name for themselves lately with their gothic-tinged power-pop and they have come together as a band as they cohesively flowed through their set confidently and their sound was very reminiscent of the great Strange Boutique. The guitarist Anthony Piazza some great scary guitar riffs that were underscored by Jeff Welslowski's punchy bass lines that rode Johnny Black's sturdy drumming as the vocalist Claudia Neuman prowled the edge of the stage and wailed, howled, and whispered her obtuse lyrics as she maniacally danced with the rhythm of her band. The guitarist Anthony was really awesome with his eighties goth-influenced guitar sound and his ice-cold riffs that just cut into you like a knife. Sister Ex played a lovely six-song set that had me grooving and I really liked their song called “Weapon” and if they keep it up I could see them becoming quite big. The final band of the night was Glitterlust who are a gay-friendly duo consisting of vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Mikey Torres and guitarist Liz Wooley and they played quirky synth rhythms with a guitarist who shreds, but they reminded me of Erasure way too much except for the guitar which was really out of place in this genre, however I really enjoyed her playing as her fleet fingers danced across the fretboard with skill. They relied too much on pre-recorded tracks but they had the hooks and melodies that made me want to dance, they reminded me a little bit of My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, and not only for their song topics but in the way their songs flowed with dark and menacing synthesizer riffs and booming bass lines that were accented by guitarist Liz's tasteful shredding on her instrument. They performed a remarkable cover of “Blue Monday” by New Order that surprised me with its intensity and it came complete with a languid and angular guitar solo from Liz that just sizzled and burned. Glitterlust left the stage and it was kind of weird with no music for a few minutes and people stood around awkwardly, but then they returned to finish their seven-song set with a song that they are releasing as a video single in a few weeks, and it is about dancing and it is called “Body Language” and it swirled about as it bounced to the rhythm and the band danced in the sparse light of the stage as the song trailed off to a singular house beat and then they burst into a hardcore techno groove that exploded into Guns'n'Roses' “Sweet Child O' Mine” and they turned it out as blaring synth riffs danced in the techno tsunami that flooded my ears, and I was quite impressed by their inventive use of the song's melody, plus the audience really love it and Glitterlust left the stage to rapturous applause. I must say that this was a fast-pace night full of a variety of quality music and bands and it was for a good cause which made it all the better...Girls Rock! DC.
KATY PERRY, CAPITAL CITIES, and FERRAS - June 24, 2014
Verizon Center - Washington, DC
DEAD KENNEDYS, REAGAN YOUTH, BURNING STREETS, and WALK THE PLANK - June 17, 2014
Rock And Roll Hotel - Washington, DC
PAT TRAVERS BAND, THE ROADDUCKS, SOUTHERN GOVERNOR, LOWDOWN COUNTRY, and STEREORIOTS - June 14, 2014
Empire - Springfield, VA
FUCK BUTTONS - June 13, 2014
U Street Music Hall - Washington, DC
It was one of those days where it rained on and off all damn day and I was slightly cranky as I headed to the U Street Music Hall to see the brilliantly named Fuck Buttons from Bristol, England and the opening act, local duo Protect-U, rock the place. I have been digging the Fuck Buttons since 2009 when they made their debut with the “Tarot” album and I just love their electronic mush with all of its quirky rhythms and drone-y synth washes and their obtuse lyrics about the mysteries of life. However first up was Protect-U featuring Mike Petillo and Aaron Leitko and they are supporting their new album “Free USA” on Future Times Records and they bathed the room in their warm and lush atmospheric pseudo-house music that thumped with a big bass drum beat and the music squelched and squeaked as it rode the rhythm. The two of them were almost invisible from the DJ booth as they unleashed layers of synthetic beats and washes from the keyboards but the music never seemed to go anywhere and the lack of vocals made the songs seem endless. Their music sounded alright but it had no soul or substance as it droned on and on for what seemed like hours and the small crowd seemed more interested in talking to each other than they did in listening to their set. After a little while the Fuck Buttons' Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power appeared on the stage and did a quick soundcheck and then almost immediately they started with a pounding and cascading rhythm and they added metallic insect sounds and minimal flashing graphics on the video images behind them and they attacked their equipment with a dark fury and assaulted us with a barrage of noise that was full of textures and melodies that rode the relentless beat of their spastic new single “Brainfreeze” from the 2013 album “Slow Focus” and it reminded me of Skinny Puppy. They played at a deafening volume as they began their next song “Olympians” from the 2009 album “Tarot Sport” and Benjamin madly pounded on a small percussion rig as he added some groove to the overall sound as they played like it was the end of the world as colorful patterns danced behind them on the wall. For their new song called “Sentients” from their last album “Slow Focus”, they added off-beat percussion sounds as the relentless beat pounded my ears into submission like a freight train to hell as little bits of melody filtered their way into the monolithic slab of noise they produced. They continued on with a series of loud squelches that prodded along the wall of sound they created as it propelled itself forward with the quirky dance beats of “The Red Wing” also from their last album and it was very reminiscent of the Meat Beat Manifesto; plus the song seemed to last forever as they segued into a soaring “Surf Solar” from their 2009 album “Tarot Sport” and they added some nice swatches of melody as the song careened along like a landslide until it suddenly came to a crashing halt. The two members took a breath and then they jumped into the swirling turbo-charged groove of “Flight Of The Feathered Serpent” also from the “Tarot Sport” album and they added some house beats and the rhythm just swallowed me in a hurricane of noise and the beat pushed the song forward like a sledgehammer as black and white patterns swirled on the wall and drew me into the miasma of the dense and flowing rhythm. The thunderous sound came to a halt once again and then they started back into a shimmering “Hidden XS” from their 2013 album “Slow Focus” and this song was the most melodic number of their seven-song set as the two of them let loose on their synthesizers and they added delicate washes of sound to the pounding beat that slowed down and sped up throughout the song and then Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power ended their set with a cataclysmic thud and they quickly left the stage and the club's music started right up and the Fuck Buttons vanished into the night and I headed to the metro with their music still pounding away in my head at full volume as I was thinking that it was a pretty good show.
TYPEFIGHTER - June 7, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a gorgeous spring day and I enjoyed the afternoon walking down to the Kennedy Center to see local band Typefighter make their debut on the Millennium Stage as a part of the monthly Listen Local First DC program. Normally they play dark grungy clubs, and the Fort Reno Outdoor Concert Series where I last saw them play. They are celebrating the release of their debut full-length album “The End Of Everything” and it is full of big pounding rhythms and roaring guitars that remind one of the best of the nineties alt-rock boom. Typefighter hit the stage and kicked off things with an uptempo number called “Part Of Me” that was light and bouncy as vocalist/guitarist Ryan McLaughlin sang the lovely lyrics and John Scoops' bass gently drove the song with his propulsive lines. They went right into their next song and it reminded me of The Replacements with its insightful words and the jangly guitars that danced over the pounding rhythm section of drummer Will Waikart and bassist John Scoops. The only thing that bugged me about their music was the similarity that their songs had with each other but the lyrics were quite good with depth and meaning. My favorite song was “Good Cop” from their new album and the song was full of winding guitar riffs and a punchy drum beat over deep throbbing bass lines that made me want to dance as Ryan sang, “I'm downwind from your heart...” They proceeded into another new song that was chock full of atmospheric guitars and a driving bass line over Will's intense drumming. Ryan's voice was very odd sounding but it was listenable as he switched guitars and played these intense fuzzy riffs as they played “Eyes And Ears” and Thomas Orgren added all these cool and subtle licks that gave the song some texture to accentuate the pulsing drums. They were tighter and more cohesive than when I saw them last summer but their songs still seemed to lack that something to make them more palatable to the ears. For their next song they played one of their oldest songs and you could see how they have grown in their songwriting skills but they have a ways to go before they write a killer song with a hook. They got pretty close with the song “I Like The Way You Are” that they played next with its interesting lyrics and disjointed rhythms that caused the song to careen madly as they attacked their instruments. Their song “Rocket” bounced along with a nice groove but it was way too short and it was over before I knew it, and the next number “Happy” was thick and muddled but it had some interesting lyrics, and actually Ryan's lyrics tended to be better than the accompanying music which is a shame because the words are really good and insightful. The drummer Will was a really solid player because he kept the songs from turning into mush and the bassist John was full of nice bass lines but the songs did not put them to good use, and the guitarist Thomas had some great riffs but nothing with a hook. Their fourteen-song set was upbeat and driving but I cannot recall any of them and I was sort of disappointed but they put on a decent show because of Ryan's well-thought out lyrics. For their last song “I Wrote This Song For You” from their first EP, the band came out into the audience with their instruments and Ryan played the ukelele and gently sang as the band harmonized behind him as they added bits of percussion and it was my favorite moment of their set.
POOR RICH BOY - June 3, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
One of the reasons I like going to see live performances on the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage is for sensational evenings like tonight's show, because I get to see a Pakistani indie-rock which is highly unusual given that stringed instruments are forbidden under traditional Islam, so tonight should be quite a revelation. The band POOR RICH BOY are from Lahore in Pakistan and they are a “discretely subversive” outfit and they are on tour for the month of June in the United States. The band consists of: Shehzad “Shezy” Noor on lead vocals and keyboards, guitarists Zain Ahsan and Danish “Danny” Khawaja, bassist Zain “Molly” Moulvi, drummer Raavail “Buddy” Sattar, and singer Umer “Duck” Khan, and they all participate in helping younger musicians in their country and other musical projects. They take the stage and opened with some gentle guitar riffs in the style of James Taylor and Shezy sang the song's beautiful lyrics about human advancement as the band chugged along acoustically and they continued into the next song that celebrated the life of a journalist who had died just recently and the beat flowed soothingly like the ocean, and the vocal harmonies were exquisite as bassist Molly propelled the groove with his deep radiating bass lines. The band continued in the acoustic vein and Duck sang lead on it and his voice sounded rich and creamy as it intertwined with the guitars. The next song started off with a jangly ukelele riff from Zain that just carried the melody as their voices harmonized and it was all driven by the bassist's somber bass playing. They continued with a song that was very “Eagles” in its delivery and Danny played a nice subdued guitar solo that reminded me of Joe Walsh and the song was quite beautiful and they sang it in their native language Urdu. I really liked the song “Finger” and the lyrics were quite visceral and descriptive and Shezy has a real rich voice that danced with the melody line he was playing on the ukelele and it was underpinned by the murky playing of guitarist Danny, and who for the next song switched to the keyboard as vocalist Umer's voice gloriously rose up and down with the groove as he sang the words following the bass. Buddy finally switched from his percussion rig to the drum set and the band rocked a grinding song called “Comatose” and it was almost metal and Danny played some incredible licks on his guitar as Shezy and Duck belted out the insightful lyrics. Next they played a slow bluesy number called “The Man I Love” and it was about the death of a friend and the guitars were incredible as they traded licks over a pulsing bass line that reminded me of The Grateful Dead. Their next song “I Stole A Melody” was the best one of their set and they grooved in perfect sync as Shezy sang the heartfelt lyrics and the song ventured into psychedelia. Poor Rich Boy finished their eleven-song set with a sassy ditty called “Fair Weather Friend” that was in the vein of their earlier songs with its long eerie bent notes that just seemed to hang in the air as vocalist Duck brought the lyrics to life with his vivid wordplay. Overall they were a pleasant listening experience with great songs and wonderful musicianship and so maybe there is hope for that part of the world in this modern age.
