Mr. Jimijam

MY CIVIL WAR ANCESTOR - WILLIAM WALLACE RILEY

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CAROLYN MALACHI - December 30, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC




THE HOLIDAY 9 SONGWRITERS SERIES - December 21, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC




WE ARE PIRATES - December 9, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was a real bone-chillingly cold day as I ventured down to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see the local band We Were Pirates play their eclectic genre-bending music as part of the Hometown Sounds podcast that promotes the local music scene. We Were Pirates are a band that have been making waves for several years now with two albums, “Cutting Ties” and “Change” under their belt and they are critical darlings for their work with NPR on the popular show “This American Life”. The band took the stage after the Hometown Sounds podcast hosts Tony Porreco and Paul Vodra spoke passionately about their podcast/website/monthly showcase and then they introduced We Were Pirates who kicked their set off with a languid uptempo number called “Don't Let Me Go” that was full of hooky guitar riffs and gorgeous shimmering vocal harmonies from leader/guitarist Mike Boggs and bassist Kate Rears Burgman, and then the band cranked it up with the power-pop of “My Side” with its serpentine guitar riff that drilled its way into my ears like a termite. Next they kept the tempo brisk and jumping with a lively song called “If You Want Me” and the drummer Pat Frank was an outstanding beat-keeper with a wonderful sense of tempo that he punctuated with poly-rhythmic fills, however the band reminded me way too much of Vampire Weekend and then the song got a bit southern-sounding and a little bit reminiscent of the legendary power-pop of Alex Chilton and Big Star which was alright. The band was a bit lacking in the personality department because they did not interact very much with the audience but they tried to make up for it with some rather catchy songs that were driven by some really inventive percussion and some wonderfully intricate guitar-playing, particularly on my favorite song of their set, “Almost A Crime” and Mike Boggs became a little more passionate in his vocal delivery as his guitarist Scott Greenberg noodled away on his instrument. The band brought guest violinist Gavin Fallow to the stage and he gave the music some edge with his incisive playing as Mike sang the song “Better Off Without You” with a touch of melancholia as the band plowed on with some bright and lively music that made you feel like dancing. The drummer Pat Frank kicked off the next song “I Don't Know” with a pulsing thump as he rode the hi-hat with panache as Mike and Kate duetted the meaningful words, but I was starting to tire of the repetitive guitar tones that the band seemed to favor over and over again and again. I found their lyrics thoughtful and clever with a bit of insight into the ways of the world as their voices harmoniously intertwined ever so lovely and then Mike Boggs introduced the members of the band as they burst into the wonderful melody of “Last Minutes” and the guitarist Scott played a riff that just danced with the succinct percussion of drummer Pat Frank. I also was impressed by Kate's bass-playing as she played her instrument beautifully as she filled in the in-between spaces in the percussion making it very propulsive as the band broke the beat down. Then they kicked into my second favorite song of their set, a haunting “4AM” that reminded me of New Order for some reason but the song had great ebb and flow as its many textures washed over me and then came that over-familiar guitar tone that just got on my nerves, however the drummer Pat livened things up on the next song, a real crowd-pleaser called “Waste All My Time” and it had me tapping my toes to its catchy beat and witty words. Mike Boggs and company began finishing their fifteen-song set with a jaunty and upbeat number called “Merry Christmas” to prepare us for its sugary onslaught and then they ended their set with the stately EDM-influenced title-track “Matter” from their latest EP and it sonically careened through the air with the precision of a bullet as they sang that everybody matters with conviction as the four members quietly took their bows and left the stage. The show tonight was just the thing that I needed to uplift my spirits and fill me with melody and I was glad I caught today's show, so cheers to We Were Pirates...great show!



THE 39th ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER'S HONOR AWARDS - December 4, 2016
Kennedy Center Concert Hall - Washington, DC




ZACHARY SMITH AND THE DIXIE POWER TRIO - November 29, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC




HERB AND HANSON - November 28, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC




THE COWARDS CHOIR - November 27, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC




ELENA AND LOS FULANOS - November 25, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was the beginning of the annual winter holidays season and it was actually a rather lovely post-Thanksgiving afternoon as I wandered to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see the local bilingual folk rock band Elena and Los Fulanos play their political Latino-cana with a little bit of punk rock thrown in the mix to accent bandleader Elena Lacayo's two cultures. Elena started the band in 2011 and they began to build a following that was politically-aware about social issues like immigration that directly effect them and their community. At 6PM the band took the stage, well Elena came out by herself with a guitar and began strumming and singing the song “Quizas Si” and the rest of the band joined in as they kicked in with a gentle loping beat as she crooned so eloquently in Spanish but I had no idea what she was singing about, yet it seemed to be about love and loss and then they followed that with the mournful-sounding “All We Have Left” that she sang in English as the band laid down a multi-layered groove that swayed ever so gently as violinist Danny Cervantes carried the song with a sweep of his bow as if he was directing the flow of swirling notes and the pulsing bass. On the next song “Tonight”, the band kicked into the bright and sprightly beat as Elena plucked on the ukelele and sang with great emotion the touching lyrics, and for their next number, “Amor Prohibido”, which was dedicated to some influential woman who was important to Latinos and their struggles and the band got a bit dramatic as she crooned away in Spanish over the ebb and flow of a modern mariachi beat and violinist Danny Cervantes chimed in with a eloquent solo that was divine. They moved into the pseudo-bluegrass of “Carolina” and it was a really interesting take on the genre, particularly when the violinist sawed away on his instrument as it was accented by the graceful bass playing of Kevin De Souza and Elena picked up her banjo and just jammed and her playing was beautiful and then the pianist Cynthia Marie had her moment to shine with a spectacular solo. The surprise of the evening was a jazzed-up and swinging version of Radiohead's “Creep” that vaguely reminded me of Astrud Gilberto, Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto's international hit “The Girl From Ipanema” as the gentle bubbly beat took me away with its airy groove that was sensational, and particularly the violinist Danny Cervantes who played an exquisite mandolin solo. The band changed things up with “Tributo A Dario” which was played in a traditional Nicaraguan music style that was full of counter-beats and a sparse melody that sounded like twittering jungle birds and the words celebrated her Latina culture and then they went into a song called “Amor Migrante” which was about the trials and tribulations of a mother and child who are separated because of the broken immigration policies and it was carried by Elena Lacayo's crisp guitar-playing and her mellifluous voice and driven by the brilliant and tasteful percussion of Xavier Bure and then Elena introduced the members of her band as they finished the song. Elena took a few moments to talk about the beauty of diversity and understanding and then she went into the R&B-ish sounding “Oceans” which was the first song that she wrote and I really liked what she had to say and how she said it over the undulating groove as she sang for kindness and understanding. The band finished their eleven-song set with a pumped-up version of “Morir Bailando” that got the audience clapping along as Elena sang in Spanish about all of us taking care of ourselves and each other. It was a really enjoyable performance full of delightful melodies and a message of love and hope and I was glad I saw them today.



GREAT AMERICAN CANYON BAND - November 16, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC




BE STEADWELL - November 15, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC




STEVIE NICKS and THE PRETENDERS - November 14, 2016
The Verizon Center - Washington, DC

It was a chilly Monday night as I walked through the swirling leaves to the Verizon Center to see the dream concert of Stevie Nicks and Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders rage against the decline of America. It has been several years since I last saw The Pretenders and that was in the early nineties at the Capitol Centre opening for their idol Iggy Pop, so it will be fun to hear their classic songs again. I entered the venue and found my seat just as Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders took the stage and opened with the crunchy title-track “Alone” from their new album and it is their first album in eight years and the song took off with a roar and Chrissie sounded great as she crooned, “Nobody tells me I can't, nobody tells me I shan't, no one to say 'you're doing it wrong', I'm at the best, I'm where I belong, alone, yeah, I like it, I like being alone, what you gonna do about it, and so fuck off, yeah, I'll do whatever I want...”, and then she picked up her guitar and led the charge into the next song “Gotta Wait”, also from “Alone”, and the rhythm surged over the crisp and jaunty percussion from original member and stalwart drummer Martin Chambers as her guitarist James Walborne blazed like Hendrix on his guitar. Then the band performed a killer version of “Message Of Love” from their 1981 album “The Pretenders II” and with James Walborne's razor-sharp guitar riff and the chunky bass line from Nick Wilkinson, the song morphed into the faux-reggae beat of “Private Life” from their self-titled debut and it was spectacular as it sputtered and spazzed everywhere and her voice rang true as she delivered the vicious words with a sneer, “Your sentimental gestures only bore me to death, you've made a desperate appeal now save your breath, attachment to obligation through guilt and regret, shit that's so wet, and your sex life complications are not my fascinations...”, next the band kept the pace up with a rough and tumble version of “Down The Wrong Way” from Chrissie Hynde's 2014 solo album “Stockholm” and guitarist James Walborne played a spectacular solo that gave me pause. They slowed the tempo down for a delicate “Hymn To Her” which she dedicated to Hillary Clinton and it was written by Meg Keene who was her best friend since her high school days and it was from their 1986 album “Get Close” and they slowed the song to an elegiac crawl as Chrissie showed that her voice has range and emotional depth. Then the band turned it out on a raucous version of “Back On The Chain Gang” from their 1983 album “Learning To Crawl” and its chiming guitars accented the driving beat as she crooned the damning words with a heartfelt edge and a bit of melancholy as they segued into their classic ballad “I'll Stand By You” from their 1994 album “Last Of The Independents” and it had the audience swaying to and fro under the glow of their cell-phones as Chrissie sang the song so beautifully, “I'll stand by you, I'll stand by you, won't let nobody hurt you, I'll stand by you, take me in, into your darkest hour, and I'll never desert you, I'll stand by you...”, and she really touched my heart. The band was hitting their stride as they plowed along into a very touching and heartfelt “Don't Get Me Wrong” from the “Get Close” album that they updated the arrangement and it was my favorite song of the night, and the band segued into the stinging satire of “My City Was Gone” from their “Learning To Crawl” album and it was delivered with a sardonic ease as she snarled, “We'll I went back to Ohio, but my family was gone, I stood on the back porch, there was nobody home, I was stunned and amazed, my childhood memories, slowly swirled past, like the wind through the trees, ay, oh, way to go, Ohio...”, and the guitarist James Walborne ripped another red-hot solo that just scorched my ears as his fleet fingers made me feel electric and alive. Chrissie paused for a few minutes and said they were going to perform a new song called “Holy Commotion” from their new album and it was about how “white supremacists” are not really Christians and they were distorting the teachings of the Bible and causing harm to those who do not agree with them and they rocked out with a catchy riff from pedal steel guitarist Eric Heywood that was leading the way as it bounced and swirled jauntily with drummer Martin Chambers' rhythmic precise pounding that lead the band right into the clipped beat of “Mystery Achievement” from their debut and man, did they play it for all it was worth and I loved it and the thunderous bass line played by Nick Wilkinson that propelled the song forward and then Martin took the time for a brief but flashy drum solo that kicked off “Middle Of The Road” also from their “Learning To Crawl” with a finger-snapping swing-like beat as Chrissie sneered the political words and the band was just smokin' like a fast-rolling freight train as they laid down the groove as they segued into their biggest song “Brass In Pocket” from their debut album and Chrissie let go with some raw sexuality as she sang her heart out, “'Cause I gonna make you see, there's nobody else here, no one like me, I'm special so special, I gotta have some of your attention give it to me...”, and they rocked so hard and it was the end of their fourteen-set which was not enough for me as they finished the song and The Pretenders took their bows to a screaming audience and then suddenly they were gone and the house lights went up and I was loving how fantastic they sounded and how well their music stands the test of time. After the roadies re-set the stage in just a few minutes which was really cool as the lights dimmed again and Stevie Nicks and her eight-piece band took the stage to the strains of “Destination Unknown” by Missing Persons and the band opened the show with a summer-y “Gold And Braid”, which was a previously unreleased track from her 1981 album “Bella Donna”, and Stevie Nicks' incomparable voice and sunny disposition were incredible as she said that this show will feature her less-famous songs and she wailed, “Though deep set and somewhat shadowed, her life...her mystery, well it's not so different than the way that he said, so don't hide your eyes from me that way baby...”, and the band morphed into a rather lovely rendition of “If Anyone Falls” from her 1983 album “The Wild Heart” and it featured a re-vamped arrangement that just rocked the song and there were really cool graphics on the video screens. The band went right into the Tom Petty-penned ballad “Stop Draggin' My Heart Around” from her quintessential 1981 album “Bella Donna” which seemed to be the favored album of the night and her right-hand man Waddy Wachtel played some dreamy and haunting guitar that seemed to linger in the air and Stevie brought Chrissie to the stage and both of their voices to meld into one as the two of them gave the poignant lyrics some righteous indignation about the pitfalls of love and relationships and the band churned along like a tempest in a teapot as they merged into the new/old song “Belle Fleur” from her 2014 compilation album “24 Karat Gold – Songs From The Vault” and it had a groovy bassline provided by Allan Ortiz that drove the hypnotic groove as guitarists Waddy Wachtel and Carlos Rios traded big soaring riffs over former Eagles' drummer Scott Crago's laid-back percussion and Waddy finished the song with a wonderfully played slide guitar solo that gave me chills. Some really cool graphics began to flash on the video screens as the band went into the smooth groove of “Outside The Rain” from “Bella Donna” that seemed to melt like butter in my ears, and then the band stepped up their game with an exquisite version of “Dreams” by her “other” band Fleetwood Mac and it was their only number-one hit from their 1977 Grammy-winning album “Rumours”, and I found the musicians very lyrical in their playing and I liked their version better than Fleetwood Mac's original one, and it was just fantastic to hear and watch. Darrell Smith's piano playing was like watching a grand master as his fingers tinkled the beautiful intro to “Wild Heart” the title-track from her 1983 album and Scott Crago kicked in with some sharp drumming as Stevie Nick's voice exploded with the words, “On my...wild heart, on my...wild heart, even in the darkest places of your mind, wo...are the children are they hopelessly enchanted, wild in the darkest places of your mind, no...don't blame it on me baby, blame it on my wild heart, even in the back of your mind...”, and once again Waddy blew my mind with another scorching guitar solo, he is so under-rated as a guitarist, but he is one of my favorite musicians. Stevie had the audience in the palm of her hand as she swirled into the pulsing groove of “Bella Donna” the title-track from her 1981 album and they performed a real nice percussive version that featured my man Waddy playing a fuzzed-out guitar solo like he was Jimi Hendrix kissing the psychedelic sky that ended with him morphing into an upbeat “Enchanted” from the “The Wild Heart” album that featured a driving piano riff from keyboardist Ricky Peterson that danced over the lilting groove that the band provided. Next they went into the beautiful and uplifting ballad “New Orleans” from her 2011 album “In Your Dreams” and I thought her voice sounded great and not like a goat as the cartoon “South Park” sarcastically joked about in one episode a few years back and it was driven along by some intricate and exhilarating acoustic guitar playing from Waddy as he led the way into the very upbeat and poppy new/old song “Starshine” from Stevie Nick's 2014 compilation album “24 Karat Gold – Songs From The Vault” and she paused the band as she told a few stories about the song's history and the band gave it a Motown feel as it was driven by Ricky's great organ-playing that made the song swing and Stevie introduced the next song “Moonlight (A Vampire's Dream)” from her 2011 album “In Your Dreams” as being inspired by the “Twilight” movies as she twirled around in a long white coat and Ricky played a lone stark and tinkly piano melody as she crooned, “Some call her strange, lady from the mountains, and others say she's not really real, like a candle burns bright, wants to burn faster, but maybe then at least, she really feels, burning like the candle in the middle...”, and she spun around in the sparkly lights like a gypsy diva as the crowd cheered wildly. They brought them to their feet as the band cranked out the signature riff of “Stand Back” from her 1983 album “The Wild Heart” and it was propelled by Scott Crago's stellar percussion and Ricky Peterson's fuzzy organ riff. Stevie's voice got all anthemic and she got the crowd going as Waddy finished the song with a great guitar solo that was intricate yet simplistic. Stevie took a few minutes to talk about the song's history and she even swore which was unusual for her as she introduced tonight's oldest song, a mournful “Crying In The Night” from her 1973 “Buckingham Nicks” album that she did with Lindsey Buckingham and it had great lyrics that really touched me and Waddy played this muscular guitar riff that made the words come alive as Stevie encouraged everyone to wave their hands in the air as the band segued into another new/old song titled “If You Were My Love” from her 2014 compilation album and the words were about making your dreams come true and how your selfless love just may save someone's soul as Waddy strummed an acoustic guitar with grace and style. The band was smokin' as they went into the highlight of the night, a beautifully haunting version of “Gold Dust Woman” by Stevie's other band Fleetwood Mac from their “Rumours” album and their arrangement was awesome especially Waddy's howling guitar riffs as the band made it real psychedelic and trippy as the song washed over me as Stevie and her back-up singers Sharon Celani and Marilyn Marlin, who replaced her sister Lori Nicks, traded vocal aerobatics and I was just blown away by their electric performance. The band began a percussive intro to “Edge Of Seventeen” from her “Bella Donna” album and what a monumental version that they delivered that sounded so magnificent as Stevie crooned,“The clouds never expect it, when it rains, but the sea changes colours, but the sea, does not change, so with the slow graceful flow of age, I went forth with an age old, desire to please, on the edge of seventeen, just like the white winged dove, sings a song, sounds like she's singin'...”, and the words seem fitting as the band broke down the song and took turns solo-ing while Stevie introduced the band, and Waddy was da shit on the guitar as he made it squeal and howl until the band left the stage. The audience exploded into applause that grew louder by the second until Stevie Nicks and her band returned to the stage and launched into an exquisite version of “Rhiannon” which was her greatest Fleetwood Mac song from their 1975 self-titled “debut” album and Stevie just tore it up as she twirled and howled the mystical words over the percussive swirling beat. Stevie thanked everyone for a wonderful night and then the band went into a hopeful but melancholic rendition of “Leather And Lace” from “Bella Donna” and Stevie sang passionately, “Lovers forever, face to face, my city or mountains, stay with me stay, I need you to love me, I need you today, give to me your leather, take from me, my lace...”, and Waddy finished the song with an awe-inspiring guitar solo that just hung in the air as Stevie and the band left the stage to rapturous and adoring applause. I was amazed by their nineteen-song set and by how well they delivered it and rocked the crowd...what a wonderful night and God bless Miss Stevie Nicks and Waddy Wachtel's guitar-playing and the rest of the band. It was a fantastic show that had my head reeling as I headed home, and I will probably go see them again and again.