SHEILA E. - May 29, 2014
The Birchmere - Alexandria, VA
SOULSQUAD - May 23, 2014
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
It was a lovely afternoon as I headed to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see Lakecia Benjamin and her band SoulSquad perform as part of the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival and to celebrate the release of her new album “RETOX” on Motema Music. Lakecia Benjamin has been playing the saxophone since she was a child and her music is a melange of jazz, soul, and funk and she has played and written for Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Macy Gray, The Roots, and Anita Baker. Currently she is a featured musician for actor Craig Robinson with the band The Nasty Delicious who tour with him and his stand-up comedy act. The drummer Eric Brown kicked things off with a nice rock-steady beat as the bassist Amanda Ruzza laid down the deep groove as keyboardist Jesse Fisher's fingers danced sprightly over the flowing rhythm and Lakecia took the stage and introduced everybody and then she wailed on the saxophone and new member Phillip Lassiter punctuated the groove with earth-shattering trumpet blasts and they rocked the funky opening instrumental “Gifts”. She brought vocalist Nicole Phifer to the stage and the band kicked into an uptempo number called “Mr. Miller” that she wrote for legendary pianist Marcus Miller and it was a lovely sultry song that let Nicole shine on the vocals and the drummer Eric kept the beat on the down-stroke as it drove the song as Lakecia made her saxophone sing beautifully over the cascading bass lines. For their next number “Choose Life” the band got real funky as the keyboardist Jesse created a melody line that gave the song a delicious groove and Nicole sang her heart out and Lakecia wailed succinctly on her horn. They slowed the beat down for the next song “Dreams” and Lakecia sounded so soulful on the saxophone as the keyboardist Jesse added the right chords to make her horn sound even better. The next song “Lift You Up” was a real thumper as each musician got a moment to showcase their talents on their respective instruments and they really got the groove jumping and Phillip played a lovely trumpet solo that set the song on fire and then Jesse took us to church with his sharp playing on the piano as Nicole wailed, “I am going to lift you up, lift you up...”, and Lakecia gave her saxophone one more work out. The drummer Eric kicked off the next song with a four on the floor beat and Nicole let her voice fill the room with its subtle nuances as she told everybody to “Jump And Shout”. The clarity of Lakecia's saxophone solos was brilliant as she played her horn with ease and the notes just flew out as the band got loose on the song “Maceo” which of course, was dedicated to her favorite sax player Maceo Parker and they turned it out as the playful melodies flew everywhere, especially Jesse as his fingers danced across his keyboard and then the drummer Eric broke the beat down as he skillfully played the drums to their full extent and then Lakecia Benjamin just shined on the saxophone as she played each note deftly and with great soul. Soul Squad finished their eight-song set with the elegant “Cornbread” and Lakecia tastefully made her saxophone sing as the band followed her intuitively and damn, Lakecia Benjamin is an amazing saxophonist. I was blown away by her skills and those of her band as they played a phenomenal set that took my breath away.
LADY GAGA, LADY STARLIGHT, and MIKU HATSUNE - May 15, 2014
Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia, PA
LADY GAGA, LADY STARLIGHT, and MIKU HATSUNE - May 12, 2014
Verizon Center - Washington, DC
MOTHER'S FINEST - May 11, 2014
The Birchmere - Alexandria, VA
It was a nice warm spring day for Mother's Day and to celebrate it, my friend DK Phoenix and I trekked out to Alexandria to The Birchmere to see Mother's Finest from Atlanta. The band has been around since 1974 and they are probably the longest-running black rock band on the scene. I first saw them in the late seventies opening for Aerosmith and they blew me away with their ferocity and their skills on their instruments, but the music fell on deaf ears and they received a few racist comments and I saw them open for AC/DC in 1981 when they were touring in support of their album “Iron Age” which happens to be my favorite one by them. After that the band went into hiatus while vocalist Joyce Kennedy pursued her acting career and then in the late nineties the band re-grouped and toured endlessly and they have played The Birchmere on Mother's Day several times. So we anxiously awaited for them to take the stage, and then guitar-builder Paul Reed Smith brought the band to the stage that began filling with swirling feedback and pitter patter percussion and the stage lit up and the band charged into a pumping “Funk A While” from their 2003 album “Meta-Funk'n Physical” and vocalist Joyce Kennedy looked fabulous in her black leather outfit and guitarist Gary “Moses Mo” Moore played some scorching riffs as the band's monster rhythm bounced and swayed as they flowed into the hard-charging “Burning Love” from their 1978 album “Another Mother Further” and Joyce worked the stage as she let her voice soar, “Lord Almighty, I feel my temperature rising, higher, higher, it's burning through to my soul, girl girl girl, you gonna set me on fire, my brain is flaming, I don't know which way to go...”, and Jerry “Wyzard” Seay accented her voice with a great bass solo that fed the fury of Moses Mo's fingers burning up his axe. The band was smoking hot as they started a driving “Truth'll Set You Free” also from “Another Mother Further” and they played it with such a crunch that it got the rather raucous crowd on their feet as Moses Mo obliterated us with his guitar and then they went right into a pounding “Can't Fight The Feeling” from their 1979 album “Mother Factor” and Joyce's voice was phenomenal as she hit all the notes and second guitarist John Hayes played a red-hot solo that counterbalanced Moses Mo's over-the-top guitar histrionics that danced with Joyce's acrobatic voice. The band stopped to catch their collective breath and Joyce wished everyone in the audience a happy Mothers Day and she said that the band finally had a new album called “Goody 2 Shoes & The Filthy Beast” coming out in a few months and they were going to play two songs from it and then they launched into a heavy blues number called “Cling To The Cross” with the splendorous Glenn “Doc” Murdock on the lead vocals as they slow grinded it out. Doc continued singing with a hard and crunchy rock song called “Take Control” that bounced with the taut rhythm of drummer Dion Derek that sounded fresh as they played a rolling groove that made me really want their new album. Next Doc told us the story behind the naming of the next song, “Niggizz Can't Sang Rock-n-Roll” from their 1977 self-titled debut album, and Doc sounded fierce and righteous as he told the truth of the reality of being a black rock band in the seventies and the band backed him with fat chords and throbbing riffs as he railed, “Well I ain't nobody special, and I ain't got nothing new, but I got lotsa hard loving baby, I want to give in to you, I ain't nobody special, huh uh, I don't know but I mean told, niggizz can't sang rock and roll no more...” The band segued into “Breaking Down The Wall” from their 1992 album “Black Radio Won't Play This Record” and the band pounded it out like they were a thrash band as they went at a breakneck speed. Joyce stepped to the microphone for the next two songs which also came from their forthcoming album “Goody 2 Shoes & The Filthy Beast”, and first she rocked on “Shut Up” and she ranted against the stupidity of humankind and her vocals wound in a serpentine matter around the too hot too handle guitar riffs of John and Moses Mo. She dedicated the other song “She's Ready” to Hillary Clinton and her presidential aspirations and the song sounded great as the guitars squealed and the bass pounded like waves over the fierce percussion of drummer Dion. The band dedicated the next song to Nelson Mandel and John played a fluttery guitar line as Doc lead the audience in singing praise for Nelson as the band burst into “Mickey's Monkey” from their 1978 album “Another Mother Further” and Doc cackled, “This cat named Mickey came from out of town, he been spreadin' this new dance all around, and in just a matter of a few days, this dance became the new teen craze, the people see him dancin' they begin to see, see this cat do that monkey thing...”, and John tore it up on the guitar as the band broke the song down until it combusted into a cacophony of riffs and chords and they finished the song with a few bars of Led Zeppelin's “Rock And Roll” and Moses Mo took a few moments to solo on his guitar like no other including playing with his teeth. He blew my mind with his incendiary playing and immediately became one of my favorite living guitarists. He was just brilliant! Without missing a beat, the band launched into a stunning cover of The Beatles' 1967 classic “Strawberry Fields Forever” that first appeared on 1990's “Subluxation” live album and Joyce's voice sounded angelic and then they charged into a volcanic “Give It Up” from their 1979 album “Mother Factor” and the audience loved it as they sang along with Joyce and Doc and they topped it off with an exquisite guitar solo from John as they slid into an electric “Baby Love” from their 1978 album “Another Mother Further” that they delivered with pizzazz. Mother's Finest finished their set with a cranking version of “Piece Of The Rock” also from “Another Mother Further”, and they sounded like a classic rock band as the muscular riffs of the guitars intertwined and Joyce and Doc let loose with their voices as they sang, “A rock star lookin' for another million seller, the dj say you can't have none, now go on and play your disco music, I got to rock'n'roll myself all night long...”, and the audience was getting loose bouncing to the beat. The band left the stage and the crowd went wild and begged for more and after a few minutes they returned and played a slow and slinky version of “Love Changes” from their 1979 album “Mother Factor” that Moses Mo made exhilarating with a beautiful guitar solo that brought tears to my eyes. They pumped the beat back up with a sensational “Don't Wanna Come Back” from their 1990 live album “Mother's Finest Live” and it was just phenomenal as the guitarists dueled over a pounding rhythm section as Joyce and Doc wailed “Honey come on over, check it on out, said that I should leave to see what life is all about, it broke my heart, it took me time to ease the pain, soon as I get over you, you want me back again, well, I don't wanna come back...”, and then Wyzard played the most delightful and inventive bass solo over a sparse percussive base that sounded like a guitar and the audience ate it up. Joyce Kennedy thanked everybody for showing up for the gig and giving them much love and then she most graciously thanked The Birchmere for having them and the band jumped into an explosive cover of the 1951 Tiny Bradshaw classic “Train Kept A-Rollin'” that put Aerosmith to shame and they tore it up as each of them took a turn at solo-ing for one last time and they really made the song theirs before they left the stage for the night. Mother's Finest played an excellent sixteen-song set that proved they still got it and I am looking forward to seeing them play live on Mothers Day next year.
DC JAZZ ALL-STARS - May 9, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was an overcast warm spring day as I headed to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see an all-star band led by local legend Elijah Jamal Balbed on saxophone, and they pay tribute to 75 years of Blue Note Records and the plethora of jazz musicians and jazz genres that they introduced to the world's music lovers. Blue Note Records was founded in 1939 by German childhood friends Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff who had moved to New York City in the thirties and they ran the label until their deaths in the late seventies. The label was known for their transcendent music and the beautiful portraits of their artists and the recordings were enhanced by sterling sound quality and their iconic artwork on their album covers still dazzle to this day. The label went into dormancy except for re-issues in the early eighties until Bruce Lundvall took the helm and began a series of expanded re-issues and branching into other music genres. So tonight Elijah Jamal Balbed will lead his band featuring alto saxophonist Lyle Link, trumpeter Kenny Rittenhouse, trombonist Raynel Frazier, pianist Tim Whalen, bassist Eliot Seppa, and drummer Harold Summey through a cavalcade of fabulous songs from Blue Note's expansive back catalogue. The band started off with a song by a member of the late Art Blakely's band, the great Horace Silver who wrote “Split Kick”, and the band was brilliant as each musician played their part beautifully, especially Kenny Rittenhouse who made his trumpet jump with electric notes over the smooth rhythm section of bassist Eliot Seppa and drummer Harold Summey and Tim Whalen played a lovely piano melody that felt light as air. The supple bass line of Eliot kicked off the next song, a rather spry composition by the legendary Freddie Hubbard called “Ocre May” and it featured a lovely trombone solo from Raynel Frazier that just danced with Harold's succinct drumming and Eliot's propulsive bass lines as Lyle Link finished the song up with a breezy saxophone solo that wafted gently in my ears. The band slowed things down and played a somber “Ava” written by Wayne Shorter for his landmark album “Love At Birdland”, and Elijah Balbed and Lyle Link traded elegant riffs on their horns as the rest of the band laid down a flowing river of rhythm that was full of notes that danced like hummingbirds and the Lyle played a tremendous flute solo as did Elijah on his saxophone with his precise playing and deft finger-work. The next song, bassist extraordinaire Butch Warren's “The Little Chippie”, was performed with style and pizzazz as the bassist Eliot Seppa opened the song with a barrage of deep bass notes that rode the sparse high-hat groove of Harold Summey and then the rest of the band kicked in with a rousing round of horn notes, especially from Raynel Frazier who gave the song its deep groove. Next the band played a re-vamped version of Wayne Shorter's “Infant Eyes” that appeared on Elijah Balbed's most recent album and his suave smooth as silk saxophone lines were inventive and a delight to hear as the band intertwined with Eliot's supple bass lines that were quite mellifluous in an almost jazz-lite kind of way and sounded great over Harold's rolling drum fills and Tim Whalen's gentle piano tinklings that were carried by the swirling melody. The band finished their six-song set with an amped up version of Wayne Shorter's “Free For All” and they took turns playing intricate solos that gave the song a hard edge as the musicians made their various instruments flow with a torrent of notes and riffs that flew everywhere. The band was brilliant in their playing and the song selection that they chose to play was sensational, plus it was a marvelous way to spend the evening grooving to some jazz.
THE PET SHOP BOYS - April 26, 2014
Terminal 5 - New York City, NY
PENTAGRAM, SATAN'S SATYRS, COKE BUST, and UNHOLY THOUGHTS - April 19, 2014
AU's Mary Graydon Center - Washington, DC
It was a spring-like day as I got ready to see the legendary doom band Pentagram on the campus of American University and after ten years of not playing in the District, and man, was I psyched. The band's line-up has evolved and changed a lot since the seventies when they started in Alexandria, Virginia, but their vocalist Bobby Liebling has been their leader from the very beginning, however his past substance abuse problems had sidelined the band in the past with his mercurial stage persona paying the price but today he is clean and sober and he is as maniacal as ever as he leads his band to even greater heights. Taking the train uptown to American University can be such a pain because there is no nearby metro station and I had to trudge uphill to the Mary Graydon Center on campus to see the show. I arrived and the whole process made me feel like I had gone back in time as I watched assorted collegian metal-heads wander around killing time until the show started. The powers-that-be cleared the tavern where the gig was being held of all seats so I had to find a place next to the back wall in order to sit comfortably as I waited for the first band Unholy Thoughts from Richmond to take the stage. They are a crusty quartet whose guitarist Kevin Guild played slashing riffs over the thunderous rhythm section of bassist Kenny Ball and drummer Scott Bartley with the raspy screaming voice of singer Ricky Olsen who was pretty much unintelligible their entire set as the band grinded away through their set behind him. Occasionally the guitarist played some lightning fast solos as the rest laid down their hard and heavy 200 MPH music and the pit was going crazy. They reminded me of The Cro-Mags a bit when they pummeled the beat into submission in the NY hardcore style but I wish I really could understand the vocalist. They played an eight-song set that was loud and abrasive and oddly melodic as they played at a break-neck speed that was enjoyable for some reason. Unholy Thoughts finished their raucous set and local favorites Coke Bust changed to their equipment and launched into their set and they rolled right over the audience even faster than the first band and guitarist James Willett flung riffs that cracked like lightning and the rhythm section of bassist Daniel Jubert and drummer Chris Moore was relentless as vocalist Nicktape screamed the lyrics and the crowd loved them. The drummer even had a little bit of groove going on as they plowed through their brief six-song set. The last song was their most interesting as the bassist rode the groove that the drummer played, but once again the vocalist sounded like a yapping dog who just annoyed me. The third band of the night was Virginia's own Satan's Satyrs and they were dressed in vintage seventies rocker clothes and the bassist sound-checked with a Black Sabbath riff while the crowd milled around aimlessly until the band kicked into their very Sabbath-y music with a vengeance which was a change of pace from the other bands as they harkened back to the doomy seventies bands like Uriah Heep and Deep Purple, plus they played their instruments better than the other bands on the bill and I could actually understand the vocals that their frontman Claythanas was singing. For their set there was no mosh pit, just headbanging to the ominous rhythm, the guitarist Jarrett Nettnin was quite skilled at playing the muscular and serpentine riffs as the vocalist Claythanas filled the songs with a throbbing bass line that propelled them to stoner heaven and the drummer AJ was exceptionally good as he laid down dense rhythms that were almost jazzy in their feel. They played a six-song set of long and winding numbers that were more instrumental than anything else because there were not to many vocals to be heard and the song “Show Me Your Skull” was an outstanding cruncher and it had a killer guitar solo that was quite impressive as Jarrett's fingers flew up and down the fretboard at lightning speed. I must say that I really enjoyed their music and their tongue-in-cheek attitude towards their name, and so did the crowd who were very responsive to them. Satan's Satyrs left the stage and Pentagram began setting their gear up to blow us away with their signature sound. Bandleader and vocalist Bobby Liebling seemed to be taking a long time to come to the stage and the crowd was getting restless and finally Pentagram hit the stage and let loose with a flurry of lightning fast dueling riffs from guitarists Kelly Carmichael and Johnny “Wretched” Koutsioukis and Bobby wailed away but it seemed that the vocals were lost in the mix as he sounded like he was drowning, but the band was tight and they whipped through their classic songs of doom and gloom with the awesome Gary Isom pounding on the drums. Bobby looked good as he maniacally belted out his dark words, and I must say giving up drugs has done wonders for him as he stood in the lights and peered into the moshing crowd with his piercing eyes. His guitarist Johnny was phenomenal as he made his instrument squeal and howl over the ominous thud of the rhythm section that just rocked the crowd. They played a fifteen-song set covering Bobby's nearly forty years on the music scene and his band was incredible as they backed and even though he looked a little frail, he was still a consummate performer and I was greatly entertained by them and the other bands tonight despite the supposed Satanic overtones. I even saw G.I.'s John Stabb and man about town Ian Svenious hanging out to see the legendary Bobby Liebling.
CHER and PAT BENATAR & NEIL GIRALDO - April 4, 2014
Verizon Center - Washington, DC
The day started off by being mild and overcast and it seems that spring has really taken taken over the weather, finally no more snow and cold, and I headed downtown to see the Queen Diva herself, the magnificent Cher, and as an added bonus, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo on their band's 35th anniversary tour. So there should be quite a spectacle to behold, which is the only reason I came to see Cher and it is probably the “gayest” thing that I have done in the past decade, and I am gay...LOL. Cher supposedly had her farewell tour back in 2006 but here she is in 2014 on her “Dressed 2 Kill” tour and I saw the set list and she covers her whole career from the sixties to the whole “Believe” phenomenon and it is hard to believe this is her sixth decade of over-the-top showmanship and touring. She has had a tumultuous career that was full of twists and turns from Sonny Bono discovering her to their television variety show and their very public break-up and her constant re-inventions and her many men and her two children...Chastity becoming Chaz...Cher has done it all and lived to tell about it. But first tonight is the legendary Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo with their band and they are on their thirty-fifth anniversary tour and I found it very odd that they were the opening act on the first part of the tour and Cyndi Lauper was the opener on the second half of the tour. Pat Benatar and company got to perform ten of their best songs and they stepped on to the stage to some very appreciative applause from the raucous crowd and they launched into a bombastic version of “Shadows Of The Night” from their 1982 album “Get Nervous” and Pat Benatar belted the song out with her vibrant soprano voice as she sang, “We're running with the shadows of the night, so baby take my hand, it'll be all right, surrender all your dreams to me tonight, they'll come true in the end...”, and she looked so cute in her punk rock outfit as Neil Giraldo was just wailing on his guitar and muscular riffs filled the venue and their sound was remarkably clear and full of rich tones. They segued into a scorching “All Fired Up” from the 1988 album “Wide Awake In Dreamland” and Neil made his guitar hum as Pat passionately belted out the words like she meant it and the rhythm section of drummer Chris Ralles and bassist Mick Mahan was tight and chugged along with skillful ease. Neil's playing was sensational as he powered his way through a sultry “Invincible” from their 1985 album “Seven The Hard Way” and Pat showed off the range of her voice while Neil finished the song with a sharp and concise guitar solo that scorched my ears. Pat warmly greeted the audience and she talked about their upcoming tour with Cher and then the band jumped into a slamming “We Live For Love” from their 1979 debut album “In The Heat Of The Night” and Pat gave the song some real soul as she sang the words and the band pumped it up a bit from the original version but it sounded great and the bass was just thumping as it rode the drummer's percussive groove. Neil Giraldo sat down at a piano and started tinkling away and the band joined him in an emotionally powerful “Promises In The Dark” from their 1981 album “Precious Time” which was the first song Pat and Neil wrote about their relationship, and Pat sounded amazing as she sang, “Where brave and restless dreams are both won and lost, on the edge is where it seems it's well worth the cost, just when you think you got it down, your heart in pieces on the ground, they whisper promises in the dark...” The song arrangement was a tad modernized but I thought that it gave the song more punch, and Pat joked about how this was her favorite part of the show because they got to sit because they are old...laughter...Neil told us how Pat and he had met and began creating music and touring and they are so thankful for all that the audience has given them, and Pat introduced the next song “We Belong” from their 1984 album “Tropico” as Neil pounded out the beautiful melody on the piano and it was the highlight of their set and then he switched to acoustic guitar and the drummer Chris re-joined the band for a raucous version of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” from their 1980 album “Crimes Of Passion” that Neil said the song was inspired by PAIN which is what he named his favorite guitar and he played a brilliant solo full of dazzling notes. He is so under-rated as a guitarist and songwriter and Pat led the audience in some robust singing of the song's chorus much to her delight. The band segued into a taut “Love Is A Battlefield” from their 1983 album “Live From Earth” and they had the groove just a'swinging as Pat belted out, “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...”, and she did it with amazing clarity and Neil was just amazing once again. The band left the stage and the crowd cheered themselves hoarse until Pat and her ace musicians returned and they performed a lovely version of “Let's Stay Together” from their 1988 album “Wide Awake In Dreamland” that was full of rhythm and groove as Neil tore up the fretboard with his sensational playing, they morphed into a rip-roaring version of “Heartbreaker” from their 1979 debut album “In The Heat Of The Night” that had Pat wailing like an opera diva as she sang those pithy words that started it all, “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...”, and then Neil led the band through a mash-up of the 1963 classic “Ring Of Fire” by Johnny Cash and he made his guitar scream and moan as he played the signature riff of Led Zeppelin's genre-defining 1969 barn-burner “Heartbreaker” and he ran through a few more old blues numbers and then he finished up by going back into “Heartbreaker” and with a flurry of guitar histrionics he ended their eleven-song set and then the band quickly left the stage while the crew ran onstage and set to quickly changing the stage over for Cher and doing it to the classic disco beat that was pumping out of the speakers. After a brief intermission the lights finally dimmed as images of Cher throughout the years was shown on the scrim hanging in front of the stage and the band opened with the hard-driving “Woman's World” from her new album “Closer To The Truth” and Cher appeared on a pedestal as dancers filled the stage and Cher let her voice loose, “Torn up, busted, taken apart, I've been broken down, left with a broken heart, but I'm stronger, strong enough to rise above, this is a woman's world, this is a woman's world...” The audience went crazy as the band cranked out a stellar version of “Strong Enough” from her 1998 album “Believe” and Cher implored everyone to dance and her dancers were dressed as warriors as they marched back and forth across the stage. Cher disappeared into the stage and she re-emerged dressed like an Egyptian goddess as she strode across the sleek stage and her band was tight and crisp as they laid down a supple groove and Cher got on her soapbox and made some backhanded compliment about rival pop goddess Lady Gaga and then she burst into “Dressed To Kill” from her new album and her band had some real chops as they turned it out. Then Cher slowed the show down and she took a sip off her beverage and told us that it contains Dr. Pepper which is her favorite soda and next she went on a rant on how she felt disrespected by the people at Dr. Pepper after she asked for a little something for promoting the soda on her tour and they said yes and something would be on its way, and then a little six-pack arrived in a Dr. Pepper cooler with a note that said thanks, so Cher went ballistic on them but she still drinks their product because it helps her voice. Then she recounted tidbits about life on the road, like how she was overwhelmed by pot smoke on Merle Haggard's bus and that experience made her just say no to drugs, and then she said this really was her farewell farewell tour as the screens showed a video who her in many different costumes. The band kicked in with the ending of “Dressed To Kill” and the dancers spun and twirled and Cher vanished into the floor for a quick costume change and the band slowly segued into the Sonny & Cher segment of the show as they laid down an almost sinister groove that turned into “The Beat Goes On” from the 1967 Sonny & Cher faux-psychedelic album “In Case You're In Love” and videos of Sonny and Cher flowed on the screens as the dancers rushed onto the stage dressed in all red and mod and Cher appeared dressed in a red sequin mini skirt, but the song was updated and modernized and sounded really cool and electronic as they morphed into a touching “I Got You Babe” from their 1965 debut album “Look At Us” and Cher sang it as a duet with a video Sonny and it was really beautiful and I teared up a little bit as they crooned, “They say we're young and we don't know, we won't find out until we grow, well, I don't know if all that's true, 'cause you got me, and I got you, babe, I got you babe, I got you babe...” The stage lights dimmed and images of falling rain appeared on the video screens as her roadies brought oversized circus items and ephemera to the stage and Cher re-appeared in a spectacular new Bob Mackie-designed costume and she began the seventies segment of the show and she belted out “Gypsies, Tramps, & Thieves” from her 1971 album of the same name and her voice sounded rich and evocative and the band flowed effortlessly into the sultry title-track “Dark Lady” from her 1974 album. Her roadies rushed about the stage and switched the props to an American Indian motif with the band chanting as the lights twirled and Cher stepped out of the dark in a full Indian headdress and outfit and she soulfully sang “Half-Breed” from her 1973 album of the same name, and the insightful words felt so relevant to today, “Half-breed, that's all I ever heard, half-breed, how I learned to hate the word, half-breed, she's no good they warned, both sides against me since the day I was born...”, and the drummer played some great percussion that made the song really jump until the stage went dark once again. The video screens lit up and played scenes from her many movies and when she won the Oscar in 1988 as the crew changed the stage into a large burlesque ballroom and her band was amazing as they started playing “Welcome To Burlesque” from the 2010 soundtrack album with Christine Aquilera and Cher quickly changed her costume and she sang the song with some real sass and grandeur and they segued into another song from the soundtrack, a sensational “You Haven't Seen The Last Of Me” and it was the showstopping moment of the night because Cher just sounded remarkable and her band was incredible as the melody just flowed like butter as she let her voice soar and I finally got to hear a fantastic guitar solo from her guitar player. Images of fire appeared on the video screens and two of her dancers took flight and performed some aerial acrobatics as the band got loose and punchy with what I would call “progressive rock” and then the two dancers vanished as Cher rocked out on “Take It Like A Man” from her new album and her voice took flight as she vivaciously sang, “Boy, if you want my heart, you gotta take it like a man, before you fight for us, you gotta show me that you can, so when the lights go dark, I wanna know you understand, that if you want my heart, you gotta take it like a man...” The dancers brought out a Trojan horse to the stage and Cher disappeared into the horse and returned in a gold mini skirt and the song's electronic beats pumped and Cher really sounded great even though her voice was heavily effected and the dancers surrounded her and the video screens show a tribute to her mom Georgina Holt and her mother's love of Elvis Presley and she even showed a video of her mother singing “Heartbreak Hotel” with him on a film set. And with another costume change Cher evolved again and I was surprised by her next song which was a stirring cover of Marc Cohn's “Walking In Memphis” from her 1995 album “It's A Man's World” and she sang it beautifully and it featured some great keyboard work, then she talked about her recent foot surgery which seems to be a common malady among long-term performers these days. Her guitarist joined her and played some gorgeous acoustic guitar for the intro to “Just Like Jesse James” from her 1989 comeback album “Heart Of Stone”, and Cher said she doesn't really care for the song but her fans love it, so she sang it with some ferocity as her band rocked it as the groove swayed to and fro as they segued into another song from the same album, an absolutely fierce cover of Buck Fizz's “Heart Of Stone”, and she said it was one of her favorite songs of hers and she just let her voice soar over the great chiming guitar that drove the song to bombastic heights. Next the band played a really heavy groove and the guitarist started playing a real killer riff that exploded into a raucous version of “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” from 1966's pop gem of an album “The Sonny Side Of Cher” and Cher seductively sang, “Bang bang you shot me down, bang bang I hit the ground, bang bang that awful sound, bang bang my baby shot me down...”, and the band broke the song down and let her rhythm section have a nice percussive solo bit while Cher changed costumes and her background singers added some wonderful vocals that were full of soul and passion and her bassist rocked us with a deep bottom and Cher strolled back onstage and started singing Laura Branigan's “I Found Someone” from her 1987 album “Cher”. Her band played a hard driving and muscular version that the guitarist highlighted with a catchy buzzsaw riff and he really shined on the brilliant solo that he played at the end of the song. Finally it came time for Cher and her band to perform my favorite Cher song, a scintillating “If I Could Turn Back Time” from her 1989 album “Heart Of Stone” and it was crunchy and anthemic and once again the guitarist sounded great as made his axe howl, and the audience sung along joyously to the meaningful words, “If I could turn back time, if I could find a way, I'd take back those words that hurt you, and you'd stay, if I could reach the stars, I'd give them all to you, then you'd love me, love me, like you used to do, if I could turn back time...” The dancers returned to center stage and twirled and whirled to our amazement and awe as her band cranked out a modern techno groove and Cher appeared in yet another spectacular costume dress that was just strings of sparkly diamonds as she belted out a phenomenal “Believe” from her 1998 album of the same name with the entire audience on their feet screaming and cheering as loud as they could. Two of her dancers took flight and they performed some amazing aerial stunts above the audience. Suddenly the stage went dark and a spotlight focused on an aerial device that was dropping to the ground and Cher climbed on and began rising as she plaintively crooned the words to “I Hope You Find It” from her new album “Closer To The Truth”, and she sounded wonderful as she bid us goodnight, “And I hope you find it, what you're looking for, I hope it's everything you dreamed your life could be, and so much more...” The deep passion in her voice was palpable as she delivered her nineteen-song set with an incredible energy and skill and her band was marvelous as they played as a tight well-oiled machine that truly impressed me with their musicianship. The house lights went up and I ran out of the venue into the night singing “If I Could Turn Back Time” as I walked to the metro.