THE PET SHOP BOYS - November 11, 2016
The Warner Theatre - Washington, DC

As the ugliness of the impending Trump regime begins to unfold in the Nation's Capitol much to the world's chagrin and horror and dismay, my best friend Scott Parks and I are headed downtown in his car towards The Warner Theatre where we going to see the wonderful and still surprisingly relevant Pet Shop Boys rock the joint on what is probably one of the last great gay social events before the Trump administration thugs erase us (gay people) and the Pet Shop Boys from the American consciousness, but I am going to enjoy myself tonight and get lost in their superb music. This is the “Super Tour” in support of their brilliant new album “Super” and this is the twentieth time that I have seen them perform live and with their recent spate of excellent albums, from 2009's “Yes” and 2013's critically-acclaimed “Electric” to their new album, and it seems they have made the Pet Shop Boys very relevant once again and vocalist Neil Tennant's quite articulate and verbose lyrics have something to say about getting through life and love and loss in a positive manner. We sat in our bomb-ass seats in the VIP section of the balcony and grooved to the pre-show music that was playing an interesting blend of techno-trance with disco flourishes that made me want to dance as we sat and waited patiently for them to take the stage, and then suddenly the houselights dimmed and vocalist Neil Tennant and keyboardist Chris Lowe suddenly appeared onstage dressed in these weird metal headpieces standing on two rotating daises to the swirling rhythms and crisp percussion that launched them into the dreamy and flowing song “Inner Sanctum” from their new album “Super” and Neil coyly sang, “In the inner sanctum, you're a star, the girls, the guys, they all know who you are...”, and they went right into a glorious “West End Girls” from their 1986 album “Please” that they delivered with a dark and scary edge and with an updated arrangement accompanied by these exquisite visuals that I got lost in. Next they let loose with a beautifully sarcastic “The Pop Kids” from their new album and it made me miss my younger more glamorous and wild days, but only for a short moment, and the song flowed effortlessly into a pulsing “In The Night” from their 1986 B-sides compilation album “Disco” and their three-piece ensemble that accompanied them were fantastic, Christina Hizon on keyboards, violin and vocals, Frenchman Simon Tellier on percussion, keyboards and vocals and they made the percussion a lot more louder and richer in tone and ambiance, and the sensational vocalist/percussionist Afrika Green who joined Neil Tennant to sing some hair-raising vocal aerobics as he crooned, “And when the soldiers strut, all he cares about is love, when the flags are out, all he cares about is love, well, there's a thin line between love and crime, and in this situation, a thin line between love and crime and collaboration, in the night, in the night...”, and then the band burst into a shimmery “Burn” also from their new album and they performed it with gusto. They blew my mind with a scintillating and shimmering rendition of “Love Is A Bourgeois Construct” from their 2013 “come-back” album “Electric” that was made to come alive with a thoughtful violin solo from Christina Hizon as the song pulsed and Neil Tennant words flowed so elegantly in and out of the music. Then they lit up the house with an amazing version of “New York City Boy” from their 1999 album “Nightlife” that seemed to encapsulate the “feel-good” nineties with glittery pizazz and then they followed up with a wistfully melancholic “Se A Vida E (That's The Way Life Is)” from their 1996 album “Bilingual” and it had a galloping beat that carried me away with its precision as they went into the biting social commentary of “Twenty-something” from the “Super” album that had Neil Tennant sarcastically singing, “Twenty-something, hard to beat, check your reflection, walking down the street, thirty's calling round the bend, will your ideas ever trend, oh twenty-something, feel the heat...”, as he mocked the younger generations with a smile. They reached into their back catalogue for a flowing rendition of “Love Comes Quickly” from “Please” and violinist Christina Hizon provided the soaring keyboard riff that drove the song and he crooned the deep lyrics and it was touching and soul-stirring to hear, and then they perked the crowd up with the percolating techno rhythms of “Love Etc.” from their 2009 album “Yes” and the lyrics felt so timely and prescient and they got the biggest response of the night judging by how the audience reacted with rapturous delight as they slid into the ominous groove of “The Dictator Decides” from “Super” and the words really made me think about the state of the world and how I can improve things for everyone while getting lost in the dark and foreboding lights as they swirled to the beat. The band got the crowd fired up and dancing again with their modern “EDM” masterpiece “Inside A Dream” from their “Electric” album as they morphed through several sub-genres of dance music; techno, house, trance, garage, and the song was a glorious piece of music that made me to dance with joy; then they went into an elegiac and doleful rendition of “Home And Dry” from their 2002 album “Release” which is one of my favorite songs by them, and Neil Tennant sadly crooned, “Oh tonight, I miss you, oh tonight, I wish you could be here with me, but I won't see you 'til you've made it back again, home and dry, home and dry...”, as the music got quite dirge-like and ethereal. The tempo picked up and Christina Hizon went wild on her violin just slashing at it with her bow over the vaguely Arabic percussion of “The Enigma” which was the B-side of “Vocal” from their “Electric” album and the band seamlessly flowed into said song and they had the speakers pumping with the mad dance beats as the audience clapped along in sync and danced their hearts out to the thunderous groove that crescendo-ed to a screeching halt which they then followed with a slowed down tempo as they launched into a sassy “The Sodom And Gomorrah Show” from their 2006 album “Fundamental”, also one of my favorite Pet Shop Boys songs ever, and I really liked its clever lyrics and sad undertone. They followed with an out-of-this-world version of “It's A Sin” from their 1987 album “Actually” that they delivered it with a muscular and slinky groove that just swept me away with the layers of cascading rhythms as the audience roared their approval as the band went into a jaw-dropping rendition of “Left To My Own Devices” from their 1988 album “Introspective” and it had an fresh new arrangement and the crowd was loving it as Neil Tennant crooned, “I could leave you, say goodbye, or I could love you, if I try, and I could, and left to my own devices, I probably would, left to my own devices, I probably would, oh I would...”, and the band turned it out, they were sharp and tight and you keep asking yourself is Chris Lowe really doing anything but seemingly standing in front of a keyboard and minimally moving his arm, but he was because I saw him hitting the keyboard with zeal. And with yet another re-vamped and updated arrangement of The Village People's “Go West” from their 1993 album “Very” which was interspliced with snippets of “Opportunities (Let's Make Lots Of Money)” from the “Please” album and the song rocked and gave me hope for surviving and thriving in the future, the band slowed the song down to a minimal beat as Neil Tennant took a few minutes to introduce each member of the band and his longtime writing partner Chris Lowe and then they jumped into the song's coda and finished it and they vanished off the stage. The crowd lost their minds and went wild with some rapturous applause until Neil, Chris, and their backing band returned to the stage and kicked into a fresh and re-vitalized version of “Domino Dancing” from their 1988 album “Introspective” that had the audience screaming the words along with them ever so madly. Neil said the next song was a thank-you note to us and they launched into a heartfelt rendition of the Willie Nelson-penned “Always On My Mind” also from “Introspective”, and it sent the crowd into a frenzy as Neil crooned, “Maybe I didn't treat you quite as good as I should, maybe I didn't love you quite as often as I could, maybe I didn't hold you all those lonely lonely times, and I guess I never told you, I'm so happy that you're mine...maybe I didn't love you...you were always on my mind...”, and then they reprised “The Pop Kids” as if to say – we are still revelent and on top of things and you should listen to what we have to say - “They call us the Pop Kids, 'cause we loved the pop hits, and quoted the best bits, so we were the Pop Kids, I loved you...”, and those words pretty much summed up the whole experience and how they made me feel. It was a fantastic performance that was like a Broadway show that stimulated all of my senses and left me in a fantastic mood as my friend and I sassily strolled out of the venue and headed to the metro to get back home, and they are still one of my favorite bands ever.



DJ PREMIER: A TRIBUTE TO MC GURU (GANG STARR) - November 5, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC




ODDISEE - November 4, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was yet another glorious autumn day as I headed downtown on the infuriatingly broke-down metro system to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see one of the DMV's best rappers Oddisee who is part of the Words Beat & Life Festival celebration and teaching event. I arrived to the venue and I was sorely disappointed in the fact that Oddisee was sound-checking without a backing band because I hate sample-based music and I really prefer sample-free hip-hop music provided by musicians, but hey, I will at least give it a listen to see if I own the publishing rights to whatever he samples so I can sue...don't be lazy – write your own damn music, however I like Oddisee and his mellifluous flow that is very intelligent and articulate in what he has to say. The festival manager took the stage and spoke about the event and then he brought Moroccan-born rappers Razor and Soldano to the stage but since I speak no Moroccan, I stared into space until they finished their song that really did not have any flow at all...know your audience...because I doubt that there was anybody else there who could understand them either. Oddisee who was born Amir Mohamed grew up in the area and he has been making beats since 2002 and he and his DJ took the stage and Oddisee began dropping lyrics about being a better person who does good things for other people and the righteous words tumbled out of his mouth with a casual and sardonic ease as he told us about his world and his truth with the words, “I ain't got no plans...”. They kept things moving with a lilting R&B groove that was slinky and serpentine as it weaved its way through my ears as he questioned peoples' choices and actions and how he feels and reacts to the situations they cause as he sarcastically rapped, “I swear I think my phone is being tapped...”. I was glad I did not recognize any of the samples the DJ used in his mix but there were a few horn parts that seemed to be familiar to me, but the song “That's Love” was pretty cool with a wonderful message and a groovy beat but I wished Oddisee was backed by a killer band with some tight chops. I was really impressed by the genuineness of his lyrics and without being condescending but they made you feel uplifted in a spiritual way. The audience seemed to love him as they clapped and swayed to his music with sheer joy as he rocked the mic with the best song of the evening that had him rapping, “I'm attracted to the lights in the distance, living in the moment...I'm gonna be alright...”, and I really believed him. He finished his eleven-song set with a faux gospel number that filled the room with the spirit and it was nice, then he bid us goodnight and urged us to take part in the festival as he left the stage.



THE BROTHER BROTHERS - October 25, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

Once again it was a sun-drenched but chilly beautiful autumn evening as I finished the day's work on the computer for my website and then I took off for the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see twin wunderkinds fiddler/vocalist Adam Moss and guitarist/cellist/vocalist David Moss perform their unique take on Americana roots music, an innovative mix of folk, blues, bluegrass, and klezmer music that just blows my mind and they have great vocals to boot. The Brother Brothers took the stage and briefly tuned their instruments and then they launched into the lilting rhythms of their first song titled “Siren Song” and their vocal harmonies blended so perfectly as the two of them took turns playing these out-of-this-world and ethereal solos on their instruments. They jumped into an upbeat folk song about trees called “Bird In A Tree” and they made their instrumentation flow and gurgle like a forest stream rushing through the landscape and I really liked their clever wordplay about the beauty of trees and nature. For their next number which was called “Come Back, Darling”, they sang a wonderful duet between the two of them and with David's cello and Adam's fiddle melding together so beautifully as its melody softly glided through my ears and their angelic tenor voices soared into the stratosphere. They paused for a few minutes and warmly greeted the audience and David explained that the next song “Ohio” was about institutionalized racism and the “damage done” and the lyrics were poignant and right on time about the ugly situation that is still very relevant and their voices sounded like one as fiddler Adam made his instrument sound so mournful as the notes floated across the audience. They turned a traditional song “Columbus Stockade” into a klezmer whirlwind and cellist David made his acoustic guitar sound so interesting as he played these minor chords with gentle aplomb, then they performed a pre-vaudeville standard by Jean Havez called “Goodbye Booze” and it used to be considered “race music” but it was about the evils of booze and trying to stop drinking as the notes cascaded over the rhythm like a bluegrass song and their voices soared in perfect harmony as the two of them sang, “See what booze has done to me...”. Next up was a jaunty little number called “In The Nighttime” which was about when fiddler Adam Moss was a busker in the Boston metro and the song had some ironic lyrics about the musician's life as he raced up and down the fiddle like he was the legendary Bill Monroe complete with a little bit of hillbilly yodeling. They did a fantastic job on Peter Rowan's “Paper Bride” and the two of them made it sound even more sad than the original and Adam plucked these notes on the fiddle that sounded like falling drops of rain as David made his cello give the song a deep bottom. They played a solo track called “Jerusalem” off David's solo album “Songs For Willoughby” and it was done in a more traditional pop style as they impressed me with some clever and literate wordplay as David's acoustic guitar drove the song with a nice beat while Adam had his fiddle buzzing like a swarm of bees in the background adding texture and feel to it. Then they went old-time bluegrass-y folk and played the song “Notary Public” that reminded me of Steve Martin and his band and it was probably my favorite song of their set as their instruments took me places. Adam and David then made me laugh heartily with some rather cheesy “weed” jokes and began rocking on a number called “Tugboats” in which they sang about being a seasonal marijuana harvest worker and all the problems that ensue from it and they played a shimmering piece of cello and fiddle music that really caught my ears with its beauty and radiance, plus I really loved their verbose and witty story-telling skills. The Brother Brothers finished their ten-song set with a breathtakingly beautiful number called “Under The Brooklyn Bridge” and I was amazed by the melodic and lyrical beauty that they conveyed with minimal musical accompaniment and they played their instruments so majestically. All in all, it was a fantastic performance and I would love to see them again.



Mr. Jimijam

IAN HUNTER AND THE RANT BAND and DOT DASH - October 24, 2016
The Hamilton Live - Washington, DC

It was yet another colorful and beautiful autumn evening as I headed out from my home to go to The Hamilton Live with my friend Dave Coleman to see the legendary and seventy-seven years old Ian Hunter and his Rant Band, and also my friend Danny Ingram's band Dot Dash were opening the show...I could not be happier...and I started looking around at the arriving crowd and I cannot wait to see the aged patrons react to Dot Dash's music. Dot Dash is one of my favorite local bands and it has been a while since I have seen them play live, but I was sitting in my seat with a pretty good view and I was quietly freaking out over the fact that the first time I saw Ian Hunter with his then band Mott The Hoople was in May of 1974. I also saw him with guitarist Mick Ronson at Hammerjacks in Baltimore in the early nineties, and I also saw him at The Howard Theater on September 15, 2012 with The Rant Band, and I was quite surprised to see that he was playing at The Hamilton Live and with Dot Dash and so I could not wait for the show to begin. Dot Dash took the stage and let loose with some big riffs and pounding percussion from Danny Ingram as they charged non-stop through their set with poise and grace as Hunter Bennett drove the music with his booming bass as Terry Banks wistfully sang his beautiful lyrics about life, love, and loss. I loved the song where he sang, “Don't rain on my parade...”, over Steve Hansgen's blistering guitar attack, plus I just love how Hunter almost played his bass like a guitar and almost funky like Bootsy. They closed their nine-song set with a brilliant “Ghosts Of The Past” that just rocked my world as they wound up their set with panache and style. They quickly left the stage and the crew got the set ready for Ian and company very quickly as the crowd happily and patiently waited for them to start the show. Ian Hunter and The Rant Band took the stage to the sounds of throat-singing and they opened with a brash new song called “That's When The Trouble Starts” from Ian's brand new album “Fingers Crossed” and with its AC/DC-like riff from former Bongos guitarist Jim Mastro and the thunderous drumming of former Wings member Steve Holley and Ian walked to the microphone and growled, “It looks so easy, ain't nothin' to it, fast food, anyone can do it, you got your start on karaoke, heading straight down the sewer of reality, you think you're cool, you think you're wicked, ahhh, fifty shades of stupid...”, and the band went straight into a succinct version of “Once Bitten Twice Shy” from his first solo album 1975's “Ian Hunter” and they played with an acoustic bent to it and some excellent piano-tinkling from Dennis Debrizzi that drove the song as Ian sounded even more raspier as he crooned, “Once bitten, twice shy, babe...”, and his band was sharp and tight as fuck as the musicians each gave the song some edge with their solos. The guitarist Jim Mastro looked stylishly great as he played the opening riffs to the title-track from Ian's 2012 album “When I'm President” and the band made the groove swing like a hammer and Ian sang the timely words like he meant them and then they blasted into an upbeat “Saint” also from the same album and it had a perky piano riff and catchy chords. One of the highlights of the evening was when they performed a haunting rendition of “The Truth, The Whole Truth, Nuthin' But The Truth”, also from the “Ian Hunter” album, with its indemnifying words about the many sins of the world that he delivered like a fire-and-brimstone preacher and the guitarist Mark Bosch played these searing riffs that just cut through the air and electrified the song as bassist Paul Page made his instrument go boom. Ian Hunter sat down at the keyboards and pounded out a monstrous “Cleveland Rocks” from his best album, 1979's “You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic”, and he sang his heart out, “I got some records from World War Two, I'll play'em just like me Granddad do, he was a rocker and I am too, oh Cleveland rocks, yeah Cleveland rocks, so find a place, grab a space, and yell and scream for more...”, and his band played tersely behind him and his piano and then he got a bit Elton John-y on the keyboards as he performed a laidback and rather hippie-ish version of the title-track of his brilliant 1976 solo album “All-American Alien Boy” that had me bopping my head along to the beat as he wailed the chorus. It was a magnificent version as the band went into the title-track from his new album and they roared through a passionate “Fingers Crossed” that raged with dueling guitars and rocking percussion and fraught with deep emotions about aging in this modern world that touched my heart. Finally it came time for a little Mott and Ian Hunter and his band lit up the joint with a raucous “Honaloochie Boogie” from the 1973 Mott The Hoople album “Mott” and its rock-a-billy-infused groove was fantastic and the crowd loved it as Ian belted out, “I just wanna dance to, Honaloochie boogie, yeah, get in time, don't worry 'bout the shirt shine, Honaloochie boogie yeah, you sure started somethin'...”, and guitarist James Mastro played a sensational solo that had my short hairs standing on end with excitement. Next they played a number that just did not move me, a rather lackluster version of “Dandy” from “Fingers Crossed” and it just did not impress me, but the band redeemed themselves with an exhilarating take on “Just Another Night” from Ian's brilliant 1979 album “You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic” that just rocked like fuck as Ian howled the weary words. He returned to his well-worn guitar as the band played the intro to the title-track from his 2007 album “Shrunken Heads” and it had a rather lovely air of introspection with a gentle and loping beat until some sound problems broke the mood but it was quickly remedied before the song's climatic coda. They performed an elegiac and solemn version of “Michael Picasso” from his outstanding 1996 album “The Artful Dodger” and Ian sang it with such nostalgia and longing and so very autobiographical about his departed friend and guitarist-genius Mick Ronson and the band kept the beat terse and to a minimum as he crooned, “Once upon a time, not so long ago, people used to stand and stare, at the Spider with the platinum hair, they thought you were immortal...”, and then once again the guitarist James Mastro blazed on his Telecaster like a supernova explosion in outer space. Ian Hunter talked about how he started playing guitar in 1952 and then he lit into a raging “American Spy” from his 2001 album “Rant” and it seemed to sum up his life as the band flowed into another new song called “Ghosts” from “Fingers Crossed” and the song swang with a comfortable ease from the biting slide guitar solo to the vaudevillian piano that filled the empty spaces in the intricate rhythm with spidery melody runs. Ian picked up his harmonica and he let loose with a mournful wail as they began “23A, Swan Hill” from “The Artful Dodger” and the band chugged along as Ian introduced the next song, a rocking rendition of The Velvet Underground's “Sweet Jane” from Mott's 1972 album “All The Young Dudes” and it put Lou Reed's version to shame as his band tore it up and Ian wailed, “Standing on the corner, suitcase in my hand, Jack is in his corset and Jane is in her vest, and me I'm in a rock and roll band, riding in a Stutz Bearcat Jim, those were different times, and the poets studied rules of verse, and all the ladies rolled their eyes, sweet Jane...”, and they made it a celebration of life as they ended the song with an electric crescendo and Ian Hunter and the band left the stage to waves of applause. After a few minutes they returned to the stage and the crowd's roaring approval and immediately blasted out a glorious “All The Way From Memphis” from the Mott The Hoople album “Mott” that had ringing piano chords and fat guitar riffs and it had the audience rocking in ecstasy as they sang along, “Yeah, its a mighty long way down rock'n'roll...”, as the band played like their lives depended on it. Ian Hunter got out his acoustic guitar and sang a charming retrospective of his existence and what he has learned over all these years he has been traveling the world while the band played the gentle rhythms of “Life” from his 2012 album “When I'm President” and it really showed how much he loves life and people, and then the band burst into a brilliant version of the David Bowie-penned title-track “All The Young Dudes” from the Mott The Hoople's 1972 album and they made it rock and roll with an almost punk rock fury as Ian sneered, “And my brother's back at home with his Beatles and his Stones,we never got it off on that revolution stuff, what a drag, too many snags, now I've drunk a lot of wine and I'm feeling fine...”, and I found myself missing Bowie, who wrote the song for Mott The Hoople which made it even more poignant as Ian Hunter and The Rant Band finished their incredible set with a cover of Leadbelly's “Goodnight, Irene” and just about summed it up. One of the best rock and roll shows I have ever seen, God bless Ian Hunter and I'm feeling fine...!



CASSANDRA ALLEN - October 24, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC





STRONGER SEX - October 23, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was a gloriously wonderful sun-filled day on the National Mall as I made my way on foot to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see “hot local” synth-band Stronger Sex and today's show will be on the Terrace Gallery Jazz Club stage because The 19th Annual Mark Twain Prize For American Humor honoring Bill Murray soiree was also tonight and the event had the regular Millennium Stage areas occupied with press and catering. So I rode the elevator upstairs to the roof and the Terrace Gallery and I had to pick up an entry ticket for the show and it was sponsored by the Hometown Sounds podcast and website which supports DC-area bands and musicians. I stood in line for a while and then we were allowed to enter the gallery and I saw that Stronger Sex had an interesting stage set designed by local artist Jen Meller and it reminded me of an under the sea vista from an old Disney movie and oddly her artistic creations blended well with the ambiance of the Kennedy Center's Terrace Gallery Jazz Club where we were seated. It finally reached time for the show to begin, and first the Hometown Sounds reps took the stage and rattled off their organization's spiel and how we can support them and their work and then they brought the band Stronger Sex to the stage and keyboardist Johnny Fantastic of Paperhaus fame and vocalist/drum programmer Leah Gage who also drums for BRNDA and The North Country stood in front of their equipment and hit the play button and they were off and the melodious music of their opening number “Dating” ebbed and flowed over the military precision of the drum machine and the two of them sang with passion as the music flowed ever so gently as they crooned their incisive and gritty words like they were the Pet Shop Boys as they made their machines hum and purr to the beat. Next, they went into the “message” song “Girl Town Strut” with its anti-sexual harassment message and the song was pretty catchy as the beat marched in layers into my ears, and yes, stop sexually harassing women and girls. Johnny Fantastic has a nice singing voice full of vibrato and depth as they continued in a similar groove with the song “Dead Women” that showcased their lovely vocal harmonies that urged us to “Follow My Lead” as the song morphed into a swirling mass of heavy gloom and discordance. They suddenly changed gears and went into a light and breezy number called “In The Summertime” and it had my bopping and toes tapping as they made their instruments make all kinds of quirky noises as the rhythm flowed so elegantly and jauntily as the song morphed into a ditty about the people who shock you into being a better person as the bass sound became big and booming and Leah Gage and Johnny Fantastic let their voices flow together in mellifluous beauty like a giant undulating orchid as they sang of needing some “Shock Therapy” as the keyboard notes tinkled gorgeously in the background. The next song was called “Hassle” and Leah said it was a combination of EDM (Electronic Dance Music) and “Meatloaf”...whatever that means...but she sounded great as she crooned the song's blunt and politically-provocative words over a lively dance beat that seemed to collide with everything they were saying but the song was quite catchy as they sang it like it was a duetted heart-wrenching R&B ballad with these lovely synth fills and very strange beeps and noises. Stronger Sex finished their seven-song with a beautiful and trance-y number called “Look Like Shit” that showcased their magnificent and ethereal vocal harmonies and they were way better in concert than the last time when I saw them at the politically-embattled Comet Ping Pong or was it the way better sound-system here at the Kennedy Center...who knows...but their music was subversively beautiful as the synthesized rhythm marched relentlessly forward and they sang their hearts out to the haunting melody that joyously danced all over the place until it faded away into to silence and Leah Gage said thank you and the two of them walked off into the dim backstage area. I was really blown away by Stronger Sex and found their music quite enjoyable, and I am so glad I gave them a second chance to rock my world with Leah Gage's lyrical worldview.