THE BERKLEE MIX MAESTROS - March 31, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
Spring has finally arrived in Washington, DC and I find myself at the Kennedy Center to see The Berklee Mix Maestros on the Millennium Stage and they are six-member turntabulist ensemble who mix records with live instrumentation for their course in hip-hop experimentalism at the Berklee College Of Music. Me, being staunchly anti-sampling and I do not really care for or consider “turntabulists” to be “musicians” as a rule because I have never seen one scratch in key, so my editor sent me to today's event in the two-week long “One Mic Festival” so that my mind could be changed or for me to be less judgmental about the subject. The Berklee Mix Maestros consist of; Raydar Ellis on MC-ing and turntables, Jason Dawson on turntables, Stephen Carroll on drums and turntables, Luke Goh on piano and turntables, Sam Millinazzo on guitar and turntables, and finally, Nullin Hassan on flute and turntables, and I will see if they can sway me on the subject. They hit the stage with the “shrrr shrrr shrr” of scratching with the turntables and they proceeded to flood my ears with a barrage of samples as Raydar Ellis MC-ed to warm up the crowd with some of their infectious “let's party” attitude as they rocked and let loose some “Hollywood Swinging” by Kool And The Gang and from there they careened through the best of funk and soul music with bits of live instrumentation from them tossed in the mix to give the groove some continuity. They made inventive use of a “Stayin' Alive” sample by The BeeGees as Sam Millinazzo added some funky bass as they jumped into “Just The Two Of Us” that followed the swinging groove of drummer Stephen Carroll and they flowed seamlessly on the turntables as they raided the back catalog of several artists. They switched it up by allowing each member to take a turn on the wheels of steel; Raydar started things off with a very noisy set of samples that I found tedious and not very groove-centric, next Sam jumped in and the two of them kicked an old school R&B slow jam as Raydar added some turntable flourishes and they segued into Michael Jackson's “Rock With You” and then Sam got to do his grittier style of turntabulism and they follow that with Luke kicking it some Rage Against The Machine before he morphed into a more mellifluous style and he really rocked his turntable as he layered his samples of Rakim, Blondie, and KRS-One and that got the audience moving to his sonic flow. The remaining members re-joined them and they launched into a multi-layered groove attack that reminded me of The Prodigy but I do not think they were sampling them. They switched to a jazzy groove and Nullin played some ethereal flute work showing off his skills as a musician and then Sam added some pulsing bass licks that propelled the punchy beat. Next they moved into a turntable battle between Lou and Stephen that was actually cool but it ended way to quickly as they jumped into a more dance-y groove that featured the “Macarena” mashed-up with Biggie Smalls “Hypnotized” and as the beat thumped and jumped Jason took center stage as he grinded out The Beastie Boys' “No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn” and he continued to mash-up a whole bunch of songs, almost like a medley until Stephen jumped in with some laidback electro-funk as he made the raucous groove bounce with his more fluid style of turntabulism but he went on a little too much, especially when he butchered Pharrell Williams' “Happy”. Once the rest of the ensemble returned to the stage and launched into a terse minimalistic groove that lumbered towards the end of the percolating percussion and they took turns jumping through several samples until they ended on Suzanne Vegas' oft-sampled “Tom's Diner” mashed-up with Eric B. And Rakim's classic hip-hop paean “Paid In Full” and they tried to lead the audience in clapping along with the booming beat but the audience just was not that interested. The Berklee Mix Maestros finished up their well-paced set with some E.U. (Experience Unlimited) chanting, “Doin' the butt,” as the guys gathered around one turntable and scratched and did turntable gymnastics like a multi-armed Shiva as they finished their set. I still really do not see the importance of “turntabulists” in hip-hop and modern music in general, but after tonight's show, I find it less annoying than I did before when the “turntabulists” are good at what they do.
DYNAMIC DUO - March 28, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
QUILOMBOARTE COLLECTIVE - March 27, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
Spring was finally creeping into the city as the temperature rose for the “One Mic Festival” at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage and this is the third night of the celebration of a worldwide phenomenon that started in the mid-seventies in New York City. It is amazing how many cultures adopted hip-hop and made the genre their own to express what was going on in their part of the world and tonight features Quilomboarte Collective from Latin America, led by rapper Bocafloja in 2005 as a platform to express their views on various political points such as colonialism and the exploitation of their culture. They are a six-piece collective who take the stage and DJ Boo got things started as rapper Hache St intro-ed the group and DJ Boo got a slinky and swaying beat flowing as Bocafloja rapped about something in Spanish and vocalist Atiya added her lovely voice to the mix as Fernando Leon punctuated the groove with blasts of his saxophone, Bocafloja and Hache St rapped back and forth with each other with a nice lyrical flow but I could not understand some of the things they were saying in Spanish. However the songs began and ended chaotically as the beats provided DJ Boo and percussionist De La Ceiba sort of just started and ended randomly with no concern for song structures. Atiya had a lovely voice that just floated above the music ethereally as she wailed interesting little melody hooks and told us bits of wisdom. DJ Boo had skills on the turntables as he scratched competently but their songs had no musical hooks to drive the beat. The percussionist added some nice driving percussive fills but he seemed out of place and lost but the saxophonist was brilliant as he blew soaring melody lines that swirled in my ears. I admire that they use their creativity as means to bring about positive social change but the very simple song structures that they used made their songs a bit tedious after a while. I found rapper Hache St to be a better rapper than Bocafloja when it came to lyric articulation and stage presence, however my mind kept drifting away from them because I could not understand the vocals but I am not learning Spanish until the letter “J” is re-instated and not pronounced as an “H”. After the first eleven songs my attention span became really short then lost and I decided to leave because I found the Quilomboarte Collective to be a bit repetitive and uninteresting in their delivery and besides, they used way too many music samples for my liking so I am sorry to say that I left.