KASSIA MUSIC COLLECTIVE - October 18, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC




EREZ - October 7, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was a lovely day as the autumn chill slowly descended on the city and a hurricane was barreling in on the East Coast just below us as we held our breath for the ensuing devastation that always follows one of these things, but I ventured down to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see Israeli singer Erez Sivan play her unique blend of pop, rock, soul, and funk that has made her the toast of the Tel Aviv music scene. At 6PM Erez and her five-piece band took the stage and mutely launched into their first song of the night, a lush and languid “So Tired”, and I found Erez's voice and delivery reminded me of neo-soul singer Macy Gray as it danced so elegantly with the drummer Andre's taut percussion and the song had a nice swagger to it as they moved into the next song that had a pleasant neo-soul groove and then Erez reminded me of Corrine Rae Bailey, but she had a lovely mellifluous voice that held my attention with all its quirkiness and “joie de vivre”, however her guitar playing was a little bit dull and simplistic on the song “Leave Me Stranded”, but her band was tight and in sync, especially the keyboardist whose nice fills gave the music texture and depth. The band stopped and Erez told us about her musicians and herself and then they jumped into the future-soul of “Out Of Here” and it was sort of menacing and eerie and reminded me of Brit-funkers Gayngs with its dark neo-soul that verged on jazz-lite as they moved into a gently swaying love song “Roll For You” that seemed to float on the terse percussion of drummer Andre as she moaned and whispered the seductive lyrics as the beat moved like the rolling tides as her turntablist Peter added the strange flourishes as she crooned, “I will roll for you...”, over and over and over to the waves of relentless rhythm that flooded my ears. The next number “Leave Everything Behind” was the best song of their set and it grooved along with some interesting and complex drum fills from Andre, and then Erez said the next song “Just Another Color” was about using her music to transcend the pain of her broken heart and it had a lovely and staccato beat that just drove the song forward and with an almost blues-like feel to it. The band funked things up big time for her latest album's title-track song “Proper Lady” which was also my favorite new song and they rocked it as the band just grooved with bassist Roy's potent riffs as she wailed, “Can I be angry, or upset, can I be happy, this is what I get, what if I deserve a better road...”. Next the band debuted a new song “Make Me Feel” and Erez actually sounded good the guitar as the rest of the band laid down a solid hip-hop groove as she crooned, “Make me feel...”, until the drummer Andre kicked into a jazzy break as the band broke down the song's melody to a minimal pulse until it faded away. The band finished their eleven-song set with a number whose swirling and floating melodies that reminded me of NPG-era Prince with its divergent rhythms and fluttery effected guitar riffs as the beat crescendo-ed to her intimate and enlightening lyrics as they finished the song. After the audience applauded madly and being kind of rambunctious about it, Erez Sivan thanked the crowd and said they decided to one more song and it was very New Wave and frenetic and it made me want to dance like I did back in the eighties. This was one of the best shows I have since this year, a definite Top Ten of 2016 show.



PANSY DIVISION - September 22, 2016
Hill Country Live - Washington, DC




QUEEN ESTHER AND THE BLUE CROWNS - September 22, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC




FEMI DRIFISH: THE OUT OF WATER EXPERIENCE - September 18, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

As the long summer winds its way down and the autumn quickly approaches, I once again find myself heading towards the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to experience the alternative rock/progressive hip-hop band The Out Of Water Experience with Baltimore rapper/performance artist Femi The DriFish and to see them present their thought-provoking music and words and since I arrived early I was able to caught a few minutes of their sound-check and the band sounded phenomenal, especially the guitarist who some played stunning riffs and licks. Femi The DriFish and his band returned at 6PM and hit the stage with a righteous anger about the injustices in the world as Femi spoke...”They are closing schools and building prisons to house our children...because nothing's new...”...in a glorious and uplifting spoken word piece that expressed the truth and then the band kicked in with a pounding funk-rock groove as they sang about how they “write these songs” and its hook drilled its way into my brain like an earwig. Femi The DriFish was a quite engaging frontman with his sardonic wit and wild style that was highlighted by his witty wordplay, but the band became a bit clattery sometimes, however the two backing vocalists were a great foil to Femi and his onstage antics. His beautiful female singer Kizzy B. wailed ferociously on the intro to their next song, which was a J. Cole cover that was made more sensational and uplifting than the original as she sang, “All I want to do is make a change...”, and the guitarist Nick Taylor was incredible as he let these molten metal riffs soar into the sonic atmosphere as the bassist Kevin “KP' Powe Jr. made a deep groove that you could almost drown in as drummer Spyda reeled the beat into with his deft hands. The song “All I Hear Is Static” was the best one of their set as Femi flowed so lyrically on the subject of being true to yourself and others, then he said that each of us in the audience and turn to the person sitting next to them and say, “I appreciate you!”, and then the band finished with a pulsing groove and an aria-like solo from his female singer Kizzy B. they kicked into a laidback groove and Femi started speaking on the subject of looking beyond skin color and being able to see what a person really is because everyone can be a butterfly as the guitarist Nick Taylor once again burned up the fretboard with electric pizzazz as they flowed into the swinging song called “Feet On The Ground” that had Kizzy B. wailing so soulfully as Femi spit some lyrics about being positive and rising above the madness that surrounds us. The band cranked the “rock” back up as lightning fast guitar riffs led the way over Femi's clever rhythms and his rhythm section's deep groove punctuated by longtime musical collaborator Maurice Carroll's quick keyboard runs. Femi talked about tolerance which he thinks is more important than love and then he performed a piece about a piece of art that he recently saw on exhibit. The Out Of Water Experience finished their vibrant ten-song set with a real crowd-pleasing number called “Representin'” that got the whole house jumping up and down to their frenetic rhythms. I really enjoyed their performance that they delivered with phenomenal skill and Femi The DriFish's sage words had a great eloquence that really impressed me.



KRAFTWERK 3D CONCERT TOUR - September 3, 2016
Strathmore Music Center - Bethesda, MD




GOLD CONNECTIONS - August 28, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was an idyllic summer day as I wandered down to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see Charlottesville, Virginia-based group Gold Connections play their punk-infused classic rock and today is also ending my recent spate of shows at the Kennedy Center plus they covered all musical genres, except that I still have not seen a metal band here yet. It just seems so prejudicial and musically discriminatory to me...just saying! At the designated time the band hit the stage in a flurry of notes and riffs that reminded me of pop-punkers Green Day as the drummer Patrick Haggerty kept the beat taut and terse as the three of them sang the catchy chorus with melancholic joy over the pulsing percussion. The music seemed to chaotically flow up and down as the song “I Had A Dream” tumbled out and vocalist/guitarist Will Marsh wistfully sang some wise-for-his-age lyrics about growing up and gaining maturity, but the beautiful melody got lost in all the feedback and noise. On their third song, the stomping “Pillar Of Salt”, the band added a playful “cow-punk” feel to their musical palette and with its slower tempo you could actually hear a lovely melody buried in the fuzzy riffs and thunderous bass and the drummer Patrick really showed he had some chops as he morphed into the cool rhythms of the song “I Believe In You” that reminded me of a more tuneful The Replacements as they sang, “There's a pop song stuck in my head...”, along with a little bit of ringing in my delicate ears. I really liked the next song “Desert Wind” with its mournful words and crisp guitar of Will Marsh that prefaced the killer groove that bassist Noah Rosner and drummer Patrick Haggerty pumped out with ease as Will sang about how he had the blues. The band had great synchronicity as they made the beat pulse and throb with great precision with all the notes in the right places as frontman Will made his axe squeal with buzz-saw riffs that just electrified me as he segued into the song “Garden Of Your Mind” that had him making some unusual riffs and sounds come out of his guitar and they weaved and in and out of the crisp rhythm as he sort of screamed and howled the meaningful words. My favorite song of their set was a grinding and upbeat “Bad Intentions” that had Will singing, “Don't mind the writing on the wall...”, as his rhythm section made the song jump like a Social Distortion number but I loved it with its booming open chords. The band closed their nine-song set with their latest self-released single called “Icarus” and Will said it was about losers singing about losers and it was the most upbeat song of the set but he sang it so plaintively that one could really feel its meaning in your heart...”Get back to rock and roll...”...and it made me want to do just that! I left the building thinking I was glad I took the time to see this band and their wonderful songs and I would not mind seeing them again.



NEAR NORTHEAST - August 26, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It has been quite an exhilarating month at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage with such a wide and diverse variety of musical acts to entertain me and the crowd, and tonight is no exception as DC-based indie-folk group Near Northwest who play ambient folk music with Indian and Appalachian influences which sounds quite interesting and unusual take the stage. I have been hearing about them making the scene with some high profile gigs and vocalist/violinist Kelly Servick has been doing amazing job leading the band and tonight they asked renowned Indian classical musicians, Soumya Chakraverty on the saroud and Debapriya Nayak on tabla to join them just for this show. The band took the stage at 6PM to some thunderous applause and opened with these swirling lush melodies that were coming from Kelly Servick violin as her haunting voice danced across the terse and intricate percussion coming from a drum machine and drummer Antonio Skarica and guitarist Avy Mallik made riffs glide along with Austin Blanton's deep and booming bass lines. The second song they performed was called “Temecula” and it was quite lovely as it bounced along at a steady clip and Austin gave it a nice and gloomy gloss with his bass until Kelly made her violin purr with these fluttery riffs as they melted into the dreamy indie-pop of “Ugly Things” from their 2015 album “Curios” and it was probably my favorite song of their set and Avy deftly made his guitar cry with riffs that were from the fifties and the band kept the music flowing with another track from “Curios” and I really liked Kelly's off-kilter lyrics and I liked how Avy structured the songs as they showcased Kelly's joyful runs on her violin as she and the band began a new song called “Stitches” and it was very lush and almost symphonic as it swirled into my ears ever so gently. Austin switched to the upright bass that he played with a bow and it accented Avy's unusual guitar plucking and extended notes, and on another new song called “Just Do Your Thing”, and they had perfected the modern pop song as Austin played some clever riffage on the upright and the drummer Antonio filled the empty spaces with some nice fills and vibrant para-diddles that propelled it across the groove as they morphed into another fairly new song called “Revival” and I noticed that they seemed to play in the same tempo throughout their set, but Kelly's violin skills were impeccable and awe-inspiring to watch. Avy switched to an acoustic guitar for the wonderfully elegiac and pastoral “On The Way Home” that reminded me of being in the mountains and the sound of dueling banjos in the background as the piece ebbed and flowed as the band segued into an old-timey tune called “Under The Pines” and it had the same Americana feel to it like the previous song and then Kelly played the most brilliant violin part as she sang with a wistful melancholia that left an impression on my ears. She began finger-picking her violin as she sang the sad words to the next song as the band's playing got a bit bluesy. The band brought their two special guests to the stage and Soumya Chakraverty on the saroud and tabla-player Debapriya Nayak turned it out with the exotic sounds of their tradition Indian instruments, and they sounded like a kind of Ravi Shankar meets the ambient hillbillies...it was weird but very cool to experience as the six of them made the sound of their instruments blend so beautifully with their guests' laidback rhythms on two songs. They finished their twelve-song set with a melange of intricate rhythms and delicate grooves that infused the new song “In Dali” with a warmth that was quite fitting because their music is a bit surreal. Near Northeast played a tremendous set that went over well with the crowd and me because I would love to see them perform anytime.



CROSSRHODES (WES FELTON + RAHEEM DEVAUGHN) - August 25, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It seems that once again the dog days of August have returned with a vengeance after a brief respite from the heat and humidity but I pulled myself together to leave the house and ride the metro to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see CrossRhodes featuring soul singer Raheem DeVaughn from Prince George's County and wordsmith Wes Felton from DC perform their unique brand of progressive soul/hip-hop/alt-R&B groove and conscious politically-aware lyrics and I cannot wait because I have always enjoyed Wes Felton raucous performing style in all his incarnations since his days on the U Street corridor performance circuit. So it is kind of nice for them to make their first hometown appearance at the Kennedy Center for their forthcoming fourth album called “Footprints On The Moon” which will be released in two weeks. DJ Face took the stage and spun some groove-oriented songs ranging from Sade to Michael Jackson to open the evening as the diverse audience filtered in and found their seats. DJ Lance Reynolds of WHUR introduced the group and Raheem DeVaughn and Wes Felton better known as W. Ellington Felton along with their five-piece band took the stage and opened the evening with a sensual and slinky “Admit It” that had the crowd rocking and swaying as their two individual styles blended together like butter. A host stepped onstage and ask a few questions of Raheem and Wes about their socio-political lyrics and their impact on the world and their community. Next the band let loose with the marvelous title-track “Footprints On The Moon” from their new album and they had the joint swinging with Dante Pope's dynamic drumming as Wes Felton dropped some righteous words about what going on in the world today. The host guy returned to the stage and asked them about how they include conscious music along with Raheem's regular R&B/Hip-Hop music and how it was influenced by the tragedy in Baltimore early this year. Next they performed the first single that they recorded in 2001, a wonderfully dreamy “I Woke Up” that showed their versatility and lyricism which expressed joy in being happy to be alive and the song gave the two background singers to show off their chops as they sang like angels, especially Jay Hill. The host guy returned and asked them about how recent events affected them and then they explained their logo and what it symbolized and meant to them, and then Wes talked about Malcolm X and his relationships in a song called “Malcolm X's Revenge” that had a nice groove to it as drummer Dante Pope showed us why he is in such high demand with some intricate percussion as he kept the beat terse as Raheem and Wes dazzled the crowd with some clever and sharp wordplay that told us the truth. The host returned once again and asked them some more questions about their next song “Praying Prayers” and their “moral compass” that they expressed in their music and their response and insight was heartfelt and showed that they really care for people that fell through the cracks as the two of them harmonized, “I'm praying for the weak and misguided, I'm praying for peace and love...”, while the band got busy on a loping beat that accented the powerful words they sang with a strongly held conviction. Raheem DeVaughn and Wes Felton and their band bid us a good night and left the stage. I surprised they only played five songs that they somehow stretched into an hour with the host's question and answer sections, but the five songs they did perform were of the highest caliber but I wished they played more of their songs.



ROCHELLE RICE - August 23, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was a lovely summer day just right after a spate of hot and humid weather broke so I headed downtown to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see the fantastic soul songstress Rochelle Rice who has been lighting up critics and fans alike throughout the summer with her brand new album called “WONDER”. Today blew my mind as it went from one extreme to another in my travels; first a young African-American gentleman stood in the middle of the metro car I was riding and said that he was fresh out of prison and he needed a woman bad and so he asked would any woman volunteer their services, everyone paused with bated breath and kept their eyes down as I sat there and hid my disgust and smirked...what is this world coming to these days...and on the other end of the spectrum, Rochelle Rice and her band, pianist Janelle Gill, upright bassist Romeir Mendez, and drummer Ivanette Behandnu (sic) were on the stage sound-checking as they were quietly getting everything ready for the show and they were laying down something wonderful and groovy. The audience was finally allowed to sit and we waited for her to return to the stage and let her magic flow. Rochelle Rice and her three-piece band took the stage with a quiet ease as they opened with a nice and jazzy instrumental that segued into Rochelle's creamy vocals that had her crooning deliciously as the pianist Janelle Gill let loose with a flurry of notes that reminded me of Bernie Worrell as she jammed away and Rochelle brought a little bit of gospel music's call and response style to the mix as she felt the spirit. She dedicated the next song “Survive” to the suffering people of Alleppo in Syria and she prays that things get better for them and then she sang of how she wants things to get better for all the people of the world with her rich and textured voice over the intricate bass of Romeir Mendez and piano lines of Janelle Gill that filled the song. They were onto another song from her recent album that was about overcoming fear in your life and it had a lovely melody that the pianist tinkled at like Thelonius Monk over the interlocking bass and drum parts. Rochelle Rice made a few jokes about how she forgot her earrings and then she performed a fabulous version of Joni Mitchell's “Case Of You” that just blew me away and I am normally indifferent to Joni's songs, but she rocked it with grace and beauty and the bassist Romeir played a very elegiac and deeply soulful solo over the terse drumming percussion of Ivanette. Rochelle announced that she and her husband had just celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary and she was going to sing the song “The Sign” from her “WONDER” album and her control over her voice was exquisite as she sang with real conviction the emotional words. The showstopper came next with a spectacular rendition of Carmen McCrae's version of The Carpenters' “Close To You” that was driven by a magnificent bass line that propelled her voice as she turned the song into a sultry torch song that just wrecked me with its simple beauty. She finished her nine-song set with the first song she wrote and dedicated to her young daughter Ruth and she lovingly sang the title-track from her brand new album “Wonder” and Janelle Gill shined on the piano as the bassist Romeir Mendez made the groove pulse and throb like the tides in the ocean which made the song feel alive as she brought her daughter to the stage to sing with her and the young lady had the makings of a great singer. The band closed their set with a version of standard “Holy Earth” and the players really made you feel it as they tinkled and throbbed their way through the precise percussion of the song and I was impressed.



BLACK SABBATH and THE RIVAL SONS - August 21, 2016
Jiffy Lube Pavilion - Bristow, VA




THE GREAT MINDZ - August 21, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC




LA FIESTA ZAKKE - August 20, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC




JON STICKLEY TRIO - August 18, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

This month has been one damn long heatwave and I grimaced and sighed as I began my tedious and hot and sweaty trek on the metro to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see the musically-adventurous Jon Stickley Trio because I loved their 2015 album “Lost At Last” and even better yet, the album was entirely fan-funded. Jon Stickley and his amazing rhythm section hail from Asheville, North Carolina, where they won many local music awards and accolades with their blend of gypsy jazz, bluegrass, and hip-hop that defies categorization. The three of them take the stage promptly at 6PM and immediately charmed us with their quiet humility and Jon Stickley's out-of-this-world virtuosity on the guitar that was complimented by Lyndsay Pruett's creamy-sounding melodies on the violin as she made arpeggios and glisses and plucks fly everywhere and Jon Stickley's hands looked like a blur on the fretboard of his guitar. Normally all-instrumental bands bore me to death but this trio stood out with their marvelous compositions and wonderful playing style, and especially the drummer Patrick Armitage whose clipped percussion propelled the songs as they careened madly through several genres of music. I really like the song “Point To Point” from their recent album “Lost At Last” and Jon played this amazing intro on the guitar as the band laid down a deep groove with soaring violin riffs and Jon finger-picked his way through the song at lightning speed that got real heavy sometimes like a symphonic progressive rock song because they reminded me of The Dixie Dregs. The drummer Patrick Armitage's stark percussion really gave room for the violin and guitar to shine on the song “Slow Burn” which they showcased their ability to rapidly change tempos without being annoying to the ear while keeping the music upbeat and perky. The band performed a fantastic cover of Bad Plus' “Never Stop” that had cavalcades of notes flying everywhere as the song's melody almost became dance-y dissonance. They got a little wild on a number called “Echo Location” from their forthcoming album that started out gentle and delicate and then the drummer Patrick Armitage kicked in with a rock-solid groove that showed why he is called “The Jason Bonham of Bluegrass” as he made the song swing with his dexterity and sense of timing and control. They even played a song that was straight-up modern country music that was tuneful and full of soaring riffs and tricky chord progressions that led into an alt-bluegrass version of Bill Monroe's “Jerusalem Ridge” and Lyndsay Pruett wowed me with her fiddle skills and sense of melody as she sounded like a hyper-Charlie Daniels playing over the incredibly taut percussion of David. I was equally impressed by Jon's fleet-fingered picking that just flew up and down the fretboard of his guitar with incredible grace. I was blown away by their eleven-song set that showed such incredible diversity but I did not hear the hip-hop influence as the three finished with a short fast-paced song that blew me away with its scintillating rhythm. The Jon Stickley Trio took a bow and left the stage as I sat there totally rocked and wanting more...what a great performance and such original genre-bending music.



HANDSOME HOUND - August 16, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was yet another scorcher of a dog day as I left my very cool house to head out on the metro to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see the vibrant local folk-sters Handsome Hound play some relaxing Americana music to make me forget the oppressive heat and humidity. I got to the gig early so I able to watch them soundcheck and I found them quite enjoyable as they performed their lovely songs for the soundman. At 6PM on the the dot, and the Kennedy Center staff make sure it is, Handsome Hound shuffled on the stage in silence and then the five of them burst into the uptempo rhythms of a perky little song called “I Guess We're Doing Alright” which was the title-track from their debut EP that the band released back in March and it was propelled forward by Allison Rosenberg on the trumpet that she played ever so elegiacal as the band segued into a lively percussion intro that lead to their verbose lyrics in a song about other “songs written in an open key” which they called “Songs In An Open Key”, then they moved into a beautiful cover of Johnny Cash and June Carter's song “Jackson” that was delivered with a loping groove that Allison peppered with her succinct trumpet playing. Next the band jumped into the swing groove of “Be Kind” and it reminded me of various indie-rock bands and it had very touching words, and I can tell they got their knack for verbose language from their classic sixties country music influences as they went into the silly but subversive humor of the jaunty number called “H.I.P.P.Y.” with its quirky trumpet parts and hysterical socio-political lyrics that vocalists Cuchulain Kelly and Claire Daviss delivered firmly tongue-in-cheek. They were not much for in-between song banter but Claire had a wonderfully mellifluous voice that complimented Cuchulain's more raspy voice, and of course, Allison blew a sensational trumpet that gave the song some edge. Next they played a gentle and pastoral version of the song “I've Been Thinking” from their debut EP over drummer Andrew Northcutt's taut and precise percussion. The band kept the groove flowing with a melancholy rendition of “I'm Going To Austin” which was punctuated by Allison's wistful trumpet as Claire and Cuchulain's voices blended together in perfect harmony, then they went into an ode to sugar called “Sugar High” that they compared it to love and in a style that reminded me of Dan Hicks And His Hot Licks, and Allison blew yet another riveting trumpet solo as the drummer Andrew slammed his way through a nice break. The band made the beat jump with a sassy ditty called “Hannah” which sarcastically sang about what a woman could do and not do like “wear black” or “drink Jack” and the audience loudly joined them in singing the chorus as Allison threw down on the trumpet so wildly with passion and joy as the band segued into a ditty called “Lord Help Me” that they sarcastically sang about Jesus and salvation from sin and they performed it with such beauty and class. They closed their twelve-song set with a real tearjerker of a song as Cuchulain Kelly and Claire Daviss crooned so beautifully together about love lost and I really liked their sense of harmony and the just right instrumentation they used, and particularly the awesome uplifting trumpet-playing of Allison Rosenberg. I was blown away by Handsome Hound and their music, they were quite original and modern but schooled in the older musical styles they love, and it just makes me want to see them again.



GINKGOA - August 15, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC




L7 and POST PINK - August 12, 2016
The 9:30 Club - Washington, DC

When I first heard that womyn rockers L7 had reformed and they were going on a short summer tour, I was ecstatic because next to The Runaways, they are my favorite band of their genre and I knew I had to be there. Way back in the early nineties when I first started following their career passionately and they got to contribute the lead single “Gas Chamber” to the 1994 John Waters movie soundtrack of “Serial Mom” and the band made a cameo appearance in the film as “Camel Lips” and they performed their song and they got to kill one of the actors with a falling lighting rig and then lit him on fire while filming at the now defunct (but rumored to be returning) super-club “Hammerjack's” in downtown Baltimore and for which I was an extra in it on a long ago Saturday afternoon, and it was one of my favorite days ever. I really love bassist/vocalist Jennifer Finch and guitarist/vocalist Donita Sparks, they both are just groovy people whom I met when L7 played on the Lollapalooza Tour that was traversing America back in 1996. So back to now...and so my friend Scott Parks and I headed to the world-renown 9:30 Club for an evening of raunchy rock and roll. First up tonight though was the group Post Pink and they are a quartet from Baltimore who played loud and abrasive power-pop with angular and spastic guitar riffs from guitarist David Van McAleer that wound their way through my ears as the bassist Emily Ferrara thudded along and the percussion of drummer Sam Whitelaw crashed and ebbed over the vocalist Angela Swiecicki's gravelly rage and mellifluous word flow. They played an enjoyable and hard-driving ten-song set that rocked and pulsed to their groovy beat that reminded me of Baltimore feminist musical heroes W.O.D. (Womyn Of Destruction) as the guitarist David fluctuated between surf and agit-funk but it was rather lovely and funky. The band left the stage and the crew rushed about changing the equipment for L7 and the anticipation in the audience was palpable. The lights dimmed and L7 hit the stage with a thunderous roar as they opened with the classic “Deathwish” from their 1991 breakthrough album “Smell The Magic” that was full of rage as they sawed away on their guitars as Donita screamed, “She wakes up wet in a shower stall, sewn together, bangs her head on a wall, she goes hitchhiking at three a.m., bruised and bloody, does it over again, she's got a deathwish, in a self-destruction blitz...”, and they went immediately into “Andres” from their 1994 album “Hungry For Stink” and bassist Jennifer made the song jump with a booming bassline as she prowled the stage and then they stormed on into a swampy “Everglade” from their 1992 breakthrough album “Bricks Are Heavy” that the band played with great passion and intensity as they played a few songs from the album. Jennifer and Donita joked around with the audience and then they jumped into a groove-laden “Scrap” and Donita sang the vicious lyrics with a feral ferocity. The band just did not pause as they steamrolled on and launched into a searing version of “Monster” and they had the crowd gleefully singing along at the top of their lungs, “Monster, monster in me, bring out the monster, monster in me, monster, monster in me, bring out the monster in me, monster in me, you bring out the monster in me...”, and then with guitarist Suzi Gardner leading the way with big fat riffs, they roared into a crunching “Scrap” that had drummer Dee Plakas pounding away like a jackhammer until the chaotic rhythms morphed into the lumbering groove of a sensational “Fuel My Fire” from their album “Hungry For Stink” and the band rocked it out as they chanted with the audience and the guitar interplay between Donita and Suzi was electric, “Got a grudge, got a grudge, got a grudge that I'm holding, for as long as I like, cos you red, you red,you red to my face, and that's something that I can't forgive, yeah, people like you just fuel my fire, people like you just burn, you liar...”. The band took a collective breath and they made a few more jokes and then they lit into the swampy groove of “One More Thing” from “Bricks Are Heavy” with its catchy chorus and grinding guitar riffs that they counted off...”1...2...3...” and then they careened through the dense rhythm and winding guitars of “I Need” from their 1997 album “The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum” and they sounded like a spectacular metal band at their peak, and as the twin guitars grinded away, the band went into a ripping and roaring version of “Slide” from their “Bricks Are Heavy” album that Donita sang with a sneer. Next they played a taut “Crackpot Baby” from their 1999 album “Slap-Happy” and they made it shudder and swing, and then they got real “metal” and delivered a lurching rendition of “Must Have More” from their album “The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum” that segued into a cold and menacing “Drama” also from the same album as Donita growled the threatening words with a scowl. The band made a few jokes about microchips and mind control and then they launched into a ferocious version of their classic song “Shove” from their 1991 album “Smell The Magic” and they tore it up as Donita screamed, “Some guy just pinched my ass, shove, drunken bums ain't got no class, shove, the club says we won't get paid, shove, it's been months since I've been laid, get out of my way or I might shove, get out of my way or I'm gonna shove...”, and then the band jumped into a crunchy and swaying “Freak Magnet” from their 1994 album “Hungry For Stink” that had everybody singing along with them and Suzi Gardner raged on her guitar like a demon-possessed maniac spewing riffs and chords chaotically. The band continued at a raging pace as they played a careening and fiery “Shirley” also from “Hungry For Stink”, and then they finished their raucous set with a spectacular rendition of “Shitlist” from “Bricks Are Heavy” with bassist Donita Sparks screaming, “For all the ones, who bum me out, shitlist, for all the ones, who fill my head with doubt, shitlist, for all the squares who get me pissed, shitlist, you've made my shitlist, shitlist, shitlist...”, and the audience and I cheered wildly as they left the stage in a squall of feedback. After a few minutes Donita Sparks, Jennifer Finch, Suzi Gardner, and Dee Plakas returned and immediately rolled through a phenomenal version of “American Society” by Eddie & The Subtitles from their 1991 album “Smell The Magic” that just made me want to just mosh in the pit like a madman, and then without taking a breath, the band plowed into a scorching “Pretend We're Dead” also from “Bricks Are Heavy” that they delivered with a heartfelt passion that was untouchable that just electrified me with its walloping beat and searing riffs. They finished their awe-inspiring nineteen-song set with a breath-taking “Fast And Frightening” from their 1991 album “Smell The Magic” that had me head-banging away as Donita screamed into the microphone, “Her glance hits me like lightning, I heard that girl is fast and frightening, dirty hair and a laugh that's mean, her neighbors call her an evil machine, she's fast, she's lean, she's frightening...”, as the rest of the band smoked their instruments. It was a perfect way to end their show as they raged and it felt like I had been hit by a freight train. The four of them took their bows to rapturous applause and quickly left the stage. I was stunned by L7's performance and pleased that their songs have stood the test of time as my friend and I headed home.



MUHSINAH - August 10, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC




BACH CONSORT, DON ZIENTARA, and OLIVIA AND THE MATES - August 4, 2016
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC

It was a beautiful sunny summer evening for the last Fort Reno show of the concert season and what a beautiful night for it. First up tonight was the very lovely Washington Bach Consort and tonight they are performing as a quartet with their neo-classical interpretations of Bach's more famous operatic arias and passages that they perform in various configurations. The singer's voice was a rich contra-alto that soared over the park as the sun set. The band really shined on Bach's “The Riches” with a brilliant violin solo that was electrifying as her fingers rapidly few across the violin's neck and they finished their eight-song set with Purcell's “Fairy Queen” to celebrate this year's concert season and I was surprised by how much I liked them and their musical presentation. The second act tonight was legendary new music producer/mid-wife Don Zientara who took the stage with his acoustic guitar and his brilliantly caustic words about life and people and he sang his heart out like a wizened old troubadour. He really shined on a Bruce Coburn-penned ditty called “Lovers In A Dangerous Time” which was about the ravages of AIDS and how things have changed since the disease first started out in the early eighties and the song really touched my heart and brought my mood down. But then his set became a bit too long-winded and tedious and I became bored with him by the end of his ten-song set because he could really use a band to flesh out his music. The last band of the evening was Olivia & The Mates who was performing as a trio tonight and they play catchy mainstream indie-rock in the vein of Tegan and Sara as vocalist/guitarist Olivia Mancini plaintively sang her heartfelt lyrics about love and lost and heartbreak and other sundry emotions. After a few songs I became extremely bored with them so I decided to get a head-start on my journey home and left.



CHIMP SUIT, SPLITS SECONDS, and SUN MACHINES - August 1, 2016
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC

So it looks like we are not going to be rained out tonight so we should get a decent show this evening, and the first band up was Chimp Suit who are a quartet who play furious agit-funk with vocalist Amanda MacKaye who also books Fort Reno, and their songs were very direct and political, especially the one about the recent police shootings called “The Bracelet Was A Gun”. The band was tight and powered by the drummer Arthur Noll's succinct groove as the bassist Rosendo Flores weaved a serpentine bottom that let guitarist Mike Schleibaum of Darkest Hour fame go crazy on his axe with searing riffs that exploded everywhere as Amanda let her voice make her words sound even bigger and important. The band rocked out on five well-constructed songs and then they abruptly left the stage. The next band took the stage and they are a quartet called The Split Seconds and they played guitar-drive noise that had British-influenced overtones and the vocalist/guitarist Drew Champion's voice reminded me of Dave Vanian of The Damned but his and guitarist Alex Massi's volume seemed to be lost in the sound mix as the bassist Stephen Parsons seemed to overpower everything but they had some melodious songs that were catchy and bouncy and drummer Sean Peterson gave them some lovely propulsive percussion with his deftness, but the band just did not know how to end them. I did like their lyrics because they flowed well and had something positive to say. The band surprised me with a little lilting ska music that took me by surprise because it seemed be out of their range but the song was fun and made me want to skank away to the beat. They brought a friend to the stage and he joined them in a rousing version of The Damned's “Neat! Neat! Neat!” (who did I say they reminded me of...ha!) that got the crowd going as the band got all wild and crazy on their instruments and particularly the fiery guitarwork of Alex Massi. The band finished their nine-song set with a bang and I think with a little polish they could be the next big thing because of their joyous approach to music. The final band of the evening was called The Sun Machines and they were a psychedelic-infused trio featuring vocalist/guitarist J. Forte and drummer Gregory Gendron and they seemed to be bit improvised and meandering so I took that as a sign to leave early and head on home because their songs seemed to go on and on way to long for my ears.



LIGHT BEAMS, SCANNERS, and TBD - July 28, 2016
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC




MURDER OF CROWS - July 26, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC




CINEMA HEARTS, AMERICAN TELEVISION, and THE MAULS - July 25, 2016
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC

It was an overcast and humid day as I arrived at Fort Reno Park at the usual time to find my usual spot by the streetlamp pole taken and so I went into a bad mood because now I will not have any back support to make it easier to sit with my stroke-damaged right side, so the bands better be really good or my writing about them will be really hyper-critical...or just mean and ugly...so I pity the fool...The first band playing tonight was Cinema Hearts and they are a young female-fronted trio that reminded me of a poppy sixties English band as the vocalist/guitarist Caroline Weinroth perkily sang her well-written words and her rhythm section of bassist Erich Weinroth and drummer James Adelsberger kept the beat driving and upbeat. They played a groovy little song called “Daydreamin'” that had a classic rock feel to it as they played short and crisp pop songs that reminded me of the singer Melanie with a modern edge. I found her lyrics a little simplified but they got her positive message across...and yes...girls can play guitar and do it well, but I wished the drummer James would have changed the tempo in his playing sometimes instead just of the straight-ahead drumming at the same speed that he played on their short but intense songs. Caroline had a melodically pleasant voice that added to the songs but I wished she was a better guitarist. I basically enjoyed their ten-song set but I did wish their music had more textures to it, however I would go see them play live again. Second up tonight was American Television from Arlington and they are a loud and abrasive hardcore unit that plowed through their set like they were Blink-182 or a pop-punk band like that because their songs had a familiar edge to them but none of the songs really stood out as they lulled me into a stupor. The drummer Bryan Flowers was pretty decent but it seemed like he was playing for another band that only he could hear because there was a real disconnect between him and the rest of the band, and the vocalist/guitarist Steve Rovery seriously just got on my nerves as he belted his little heart out with his annoying and nerve-grating voice but he had something to say with his intelligent and well-written words as he and guitarist Matt Marinec battled it out with some big angry riffs over the listless bass-playing of Edwin Wikfors. The band haphazardly rocked their way through their derivative ten-song set and it could not have ended quicker. The final band of the evening was local faves The Mauls and they are well-known on the scene as an old-school punk trio but I was unamused by their songs and the vocalist/guitarist Pete Duvall's voice was way too thin and reedy as he shoved his way through their vaguely political-sounding lyrics, but him and bassist Kirk Waldroff played off each other with some crunchy grooves and the drummer Mike Sparrow was interesting and kept great time but the band's sound just never grabbed me by the ears like a classic punk band. At least it did not rain.



BLEARY EYED, MIRROR FACTORY, and JAIL SOLIDARITY - July 21, 2016
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC

It was a lovely summer evening with no rainclouds in sight to ruin things tonight, but the latest weather reports said a fast-approaching heatwave was heading our way as I arrived at Fort Reno Park to see soundman Marty Shepp in full set-up mode for tonight's bands, tween-sters Bleary Eyed, rockers Mirror Factory, and local upstarts Jail Solidarity. The evening was kicked off by the quartet Bleary Eyed who are a young band but I could not see them because of some asshole with a huge nasty sweat stain on the back of his shirt was standing in front of the seated crowd like he was special or something and I tried to pay attention to the band but he was in the fucking way and he was lucky that I did not have a weapon to throw at him, but thankfully he moved on as the band played their post-modern indie rock with these pleasantly-crafted synth riffs played by guitarist Coby Haynes and they were driving the groove as some other inconsiderate woman blocked my view when their equipment abruptly failed just as vocalist/guitarist Nathaniel Salfi formerly of The Black Sparks was getting ready to express himself. Once they got things happening again the songs seemed to get lost in the noisy feedback and were a bit discordant, interestingly the bassist Brandon Minor wore a t-shirt with the word “Lack Luster” emblazoned on it and that seemed to be their state of mind as they careened through their eight-song set, but it is really hard to review their performance with people rudely standing in the way of my view. However, I like bassist Brandon's deep groove he gave the songs, especially “I Don't Know You” which featured some great percussion from drummer Ray Brown, but regretfully I was glad when they were finished with their set. The second band Mirror Factory were a quintet full of self-involved egos who were not very aware of the audience as the band fumbled about the stage trying to Jelila Stanton's keyboard to work properly. Finally they got it working and the band launched into their pretty mainstream rock with an electronic edge that accented the vocalist Debbie Kogok 's lyrics about surviving life's many traumas and once again, like the first band, the bassist Jorge Banales was the best part of the band as he provided a deep and swirling groove that pulled their songs together, even though the guitarist Damien Stanton seemed to be playing against the groove as the vocalist over-emoted her morose words. Their music left me cold except for the bass-playing of Jorge that was hard and driving and in time, unlike the rest of the band's material except for “Rape” which really rocked and I liked the words bit I found the singer Debbie's vocal style a bit annoying and drummer Esteban Amas seemed to be just a little bit off with the beat. They played an eight-song set that just flew by without ever really irking me but the band lacked a cohesiveness that made the songs memorable and the guitarist Damien just annoyed the hell out of me. The last band of the evening was local upstarts Jail Solidarity and they are a power-trio consisting of vocalist/guitarist Jason Lobe, bassist Lindsey Porambo, and drummer Kristin Eliason, and they play loud and abrasive punk “rawk” complete with screamed political lyrics, fuzzed-out and doomy bass, and spastic guitar, all played over stuttering percussion with a righteous anger, and I must admit they were pretty tight and almost melodic in their song-craft. They roared through a ten-song set that kept my attention as they pummelled the audience with their brutal rhythm until they finished their set and walked off the stage. I thought oh, well...another ho-hum gig and hope there is a better show next week.



THE LUAU GRINDERS, THE PSYCHIC SUBCREATURES, and THE REMEMBERABLES - July 14, 2016
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC

It was another lovely summer evening at Fort Reno Park for tonight's show instead of the rains of the previous years and it looked like it was going to be a great gig with newbies The Luau Cinders, local favorites Psychic Subcreatures, and longtime scenesters The Rememberables. First up tonight is The Luau Cinders and they are a local quartet who play pretty melodic indie rock with a little surf guitar and vocal samples thrown in the mix of their mostly instrumental music. The guitarists Brett Guizzetti and Michael Bennett had nice styles of playing that kept me interested but the traditional surf riffs they repeatedly used were a bit tired as they surfed the surging rhythm section of bassist Will Horning and drummer Bob Primosch with these great dual searing leads even though they lacked any stage presence, however their music was actually interesting enough to give the band some groove that made me want to move and dance, but they became tedious on my ears after awhile with their lack of vocals so I kept getting distracted by the wanky hipster crowd. They played a decent ten-song set that was a pleasant interlude to the day, but I do hope the next two bands really pump it up. The next band up was the Psychic Subcreatures and they are a quartet who feature vocalist Ariana Stone and keyboardist Frank J. Gomez instead of a bassist and they played some squonky post-punk noise full of squeals and squeaks from Frank's Moog as the guitarist Zach Wall grinded away at his instrument like he was from the eighties and he was playing in Theatre Of Hate or something. I thought they would be more gothy judging by their outfits but they were more noisy and chaotic than a goth band as they lurched and lumbered about the stage haphazardly but they have something going on but they need a little more practice but I liked their song “I'm Feeling Feverish” because it was the least disjointed one of their seven-song set but the drummer Rosendo Flores was pretty ferocious in his style as he kept their set together as Ariana sang the lyrics with a voice that sort of grated on my nerves but at least their set was brief. The final band of the night was The Rememberables who are a quartet who played loud and grungy dude-rock with some actually meaningful lyrics courtesy of vocalist/guitarist Binh Ngo and with guitarist Tim Bean, they would play some catchy twin guitar leads that had a nice hook to them. The band was interesting because they brought a new edge to a dated genre but it was full of punchy textures and driving nuances that gave their music a little swing and particularly on the song “Drive With You” as they plowed through their set led by bassist Mat Cabral's muscular bass lines. The band had a nice steady groove that I can see them going places with, but I found them a little short on originality but they had enough to make them stand out in a crowded field, plus the drummer Chris Moore was always in the pocket as he held their seven-song set together with his powerful percussion. The band finished their set and I rushed to the metro to go home and the music I just heard just fell out of my head, I guess none of the bands made much of an impression...oh well.