STEVE HACKETT - March 26, 2014
The Lincoln Theater - Washington, DC
I got the call that I had to review the Steve Hackett concert that was coming to the Lincoln Theater on this unusually cold day in the beginning of spring and I was psyched to see him perform because I used to love the early Genesis albums and tonight he is playing all Genesis on his “Genesis Revisited 2014 World Tour”. In the mid-seventies I discovered Genesis in the cut-out albums bin at the Dart Drug in Manassas and I was intrigued by their other-worldly album cover artwork especially the “Nursery Cryme”, “Trespass”, and “Foxtrot” albums and then there was their gloriously bombastic music that just carried you away with its majestic beauty and particularly on my favorite song by them, the sweeping epic masterpiece called “Supper's Ready”. The direction of the band's music began to evolve in the late seventies and Steve Hackett was not pleased and took his leave in 1977 after the “Wind And Wuthering” album and the band became an onerous hit machine until Phil Collins and I lost interest in them. In 2008 Genesis decided to come out of hibernation and tour so I went to the show where the tickets cost $250 each and I was bored/bemused by them and their hardcore fans but I really missed the guitar sounds of Steve Hackett. So now here I am getting ready to see Steve Hackett on his “Genesis Revisited Tour” and I am really happy to hear his take on the old Genesis numbers. I make my way to the venue and found my rather lovely seat way up in the front so I was psyched, Steve Hackett and his five-piece band ambled onstage and opened with a slithery “Dance On A Volcano” from the 1976 album “A Trick Of The Tail” and Steve Hackett just played the most beautiful searing riffs as the singer Nad Sylvan looked like he fell out of the seventies bellowed the lovely words, “The music's playing, the notes are right, put your left foot first and move into the light, the edge of this hill is the edge of the world, and if you're going to cross you better start doing it right...” I was amazed by Steve Hackett's dexterity and fluidity of notes as he played his guitar and he thanked us for our enduring support and appreciation and he really loves playing the old Genesis songs for us. The band proceeded with an earthy “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight” from the 1973 album “Selling England By The Pound” and the musicians took turns shining on their instruments as they played the music as it twisted and turned throughout the song. The band took a breath and then they launched into a beautiful rendition of “Squonk” from the 1976 album “A Trick Of The Tail” and it sounded great as they recreated the song almost picture-perfect and Steve Hackett was amazing as he led the band through the soaring tempo and time changes and I must say that it sounded better than Genesis ever did. Next they played a spectacular “Fly On A Windshield” from the 1974 album “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” and the drummer Gary O'Toole sang the sanguine lyrics, “The wind is blowing harder now, blowing dust into my eyes, the dust settles on my skin, making a crust I cannot move in, and I'm hovering like a fly, waiting for the windshield on the freeway...”, and Steve Hackett made his guitar squeal and howl these amazing extended notes and then they segued into an elegant “The Lamia” from the 1974 double album “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” that flowed like a mysterious river and the singer Nad Sylvan sang his heart out as he emoted the words and the keyboardist Roger King, who is Steve's long time musical collaborator, played an emotionally beautiful solo and the horn player Rob Townsend let loose with a flute solo that just carried me away as Steve accented the piece with an ethereal slide guitar and it was probably his best solo of the night. The audience was quite receptive as they launched into an elegiac version of “The Return Of The Giant Hogweed” from the 1971 album “Nursery Cryme” and the band was in sync with each other as they executed it beautifully and Steve was brilliant on the guitar and singer Nad was pretty good as he sang the words with grace. The sounds of a music box swirled slowly out of the speakers and they began a stunning version of “The Musical Box” also off “Nursery Cryme” that Steve dazzled us with these notes that just hung in the air as they danced with Rob's flute notes and they sounded regal and pastoral as Nad dispassionately sang, “I've been waiting here for so long, and all this time has passed me by, it doesn't seem to matter now, you stand there with your fixed expression, casting doubt on all I have to say, why don't you touch me, touch me...”, and Steve experimented with different guitar tones as he solo-ed over Lee Pomeroy's subtle and propulsive bass lines. The band got a bit more raucous and loose as they began the crowd-pleasing “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” from the 1973 album “Selling England By The Pound” and with its great chorus that had the whole audience singing along with Nad and Rob turned it out as he wailed on the saxophone with pizzazz and Steve finger-picked notes on his guitar and then the band left the stage and he switched to an acoustic guitar for his signature song “Horizons” from the 1972 album “Foxtrot” and his fingers danced and twinkled on the guitar as he stood there alone in the white lights and his playing was incredible and then the band returned and keyboardist Roger King played a brilliant swirling intro to “Firth Of Fifth” from the excellent “Selling England By The Pound” album and then the band kicked in with waves of melody and layers of rhythm that the drummer Gary played so succinctly as Nad's voice danced over the groove as he sang, “The path is clear, though no eyes can see, the course laid down long before, and so with gods and men, the sheep remain inside their pen, though many times they've seen the way to leave...” Steve Hackett is one of the most amazing guitarists that I have ever had the pleasure to see, his dexterity with his playing with so many tempo and time changes in the songs was awe-inspiring as he blew me away. The band continued with a dark “Lilliwhite Lily” from the album “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” which Steve said was a “new” old song and he sounded great as he played its ominous signature riff that undercut the rhythm like a great white shark and then exploded into the ferocious staccato of “The Knife” from the 1970 album “Trespass”. Sitting here I came to the realization that his songs were like mini-operas and the singer Nad was like a diva delivering arias and Steve finished the song with a brilliant solo that just electrified and lit up the room. Next they launched into the cascading melodies of “The Fountain Of Salmacis” from the “Nursery Cryme” album and the song was lilting and driving as Nad sang its lovely words and Steve played riff upon riff that danced with Rob's sensational flute notes as they drifted in the air and floated away. Steve Hackett returned to playing his trusty old acoustic guitar and as he gently strummed it the band began a soul-stirring version of one of his best songs, the glorious “Supper's Ready” from the 1972 album “Foxtrot” and his band was at the top of their game as they put some hearty passion into the one true masterpiece by Genesis as riffs and runs floated into the audience and Nad crooned the fitting words, “And it's hey babe, with your guardian eyes so blue, hey my baby, don't you know our love is true, I've been so far from here, far from your loving arms, now I'm back again, and babe it's gonna work out fine...” Each musician played their part skillfully as they flowed in and out of the song with each other and I was blown away by the song's textures and how well they performed the parts for such a long number. The sound was exquisite as the highs, lows, and mids sounded crisp, clean, and separated with a full-tone and then they wound the song up with each playing one last killer solo. Steve Hackett and his band finished the song and took their bows while the audience responded enthusiastically as they walked off the stage. The crowd went crazy until they returned a few minutes later and thrilled us with a spectacular version of “Watcher Of The Skies” also from “Foxtrot” and the rhythm section of bassist Lee Pomeroy and drummer Gary O'Toole throbbed as Nad sweetly sang and Steve coaxed the most amazing sounds out of his guitar and keyboardist Roger King mirrored him as his fingers danced across the piano. They finished their sixteen-song set with an apropos “Los Endos” from the 1976 album “A Trick Of The Tail” and Steve poured his soul into his instrument and playing as he careened through the song with Rob Townsend following him on the saxophone as Nad Sylvan sadly sang, “There's an angel standing in the sun, there's an angel standing in the sun, free to get back home...”, and with these words they ended their set and vanished into the wings of the stage. I must say that I am glad I made it to the show and Steve Hackett made me really appreciate those old songs from those albums with the funny covers from the days of my youth.
BOHANNON - March 15, 2014
The Howard Theater - Washington, DC
It was a lovely spring-like afternoon as I rather lazily strolled uptown to eventually arrive at the Howard Theater to see the funky rhythm-master himself, Hamilton Bohannon or just Bohannon as he is known on dance floors around the world. Next to James Brown, he has spread the funk to more and more people, and after forty years he is returning to the stage since he retired in 1983 to raise his family away from the spotlight. He kept himself busy throughout the eighties and nineties with his music publishing companies and licensing music samples to a multitude of rap/hip-hop and dance artists who have kept his music alive. So here he is tonight bringing his foot-stomping music to the people and I sit here waiting for him to get the dance started...I am horrified at how poorly attended the show was because there was hardly anyone here. I sit back and have an overpriced meal but I got to enjoy a wonderful mix of classic disco that played as we waited for the show to begin, and finally Bohannon appeared on stage and sat at his drum set and began playing rhythm patterns on a drum-pad until he kicked up the rhythm with some real drums and the poly-rhythms flew as he solo-ed away until his eight-piece band walked onto the stage and they jump-started the beat as they launched into a rocking “Foot Stompin' Music” from his third album “Insides Out” from 1975 and Bohannon beseeched the audience to stand up and dance as he urged us to, “Rock, an' if you feel like clapping your hands, go 'head, an' if you feel like clicking your heels, click your heels, we're gonna rock you'll, we're gonna have a good time...”, and he had these two amazing guitar players, Ricardo and Mickie, who traded riffs with a casual ease and the bassist Rynaldo was sensational as he let the booming rhythm flow as the vocalist Trina sang her heart out. The band next dropped a fat and funky groove as Trina introduced his ten-piece band one by one and they each got a turn to showcase their musical chops on their respective instruments, and Ricardo got a chance to blow us away with his incredible prowess on the guitar and then he devastated us with an extended solo that transcended musical genres as he made his guitar squeal and scream notes, licks, and riffs, until the other guitarist Mickie amazed us on the slide guitar with her dexterity as they began the swampy beat of “South African Man” from his second album “Keep On Dancing” in 1974 and the rhythm just pulsed and throbbed as Bohannon invited a man on stage to give us a little history lesson on South Africa until he started singing, “South African man, help him if you can, South African man, make it a better land,” and the keyboardist Gerald Gibbs played a killer solo on the guitar over the dense percussive groove that the band was laying down. Next it was time for guitarist V. Jackson to play some B.B. King-style delta blues fiercely and he sang “Hootchie Cootchie Man” with a heart full of soul as he strolled through the audience playing those electric blues. Then it was time for horn player Racey Biggs to step to the front of the stage and amused us with his funky nonsense blues as he wailed on his trumpet so beautifully and then he played a French horn, and he did this while switching back and forth with his trumpet and it was a spectacular display of musical dexterity that was amazing to see. The band stayed in the blues vein for vocalist Trina so she could let her voice soar and wail in a song dedicated to Aretha Franklin and she sounded great as she wailed, “I need a man.” The band picked up the pace as they kicked back in with his biggest chart-topping song “Let's Start The Dance” from the 1978 album “Summertime Groove” and the band was tight and funky as they drove the beat around the room as the band harmonized, “Well, you ain't stop the groove, 'cause it makes your body move, yeah, good funky music, just move that funky song, don't stop the groove, get the groove, let's do a good dance...” The audience got their groove on to the liquid beat and Bohannon invited some of them on stage to show off their flashiest dance moves as the band broke the song down to a percussive beat and then back to a full-on funk attack and then they just left the stage without saying a word and the house lights came up and the staff looked at the audience with a look that said get the hell out, we got another show to do tonight. However it was an amazing slice of funk and disco and soul and the blues, but I was sort of disappointed that they played such a short set that consisted of three Bohannon songs and six songs that were basically just jams that showcased different musicians, but I hope they come back soon and play a longer set.
LANDLADY - March 4, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
The city was partially shut down because of yet another annoying winter storm as I headed to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see the band Landlady and they hail from the hipster capitol of the world – Brooklyn and they are a six-piece outfit led by vocalist/keyboardist Adam Schatz. They are known for their heart-pounding hometown live shows that have made them the talk of the indie-world and they are releasing their new album “Upright Behavior” on noted indie label Hometapes Records and plan to conquer the world this spring. So I shall bear witness to their performance and even though attendance was sparse due to the weather, I shall let you know my opinion of them. Landlady took the stage and the first thing I noticed was that their leader Adam Schatz seemed a little pretentious and their music was bit ram-shackled as they tried to gel into a song as bits and pieces of melody and percussion filled the stage with sound. Their music was kind of abstract and careened about the stage as the band played seemingly random pieces of music that never really went anywhere. Adam had some odd lyrics that reminded me of Captain Beefheart as the band chaotically tumbled through the disjointed rhythm provided by their two drummers Jeremy Gustin and Charlie Ferguson. The two guitarists Mikey Freedom Hart and Will Graefe played some decent riffs but neither of them never really took off with some consistent playing and song structure. Adam tried to force the audience to sing along to their song “The Globe” but they were not having it, however the crowd did applaud and for what, I do not know. The band got a little space-y with long and distorted notes from the guitars on several songs but their song structures were rather disappointing because they never got in the groove. I now know why I hate hipster music. The bassist Ian Davis seemed to be the only band member who played any consistently tuneful riffs as the rest of the band lumbered through the atonal mess they were making on the stage. The best song of their set was called “We Are More Than Carnivores” which almost had a discernible melody to it as they pounded their way through it. The band also performed a cover of a George Harrison song that broke down in a way that it was almost unrecognizable except for the lyrics. I was really disappointed by them. Landlady finished their ten-song set and I let out a sigh of relief as I fled the premises and headed home to wash out my ears. I wished I had stayed home. Hipster tripe!
THE WALKING STICKS - March 2, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It seems that winter has dug its heels in and refuses to let it become spring as I head to the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center in the pouring rain to see local band The Walking Sticks rock the house. The band consists of Spencer Ernst on guitar, keyboards, and vocals and his twin brother Max on bass, keyboards, and vocals, and they are joined by their fantastic vocalist Chelsea Lee on percussion and keyboards, and they hail from Silver Spring, Maryland. The brothers started out in 2011 as an acoustic folk duo and then they signed on Chelsea Lee and added some synthesizers to the mix for their brand new EP “Send The Night” to update their sound however their gorgeous vocal harmonies reminded me of early Crosby, Stills and Nash. They took to the stage but Spencer realized he had lost his guitar pick and had a moment before he found one, and then they started off with a gentle flowing rhythm accented by a stuttering guitar that kicked off the song “Senorita” and Chelsea Lee wove an intricate story with her spellbinding voice. They reminded me of an eighties synth-pop band as they segued into an enchanting number called “Real Thing” and Max made his synthesizer sing with some beautiful melodies and Chelsea wailed her heart out with real soul and her voice soared exquisitely. The guys joined her in singing with their lush-sounding voices that intertwined so gorgeously as they sang the next song called “Jungle” and it was a new song and it had a sparse beat that was full of delicate melodies that wistfully floated into the atmosphere. The three of them followed that with the eerie-sounding “Living In A Wasteland” that had a lovely pulsing rhythm that flowed into the best song of their set, a passionate “Take Me Up To The Sun” with some of the best lyrics I have heard in a while as their vocals danced over the beat. Max and Spencer dedicated the next song “Without You” to their mother and its gentle loping beat grooved along to Max's pulsing bass lines and Spencer's inventive guitar melodies that were quite nice. Next they jumped back into a tight upbeat eighties-influenced song called “I Don't Want To Be Lonely” that had a driving Depeche Mode-like keyboard melody line that just propelled Chelsea's heartfelt voice. After a few jokes from the band, they launched into their new video single “Sunday Night” and Chelsea let her voice loose as it danced with the driving guitar melody of Spencer and Max's soulful bass playing. They tested out a new untitled song on the audience and it was quite lovely as their voices soared with each other as they sang of unrequited love and loss. The Walking Sticks finished their ten-song set with a cool song called “Name On It” and it was some really dazzling electro-funk that shuddered and shook as Chelsea's voice wailed seductively as the song's melody swirled about the venue. It was quite an enjoyable set of music that got my toes a'tapping and it pulled me in with its sparse beauty, and I highly recommend that you go see them before they breakout and spend all their time on the road.