DOT DASH, THE DELARCOS, and NINE TO FIVE - July 11, 2016
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC

It was a picture-perfect summer evening as I made my way to Fort Reno Park for my bi-weekly dose of local rock and roll and tonight we are celebrating the annual “Night of 1000 Cakes” and sadly, a punk memorial for the recently-departed John Stabb of the legendary Government Issue on what would have been his 55th birthday, and one of my favorite local bands...Dot Dash...plus The Delarcos, and newbies Nine To Five. I arrived at the park early enough to get my usual spot in the field near soundman Marty Shepp's equipment truck and I settled in for the evening and disinterestedly watched the parade of humanity gather for the show and I just happened to see the iconic DJ Tom Berard. First up tonight was Nine To Five who are a trio who played sixties-styled garage rock that was full of the big riffs of vocalist/guitarist Brian McCarthy and the pounding rhythm section of bassist Nick Bambino and drummer Andrew Oestreich. They shouted their spastic lyrics about life and love, and I really liked their song “Stuck With You” and the nice groove that drove it. I greatly enjoyed their energetic performance as the band roared through their ten-song set with barely a breath but I wished their music was a bit more varied in tempo, and hopefully they will develop into a more textured band. Next up was The Delarcos who are a quintet who also play raucous sixties-influenced R&B-ish rock and roll, complete with a riveting sax player (Mike Lastort) like they were Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes but a bit sloppier. The drummer Tom Strummer was slamming as he drove the songs at a brisk pace with his skillful percussion that covered up the out of tune guitar that was driving me crazy even more so than their ramshackled and haphazardly played songs that kept reminding me of the infamous Vance Bockis and The Factory. The band seemed to plod on and on to an uninterested audience but they did sound good on the song “It's All Lies” with some interesting guitar interplay between vocalist John Hamblin and Kent Campbell. They finished their fourteen-song set with bassist Nathan Strejcek leading the charge on a squonky Government Issue cover and it was the best performance of their set. The last band of the night, the ever wonderful Dot Dash and the four of them took the stage in a surge of of guitar riffs with a jaunty beat as they took our ears on a journey with their concise and melodic songs. I really enjoyed Hunter Bennett's supple bass lines as they rolled over me like the lapping waves at the shore and the vocalist/guitarist Terry Banks sang his poignant lyrics to the world. I was glad to see that they drew a large and appreciative crowd that danced to their music and especially on the song “The Color And The Sound” that they made propulsive and swirly, plus the guitarist Steve Hansgen played some cool intricate licks that really made the song jump and made me smile because it seems they were adding elements of surf-rock to their sound. It was an enjoyable and loose show that was really fun to see them turn it out with their fantastic ten-song set that put me in a good mood. But then they brought Nathan Strejcek to the stage and to celebrate John Stabb's life, they rocked out on four songs by Government Issue and drummer Danny Ingram laid down some ferocious punk rock fury on “No Fun” and he pounded thunderously through their blistering cover of Nancy Sinatra's “These Boots Were Made For Walking”. It was a great show tonight from all three bands and to my old pal John Stabb....rest in peace, man!



STRANGE AVENGER, BAD MOVES, and TITLE TRACKS - July 7, 2016
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC

Well, it was a beautiful and gorgeous summer evening as I made way to Fort Reno Park to see the yearly summer concert series kick-off show with some local bands, Strange Avenger, Bad Moves, and Title Tracks, to be exact, and it should be a good show. First up was Strange Avenger who were a trio that played some melodic post-hardcore that bordered on standard pub rock as the vocalist/guitarist Alex Dent sang pensively about reverb and the beat provided by drummer Scott Kelly went at a comfortable pace, but the songs never seemed to go anywhere with their weird song topics and odd time signatures. There was no variation in the songs' tempo as Alex Dent and guitarist Ben Murrell sang with clever and wordy rhyming patterns but the trio just did not draw me into their music. I found their songs to be pleasant and driving but they were full of “empty calories” as they say, but vocalist/guitarist Alex played some nice trumpet interludes over their inventive wordplay that sounded important but the bland instrumentation that just did not make them stand out. They played a ten-song set of sound-a-like songs that sadly reminded me of a second-rate Billy Bragg and I was glad that they were finished but their last song showed some promise with its lovely instrumental interplay. Next up was Bad Moves who were a quartet who played crisp and jaunty sing-a-long punk rock ditties that was propelled by the rather driving bass of Emma Cleveland. The songs all had something political to say as the words of vocalist/guitarist David Combs danced among the repetitive guitar riffs played by him and guitarist Katie Park and it somehow made up for their lack of stage charisma, but I liked how their lyrics acknowledged the problems going on in modern society today. The drummer Daoud Tyler-Ameen also of Art Sorority For Girls and he had a nice groove for each song they played and he played with some jazzy pizazz as the band made their nine-song set jump to the beat, particularly the song “Shitty Tomorrow” with its insightful lyrics about cherishing your friends no matter what the situation. I really like their groove and I hope I get to see them play again soon. The final band of the night was Title Tracks who was plagued by bad weather last year and they were rained off the stage, so the trio has finally gotten it right as they launched into their upbeat downer music that reminded me of far too many other indie bands but the bassist Michael Cotterman gave them a nice propulsive groove for the vocalist/guitarist John Davis to dance all over with his spastic guitar riffs. They featured several songs from their forthcoming album and a very poppy “False Awakening” was the best song of the bunch with its real catchy guitar lick that had my head bopping along to the clipped beat of drummer Elmer Sharp, and I was digging the biting lyrics. I really liked the interplay between the bass of Michael Cotterman and the percussion of Elmer Sharp because it gave their songs a nice muscular bottom for John Davis to go wild on the guitar in a very mainstream way. Their seven-song set was enjoyable to hear and they are a really good power-trio that make an effort to rock, and the crowd was having a real good time enjoying the show. I love these summer shows at Fort Reno!



THELJON ALLEN - July 4, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Center - Washington, DC




QUEEN ESTHER'S VAUDEVILLE BLUES DANCE PARTY - June 18, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Center - Washington, DC




TOM TEASLEY TRIO - June 16, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Center - Washington, DC





Mr. Jimijam

AGORAPHOBIC NOSEBLEED, SUPRESSION, FULGORA and TENTACLES OF GOD - May 21, 2016
Black Cat - Washington, DC

It was yet another cold and wet Saturday night in May and it was making me grumpy as fuck as I readied myself for an evening of the grinding noise of the legendary Agoraphobic Nosebleed from Springfield, Massachusetts, plus the power-grindcore of Suppression from Richmond, Virginia, the progressive death metal of Fulgora from St. Louis, Missouri, and the solo project of Pig Destroyer's Blake Harrison from Alexandria, Virginia, called Tentacles Of God, so my ears are in for a treat...rape...aural assault...who knows but we shall see. The first band up tonight was Blake Harrison's side-project Tentacles Of God and he started things off with layers of distorted guitar riffs that he looped on his synthesizer until the song became lost in feedback as he twiddled and tweaked his guitar until it made these ungodly noises and he played it like they were movements in a decayed symphony that made up his set that seemed to be dedicated to the God-beast Cthulhu with whose image he covered his face with a mask as his music evolved into a squall of noise riffs drenched in feedback and static until he left the stage. Next up was Fulgora and they are a quartet that are on tour in support of their new album “Stratagem” on Housecore Records and the pounding drums of Adam Jarvis signaled the start of their rage-filled set full of Sparky Voyles' churning guitar and John Jarvis' galloping bass as guitarist B.L. LaMew screamed unintelligibly about the pain of life over the relentless beat and the swirling feedback. The guitarist Sparky Voyles was quite inventive in his playing as his fingers flew up and down the fretboard like he was conducting a symphony of chaos as the bass and drums pummeled our ears into submission as the vocalist B.L. Mews screamed something angrily and without remorse. I also liked their clever use of vocal samples at the start of their songs, plus the drummer Adam Jarvis' playing was exceptionally tight and well-paced as the bassist John Jarvis filled the empty spaces inbetween the notes, even though they seemed to only know one tempo. Their six-song set was amusing with great drumming but I wished they had a few more hooks in their songs and you could understand what the singer was saying because it seemed like he had something to say as the band laid down its sludgy groove. The third band of the night was Suppression and they are one of the originators of grind-core which they have been playing ferociously since 1992 and the vocalist/bassist Jason Hodges began his aural assault on my ears with his rapid-fire playing style over the bludgeoning drumming of Darkest Hour's Ryan Parrish that just made me want to scream as he forged ahead on their rather brief songs that they seemed to endlessly repeat over and over with the singer's awful voice, and thankfully their songs were mercifully short. I really cannot believe that anyone would listen to them regularly and like their music, but thankfully they played only a short while and somehow their set was over...twenty songs...which I could not believe but they left the stage. The final act of the night was Agoraphobic Nosebleed and they took the stage with the thunderous sound of hell as the crowd surged towards the stage as the rapid-fire of Scott Hull's programmed electronic drums and his furious guitar attack punctuated the air and the three singers, Jay Randall, Richard Johnson, and Kat Katz, traded screams and growls like some kind of mad Punch and Judy puppet show. Scott Hull's guitar sounded like a high-speed car-crash as riffs and licks chaotically flew everywhere in short machine-gun bursts that they called “songs” that were compacted into something that was under two minutes and the only word that I could understand out of the vocalists was the word “die” other than their preachy vocal samples because I never heard even a snatch of melody in their music but Scott Hull's electro-synthetic percussion was great as it kept the beat flowing in time, which was kind of sad because in all their noise I could hear a song trying to form. The relentless bombardment of my ears was taking a toll and I soon grew tired of the non-stop tempo and disjointed guitar work that I wished they would just stop, but every now and then Scott Hull would play these cool riffs that were very jazzy in their execution, but they would never last long enough. On a interesting note, I love the psychodelic artwork they used on their t-shirts, so I bought one but I cannot say the same about their music. As they were finishing their laborious set, I rushed out of the club into the damp and chilly night air and the noisy street-life and going whew, that was an interesting experience but never again. I like my music...well...musical!



ROGUE WAVE and HEY MARSEILLES - May 17, 2016
Black Cat - Washington, DC

It was yet another wet and dreary day in the city as I headed uptown to the legendary Black Cat once again to see a show with Rogue Wave from Oakland, California, and opener Hey Marseilles from Seattle, Washington. My editor said I should expand my coverage of up-and-coming bands and I should go and see these these indie-rock bands do their thing and give my honest review of them without being too disparaging and dismissive to their music and their audience. First up tonight is the quintet Hey Marseilles and they were formed in 2006 and they play “chamber pop music” which should be interesting to witness but I will give them a chance to impress me. The five of them ambled on the stage and twiddled with their instruments until they were ready and with the bassist Samuel Anderson's swinging bass line, they kicked off their set of easy-going and upbeat songs as vocalist Matt Bishop gracefully sang his thought-provoking words over the gentle lope of the band as keyboardist Philip Kobernik added some delicate and airy flourishes to the songs. The bassist Samuel who was driving all their songs with his muscular playing style, but sometimes he played wonderfully exquisite crescendo fills on his cello that gave their music an almost neo-classical feel as guitarist Nick Ward followed him with a surging riff that danced like butterflies among the sparse percussion of the drummer. They really shined on the song “Silence Is Easy” as bassist Samuel made his cello give the song some extra punch to accent the drummer's staccato beat and the singer Matt's morose lyrics about life and love and loss. They reminded me of the English band Renaissance with a Celtic twist a couple of times as the band meandered through their set as they made the rhythm gently flow with its quirky riffs and off-kilter percussion. The best song of their set was a swirling “I Got My Eyes On You” and the guitarist Nick finally got his chance to rock out with a feedback-drenched guitar solo because most of the time he was buried in the mix. They finished their eleven-song set with a lovely song called “Meet On The West Coast” from their new album and the audience just loved them and I was mildly impressed by their performance as they left the stage. The crew set to work and readied the stage for tonight's headliner Rogue Wave as the rather nerdy crowd chanted excitedly for them to take the stage. Rogue Wave took the stage and they are a quartet who have been together since 2002 when founder/vocalist/guitarist Zach “Rogue” Schwartz needed a backing band to perform his original songs and now they are on tour for their brand-new album “Delusions Of Grand Fur” on Easy Sound Recording Company, and it looks like it should be pretty good night. The band hit the stage and opened with the melodic strains of “Take It Slow” which is the opening song from their excellent new album “Delusions Of Grand Fur” and which vocalist/guitarist Zach Rogue sang like a lullaby as he intoned, “I can tell you stories, if you really wanna know, living in a secret, it's so hard to let go, you know I try so hard to take it slow, to take it slow...”, over the delightfully fuzzy guitar lines of Jon Monahan that faded into the sounds of effected nothingness. The band continued with several songs from their new album, the first of which was a perky “Ocean” that had a nice marching beat with a catchy chorus and chiming guitars that had the audience dancing happily with them as they segued into “Look At Me” which was about the fear of dying as the fuzzy guitars droned on over the kinetic and propulsive beat. Zach Rogue thanked us for coming out on a Tuesday night and then they jumped into the sunny beat of “Endless Supply” and the song's melodies danced and twirled like ballerinas on the taut percussion of drummer Patrick Spurgeon that propelled the song forward. Next the band went into the multi-layered guitar notes of “College” from their 2013 EP “Nightingale Floors” on Vagrant Records and its memorable chorus got stuck in my head and Zach Rogue sang it with his plaintive voice, “You can have the knowledge, all the things you learn in college, you can have the knowledge, all the things you learn in college, you know we've already judged, we've already judged, we did, we did, we did...”, as he traded licks with guitarist Jon Monahan over the subtle groove of drummer Patrick Spurgeon and bassist Masanori Christianson. The next song was dedicated to their fans in DC and over a soaring keyboard run, Zach Rogue sang “Eyes” from their 2005 album “Just Friends” with a heartfelt passion with his rich and nuanced tenor voice and concise guitar-playing skills. The band kicked in with the biting guitar riff and the pulsing keyboard melody line of “Salesman At The Day Of The Parade” from their 2005 Sub Pop album “Descended Like Vultures” and the musicians grooved along with a funky back-beat as Zach sang the lyrics about bulimia with a touch of sarcasm. The bassist Masanori played a slow and repetitive solo that exploded into a raucous “Cheaper Than Therapy” from their 2007 album “Asleep At Heaven's Gate” on Brushfire Records as the guitars swirled in a storm of notes over the rock-steady drumming of Patrick and then guitarist Jon played a brilliant solo that truly impressed me as Zach emoted about love, “You said I'm out of my head, but really I'm the only one who's bounced back, the music that I want is cheaper than therapy, the music that I want is cheaper than therapy, the music that I want, want...”. The best song of their set was an eighties-influenced “California Bride” from their new album and it made me want to dance as the bass drove the song like a Joy Division song as Zach sang his heart out and the band frenziedly pounded out the coda, and wow, it was an excellent song as the guitars scorched my eardrums. The melancholy blues of “What Is Left To Solve” also from “Delusions Of Grand Fur” caught me by surprise as Zach lamented the flaws and frailties of life with such ease as the band grooved elegantly behind him and his guitar. The band jumped up the beat and the audience clapped along as the chiming guitars kicked in and the bass swooped in and carried Zach's voice like a ship on the high seas as he elegiacally sang “Memento Mori” from their new album over the cascading rhythms of the drummer and then the band went right into the soaring guitar riffs of “Lake Michigan” from their 2007 album “Asleep At Heaven's Gate” and they followed that with a bombastic “Harmonium” from the same album and the song reminded me of an U2 anthem, of all bands, and the crowd loved it as Zach strummed his guitar and sang so elegantly the thoughtful lyrics, “We better bust them out, you better bust them out,heart attacks won't get us down, our rifle butts pressed in the ground, our brains are lost, our skulls are found, we're kicking up the dust above them...”, which were about growing up and accepting change, all while the relentless and pounding music went on and on as Rogue Wave finished their set and the left the stage. The band returned to great applause and they launched into a stoic “Publish My Love” from their 2005 Sub Pop album “Descended Like Vultures” and it was about lost love as the guitars slashed and burned the melody and the percussion filled the empty space in between the notes and then they jumped into the gentle sway of “Like I Needed” from “Asleep At Heaven's Gate” and Zach wailed his heart out as the guitars cried and wailed. They finished their sixteen-song set with a fabulous rendition of “California” also from “Descended Like Vultures” which was an angry yet hopeful song as Zach sneered the words, “Screw California, and friends that are never there, and places that they oughta, pretend that they even care, from a false family, she could light you up, like a holiday tree in the summer, so lead us there...”, and it seemed a fitting way to end the evening because it was a beautiful farewell that said it all. I gathered my things and headed out the club thinking both bands were great and gave me hope about the future of rock and roll.



THE OBSESSED, THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX, and KARMA TO BURN - May 13, 2016
Black Cat - Washington, DC

It was a strange Friday the thirteenth as I puttered around my house getting ready to go see my old pal Wino and his first great band, local legends The Obsessed on their latest reunion tour with “Super Stoner Rockers” The Atomic Bitchwax hailing from Long Branch, New Jersey, and Karma To Burn hailing from Morgantown, West Virginia, and it should be a rockin' night. I first heard about The Obsessed in the late seventies when I first started getting into local music and the bands like Buckeye, Face Dancer, The Boyz, Sinbad, Monarch, Pentagram, Angel, and them were the big local bands on the scene back then and then my cousin Marty took me to see The Obsessed at Louie's Rock City in Bailey's Crossroads in Northern Virginia and I was hooked. I saw them a bunch more times at the Wilson Center and Carmichael's and The Gentry in DC which are now long forgotten clubs but I sure had fun. I was taken by surprise when I saw that they were playing at the Black Cat so I ran out and got a ticket and on the day of the show the sun finally came out to shine after two weeks of continuous rain and I took it as a sign that they were going to rock this place. First up tonight was Karma To Burn and they are a power trio who hit the stage with big riffs swirling in the feedback squall and then the pounding and thunderous drums of Evan Devine started up and just rattled the club with his precision and ear for a good beat. William Mecum grinded away on his axe as gnarly riffs flew everywhere over the undulating ocean of booming bass lines of Eric Von Clutter that reminded me of Black Sabbath, however I wished that they were not just a mostly instrumental band, because the three of them were skilled musicians who wrote cool songs but couldn't they find a permanent vocalist. The band's music was like heavy metal jazz in the way they wrote and executed it with precision and skill that was heavy as fuck as they energetically plowed through their nine-song set. It was a pretty invigorating set but it seemed to last forever without a singer to tether the songs, however they did a pretty good job of rocking the audience. Karma To Burn finished up and the crew quickly rushed onstage to reset the equipment for the New Jersey trio The Atomic Bitchwax who soon took the stage and launched into their fervent stoner sludge that crept in my ears as they played a Pink Floyd song as an intro as they got ready and then with Finn Ryan's guitar squealing and vocalist Chris Kosnik's bass throbbing, he howled the lyrics over their drummer Bob Pantella's Black Sabbath-esque percussion groove and even though they were influenced by them, they did not really sound just like them completely. They also sounded a lot like the first band but with vocals however they had a cool groove that just pummeled the crowd as they plowed through the very telling “Hope You Die” relentlessly at breakneck speed, but their songs seem to blur together as the band tore through their set. Their best song of the night was a throbbing and menacing number called “Kiss The Sun” that tore through my ears as the guitarist's fingers burned up the fretboard like a maniac, but they became tedious after awhile and I wished they would just stop; however I did enjoy the guitarist's nimble-fingered playing as his molten riffs melted in my ears in a way that was mind-numbing, plus they seemed a bit too happy for the genre of music that they were playing live. The Atomic Bitchwax played an eleven-song set that had me rocking out a few times but overall, they were kind of tedious and played far too many notes, but thankfully they finished playing and left the stage for the crew to ready it for The Obsessed. The band were playing their first show since their re-birth with the current line-up of the iconic guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, bassist Dave Sherman, drummer Brian Constantino, and they took the stage with a roar as they launched into “Blind Lightning” from their 1994 major label debut album “The Church Within” on Columbia Records with billowing smoke swirling and Wino intoning, “Dreamer, warped by time, you're a martyr of your mind, visions, ideas unheard, future's just another word, your road turns to a path of darkness...”, over Dave's ominous bass and Brian's thunderous drums. They proceeded non-stop into a crunchy “Streamlined” also from their debut album and Wino was fantastic on the guitar as he led the way into a taut “To Protect And Serve” also from their 1994 debut and Brian's drumming was impeccable as Wino growled the biting lyrics as he made his axe squeal and scream with a comfortable ease. They followed that with a tune from one of Wino's previous bands and the brutal thrash of “Retroman” from Spirit Caravan's 2001 album “Elusive Truth” filled the room as the bassist Dave sang the vocals, “Sideburn sporting, riding a Norton, stone cold leader if you ever seen one, smokin' weed since the day he was born, demon seed, screamin' piss poor...”, and Wino outdid himself with his best guitar solo of the evening and it was just soul-shattering in its beauty and the band grinded out some heavy and electric rhythms that just exploded in my ears. Wino dedicated the next song to Government Issue icon John Stabb who recently passed and then they burst into “Streetside” from “The Church Within” and the band rocked at lightning speed and they crashed into a doomy Sabbath-influenced “Melancholy Grey” from Spirit Caravan's 1999 album “Jug Fulla Sun” and Wino just sawed away on the guitar as he growled the dark words and he made his guitar sing like a swarm of hornets. They switched things up with the more melodic and brand new song “Be The Night” and it sounded great and the rhythm section was doomy and gloomy as they made the song just ooze and crawl out of the speakers and then Wino went crazy on his guitar as he slashed away at it with adept skill and notes cascaded all over the place in the most scintillating way and it showed why he is one of DC's best metal guitarists. The band started into the neo-thrash of “Freedom” from their 1990 self-titled debut independent album and they gave it a southern rock feel to it with its start and stop groove and it was my favorite song of the night and Wino's fretwork was outstanding as he tore up his guitar as he growled, “Keep lookin' for the answer, lookin' ahead now, I can't run, all the men try to hand me a gun, all the people talkin', baby I don't care, mother freedom are you there...”. Next they let loose with another forthcoming new song that Wino said was about Satan, the monolithic “Sacred” and he strangled his axe and made it make some strange noises and razor-sharp riffs that cut through the air and burrowed their way into my head as the three of them broke the song down into a psychedelic space jam. They changed instruments and preceded to let loose with the ominous crunch of “Skybone” from “The Church Within” and Wino sang so menacingly as he made his guitar grind over the deep groove of his crack rhythm section and Wino played another out-of-this-world guitar solo that left the stage dripping in notes and chords. Next the trio played the classic stoner rock of “Fang” from Spirit Caravan's 1999 album and they got really heavy as the beat swayed like a lumbering wooly mammoth as the song flattened the crowd with its oppressive grind as Wino growled the words, “The moon comes, blackness steals the light, spread my wings to take flight, holiness is what you need, to stop the one that will suck you clean, suspended animation, hypnotized, drain your soul with the blink of my eye...”, and he laced with some electrifying riffs as the band segued into the pulsing grind of “The Way She Fly” from their 1990 self-titled debut album and Wino sang the pointed words with a dark passion. The band was revved up as they crunched their way through a sensational “Lost Sun Dance” from Spirit Caravan's “Jug Fulla Sun” album and it was beautiful and well-crafted as they slumbered their way through the sonic sludge as Wino rasped the lyrics and he played the most diverse guitar solo that just kamikazed into my ears with its extended notes and lightning fast riffage that seemed to hang in the air. The Obsessed quietly left the stage to wild applause as the crowd chanted for some more music. Wino re-appeared and tuned his guitar for a magnificent version of “Sodden Jackal” from their very first 7” single in 1983 on Invictus Records that they bludgeoned the crowd with its heavy groove as Wino growled the lyrics and made his guitar go crazy with his deft pyrotechnics that segued into a creepy “Brainwashed” from Spirit Caravan's 2003 album “The Last Embrace” that he sang so stoically as the band stomped out the beat behind him then he let one last guitar solo rip and it blew my mind. The band finished their sixteen-song set with a riveting “River Of Soul” from their 1990 self-titled album and Wino was a metal god as he rasped, “Elusive dreamland, behind the velvet curtain, lysergic vision, of just a mortal man, utopic pastures, the edge of paradise, blue sparkling falls laugh with steaming jungle rain, I want to dream on a pillow of clouds...”, and I was totally enthralled by their performance and I am so glad Wino but together a new line-up of The Obsessed and rocked my world with their virtuosity and worldview, it gave me hope.



WILD NOTHING and CHARLIE HILTON - May 11, 2016
Black Cat - Washington, DC

It has been raining for two weeks steady now and I cannot take it anymore, but I decided to leave my house and make my way to the Black Cat to see Blacksburg's own Wild Nothing and they featuring Jack Tatum who used to play with local legends Facepaint, anyways, he founded Wild Nothing in late 2009 and has been on an upward trajectory with the release of his third album “Life Of Pause” back in February on Captured Tracks Records. He records all of his music alone but takes a live band on the road and now he thinks that the band is finally perfect for his music. But first tonight was the opening act singer/songwriter Charlie Hilton from Portland's famed dream-pop trio Blouse, and she took the stage with her quartet and opened with some bright and sunny indie-pop that had a nice groove and her voice soared above the music as she sang forlorn tales of life and love, and the band chugged along at a pleasant click. They even got a bit funky as her voice ethereally danced with the song's melody as the beat swirled all around, but sadly the band did not interact with the audience. They even got a bit poppy on a few songs and the keyboardist got in a few nice fills that gave depth to their performance as Charlie sang the meaningful words so elegantly as she made her guitar sigh and she kept things upbeat and positive. I liked how the band incorporated electronic drum loops and synth washes on their pretty standard rock music, but it was actually pretty entertaining to me even though they reminded me of the band Waxahatchee a bit. They played a pleasant and mellifluous ten-song set that filled me with hope for the future which is unusual for me, but they left the stage and the crew set to work to set the stage for Wild Nothing. A few minutes later the band took the stage in a wall of billowing smoke and layers of synth washes and then the rest of the band kicked in with the driving beat of “To Know You” from their latest album “Life Of Pause” and I could hear traces of Tears For Fears in their music as bassist Jeff Haley and drummer Jeremiah Johnson gracefully propelled the song forward with its eighties-influenced lushness and Jeremiah was fantastic as he laid down some intense poly-rhythms with the drums. Frontman/guitarist Jack Tatum was quite affable as he crooned the melancholy words, “Look away, you paint me in, sometimes I grow bolder, funny how the moment comes, closer still, to know you...”, and then the band launched into the soaring riffs of the title-track from his 2012 album “Nocturne” and the song had a lovely melody as Jack sang the pithy words. The next song “A Woman's Wisdom” from “Life Of Pause” reminded me of a warm spring day as Nathan Goodman made his guitar squeal with intricate riffs and licks and the crowd loved it as they segued into the brisk upbeat indie-pop of “Live In Dreams” from his 2010 album “Gemini” and the guitars traded dreamy riffs over the percolating drumming of Jeremiah Johnson. The band continued on with a thumping “Lady Blue” from their latest album that swayed seductively to the ethereal beat and cascading guitar riffs as Jack sang his heart out and then they jumped into the shimmering percussion of “TV Queen” also from “Life Of Pause” and new keyboardist Matt Kallman added these crunchy fills that gave the song some bite as Jack sneered, “In a black room, is this no face, is this nobody that I'm seeing, those dead eyes, the closest I can ever get to you, the real you...”, and the band raged behind his voice as they moved into the jaunty rhythms of “Paradise” from “Nocturne” and the song swirled with some cool synth washes and spastic guitar riffs and Jack's voice floated by as if it was drifting smoke, and then they exploded into the psuedo-funk of “Reichpop” from their latest and this was probably the best song of the set as the rhythm rained down on the audience. Jack picked up his guitar and played these lovely riffs like he was George Harrison as the band pulsed behind him on an elegiac “Adore” from “Life Of Pause”. Next the band went into the expansive groove of “Only Heather” from his 2012 album “Nocturne” and they just pounded away rhythmically as Jack let his voice soar, “Dressed in the moonlight and paler than bone, she has got something that I've never known, I couldn't explain it, I won't even try, she is so lovely she makes me feel high...”, the band kept things moving with a spacey almost Pink Floyd-ish “Alien” from “Life Of Pause” and the guitarists played these extended notes that seemed to float above the simmering rhythm as Jack's voice told a dark story of sorrow and lost as the band slashed away at their instruments, then they segued into the New Order-ish “Summer Holiday” from his album “Gemini” and it made me wish that I could still dance like I did in my youth and the guitars soared and squealed and Jeff Haley's seemed to hold everything together and it was my favorite song of the night. Jack Tatum and Wild Nothing left the stage and the audience cheered for more until they finally returned and they pumped out a guitar-heavy “Japanese Alice” from their latest album and it reminded me of The Smiths as they pummeled us with an onslaught of layers of guitar and synth riffs and Jack's insightful lyrics. The band performed “Whenever I” from “Life Of Pause” and it was an exquisite rendition with chiming guitars driving the song with delicate and intricate guitar riffs and dark and murky synth lines as Jack sadly sang the morose words. Wild Nothing finished their fifteen-song set with an epic performance of “Shadow” from their 2012 album “Nocturne” and it was a fitting closer to their show as Jack wistfully sang the haunting words, “Oh, why is your hate so addicting, and I, well, I wonder where you've been, I don't see you often, I try to feel something for you, but that's all that I can do, give my shadow to you..., then he and the band quietly left the stage and disappeared in the back. I was like wow, that was a really good show that was full of insightful lyrics and inventive and catchy musical hooks over a tight and diverse rhythm section, and I guess one could not ask for much more and the opening act Charlie Hilton put on a good show also. Well done, some of Virginia's sons have done good...bravo!


ASHERU - May 6, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC




DURAN DURAN, CHIC featuring NILES RODGERS, and SHAMIR - April 8, 2016
Verizon Center - Washington, DC

It was a disturbingly cold spring day as I roamed the city attending to assorted errands and then I headed home to meet my best friend Scott and then we were off to the Verizon Center to see eighties pop stalwarts Duran Duran along with their legendary producer Niles Rodgers and his band Chic and it should be a groovy night filled with their funky new wave music. I cannot believe that Duran Duran can still play arena shows to near-capacity audiences. I used to love Duran Duran and their music back in the day but I had to be a “fan” secretly because a “guy” did not like them because that would make them “gay”, but I saw them play live in 1982 at the Ontario Theater on Columbia Road in Adams-Morgan where the “white” new-wavers stood in line for the band and the “non-white” locals would catcall and yell at out “Crackers” and other racist nonsense at us. Anyhow, they were a major part of the musical soundtrack of the eighties and nineties for me and then drugs and personality clashes brought on some lean years for the band, but as of late, Simon LeBon and company have been a re-charged band making some quality music. The lights went down and “genderqueer-identified” Shamir (Bailey) from Las Vegas and who is currently a rising electro-soul star took the stage and opened the evening with his/her razor-sharp four-piece band and they laid down a nice slab of twitchy electro-funk that jumped and pulsed to the groove and they reminded me of The Tom Tom Club. They played a groovy room-thumper called “Hot Mess” from their debut album “Ratchet”, and Shamir prowled the stage singing, “It's all of me, what's born to be, 'cause what they say is not what it seems, feel like I'm right but always wrong, guess I just don't belong, damn he's a hot mess, damn he's a hot mess...”, and the song shuddered and shook with a dark intensity as the band pumped out their seven-song set of quirky electro-funk rock soul music, and whatever else you want to label it, the band was quite enjoyable and they had nice songs that were full of hope, and I will try to buy their album. Shamir and company left the stage and the crew set to work resetting the stage for the fantastic Chic with the legendary Niles Rodgers and they opened with a jazzy and sophisticated “Everybody Dance” from their from their 1977 self-titled debut album and bassist Jerry Barnes drove the song with his supple and serpentine bass lines as guitarist Niles Rodgers played these intricate fills with his lightning-fast fingers and the two vocalists Kimberly Lee Davis and Folami vivaciously wailed, “Music never let you down, puts a smile on your face, anytime, anyplace, dancing helps relieve the pain, soothes your mind, makes you happy again, listen to those dancing feet, close your eyes and let go...”, and then they plunged into their very first single from their debut, an exhilarating “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)”, and the band was sharp and crisp as they played so joyfully off each other, particularly the keyboardists Richard Hilton and Russell Graham with their jaunty melody runs, and the band sensually glided into a soulful “I Want Your Love” from their 1978 album “C'est Chic” and it is still one of my favorite love songs and it featured an excellent trumpet solo from horn player Bill Holloman. Niles Rodgers greeted the enthusiastic audience and he said the next couple of songs were written and produced by him for some rather famous stars and they all reached Number One in the Billboard charts, and the drummer Ralph Rolle kicked things off with the clipped percussion of the classic Diana Ross uber-anthem “I'm Coming Out” which then segued into the disco-funk of “Upside Down” from her classic 1980 solo album “Diana” and they sounded spectacular as the band moved onto the bright upbeat disco-pop of Sister Sledge with two songs from their 1979 album “We Are Family”, first the sassy “He's The Greatest Dancer” and a slamming version of “We Are Family” that had the entire crowd singing along with them as the band stretched the song out and got down and funky and Niles played a fantastic guitar solo that sparked and sputtered with an edgy flair that danced between vocalists Kimberly Davis and Folami's gospel-esque wails. Niles then told us about how he was handling his recent cancer diagnosis and treatment and he decided to go make more music and play more shows, so now he is cancer-free and French band Daft Punk and Virginia-born superstar producer Pharrell had him work with them on the multi-platinum selling single “Get Lucky” from Daft Punk's 2013 album “Random Access Memories” and the band delivered a phenomenal version that brought down the house with its taut bass line and crisp percussion and it was all accented by Niles' delicate guitar fills, then he reverently spoke of the influence that his life mentor David Bowie had on him and how much he appreciated the time he spent with him and how thankful he was to have him in his life as the band tore into Bowie's “Let's Dance” from his 1983 album of the same name and they funked it up and set it on fire as the drummer Ralph Rolle sang it with heart and soul, and damn, they rocked it and it was mind-blowingly beautiful. The band kept the beat and groove going with a little down'n'dirty bump'n'grinder called “Le Freak” from Chic's 1978 album “C'est Chic” and they had the whole crowd dancing and clapping as they flowed into the raucous disco-funk of “Good Times” from their 1979 album “Risque” and it was a stomping version that included Niles bringing a stage-filling crowd to dance their hearts out with him as vocalist Kimberly Davis crooned, “Good times, these are good times, leave your cares behind, these are the good times, good times, these are the good times, our new state of mind, these are the good times, happy days are here again, the time is right for makin' friends...”, and the band ripped through the song to its climatic glory and they even had a former Chic vocalist and bassist Jerry Barnes' mother come to the stage. It was a fantastic and very uplifting set and that is all I got to say about it...Niles Rodgers is a genius. The houselights went up and I stood there amazed by what I just saw and the crew quickly re-set the stage and the lights went back down and Duran Duran bounded onstage with smoke billowing and claps of thunder and they opened with the title-track of their new album “Paper Gods” and keyboardist Nick Rhodes played these shimmery synth washes as vocalist Simon LeBon commanded the stage as he sang, “Bow to the paper gods in a world that is paper thin, the fools in town are ruling now, all the fools in town, bleeding from paper cuts, money for head shots, fools leading, today, who needs it...”, and he sounded great and looked sharp in white pants and a fancy leather jacket that he tried to come across as sexy, but his voice was rich and velvety as he crooned the lovely number. Without stopping, the band played a cool intro to “The Wild Boys”, a studio track from their 1984 live album “Arena”, that gave it an almost metal edge as the video screens flashed with some great pop art and drummer Roger Taylor's percussion was fabulous as was the tour guitarist Dominic Brown who played these soaring riffs and the band chanted the chorus. Next up was an exquisite version of “Hungry Like A Wolf” from their career-defining 1982 album “Rio” and bassist John Taylor played a wonderful rolling bass line that engulfed the audience as keyboardist Nick Taylor sprinkled these delicate notes like raindrops on top of the groove until it segued into a fantastic “A View To A Kill” from the 1985 movie soundtrack of the same name and it was the only James Bond theme song to have reached Number 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Chart and it is still one of my favorite videos that the band produced and they updated it with a cool delivery that was sharp and crisp and the drums were great as they made the groove pulse and throb. Then the band performed my all-time favorite song by them, a dreamy “Come Undone” from their brilliant 1992 album “Duran Duran (The Wedding Album)” and it began with a wonderful effected guitar intro that was accented by an ocean-deep pulsating bass line and Simon LeBon was brilliant as he crooned with vocalist Anna Ross the melancholic words, “Aah, it'll take a little time, might take a little crime to come undone, now we'll try to stay blind, to the hope and fear outside, hey child, stay wilder than the wind, and blow me in to cry, who do you need, who do you love, when you come undone...”, and their voices melded together as she followed his big vocals with her ethereal voice which was like listening to an angel. Next it was nice to hear that they still got it with a pair of songs from their latest album “Paper Gods”, first they played very sassy funk number called “Last Night In The City” that was propelled by Roger Taylor's sharp drumming and tasty fills and then they merged into the hauntingly soulful “What Are The Chances” as guitarist Dominic Brown whipped off a scintillating solo and Simon LeBon stoically sang the song so meaningfully to a video of images of the desert accented by some beautiful guitar-work and the melodious tinkling of keyboardist Nick Rhodes. Niles Rodgers joined the band for a rocking version of “Notorious” from their 1986 album by the same name and they tore it up in a superfunk-stylee and they got down as Simon strutted and prowled the stage as he crooned, “No-no-notorious, no-no-notorious, I can't read about it, burns the skin from your eyes, I'll do fine without it, here's one you don't compromise, lies come hard to disguise, let me to fight it out, not wild about it...”, and they had the women and a few men in the audience screaming like they were fourteen again, and then a saxophonist wailed like a banshee as the band flowed into my favorite song off their new album “Paper Gods”, an exquisite version of “Pressure Off” with Niles Rodgers punching it up with some tasty licks from his guitar over the terse rhythm section that reminded me of a seventies funk band and it was sensational as they segued into a wonderfully propulsive “Planet Earth” from their 1981 debut album and its pulsing rhythm that rolled right over me as Dominic's guitar wrapped itself around the percussive keyboard-driven groove and rather fittingly, they performed a snippet of David Bowie's “Space Oddity” to an appreciative crowd to celebrate his life and music. They really made the music come alive with melody and texture as they morphed into a gorgeous “Ordinary World” from their brilliant 1992 album “Duran Duran (The Wedding Album)” and Nick's shimmery keyboard playing led the way as everybody joined Simon in singing, “And I don't, but I won't cry for yesterday, there's an ordinary world, somehow I have to find, and as I try to make my way, to the ordinary world, I will learn to survive...”, then Dominic finished the song with his best guitar solo of the show that was full of brilliance and fury. Next the band kicked into the sharp and sassy uptown funk of “I Don't Want Your Love” from their 1988 album “Big Thing” and the hypnotic rhythm was taut as a tightrope as Simon danced and sang on it until once again Dominic let another killer solo rip over the undulating groove as the song morphed into a thunderous version of Grandmaster Flash's “White Lines (Don't Do It)” from their 1995 covers album “Thank You” and the band raged with stuttering guitars and symphonic synthesizer washes and Simon sarcastically sang about cocaine use and the damage it does, and Dominic made his axe explode in a frenzy of riffs and notes as the band went straight into a re-vamped version of “(Reach Up For The) Sunrise” from their 2004 album “Astronaut” that was crunchy and guitar-driven as the band bulldozed over the audience with its ringing riff and a sheer intensity that awed me as they transformed the groove into a lovely rendition of “New Moon On Monday” from their 1983 album “Seven And The Ragged Tiger” that blew me away with its jaw-dropping spectacle that lit up my eardrums with its sonic beauty. Simon and the others decided to show us some different kind of grooves and beats from their latest album “Paper Gods” and they launched into the techno-flavored maelstrom of “Danceophobia” and it was probably the least interesting performance of the night and they performed it like they were Basement Jaxx or something, and plus the song was way too clattery and disjointed. Thankfully the band realized this was a mis-step and they immediately switched into a spectacular “Too Much Information” from their album “Duran Duran (The Wedding Album)” and Simon's singing was on point as he growled, “Destroyed by MTV, I hate to bite the hand that feeds me so much information, the pressure's on the screen to sell you things that you don't need, it's too much information, dilate, dilate your mind, dilate your mind, dilate your mind...”, and the band pulsed and throbbed as I got lost in the cascading rhythms and chiming guitars as they segued into their most-recognizable song, a joyous version of “Girls On Film” from their 1981 debut self-titled album and its re-vamped arrangement made the song sound even cooler as they anthemically chanted the song's chorus, “Girls on film, two minutes later, girls on film, girls on film, got your picture, girls on film...”, until they broke the beat down and Simon LeBon introduced each member of the band and then they crashed through the rest of the song with verve and a little bit of sass, then they said goodnight and left the stage to a rapturous roar and adoring adulation. After a few minutes the band returned to the spotlight and they blazed through a touching and heartfelt “Save A Prayer” from their 1982 album “Rio” and the band dedicated it to the recent Paris music venue terrorist attack and to the people who love music and Nick Rhodes began the elegiac keyboard intro and then the rest of the band joined in and Simon LeBon sang the lovely chorus with the audience lost in thousands of cellphone lights, it was beautiful and made me feel like a human for a few minutes. Duran Duran finished their brilliant almost Beatles-esque twenty-song set with a transcendent rendition of the title-track “Rio” that Simon LeBon gave a bit of extra “joie de vivre” as he crooned, “Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand, just like that river twisting through a dusty land, and when she shines she really shows you all she can, oh Rio, Rio dance across the Rio Grande..”, and the audience was singing along ecstatically lost in the music and Simon LeBon bidded us a goodnight and the band and him fled the stage and the house lights went up. I stood there thinking, damn, that was an amazingly good show and wow, they still got it as Scott and I meandered out of the arena and into the brisk night. As we were walking to the metro, I had a memory that made me laugh out loud and it was that I could not get the image of Simon's little pot belly bulged out of the waist of his pants halfway through the show and then it would jiggle when he jumped up and down to the music, oh the horror, I still cannot get that image out of my head, but I still love them.