THE EAGLES - March 1, 2014
Verizon Center - Washington, DC - Section 112/Row J/Seat 120
Winter seemed to drag on forever on this cold and dreary day as I wandered down to the Verizon Center to pick up my tickets for tonight's Eagles concert. The tour is called “The History Of The Eagles” and it promises to be a full night of music and reminiscing that covers the full span of their illustrious career and it was to be delivered in two sets. I have not really been into The Eagles for many years but I do enjoy a couple of their songs and I have not seen them live since “The Long Run Tour” back in November of 1979, so tonight shall be interesting to see to say the least. I arrived at the arena at 7:30PM and I got in and made my way to the merchandise table and bought a tour shirt and I was horrified by how disgusting and ill-mannered their hardcore fans were as I was jostled and bumped into by the streaming thongs of people but I grinned and bared it as I made my way to my fabulous seat with a great view. After awhile the lights dimmed and Glenn Frey and Don Henley ambled out on the stage and they picked up some acoustic guitars and began strumming them as they opened with the beautiful “Saturday Night” from 1973's “Desperado” album and Don Henley and Glen Frey's voices harmonized like angels as they sang, “What ever happened to Saturday night, choosin' a friend and loosin' a fight, she said tell me, oh, tell me, are you alright, whatever happened to Saturday night...” Don greeted the enrapt audience and he talked about the band's early years and how they used to rehearse at this awful place to go play for Linda Ronstadt. They brought original guitarist Bernie Leadon to the stage and they began playing his song “Train Leaves Here This Morning” from their 1972 debut album and he sounded great as he sang it with a deep feeling and passion that resonated in his voice and he blended right in with Glen and Don's voices as they made their guitars sing in perfect harmony. Glen said the band was passing a cold around but they were doing alright and then they launched into their very first hit single “Peaceful Easy Feeling” from their debut and bassist Timothy Schmit joined them on the stage and their vocal harmonies were amazing and the guitars intertwined with ease as Glen Frey sang lead. Next they played “Witchy Woman” also from their debut as their hotshot guitarist Joe Walsh joined them onstage, and the song's new arrangement sounded fantastic and drummer Don Henley sat at his kit and sounded great giving the song the right percussive groove as Joe Walsh let an amazing guitar solo rip and roar and Don moaned, “She can rock you in the nighttime, 'til your skin turns red, woo hoo witchy woman, see how high she flies, woo hoo witchy woman, she got the moon in her eye...” The stage crew darted around the stage and quickly changed the stage set to a more rocking set-up and Timothy wailed on the harmonica as the band segued into a touching “Doolin' Dalton” from 1973's “Desperado” album with Don and Glen harmonizing the lyrics so beautifully with their voices. They continued with the album's huge single, a sensational Glen-sung “Tequila Sunrise” that swayed with its gorgeous melody as the two guitarists took turns playing the lead then they reprised “Doolin' Dalton” and a bit of “Desperado”, and Joe ever the showoff accentuated the beat with some scorching fretwork from his lightning fast fingers. The band kicked it up a notch with a pumping version of “Already Gone” from 1974's “On The Border” that featured an electrifying lead from Joe and Glen sang the poignant words with such melancholy, “But let me tell you I got some news for you, and you'll soon find out it's true, and then you'll have to eat your lunch all by yourself, 'cause I'm already gone, and I'm feeling strong, I will sing this vict'ry song, woo hoo hoo...” The band segued into what Don Henley called “their first Number One on his personal favorite Eagles album “On The Border”, and they played an absolutely fantastic version of “The Best Of My Love” and Don's voice sounded like it was melting in my ears like butter and combined with Glen's voice, their harmonies just carried me away as they dove right into a tremendous “Lyin' Eyes” from 1975's “One Of These Nights” album and Glen sounded great as he laconically sang the potent lyrics. Next they rolled into the title-track of the “One Of These Nights” album with its pulsing signature bass line that drove the song as gnarly guitar riffs flew everywhere as drummer Don kept a rock solid beat as he sang his heart out and then the band finished their first set with the best song off “One Of These Nights”, a spine-chilling “Take It To The Limit” and it was the highlight of the night's set and its delivery was full of passion and hope as Don crooned, “But the dreams I've seen lately, keep on turning out and burning out, and turning out the same, so put me on a highway, and show me a sign, and take it to the limit one more time...”, the band gracefully finished the song and they left the stage for the intermission. After about twenty minutes the band returned and they opened their second set with a melancholic “Pretty Maids All In A Row” from 1976's massive record-selling masterpiece “Hotel California” and it slowly built up as the guitars sang so sweetly and Joe rasped the sad lyrics, then they segued into “I Can't Tell You Why” from 1979's classic “The Long Run” album and Timothy sang it with such conviction as Glen played its beautiful melody on the keyboards and Joe countered with some nice organ riffs. They surprised me with a rather eloquent “New Kid In Town” from the “Hotel California” album that had the audience members pulling their loved ones closer and it had a nice updated arrangement and their vocal harmonies were dazzlingly amazing. Timothy took a few minutes to greet the audience and he asked the lighting guy to shine the lights on the crowd as he began “Love Will Keep Us Alive” from 1994's “Hell Freezes Over” album and it was a nice laidback number with a solid groove that just flowed. The band finally kicked it up with a raucous “Heartache Tonight” from “The Long Run” album and it had the audience singing and clapping along as the band harmonized with Glen's delightful voice, and then they played another set highlight when they got almost funky with a stellar version of the “Those Shoes” also from “The Long Run”, and Don Henley sardonically sang the satirical words, “You just want someone to talk to, they just wanna get their hands on you, you get whatever you choose, oh no, you can't do that, once you started wearin' those shoes...”, and Joe made his guitar howl as the rhythm section got deep in the pocket and it was his best guitar solo of the night as he worked a talk-box that made his voice sound like an otherworldly guitar and he made guitar explode in a frenzy and the band started cranking out a picture-perfect “In The City” from “The Long Run” and Joe Walsh sang the words like he meant it as the band segued into a brilliant version of “Life's Been Good” from Joe's 1976 solo album “But Seriously, Folks...”. Joe sounded so cool as he rasped the biting and insightful lyrics, “I make hit records, my fans they can't wait, they write me letters, tell me I'm great, so I got me an office, gold records on the wall, just leave a message, maybe I'll call...”, and he got to show off his prowess on the guitar as crunchy riffs and intricate licks flew everywhere willy-nilly. It was spectacular and quite nice and Joe really rocked as he played off Glen's playing and then Glen said, “Give it up for the master blaster of the Stratocaster,” and the audience went wild with applause. Glen asked everyone to calm down so he could introduce the rest of the band which was keyboardists Mike Thompson and Will House, percussionist/keyboardist Richard Davis, second drummer Scott Cragger, and Arlington-bred guitarist Stewart Smith who played some tasty licks, and of course the crowd made a big noise, and he introduced Don Henley, Timothy Schmit, the unparallelled Joe Walsh, and the rather shy original guitarist Bernie Leadon, and finally himself, Glen Frey, and the roar of the crowd was deafening in response. The band took a bow and then they went right back into rocking a driving “Life's Been Good” and Joe showed us why he is a guitar god as the band pounded away behind him. The audience was ecstatic as Don Henley stepped to the microphone and sang the prophetic words of “The Long Run” album's title track and it was almost hard to believe that the song has withstood the test of time considering how drug-addled they were at the time, plus it does have some great guitar interplay. The surprise of the evening was a stellar rendition of “Funk #49” from the 1970 album “Rides Again” by The James Gang and Joe made his guitar scream and squeal as he launched into a barrage of guitar pyrotechnics that made for some sweet funk and the video screens showed giant pinball graphics and then they plowed into a riveting version of “Life In The Fast Lane” from “Hotel California” and Don let loose with his sweet vocals as the song rippled and pulsed with a new-found muscularity that was tremendous plus they played a wonderful extended version that closed their second set as the lights dimmed. The audience went wild calling for them to return to the stage, the band finally came back out and performed a fabulous “Hotel California” with Don crooning the immortal words, “On a dark desert highway, cool wind in your hair, warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air, up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light...”, and local boy Stewart Smith turned it out by playing some awesome double-neck guitar that really accented the song. The band left the stage one more time but quickly returned with their original guitarist Bernie Leadon and Glen said they were going to play the first song they ever recorded, a wonderfully dreamy “Take It Easy” from their debut album and their harmonies were phenomenal as their voices soared into the stratosphere with the dueling guitars. Another great surprise was that the band let Joe play another one of his solo songs and if was a scintillating version of his greatest hit, a guitar-tastic “Rocky Mountain Way” from his 1973 solo album “The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get” and he made his guitar sing once again as he lit up his fretboard while the band chugged along like a locomotive backing him. It was out-of-this-world and Joe's playing just thrilled me and the audience loved it as they responded with a thundering roar and he even did his talk-box magic one more time as he made his voice do all kinds of sounds. The Eagles finished their twenty-seven-song set with a magnificent version of the title track from their 1973 breakthrough album “Desperado” with its wonderful piano melody weaving through the laidback rhythm as Glen sadly sang, “Desperado, why don't you come to your senses, come down from your fences, open the gate, it may be rainin', but there's a rainbow above you, you better let somebody love you, before it's too late...”, the band played one final musical interlude and the guitars rang out with crystal-clear clarity until they were faded away and Glen and Don wished the audience a good night and then they disappeared in the dimming lights and then the house lights went up and I sat there blown away by their performance because I really did not expect much but I loved it and I almost forgot what a fantastic guitarist Joe Walsh was and combined with their beautiful vocal harmonies they were just incredible plus I could not believe how many songs that they did that I forgot how good they were to hear after all these years. Cheers, Don, Glen, Joe, and Timothy! Great show!
DENYSE PEARSON AND HER GENTLEMEN OF DISTINCTION - February 27, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was yet another frigid winter day as I made my way to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to catch the mellow jazz stylings of vocalist Denyse Pearson and her Gentlemen Of Distinction. Denyse is a native Washingtonian who attended Howard and Maryland Universities and she studied with some of jazz's greatest like vocalist Shirley Horn and pianist John Malachi who played with the legendary Sarah Vaughan. Her band is comprised of some of the best local jazz musicians, pianist Derek Gasque, bassist Donnie West, drummer J.C. Jefferson Jr., trumpeter Muneer Nasser, and saxophonist Steven Bundrick, and with Denyse they let loose with some mellow jazz that wrapped itself around your soul as her luxurious voice melts in your ears. The band took to the stage and Denyse said tonight's theme is love and passion in celebration of Valentine's Day, and the band kicked things off with a jaunty rendition of Ella Fitzgerald's “I Love Being Here With You” and her voice was smooth as butter as each of her musicians showcased their talent on their respective instruments and saxophonist Steven Bundrick sounded phenomenal with his flowing rich tone. They next played a lovely version of the classic standard “The Girl From Ipanema” by Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto and she sang it in Portuguese and she sounded elegant and suave as she sang with touching grace over the slinky rhythms of her band. The band continued on with a marvelous cover of Dinah Washington's Sammy Cahn penned “Teach Me Tonight” and her voice was creamy and rich in tone as she sang the romantic words and the song was driven by the crisp and sharp piano playing of Derek Gasque and the serpentine wails of alto saxophonist Steven Bundrick. The trumpeter Muneer Nasser punctuated the songs with these mellifluous blasts that really filled them out as he jammed on them quite succinctly. The band livened things up with a sassy salsa number that made the rhythm jump and swing and Donnie West was exceptional on the upright bass and pianist Derek played a brilliant solo that was very percussive and full of bright melodies. Denyse took a few minutes to introduce her band members with some eloquent words for each of them and then the band launched into an ultra-sophisticated version of Ella Fitzgerald's nonsensical “Hey Diddle Diddle” that was based on a nursery rhyme and they sounded great as they passed the delightful melody around and then they segued into the sassy beat of “Miss Mary Mack” which was also based on a nursery rhyme and her voice was exquisite as she sang the silly words. Denyse dedicated the next song to the “grown folks” and the band played a modern version of “My Funny Valentine” that she said was performed to honor Ella Fitzgerald who was her idol, but she reminded me of Sade in her delivery and style and Muneer spiced things up with a sizzling french horn solo. The band continued on with a sultry rendition of Nat King Cole's song “Love Is All I Can Give” and Denyse had a nice lyrical flow as she crooned the words so smoothly and the band pumped out a gently propulsive rhythm that swirled all about. They finished their nine-song set with the upbeat tempo of Lionel Hampton's version of “Red Top” and the saxophone and trumpet intertwined gloriously with the sunny melody from the piano as the rhythm section laid down a deep groove as Denyse wailed like an angel, “My little red top, see how you got me spinning, going round and round, and I don't want to stop, you've got me so that if I don't go around, well I'm sure gonna drop, gonna drop, gonna drop...”, then she went out into the audience and led them singing “Red Top” until she wound her way back to the stage and the band ended the song with a flourish as the crowd went crazy in response. Denyse took a bow and wished us goodnight and she and her band left the stage. I must say they were a fantastic band to see on this frigid evening in the city and I would go see them again.
NAPPY RIDDEM - February 12, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
SKINNY PUPPY, ARMY OF THE UNIVERSE, and TECHNOPHOBIA - February 11, 2014
The Fillmore - Silver Spring, MD
It was a cold dark night as I headed to Silver Spring to go to The Fillmore to see the dark lords of goth/industrial music, the majestic Skinny Puppy on their “2014 Live Shapes For Arms Tour”, and the dreary weather was fitting for them and their music. I really used to love Skinny Puppy because there was no one more abrasive and they were always guaranteed to clear a bar or party in no time flat. I saw them several times in the eighties and nineties and just loved them, I saw them at the Danceteria in NYC in 1983 when they were just using some cheap videos and masks on stage, and then I saw them during their peak years, the brilliant “Too Dark Park” tour in 1990 at UM's Ritchie Coliseum and the over-the-top production-wise “The Process” concept tour in 1996 in Fairfax, and both were ground-breaking events. I am not really fond of The Fillmore because it is not conducive to a good time and it has terrible sight lines for seeing the band, also there is not a damn place to sit unless you pay extra to sit in the balcony. I arrived and found a spot at the bar and first up, was local band Technophobia and they were a trio that reminded me way too much of Sisters Of Mercy and the vocalist Denman Anderson was a total Eldritch wannabe (S.O.M. singer) and the band chugged along with the synthetic beats of programmer Stephen Petix and the swirling synth lines of keyboardist Katie Petix while the vocalist intoned his unintelligible lyrics. They played a six-song set that bounced along without any real direction and the vocalist just got on my nerves way too much with his Eldritch imitation. I think they even covered “Walk Away” by the Sisters Of Mercy and I was happy when they finally finished their set and left the stage. Next up was Army Of The Universe who were touring with the headliner Skinny Puppy, and they are a four-piece from Milan, Italy, and they reminded me of KMFDM as the band pounded away with rhythmic swagger, and the guitarist David Tavecchia was pretty good as he followed the pulsing beat with sinewy melody lines that drove the song. The keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Albert Vorne played some nice bits as he filled the songs with all kinds of quirky riffs and hooks, however the vocalist Lord K was great at posing but when he sang I could not understand a thing he said. On a few of their songs from their 2013 album “The Hipster Sacrifice”, their keyboardist Albert played a keytar and on his fingers he wore these devices that shot green lasers which I found a bit silly. They reminded me of a whole plethora of industrial bands but they never seemed to stand on their own, the band was tight and bouncy and they played competently but there was no substance in their music and I quickly tired of them. Plus it turns out KMFDM's Andy Selway was playing drums, so I guess that explains why they sounded just like KMFDM. Their eleven-song set got a little abrasive on my ears during the latter part of their set, but the drumming overpowered the melody and I could not wait for them to finish and besides, the showboating singer just got on my nerves. Army Of The Universe left the stage and the lively crowd was anxiously awaiting the arrival to the stage of Skinny Puppy. Their intro music began to play and smoke slowly billowed out onto the stage and bright white lights began to shine into the club and Skinny Puppy took the stage and opened with “Choralone” from 1989's genre-defining masterpiece “Rabies” which is my favorite album by them, and the grotesquely costumed vocalist Nivek Ogre swirled about the stage in the blinding lights with an umbrella until he grabbed the microphone and demonically growled the opening lyrics to the song, “Unfurnished treeless barren ball, rotates spitting toxins, time to destroy, a balance not unlike, rotates farther changing...”, and multi-instrumentalist Cevin Key made all kinds of rhythms and noises from his perch among his banks of equipment, and guitarist Mark Wall and drummer Justin Bennett added interesting flourishes and percussive fills to as they played hidden in the shadows. They rumbled into a new song called “illisiT” from last year's return-to-form album “Weapon” that was a real old-school thumper and Ogre spew forth his deep socio-political lyrics and the video screen flowed with a barrage of disturbing imagery, and Cevin Key and the band kept the pace up with a dark and murky version of “Village” from 2011's excellent “hanDover” album. The band kept the music coming relentlessly and Cevin hovered over his equipment like a mad scientist as he threw bits and pieces of music and sounds and noise at the audience and then Ogre was like a futuristic monk as he menacingly rasped the lyrics to “The Choke” from their 1985 album “Bites”. The beat seemed endless as it thumped along as all kinds of samples and riffs and grooves filled the room, and the lights and video images were spectacular as they swirled and flashed chaotically in the drifting smoke...it was a sight to behold. The music flowed seamlessly as the different textures and layers filled my ears with their ice-cold brutal beauty, and then there was an occasional lovely piano riff that would just elegantly float in the air. The band paused and Ogre changed costumes to become a bedraggled fur-covered animal and then he attacked the microphone to gurgle the ugly lyrics to new song “Wornin'” and they segued into a magnificent “plasiCage” which was the best song on their latest album “Weapon”, and he heaved himself at the audience as he wailed his timely words, “War is this cloud, such a plastic fantasy, can't escape, not allowed, not a peep from down below it seems, the corner room is taken...” The drummer Justin Bennett was spectacular as he added clever fills to the songs and he blended in with the propulsive synthetic beats of Cevin Key's machines then they launched into a snarling and raging “Deep Down Trauma Hounds” from 1987's classic album “Cleanse Fold And Manipulate” and Ogre flashed a big bloody knife to make a point as he growled the words to the song and dripped blood everywhere as he wailed “Heretic”, and the band roared through a pulsing “Worlock” from the “Rabies” album and it was really great to hear some of their older songs given a modern edge. Ogre changed costumes again and this time it looked like he was just covered in bloody rags and I love how he makes a statement against all that is wrong and sick in the world today and the band lurched forward with the propulsive percussion of new song “paragUn” from the “Weapon” album and I felt like the band was pummeling me using their music as their weapon. They got a rise out of the audience when the opening beats of “Hexonxonx” off the“Rabies” album marched out of the speakers with cold precision and then Ogre sang the song with very little effects on his voice and the words rattled me, “So unbeat melting prophets the past melting undone misted fable role altogether mutating chains rattle happy to perform either war or famine...”, however the song was tremendously beautiful despite the mundane surroundings and the harsh rhythm throbbed like it was the sound of a decaying world at the end of time. I liked how they performed a lot of songs off their latest album “Weapon” with a sober enthusiasm that was quite endearing and that they sprinkled some of their best songs from their back-catalogue throughout their set but I was really bummed that they did not play “Tin Omen” from 1989's “Rabies” album. Cevin began playing some ambient runs on his keyboards as Ogre did this weird thing with a container of water like he was a high priest or shaman and he performed some kind of ritual that made the water mysteriously glow as he chanted, “All the peoples' faces dead.” Cevin and the band kicked back in with another new song called “Tsudanama” and its beat was almost funky as the groove swayed back and forth and the melody lines crashed and collided as they moved along frenetically until they morphed into a bone-crunching version of “Pasturn” off their 2007 comeback album “Mythmaker” and they followed that with the rapid-fire percussion and exploding riffs of “saLvo” also off the new album “Weapon”. Ogre ran off the stage and Cevin played some almost classical music until Ogre re-appeared dressed in white lab coveralls and he menacingly growled the words to their iconic song “First Aid” from the classic 1987 album “Cleanse Fold And Manipulate”, and its swirling synth lines floated over a cauldron of bubbling rhythms and the music seemed to drown me in its chaotic onslaught as they slammed into a grinding “Solvent” from the “Weapon” album. Ogre looked awesome as he spit out the the caustic words, “Fortune is worshiped highly one day to pray then die, melting in fiery sand quick sink in false so high, over erase cancel the way a trial...”, and then he disappeared into box of light amid the sonic madness and the rest of the band left the stage. The audience erupted into wild applause and chanting “Skinny Puppy! Skinny Puppy!”, the band quickly returned to the stage and Ogre said they were going to play a few songs off their ground-breaking 1984 album “Remission” and they launched into an eerie “Far To Frail” and that went into a pounding “Glass Houses” and finally they performed a sensational “Smothered Hope” that was like a giant car crash in hell that shuddered and shook in rhythmic beauty. I loved how all the old songs sounded good after all these years and I had flashbacks of my “goth” period, however the songs sounded just as good and had a relevant feel to them, especially the lyrics. Skinny Puppy finished their nineteen-song set with the upbeat groove of “Overdose” from their new album “Weapon”, and Ogre let it all hang out as he shimmied and gurgled the telling words, “Do the dance, particulate, shake, shake, boom inside, smell the hide, and suck the egos off...”, and Cevin Key just went ballistic on his gear and made it scream and howl as they finished their set and disappeared off the stage. The audience gave them much love and appreciation but they were done, and let me tell you, an aging goth crowd does not look good when the lights come up after a hot and sweaty Skinny Puppy show. It was a fantastic show that flowed nicely and had great lights and videos and I am really glad that Ogre and Cevin are still at it after all these years.
THE GUMBAS, HISTORY REPEATED, and DOT DASH - February 1, 2014
Comet Ping Pong - Washington, DC
Well music lovers, it was a cold and dreary Saturday night in the city and I felt like going out to see some local bands play, so I headed to Comet Ping Pong to see the fantastic Dot Dash featuring my old friend Danny Ingram on drums and History Repeated featuring the legendary singer John Stabb of Government Issue plus the headliners, the relatively unknown The Gumbas. The Comet Ping Pong is a pretty cool neighborhood bar/restaurant that hosts gigs on the weekend that are produced by promoter Sasha Lord and who, by the way, does a fantastic job. The gigs are held in the back of the very happening restaurant which has a real hipster vibe to the place and a nice selection of beers and really good pizza. The first band up tonight is Dot Dash and they hit the stage with a world-weary fury as Danny Ingram pummeled his drums into submission as the guitarists Terry Banks and Steve Hansgen traded riffs over the pounding bass of Hunter Bennett as they opened with “(Here's To) The Ghosts Of The Past” from last year's “Half-Remembered Dream” album. I liked their stage dynamics as they played their instruments skillfully with all the notes in all the right places, and they debuted a couple of new songs that showed some real growth in their songwriting, the song “The Winter Of Discontent” was particularly nice as was a dreamily lush “Something In-Between” and a densely percussive “Sleep, Sleep”. I really liked Terry's stark lyrics about surviving in this world and how it is not very fun and you have to really work hard at keeping your soul intact. The band had wonderful song structures that were full of rhythm and intricate guitar riffs in all the right places and best of all, lots of tempo changes to make the songs interesting. Danny Ingram's drumming was on target as his bandmates rode his driving groove and they played a gloriously spectacular “The Color And The Sound” from their 2011 debut album “spark>flame>ember>ash” on The Beautiful Music Records and then they segued into a catchy new song called “Semaphore” that had a cool bass line that drove the song and they followed that with a jangly “Shopworn Excuse” from their 2013 album “Half-Remembered Dream”, and then they played my favorite song by them called “That Was Now, This Is Then” from their debut and it was a sensational version full of bright guitar notes and a loping bass line as Terry plaintively sang the words, “Trapped in a haze, stumbled around for days and days, then I got out, I'm not going back anyhow...” The band paused and greeted everyone and then they immediately jumped into a rocking new song called “How Far Can You See From Up Here?” and it had a nice riff that just climbed into your head and stayed there as Danny and Hunter made a formidable rhythm section for it to dance on. Dot Dash closed out their twelve-song set with three songs from their fantastic 2013 album “Half-Remembered Dream”, first they played a shimmery “Bloom/Decay” that was just full of intricate rhythms that flowed into a heartfelt “A Light In The Distance”, and then they closed with a pulsing “Hands Of Time” that put the world in perspective with its melancholic lyrics and a wonderful guitar solo that finished the song. Dot Dash said good-bye and left the stage to a barrage of applause and I was quite impressed by their performance and I will go see them again. The second band tonight was History Repeated featuring my pal John Stabb of Government Issue fame and the band hit the stage with some explosive agit-pop fury full of the slashing guitar riffs of Derrick Baranowsky battling over a dirty and funky bass melody as John Stabb let his snarky but insightful lyrics rip, and the bassist Sean Koepenick was particularly wonderful as he made his instrument pop as it rode the swirling percussive groove of drummer Jonathan Roth. I love how John Stabb just rails against the world for all of its stupidities and inequalities that seem to overshadow the good parts of life. I did find Derrick's guitar sound somewhat abrasive in some of their songs and it overpowered the rhythm section and drowned out John's vocals, but thankfully he was a good player. Of all John Stabb's post-G.I. Projects, History Repeated was the best one in the way that they brutally attacked their instruments and made them sing. A couple of the songs that they performed reminded me of Government Issue, especially a thrashing “The Elevator Of Shame”, but they really impressed me with a raucous song called “The Sound” which was my favorite one from their set and it was about how there is no more freedom of speech in our society. The band was rolling through their ten-song set with military precision and they played the last couple songs with a bristled intensity and “Moving The Cannonball” was quite a standout with its searing guitar riff and punchy bass line that had the crowd pogo-ing like crazy. Their performance was full of punk rock fury and righteous indignation as they barreled through their songs at a breakneck speed, they were beautiful in their ugliness. History Repeated finished playing and dashed off stage and the headliners The Gumbas rushed to change over the stage and the audience changed and they thrashed out some pretty staid post-punk noise as they preened for the girls in the audience who seemed to have appeared out of nowhere and I thought they sucked so I left and headed home.