OH HE DEAD and HERB & HANSON - March 29, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was a blustery spring day as I headed to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage for a Listen Local First DC show featuring the funky sounds of locals Oh He Dead and the modern blues rock ruminations of Herb And Hanson. I arrived a little late to the show so I could not sit in my usual spot so I found a seat upfront and settled in for the show. The Listen Local First DC rep took the stage and she thanked everyone for supporting their efforts and also, this is a pre-show gig for the upcoming Kingman Island Bluegrass And Folk Festival, and then she brought Virginia-based duo Herb And Hanson to the stage and the two of them kicked off the show with a sparse song about a man's untimely death. They were quite good on their instruments, especially Herb Manila who played these wonderful trills on the mandolin as they quietly raged on the pithy lyrics of their songs which were really good and well-written. I liked how they interacted with each other as they played their instruments with skill and ease as melodic notes flew everywhere and Michael Hanson had some fast and fleet fingers as he picked away on the acoustic guitar. Their songs all seemed to have a dark edge to them, and I really liked their song called “Poor Man's Dime” and its righteous message. Their music was full of harmonies that the two of them made bright and airy as they traded lyrics and strummed away with laconic ease on their instruments. They played their six-song set wonderfully and I was wondering to myself what they would sound like with a full band backing them, but they did a great job anyway and then they left the stage. After a few minutes Oh He Dead took the stage and let loose with a soulful and gently groove as vocalist Cynthia Johnson and guitarist Andrew Valenti traded vocals about the complexities of life and love, and then lead guitarist Alex Vans played a stunning solo that gave me the chills. Cynthia had a voice that reminded me of a cross between Macy Grey and Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes but with a lot more control and passion as the song soared and swooped over the gentle reggae-ish beat of “Lovin' Somebody Else” which was the best song of their set. I liked when the band left the stage and Cynthia and Andrew sang a love song with their beautiful harmonizing vocals that just melted in my ears. The rest of the band returned to the stage and bassist Art Serebryakov began playing a gentle thump over the terse percussion of drummer Patrick Frank and Cynthia's voice raged about the wicked ways of the world in the song “Blood In The Water” and Alex played another smokin' guitar solo as the band pounded forward. Andrew took the time to introduce the band and then he jumped into the jazzy beat of the song “Show Me Love” as the rest of the band just took off with soaring riffs and sparse percussion as they swayed to the ending of their six-song set. All in all it was a fantastic show with two great local bands who have some well-crafted songs and I just might make my way to the Kingman Island Bluegrass And Folk Festival to see them again in April.


LURAY - March 26, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC




THE WHO and TAL WILKENFELD - March 24, 2016
Verizon Center - Washington, DC

It was a lovely spring day as I headed uptown on the broken-down metro to go and pick-up my tickets to The Who's “50th Anniversary Show” that benefited Teen Cancer America and the Shriners' Hospitals Of America, at the Verizon Center and I was kind of excited to see the old geezers rock out with their greatest hits from their illustrious career one more time because I think this is probably their last tour due to Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey's ages and lingering health problems. I have never been the biggest fan of The Who's music but I have always found them to be interesting with something to say and I really loved their tour-de-force song “Behind Blue Eyes”. I saw them perform back in 2012 on their “Quadrophrenia Revisited Tour” with my friend Joyce Lacovara and they were fantastic and their songs were still meaningful and vibrant as ever and they were performed quite beautifully. Later on that evening I arrived back at the Verizon Center and found my way to my wonderful seat and I sat and watched the crowd slowly mill in and fill the seats as the video screens streamed a plethora of band memorabilia and photographic history, plus some really touching tributes to their fallen comrades drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle, and recently-departed fellow musicians, David Bowie and ELP's Keith Emerson. It finally became time for the evening's show to start and the opening act was Jeff Beck-discovered Australian singer Tal Wilkenfeld who took the stage with her bass and her three-piece band and they proceeded to lay down some proggish rock and roll that flowed ever so gently over me as the subtle groove pulsed and throbbed and Tal ethereally sang the words to her upbeat songs. The music they played was kind of boring and never seemed to go anywhere and I found myself wishing the band would just stop and Tal reminded me of a cross between Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart and Stevie Nicks and the band's guitarist reminded me of Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, so they had a real staid classic rock sound, however she was a fantastic jazz-inflected bass player full of heart and soul and I really liked her solos. I found the drummer a bit plodding and tedious and he always seemed to be a bit slow on the down stroke. They played a mildly interesting eight-song set that just flew by quickly as they finished up, and I forgot what kind of groove they played by the time they laid their instruments down, but I did not care as the lights went up. After a few minutes the house lights went down and Roger and Pete and the rest of the band geriactrically bounded on to the stage and opened with a raucous version of “Who Are You”, the title-track from their 1978 album, and the band was on fire as they raged through the song and vocalist Roger Daltry roared, “I spit out like a sewer hole, yet still receive your kiss, how can I measure up to anyone now, after such a love as this, who are you, who, who, who, who, who are you...”, as his face appeared on the video screens and Pete Townshend played some stellar fretwork on his guitar and he did his signature windmills on his instrument. The band then went into overdrive as they careened through a fabulous version of “The Seeker” from their 1971 compilation album “Meaty, Beaty, Big, And Bouncy”, and Roger's voice actually sounded great as Pete and his younger brother Simon traded fiery guitar licks back and forth, and he sang so stoically with passion. Roger took the time to reminescene about the fun times that the band and him had in the sixties, and then the band let lose with a delightful “The Kids Are Alright” from their 1971 album “Who's Next” and drummer Zak Starkey really shined on percussion giving the song a modern edge. Pete introduced their next song which was a booming “I Can See For Miles” from their 1967 album “Sell Out” and the band played it in a mod punk rock style with the right edge of angst as the song began to soar and they were sensational as the band throbbed behind Pete as his guitar exploded with thunder'n'lightning riffs. With Zak leading the way with a stacatto drum beat, the band continued into a powerfully soulful “My Generation”, the title-track from their 1965 self-titled debut album, and it was as fresh and vibrant as ever and bassist Pino Palladino was spectacular as he drove the song while Roger roared, “People try to put us down, talkin' 'bout my generation, just because we get around, talkin' 'bout my generation, things they do look awful cold, talkin' 'bout my generation, I hope I die before I get old, talkin' 'bout my generation...”, and then Pete played his best guitar solo of the set as images of Mods danced on the video screens around the stage and the band segued into “The Real Me” from their 1973 album “Quadrophenia” and they performed it with a real passion as Roger sang the words like he still meant it as groovy graphics swirled to the beat on the video screens. The band surprised us with a crunchy version of “Pictures Of Lily” from their 1971 singles compilation album “Meaty, Beaty, Big, And Bouncy” and Roger prefaced their performance by saying that a song should tell a story tell a story and the band danced through each others riffs and melodies like ballet dancers until Zak played an innovative percussion break as the video screens showed images of departed drummer Keith Moon that was quite touching and showed just how much of an effect he had on them since his early death in 1980. Next the band played my favorite song by them, the marvelous “Behind Blue Eyes” from their 1971 album “Who's Next” and Roger sounded great as he poignantly crooned, “No one knows what it's like, to be the bad man, to be the sad man, behind blue eyes, no one knows what it's like, to be hated, to be fated, to telling only lies...”, and the band laid down the sparse beat and it made me tear up, and they immediately segued into what Pete said was his favorite song on the “Who's Next” album, a wonderfully cascading version of “Bargain” and it was sharp and crisp and was driven by Pete's stuttering guitar. They continued with a stomping “Join Together”, their 1972 non-album single and its wall of sound engulfed me in its melody as Pop Art images danced across the video screens. The band really rocked the crowd with an out-of-this-world version of “You Better You Bet” from their 1981 album “Face Dances” that had the whole crowd rocking and dancing ecstatically to the new wave-y groove driven by the slinky riffs of musical director/keyboardist Frank Simes and Roger gallantly singing, “When I say I love you, you say you better, you better you better you bet, when I say I need you, you say you better, you better you better you bet, you better bet your life, or love will cut you like a knife...”. Pete switched back to the acoustic guitar and started to gently sing the words to “I'm One” from their 1973 album “Quadrophenia” and his gravelly voice actually sounded good on this song that was rather autobiographical, and thus began a wonderful selections of songs from that album, he switched back to his electric guitar and the band purred like a finely-tuned engine as they cranked out the “Maximum R&B” of “The Rock” and Simon Townshend made the song bristle with a blistering guitar solo as Roger forcefully sang what he said was his favorite Who song and Zak's crisp drumming kept the song moving as the video screens showed a parade of political images and slogans from the eighties to the present. Next the keyboardist Loren Gold began playing the elegaic opening to “Love, Reign O'er Me” and Zak kicked in with some tasteful drumming and Roger sang the words with such feeling as his voice soared with passion as he crooned, “Only love can make it rain, the way the beach is kissed by the sea, only love can make it rain, like the sweat of lovers layin' in the fields, love, reign o'er me, love reign o'er me, rain on me, rain on me...”, and once again Pete scorched my eardrums with a scintillating guitar solo until they broke the song down and Roger made it a grungy old blues shuffle with it a wailful fade-out on the harmonica. The band barreled non-stop into a jangly “Slip Kid” from their 1975 album “By Numbers” and Roger jauntly sang with the crowd as Pete made his guitar squeal over Zak's unimitimable brand of whirlwind percussion as the band segued into a raucous “Amazing Journey” from their 1969 album “Tommy”, but to me it was the low point of their set as the song marched along with plodding precision and even though they ended the song with fantastic dual guitar solos from Pete and Simon that were full of arpeggios and hammer-ons, yet I still found it a bit dull as the band flowed into an electric “Sparks” also from “Tommy”, and then Pete began playing the opening chords of perennial crowd-pleaser “Pinball Wizard” and the crowd absolutely loved it as they jumped to their feet cheering and the beat pulsed along as Roger gleefully sang, “Ever since I was a young boy, I've played the silver ball, from Soho down to Brighton, I must have played them all, but I ain't seen nothing like him, in any amusement hall, that deaf, dumb, and blind kid, sure plays a mean pinball...”, and the video screens showed images of a giant “Tommy”-themed pinball machine with the balls shooting everywhere as they segued into a beautiful rendition of “See Me, Feel Me” also from “Tommy” and the music swirled and lifted me spiritually with its emotional message of love and redemption. The band flowed effortlessly into a spinetingling “Baba O'Riley” from their 1971 album “Who's Next” and they made me forget that nowadays it is known as television's “CSI: Miami” theme song, but they were flowing with intricate rhythms and melodies that were so intoxicating to hear and Pete brilliantly flung riffs everywhere in his stylized way and he had the audience on their feet screaming for more. The Who finished their twenty-one song set with a magnificent rendition of the classic “Won't Get Fooled Again” also from the “Who's Next” album that was highlighted by a great harmonica solo from Roger Daltry before he stepped to the microphone and roared, “I'll tip my hat to the new constitution, take a bow for the new revolution, smile and grin at the change all around, pick up my guitar and play, just like yesterday, then I'll get on my knees and pray, we don't get fooled again...”, then the house lights went up and the band took their bows to an adoring audience and waved good night as the band walked off stage. I felt exhilirated by their stunning performance and amazed by their longevity and revelancy to what I see and feel in this world that is happening today. I walked out into the chilly night with a smile on my face as I walked across the National Mall to the metro to head home.



METRIC and JOYWAVE - March 13, 2016
The Fillmore - Silver Spring, MD

It was a dreary overcast Sunday afternoon as I lolled around my house getting ready to go and see Metric from Toronto and Joywave from Rochester at The Fillmore in Silver Spring. I arrived and there was some discrepancy in the box office and so there was no ticket waiting for me and the show was sold out, but strangely there was a single ticket sitting on the ledge in the ticket booth and the wonderful box office person just randomly gave it to me for free...so thank you for giving me a free ticket...you are blessed! I entered the venue and found my regular spot with the best sight lines by the bar and ordered a Stella Artois and settled in for the evening and I watched the young people flit about the club without a care in the world...if they only knew. But first up tonight was Joywave from Rochester, New York, and they are a quintet who play bright and sparkly electronic pop with vocalist Daniel Armbruster's high falsetto leading the way on their opening number, “In Clover” from 2015's breakout album “How Do You Feel Now?”, with its joyous words, “They'll never walk away, they'll never run astray from you, this could be ecstasy, now that I'm everything that I'm supposed to be, clover, I'll be in clover soon, I'll be in clover soon, I'll be in clover with you...”, and the drummer Paul Brenner was fantastic as he laid down some pulsing poly-rhythms so the keyboardist Benjamin Bailey could added some intricate and pastoral runs of melody. The music throbbed and pulsed as the beat wound its way through my ears as it flowed into several songs from the same album and they started with a quirky and dance-y “Feels Like A Lie”, followed with a sharp and crisp “Now”, and then the band really shined on a dreamy “Parade” that had me in a daze with its hypnotic bass line from Sean Donnelly. The guitarist Joseph Morinelli was quite inventive as he played these Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello-influenced screechy guitar riffs that felt like fire on my body as they played a very elegaic “Nice House” that had a lot of funky guitar attacks over the layers and layers of synthesizer washes that drenched Daniel Armbruster's melancholy and thoughtful vocals as he crooned, “I thought I'd have a nice house, to blow my brains out, or a fast car, to run from danger, my own place, where I could get away, I thought I'd have a good wife, to kiss me goodnight, or a fast car, to run from danger, my own place, where I could get away...”. The band changed up the tempo for their new song “Alice” from the recently-released “Alice In Wonderland” film soundtrack album and it reminded me of eighties power-pop but with an electronic edge. My favorite song of the night was a sultry version of “Bad Dreams” from “How Do You Feel Now?” and it just flowed beautifully like the tides and Joseph Morinelli played a scintillating guitar solo full of dripping extended notes. They got really lively with some clattery percussion that morphed into a percolating “Somebody New” from the same album and the song throbbed and unulated like a rave anthem from the nineties and Daniel Armbruster sang so sardonically in a quiet nerd kind of way as the band lurched into a spastic “Tongues” also from the same album and he whispered, “Tell me all the things I've missed, who's been killed and who's been kissed, drag me back, collect my thoughts, Ill be gone when the drugs wear off, the palms are down, I'm welcomed into town, sometimes, I feel like they don't understand me...”, and the song was a real crowd-pleaser that got the audience moving with its nursery rhyme beat. Joywave finished their ten-song set with a powerful synth-led grinder called “Destruction” also from “How Do You Feel Now?” and they just blew it up spectacularly much to the joy of the audience as the band made the song dance and twirl with its catchy beat until they reached the coda and stopped and then they waved goodnight to the audience and left the stage. The house lights went up and you could feel the anticipation building for Metric, and then a few minutes later the lights dimmed and the members of Metric took the stage and opened with a rather punchy and raucous “IOU” from their 2003 album “Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?” and it flowed like a symphony as the stage lights flashed and pulsed to the beat as vocalist/keyboardist Emily Haines' pleasant voice sang the wry lyrics, “Hesitation's always mine, hesitate outside the times, with all I don't say, with all I don't say, I'm sending you, invitations to hesitate too...”. James Shaw made his guitar dance on a razor's edge in a way that reminded me of progressive bands like fellow Canadians, Rush, and then they exploded into a ferocious “Help I'm Alive” from their 2009 album “Fantasies” with its big marching beat and crushing guitar riffs as Emily raged over her melodic keyboard runs as the song just swayed to and fro with her lovely voice and the brilliant lighting that accented it was wonderfully psychedelic. The band then launched into the robotic beat of “Youth Without Youth” from their 2012 album “Synthetica” and they made it swing like a hammer as the band went crazy on their instruments as Emily howled with an intense ferocity over the bassist Joshua Winstead's booming riffs as he made his instrument stomp all over the place. The band slowed things down for an ethereal “Twilight Galaxy” from their 2009 album “Fantasies” and it just swirled along like a lazy summer afternoon until guitarist James Shaw made his axe howl with mangled riffs that cascaded haphazardly into my ears. The band made their instruments hum especially Emily on her synthesizers as she drove the beat into a spacey “Cascades” from their new album “Pagans In Vegas” as she wore a day-glo cape as she sang the lyrics over the grinding beat and the music seem to cascade as the song title suggested and the lights twinkled and pulsed behind them, and then Emily and her cape sang “Raw Sugar” from their 2007 album “Grow Up And Blow Away” acappella and the ominous words seem to float like leaves in the wind as she wistfully sang, “I don't want to say it, the news is not so good, we'll never get away, and even if we could, we'd just play the tambourine, around an open flame, oversleep and burn, to be back in the game...”. For the next number they burst into a sarcastic “Too Bad, So Sad” from their latest album “Pagans In Vegas” and guitarist James Shaw played his best riff of the night over the earth-swallowing bass of Joshua Winstead and crisp robotic drumming of Joules Scott-Key. The lights dimmed and the band got all deep and thoughtful and they played a wonderfully dark version of “Artificial Nocturne” from their 2012 album “Synthetica” and Emily belted the sad and morose words until the beat kicked in and the song got all space-y with James' searing guitar work. The band brought a small chorus to the stage and with the gentle strumming of an acoustic guitar and they began the insightful “Dreams So Real” also from “Synthetica” and the lyrics was a potent indictment of the state of the world that Emily sang so plaintive until the choir kicked in with the meaningful and catchy chorus about salvation and hope. They continued with a pastoral and melancholic “Blind Valentine” from their latest album that was full of lovely keyboard crescendoes from Emily and then James Shaw burst into some big guitar riffs that made the groove stomp as Emily cooed the words ever so sensually until the song exploded into a frenzy of feedback and noise. Next they kicked into the mellow groove of the wonderful “Sick Muse” from their 2009 album “Fantasies” that gently propelled it along as Emily wistfully sang, “You better watch out Cupid, stuck me with a sickness, pull your little arrows out, let me live my life, the one I'd better lead, all the blondes are fantasies...”, then James Shaw picked up an acoustic guitar and started strumming as Emily Haines crooned the sad lyrics to “Collect Call” also from “Fantasies” and I guess that you could call it “folk-tronica”, but it did have a nice beat that made you move as James did a little bit of singing with his pretty decent voice at the end of the song. He returned to his electric guitar and slashed out some fat crunchy riffs as the drummer Joules Scott-Key made the beat swing and jump on the sparkly intro to “Other Side” from “Pagans In Vegas” and it was almost disco in its feel as they ploughed through the song like John Travola dancing on speed. The band kicked it into high gear with the pleasant modern-pop song “Black Sheep” from the 2010 movie soundtrack album for “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” and they raged like the wild wind until they segued into the cool big beat of “Synthetica” from their 2012 album “Synthetica” and this was probably my favorite song of the night as Emily's voice danced in my ears with the pithy words, “Some of us are wild ones, ever under-wanted, I believe, lining up in the background, waiting for the crowd, shot to be seen, in the shadow of the big screen, everybody begs to be redeemed...”, the band was absolutely sensational as they made the song's melodies swell and surge through Joules' precision drumming. They began the next song with Emily boldly singing acapella a snippet of “Combat Baby” from their 2003 album “Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?” and then suddenly James began squeezing these mad electric riffs out of his guitar as he led the band in a swaggering “Gold Guns Girls” from their 2009 album “Fantasies” as Emily's voice pierced my soul with the song's heavy lyrics, and James had a “Hendrix moment” where his fingers coaxed a brilliant solo into existence with a flurry of notes that were mind-bogglingly tasty and full of life. The band finished their delightful set with a majestic and regal “The Shade” from their latest album “Pagans In Vegas”, and Emily Haines gloriously belted out the pithy words, “We got the sunshine, we got the shade, we got temptation, we got it made, we got rewarded, we got refused, we got distorted, we got confused, we got the sunshine, we got the shade, I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, I want it all...”, and I found myself transfixed by her otherworldness until the song ended and then Emily and her band left the stage to overwhelming applause. After a few minutes the band returned and proceeded to blow us away with a dazzling version of “Empty” from their 2005 album “Live It Out” that Emily sang from her heart as the rest of the band thrashed out behind her as she prowled the stage like a panther; and then they went all eighties-pop again on the song's coda and bridge until they morphed into the syncopated grooves of my favorite song from their new album, a liberating “Celebrate” and blasts of the synthesizer heralded their funky disco-rock and they really shined at this because I was grooving in a state of bliss until they switched the beat up again to the over-the-top eighties-style power-ballad “Gimme Sympathy” from their 2009 album “Fantasies” that transformed into syncopated disco stew that they really shine musically on until the song returned to the soaring guitar of a power-ballad as it segued into the gentle rhythms of a gorgeous “Breathing Underwater” from their 2012 album “Synthetica” and James Shaw strummed his guitar and Emily Haines crooned, “I'm the blade, you're the knife, I'm the weight, you're the kite, they were right when they said we should never meet our heroes, when they bowed at their feet, in the end it wasn't me...”, and with these potent words the band finished and left the stage. Metric are one of the better 21st century rock bands and they played a spectacular nineteen-song set that held my attention with Emily's verbose and witty lyrics and sweeping keyboard riffs and the rest of the band's sharp and inventive playing that was music to my ears as I hurried out of the venue into the chilly night and dashed to the metro. And oh yeah, many thanks to the box office employee that was kind to me with a free ticket to this sold-out show.