SUNWOLF, BIG MOUTH, PASSING PHASES, and TROPHY WIFE - January 19, 2014
The Wilson Center - Washington, DC
It was a cold night as I ventured up 16th Street to go to a Positive Force DC benefit for “From Service To Justice” at the original Wilson Center, which is now a charter school and not the holy ground of punk rock anymore, to see several local punk rock bands perform. First up, it was Sunwolf from DC and they got things off to a raucous start with their driving post-punk sound, they are a trio consisting of vocalist/bassist Rob Tifford, guitarist/vocalist Tommy Bunnell, and drummer Danny Bentley and they were tight and propulsive as they pounded out a groovy beat. The guitarist Tommy made his ax screeched and squealed with fiery riffs as bassist Rob had his bass pulsing and throbbing like a speeding train. The vocals were a little distorted but they seemed to be about rising above adversity and other challenges one faces in life, but I wished they changed tempos every now and then. The band played a vigorous and muscular nine-song set that was full of punk rock charm but not a lot of its fury, however they were fun and energetic and made me want to dance. They were tight and played in sync and all of their songs had groove and they made me want to buy their album. Second up was Big Mouth from Baltimore and they were a quartet consisting of guitarist Esra Oruc, bassist Emily Ferrara, drummer Ian Marshall, and whirlwind of a vocalist, Angela Swiecicki, and she writhed and weaved her way through the audience as she screamed her overt socio-political lyrics. The band played chaotic and chunky punk rock but they were lacking in groove, but the guitarist Esra Oruc played some nice licks. The singer Angela Swiecicki reminded me of Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill as she wandered through the crowd and screamed her lyrics in people's faces especially during the song “Circling”. Big Mouth's lack of variation in song structure got a bit ponderous after a few songs but the band and the crowd seemed into it. The band's seven-song set was a bit tedious as they raged on and the vocalist Angela seemed to be angry about something but it was hard to understand the lyrics and I was glad when they were finished. I liked their energy but the execution was hell on my ears. The third band of the night was Trophy Wife and they are a duo that consists of vocalist/guitarist Diane Foglizzo and drummer Katy Otto who also runs Exotic Fever Records, and they are currently based out of Philadelphia since they left DC. They seem to be yet another indie duo in a long line of indie duos, but they were pretty cool as they delivered waves of pounding rhythm and pretty interesting guitar riffs, but the vocals were lost in the mix. The guitarist Diane had some pretty intricate riffs that weaved in and out of the thunderous drums. My favorite songs that they played were “Transitions” and “Breakdown”, and their lyrics were very political and about effecting change in our society. They had an interesting dynamic in their sound and the guitarist Diane was a pretty good player and she filled their songs rather nicely for a duo, and Katy's drums had a big sound that made up for their lack of a bassist. Trophy Wife's eight-song set was driving and full of life and they were way better than I expected them to be because normally I hate and despise duos. The last band of the night was Passing Phases from Sterling Park, Virginia, and they consist of Mike Benish on guitar and vocals, Mike Taylor on guitar and vocals, bassist Jon Hands, and drummer Ian Widman. Their records are released by local label Cricket Cemetary and they were pretty mainstream for this show compared to the other bands. They plowed through their set chaotically with fuzzed-out guitars backed by a plodding bass and clattery drums everywhere but the vocals were barely intelligible. They reminded me of a sloppy version of The Smithereens as they charged through their set. I just could not take it anymore so my friend Joel and I decided to bundle up and head on home, but it was a pretty decent show for a good cause, so keep up the good work Positive Force DC because someone has got to help people in this town.
THE BOMBAY ROYALE - January 13, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a semi-pleasant day as I made my way to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see the dance band The Bombay Royale from Melbourne, Australia, and their dizzying blend of surf rock and disco and wild theatrics full of color and costumes and dance. The twelve-piece band plays vintage Bollywood soundtrack music that they give a fresh edge with their original music as the vocalists sing in Hindi, Bengali, and English backed by their intoxicating rhythms. But I do not understand bands that are late and then bitch about their soundcheck and make the audience waited to be seated ten minutes late...not cool. The band take the stage in costumes and the keyboardist Matt Vehl kicked things off with a biting melody line as the horn section punctuated the groove with assorted blasts of sound and the rhythm section of bassist Bob Knob and drummer Julian Goyma was tight and images of Bollywood movies played on the video screen. The bandleader and saxophonist Andy Williamson brought vocalists Parvyn Kaur Singh and Shourov Bhattacharya to the stage and they sang and danced with lovely grace to the almost ska-like beat of their opening song “You Me Bullets Love” from their new album of the same name. Their horn section of trombonist Ros Jones and trumpeters Ed Fairlie and Declan Jones was great sounding as they played off each other and percussionist Josh Bennett added these awesome tabla accents and particularly on the sitar. The band pulsed and throbbed as the two vocalists sensually sang “The Wild Stallion Mounted” and the horn section added great trumpet lines. The next song “Give Me Back My Bunty Bunty” had an almost funk feel to it as Andy Williamson played a scintillating flute solo as Matt Vehl rocked the synthesizer and Josh Bennett was excellent on the tablas as the vocalists intoned the lyrics and they rode the tight groove of the band and Andy Williamson blew some awesome saxophone over Tom Martin's stuttering guitar riff. The singers' voices really complimented each other but I wished I could understand all the words that seemed full of pathos and drama despite the upbeat music. The band had a great moment when they performed a Bollywood-ized version of “The Twist” and it featured some sharp and sassy bass playing from Bob Knob. The band seamlessly mixed surf rock and disco with Bollywood rhythms as the vocalists Shourov Bhattacharya danced about the stage and Parvyn Kaur Singh sadly sang about unrequited love. They finished their twelve-song set with a medley of classic Bollywood theme songs and they sounded great as they showed off their musical skills, their playing was tight and the vocals were great. This was a real enjoyable show and their music was a wonderful adaptation of Bollywood rhythms that fueled their vibrant music. They are currently touring in the United States and the singer said they would be back this summer before they head home so I cannot wait to see The Bombay Royale again.
WAYNA - January 8, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
TOM PRINCIPATO BAND - January 4, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
Once again I am at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see local guitar legend Tom Principato, he has been at it for over forty years with a plethora of musicians and bands from Powerhouse to The Assassins to the legendary Danny Gatton and he has won twenty-two local Wammie Awards for his music. It seems that he plays non-stop as he has toured the world and played every club around DC. So on this cold night I am here to hear him burn up his guitar with his unimitimable style. His band features the incredible Tommy Larsen on organ, Jay Turner on bass, Joe Wells on drums, and percussionist Josh Howell and they opened their set with "Love Is Blind" and it had a nice solid groove as Tom Principato thrilled us with his deft and supple playing. He is celebrating the release of his new album "Robert Johnson Told Me So" and he launched into the gentle blues of "Say It" from his award-winning album "Guitar Gumbo" with his soaring riffs accented by Tommy Lepson's organ and vocals, and he finished the song with a marvelous solo that had notes flying everywhere with great ease and skill. The band continued with a new song called "It Ain't Over Til It's Over" that had a pleasant laidback beat with an almost country feel to it as he sang it like he has lived it and Tommy Lepson played so soulfully on his organ and once again Tom Principato wailed on a beautiful fuzzed-out guitar solo that just touched my soul. Next Tom played a song off his "Smokin'" album called "My Baby Worships Me" and it featured percussionist Josh Howell blowing an incredible harmonica solo that was full of depth. The band flowed into a dark and sensual "In The Middle Of The Night" from his "Raisin' The Roof" album and it was co-written by Tommy Lepson whose fingers danced across the organ keys like a ballerina as Tom Principato made his guitar sing. Tom is just a phenomenal guitar player and he made his guitar talk as the band began "Sweet Angel" with its swampy groove that Tommy made his organ dance all over and Tom sang the words so languidly and he played his best solo of the set as he lit up his guitar. The band picked up the tempo and rocked out on a lovely version of "She's At It Again" from his "Tip Of The Iceberg" album that had the audience clapping along as they turned it out and Tom played a scintillating solo on his guitar. My favorite song of his set was "Outside My Window" from his new album and it was a real slow-burner with an ominous beat as Tom made his guitar howl with a delicate riff that he held the notes with great ease as he sang, "I got that feeling of impending doom as the rain came pouring down..." The band switched things up and laid down a New Orleans groove that had the beat jumping as Tommy Lepson sang the words to "Rocky Way" and it sounded like a Grateful Dead song as Tom Principato and Tommy Lepson traded riffs so elegantly as Tommy got the audience going as he said, "Let the good times roll..." They finished their eleven-song set with another new song called "Run Out Of Time" that was pleasant and had a nice groove to it and Tom Principato let it rip one more time as he soulfully sang the song. He introduced the band and then they finished their set with the title-track from his new album "Robert Johnson Told Me So" and it had a chugging beat and Tommy Lepson's organ washes and Tom finished the song with one last searing guitar solo. It was an incredible set from Tom Principato and his band and I immensely enjoyed every guitar note that he played with heartfelt conviction.
DEATHFIX - January 2, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It is about time that the Kennedy Center gave some respect to DC's vibrant independent music scene and I was quite surprised when I saw that Dischord Records artists Deathfix were playing the Millennium Stage, first The Medications and Dance For The Dying and now - Deathfix - who's next. The band features Fugazi's Brendan Canty and Blowoff's Rich Morel on vocals, and guitar and keyboards respectively and their rhythm section consists of The Medications bassist Mark Cisneros and new drummer Jerry Busher also of Fugazi and he replaced Devin Ocampos of The Medications. While touring with Bob Mould they were brought together by their mutual love of early seventies glam and progressive rock and in 2009 they became a full-fledged band and they have released a seven-inch single and a full-length album and they have gigged all over the world. I gave Rich Morel some of his first gigs in the area in the early nineties and I have been amazed by his musical growth and journey over the years. They hit the stage at 6PM in a squall of feedback and droning waves of sound as they gently began their first song called "It's Taking Me Over" and Rich Morel intoned the lyrics over the swirling riffs of guitarist Brendan Canty and pulsing bass of Mark Cisneros. The second song throbbed and percolated as the band let the rhythm flow and Brendan Canty sang in his angst-y style and his guitar drove the song and then Rich Morel sang the second part of "Waste Of Time" as the drummer Jerry Busher lumbered and lurched to the swampy beat. The next song "Hospital" began with a fluid guitar line as the drums pounded away and Brendan Canty mournfully sang the words, "Get up, get up, get out of bed..." Next they did a new song called "Exhaust" and it had a nice propulsive bass line as Brendan Canty strangled his guitar and sang over Rich Morel's sparkling keyboard lines. Their lyrics sometimes reminded me of Fugazi's as the words tell a story of being "exhausted" by life and I liked how the words Rich Morel sang countered Brendan Canty. They continued on with the choppy rhythm of "Playboy" and the swirling riffs and licks pulsed as Brendan sang the cool lyrics with great backing vocals from the bassist Mark Cisneros as Rich Morel took over the vocals and his keyboard was giving the song a nice pop edge. They vaguely reminded me of mid-period King Crimson in their song structures. The next song "It'll Break You" was my favorite of the set with its driving beat and killer guitar riff as Rich Morel sang, "Love don't stick around, it'll break you..." and played its catchy keyboard riff as Brendan Canty's guitar ate the song. The band charged into "Mind Control" from their Dischord Records release and it grinded and swirled as they sang the words so eloquently as they proceeded in a very Beatles-esque way which is so unlike anything else on their label. The band continued with the eerie sounding "Dali's House" with its extended notes of the guitar and its driving bass and Rich Morel played some delicate keyboard lines as Rich raspily sang, "I wish I was Salvador Dali's house, because the clocks are dripping and you never now when the party's over...", with his wry twisted sense of humor and they finished the song with a cacophonous roar as they stretched it out into a spacey jam. Deathfix finished their nine-song set with a raucous "Transmission" that jumped with a punk edge as the band played the song. I truly enjoyed Deathfix and I hope more bands like them get to play the Millennium Stage in the near future.
THE GRANDSONS - January 1, 2014
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
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