WAR ON WOMEN, DOT DASH, 7 DOOR SEDAN, and X-MC - March 12, 2016
Comet Ping Pong - Washington, DC

It was an almost nice day as I did my many errands around town and when it got dark outside, I decided I was going to the John Stabb Benefit at Comet Ping Pong to see several local bands. I have known John Stabb of local punkers Government Issue for several decades now and I have always loved his unique style of hardcore singing and I have many memories of him and his bands but recently he was diagnosed with cancer and that made me feel really old but I hope and wish the best for him and the event will raise a lot of money for him and his healthcare. First up tonight is XMC and they are a trio from DC and the three of them slammed out six songs of world-weary power-pop in the vein of Big Star and Tommy Keene. The singer was a pretty interesting guitar player as he flung some big riffs and snarly hooks but his voice was a bit monotone and hard to understand, but the drummer gave them a nice groove with a swinging bass line and especially on the song “Rendition” that had a dark and ominous feel to it as they chugged along in an almost hardcore kind of way. Next up was 7 Door Sedan and they are a quartet from Maryland who also played a six-song set of crunchy but pretty standard rock and roll and they were actually good musicians whose songs were full of clever riffs and odd time signatures and cool lyrics. The vocalist/guitarist Glenn Kowalski had an interesting pouty sneer to his vocals that kept reminding of sixties garage bands and The Stones. The drummer Norman Van Der Sluys had a nice loping groove that the bassist Josh Singer skillfully accented it with deep and booming bass lines as Glenn and lead guitarist Ken Moss dueled with howling and screeching riffs and especially on the song called “Breakaway Star” which was my favorite of their set, but the band puts on a really good and energetic show and their music made want to dance and sweat. The third band of the night was one of my favorite local bands, Dot Dash, and I haven't seen them in a while and so their set tonight should be thrilling and potent, and the band opened with a raucous number and kept the pace of their music blistering as they tore through their eleven-song set of tuneful songs that were short, sharp, and sweet, and they drew a pretty big crowd as the band started their set. Bassist Hunter Bennett was as great as ever because it is him who gives the band's songs some edge and punch, but with this show their playing seemed a bit more aggressive than usual, but it was cool because the sparkling melodies carried each song. I really liked how vocalist/guitarist Terry Banks and guitarist Steve Hansgen played off each other skillfully, and it goes without saying that drummer Danny Ingram was impeccable as he played and particularly on the song “Searchlight”. The band blew my mind with a crunchy cover of a Government Issue song and they tore it up to the crowd's amazement. Dot Dash played a nice solid set that was wide-ranged and pulsing with witty lyrics and throbbing bass lines as the guitars let loose with some crazy riffs until they finished and left the stage. The final band of the night was called War On Women and they are a quartet from DC that played loud and abrasive punk “rawk” complete with indecipherable lyrics and pounding percussion that could give you whiplash, but I could only take a few songs...oy! So I quickly left the gig and rushed down the street to the metro where I rushed home because it was getting late and I was tired, but what a great show it was and for a good cause.


ELIJAH AHMED BALBED QUINTET - March 7, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

Being that today was the first really nice day of this year and after spending the afternoon working on my website, I decided that I needed to see some cool jazz from local musician saxophonist Elijah Ahmed Balbed and his quintet who are playing at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage and it is his first local gig since he moved to New York City so he could become even more renown for his playing. Tonight he is playing with hot-shot guitarist Paul Bollenback and it should be quite fabulous. The band hit the stage and opened with the breezy number called "Butch Warren" which was written by Elijah Ahmed Balbed and it was full of lyrical melodies and cascading percussion as Elijah made his sax sing so beautifully about the glory of his mentor Butch Warren as each band member played their part. The continuity of the band was excellent as each instrument played their version of the song's melody and the guitarist Paul Bollenback was phenomenal as his liquid fingers flew up and down the fretboard. The pianist Mark Meadows was also brilliant as his deft fingers dazzled on the keyboard with such ease. Next the band sparkled on a lovely version of Elijah's "Lessons From The Streets" that just swirled with the beautiful melody of the song that was propulsive and sassy and Elijah played the most amazing solo that was underscored by bassist Michael Bowie's supple bass-playing that soon exploded into a throbbing solo that the drummer Aaron Seeber rode with great skill and aplomb. For their third number "Infant Eyes", the band got all gentle and ethereal as the notes floated out of Elijah's saxophone as he wailed delicately and the sparse percussion and moaning Rhodes organ followed him as the melody of the notes fell like snow as Paul played these long extended guitar riffs that danced with Elijah's lively playing. Elijah Ahmed Balbed warmly introduced the band and then they jumped right into the drummer Mark Meadows' title track "Somethin' Good" from his latest album and it was a lovely classical music-infused jazz number that was pretty rollicking and yet it followed classical forms as the band rocked with swirling rhythms and an almost psychedelic guitar that gave the song some edge as Elijah blew layers and layers of sax notes with a subtle grace and flourish. I noticed that the drummer Mark seemed to hold everything together as he laid down a nice clipped rock-steady beat that the other instruments seemed to love and he played a really cool and percussive drum solo that was just outstanding. The band finished their five-song set with an original Balbed-penned song called "Checking In" and it was an upbeat number that reminded me of the fifties and martinis with its jaunty beat and sassy swing that rocked until the very last note of the song. Their set was marvelous and Elijah Ahmed Balbed is one of my favorite saxophonists next to Ron Holloway and I went home with a song in my heart and a skip in my step.


SHIPKA RAY - March 4, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC



CURTIS JOHNSON AND THE BAND ETERNITY - March 2, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC



AARON LIVINGSTON (SON LITTLE) - February 27, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC



PISSED JEANS, DOWNTOWN BOYS, and HOMOSUPERIOR - February 26, 2016
The Black Cat - Washington, DC

It was a frigid and soul-crushing day and so at the last minute I decided to take the Metro downtown and go to the Black Cat to see some fresh punk rock. I get to the club and find my way to my regular spot at the end of the bar and order a beer and wait for the latest local queer punk sensation Homosuperior who have been garnering some positive attention and they have been playing gigs up and down the East Coast and my bartender pal said they were really good at giving the audience a punk rock good time. The band took the stage in all their garish glory and they launched into their pounding punk beat with waves of feedback and vocalist Josh Vogelsong screeched unintelligibly about the world around him but the band played a solid groove. The bassist KC held the songs together as his muscular bass lines weaved in and out of the dense percussion of drummer Kit and the screechy guitar of Anderson. I wish their songs were a bit more tuneful and reeled in but vocalist Josh was charismatic and one watched him like you would a train-wreck and he really shined on the song “Plan B From Outer Space” which was the best one of their set. The rhythm section was killer but the guitarist Anderson could use a few lessons in making riffs count as their songs went from fast to very fast but the bassist ruled in an almost Black Sabbath-y kind of way as they campily raced through their six-song set and they reminded me of MDC (Millions Of Dead Cops) on a few of their songs. I guess I enjoyed their performance but it whizzed by me like a drunken gnat. After a few minutes Downtown Boys took the stage and the band launched into their politically-tinged music with a sonic fury as they raged against the ways of the world and the saxophonist wailed ferociously over their manic beat. They reminded me of a super amped-up ska band as they pounded away over the screaming of vocalist Mary Jane Regalado, and their song denouncing the “rich” and people who inherited it was interesting and that of course led to a song raging against “fascism” but they seemed to be “fascist” in their own way but the vocalist's screaming eventually got on my nerves with all her preaching but the band was kicking it and especially the sax player. The singer's political rantings just wore me out but the music was excellent but the singer was unbearable because I could not understand a word she sang over her very solid band. They played a powerful and driving set of well-constructed songs and even though the singer was annoying, the band rocked their ten-song set and the saxophonist was awesome and the real star of the show. The crowd seemed to be into the fact that the headliner Allentown, Pennsylvania's own Pissed Jeans were coming on the stage next so I got a bit excited too. They took the stage and their singer Matt Korvette joked about the ways of the world and how much he hates teenagers and old people and then the band launched into their music that just plodded and screeched to the amusement of the audience. The singer Matt sang his jaded lyrics as the band pulsed behind him as they laid down a slab of music that rolled over me like a slow-moving truck. They plowed on as Matt twisted and contorted his body and words over the screeching guitar of Bradley Fry and the sludgy rhythm section of bassist Randy Huth and drummer Sean McGuinness. They also got a bit Black Sabbath-y a few times and guitarist Bradley showed us his skills with some tricky playing which only made me really miss Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi who was playing Madison Square Garden tonight in New York City. I found the singer humorous as he raged about getting older and closer to death and the band made some scary noises behind him until they kicked into some sonic sludge that reminded me of Jesus Lizard but Matt Korvette ain't no David Yow. The band kept on playing their ponderous and heavy noise-rock and I grew tired of the singer and his yelping and the band's lack of catchy riffs, because he was more of a performance artist than a vocalist and the band never really got an interesting groove going and I was becoming very tired of them but their guitarist did play some cool solos and after nine songs I had enough of them so I split and made my way home with a ringing in my ears.


DC LEGENDARY MUSICIANS BAND with CASH JONES - February 23, 2016
Kennedy Center Millennium Stage - Washington, DC




VOIVOD, VEKTOR, and EIGHT BELLS - February 13, 2016
Black Cat - Washington, DC

It was one cold-ass dreary winter night to go out and see some raging metal at the Black Cat in Washington, DC, but I really wanted to see the thrash originators Voivod from Quebec, and even though founding guitarist Denis “Piggy” D'Amour died in 2005 from colon cancer and bassist Jean Yves “Blacky” Theriault left the band in 2014, and they should still rock hard. It has been a long time since their glory years of 1986 to 1993 and I used to go see them all the time and they are indelibly burned into my brain because I saw them in 1990 at The Bayou in Georgetown with those noisy young upstarts Soundgarden on the same night that Mayor Marion Barry was busted for smoking crack in a Ramada Inn with a shady informant woman and Soundgarden's Chris Cornell stopped the band in the middle of a song to inform us of this event and the audience burst into overjoyed cheering and applause. Then Denis “Piggy” D'Amour died in 2005 and the band kind of disappeared from sight but now drummer Michel “Away” Langevin and vocalist Denis “Snake” Belanger are back with new bassist Dominique “Rocky” Laroche and guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain and a new EP called “Post Society” and so I am looking forward to seeing them perform tonight. I arrived at the club and sat in my regular spot at the bar and ordered a Stella Artois, and the first band Eight Bells who are from Portland, Oregon, almost immediately took the stage, and they are a female trio led by vocalist/guitarist Melynda Jackson and they are on tour in support of their second album “Landless” and their Sabbath-influenced ominous plod oozed out of the speakers with serpentine muscle as the three of them intoned their mysterious lyrics in harmony as the guitar sputtered and sparked over the thick and ponderous rhythm of bassist Haley Westeiner and their new drummer Rae Amitay and it weaved in and out of my ears like a slow-moving freight train, but the band became a bit boring after awhile as they seemed to plod on and on. Their sound was similar to Sweden's Ghost but without all the pomp and Satan and they played a pleasant seven-song set that was pretty nice to hear as they laid down deep plodding rhythms and languid guitar riffs. It was kind of “dream-metal” and I really enjoyed them and it was nice to see established bands exposing their audiences to new music and bands. The next band tonight was Vektor who are originally from Tempe, Arizona, but now they are based in Philadelphia and the band is led by guitarist/vocalist David DiSantos and they are previewing their forthcoming album “Terminal Redux” and they are poised to turn on the metal world with their music and the crowd seems to agree, and it is good to see that long-haired stoner metal is still alive and well. They line-checked for a few minutes and then they burst into their opening number with full-force as they let the thrash metal flow with thunderously pounding beats and searing guitar riffs and David DiSantos growled away as the band did Megadeth better than Megadeth and the guitar interplay between David and Erik Nelson was full of gnarly riffs that flew everywhere as bassist Frank Chin and drummer Blake Anderson slowed down and sped up the tempo skillfully as it careened though their set. They showcased their new album with a blistering “Psychotropia” that showed where their sonic fury is taking them as they lacerated the song with David's weird vocals and quirky guitar riffs. However the band got a bit boring and plodding after awhile as their songs seemed to all sound the same and I could not understand the lyrics which often shortens my attention span by quite a bit because I tired of them rather quick. They blasted their way through their eight-song set but their music just did not grab my attention, but I did not hate them but I was glad when they left the stage because their songs never seemed to go anywhere as just a flurry of notes seemed to carry their closing number. Thankfully they were over and I got excited for Voivod to take the stage and then the house lights dimmed and the sounds of Pink Floyd filled the room and Voivod rushed onstage and opened with a pounding “Ripping Headaches” from their 1986 album “Rrroooaaarrr” and Denis “Snake” Belanger let his vocals rip as the tight rhythms pummeled the audience and he wailed, “Delivering the noise to keep my head red hot, riding in the long run, I get the energy, tonight let's go, I'm here to feel my suicide, we turn it on and you'll be going crazy...”, and their guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain made his riffs tear my ears apart. The band kept the pace up as they exploded at breakneck speed into “Tribal Convictions” from their 1988 album “Dimension Hatross”, however I found myself really missing Piggy and his guitar, but Away pounded away at his drums beautifully as they forcefully ripped their way into “Overreaction” from their 1987 album “Killing Technology” and its blistering lead guitar work from Chewy and Away's stunning drumming made the song shake the room and I really enjoyed Chewy's playing because he made his axe howl with a raging fury as they pushed the limits of metal music. Snake commanded the stage as he growled his way through “Kluskap O'Kom” from their 2013 album “Target Earth” and Chewy's guitar added layers and layers of relentless riffs and grinding bass lines as Away beat the hell out of his drums. They reached into their back catalogue to the 1989 album “Nothingface” and they unleashed a bone-shaking version of “Inner Combustion” as Snake screeched, “Crucible heats up, arsening, mercury, and acid concoct, hermetic theory, hydrogen vapours, exclusion principle, it's never over, for ever practical...”, and the band pounded away with ease as they moved into their new song “Post Society” which is the title-track from their brand new EP that they barreled through with constraint and catchy lyrics and a serpentine and crisp guitar from Chewy. Next the band raged through my favorite song of theirs, a sensational version of the brutal “Killing Technology” which was the title-track from their 1987 break-through album, and they pulverized the melody as Away screamed, “Growing technology, fooling technology, killing technology, use the killing technology, how can I destroy the enemy, security plans are not easy to find, that's my generation, the nonsense time...”, and the band let the mammoth slab of menacing rhythm swallow everything as they grinded their way through the song. Next they roared through a lovely rendition of “The Prow” from their 1991 album “Angel Rat” and it had the audience going crazy as Chewy made his axe go wild with muscular riffs over the pulsing rhythm section. Snake took a moment to introduce everyone by name in the band and then he said that they were very happy to be playing for us tonight and then they launched into a rip-roaring version of “We Are Connected” from their new EP “Post Society” that made the paint peel as the rhythm lurched and careened through the song as Chewy let an amazing guitar solo rip through my ears like a lightning bolt. The band was hitting its stride with a dark and menacing “Psychic Vacuum” from their 1988 album “Dimension Hatross” and it washed the crowd in waves of pounding slabs of noise that swirled with strange off-kilter melodies until the band segued into the stuttering beat of the majestic “Forever Mountain” also from their new EP and its fat guitar riffs that just grinded and wormed their way into my head like burrowing maggots. I really liked the various textures that they created with their instruments as they pushed through the song, and then Snake urged the audience to get closer to the stage as they played layers and layers of pulsing rapid-pace guitar riffs that washed over the crowd like the evening tides, and then they pounded and thumped their way through their namesake song “Voivod” from their 1984 debut album “War And Pain” and they rocked it as Chewy assaulted his guitar and Snake viciously snarled, “Your visit is short today, don't worry in the terror you stay, and if you don't trust me, I'll chop your body to eat, voivod, I'm a paranoid, voivod, the wine of blood, voivod, I'm a crazy god, voivod, the ferocious dog...”. The band led the audience a chant for their fallen comrade Piggy and it was a great release of emotion and closure and then they plunged into their extraordinary sharp and amped-up version of Pink Floyd's “Astronomy Domine” from their 1989 album “Nothingface” and they played it beautifully as a tribute to Piggy and once again Chewy shined on the guitar as the band played the coda and left the stage to massive applause. After a few minutes, Voivod returned to the rapturous crowd and blasted out the relentless rhythm of “Order Of The Blackguards” from their brilliant 1987 album “Killing Technology” and Snake was spectacular as he bellowed, “The men in the black forces, listen to your conscience, stopping the evolution, the books are the essence, united to burn anything, that can make a stand, the church is an empire, the no way direction...”, and with such conviction that I was totally blown away by their incredible fourteen-song set that left me stunned as they walked off the stage. I was really glad that I got to see Voivod one more time even if it was without Piggy who was a genius, and the audience was real appreciative too.


THE SWEATER SET with JESSICA ELIOT MYHRE and LETITIA VANSANT - February 11, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC



SHENZHEN POP MUSIC SHOW with JAM YOU, TSINGER AND MAJIA JIADO, RAY M., CHEN XIN, A-HAI, and TOOPHAT - February 5, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

One of the best things about living in the Nation's Capitol is our access to the diverse worldwide performers and entertainers who do not get to play very many shows in the United States and tonight we are getting to see a celebration of the 2016 Chinese Lunar New Year and the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage presents a “Shenzhen Pop Music Show” and it features a variety of performers and music genres. First up is the award-winning singer Ray M. and he is backed by the Jam You band and he let his falsetto wail over the sparse percussion and the gentle melodies of the traditional Asian instruments and his voice and style vaguely reminded me of David Bowie as he sang a song called “The Mask” and the band created many textures of sound that seem to rain down on me as his expressive voice told the story of “Xintianyou” and the song was really cool and progressive-sounding as the band played him off stage. Next Tsinger from Inner Mongolia appeared on the stage and her ethereal voice took me by surprise as she reached the upper octaves with ease and the guitarist played some nice and fuzzy eighties-styled guitar riffs that were accompanied by the pastoral sounds of the tradition instruments and Tsinger reminded me of Enya as she sang the lovely songs “The Lady” and “The Toast”, and the band added some amazing background vocals. I liked how they infused the American-based rhythms with traditional Chinese music and its use of exotic percussion instruments. Next two rappers from Gizhou Province called TooPhat hit the stage full of brash energy and a joy for life and they rocked the house with their “very eighties” hip-hop...”Hey ho, wave your hands in the air like you just don't care!”...and I liked the Chinese music flourishes made with traditional instruments that they added to the mix and their lyrical flow was nice and smooth but I really wished I understood Mandarin Chinese as they rapped their big international hit song “Good Boys” and their real crowd-pleaser “Choir Complaint” that had everybody singing along with them, and they had a nice lyrical flow that reminded me of the rapper Young MC and they got everyone on their feet and having a good time. Then Chen Xin took the stage with an exquisite grace as her band laid down a pleasant rock groove that reminded me of Pat Benatar, and Chen Xin had a great voice that was just busting out as she belted out Disney's “Mulan” and I really loved the guitarist's sound and rich tone as he made his guitar howl and screech as they moved into the blues-infused song “The Miao Girl” and her voice soared like a bird over the gentle percussion and the searing riffs of the guitars. Next the band played an almost country song with a big booming bass line that they made swing as they rocked out in that inscrutable Chinese way with hints of electronica in the mix and then they let loose with a great ambling song that reminded me of that Bad Company/The Faces kind of strutting cock-rock that was big in the early seventies as the guitarists traded razor-sharp solos. All the tonight's performers returned to the stage to take a bow to the wild applause coming from the audience, and I got up and quickly left the venue thinking about how music is the same all the world. I really enjoyed the show and I wish that the Kennedy Center would put on more shows like this with a variety of musical acts from different areas of the world, but tonight was excellent.


JAMIE MCLEAN BAND - February 4, 2016
Kennedy Center's millennium Stage - Washington, DC



TANK AND THE BANGAS - January 13, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC




KING GIANT, SEASICK GLADIATOR Tribute, ZEKIAH, and DAVE EADS - January 12, 2016
The Black Cat - Washington, DC

It was getting colder and drearier by the minute as I made my way cross town to the Black Cat from the Kennedy Center and when I arrived there I was surprised by how small the crowd was for tonight's geezer metal show, or as I have been told...”beard metal”, with semi-local upstarts Zekiah and Dave Hammerly's sludge-meisters King Giant with Seaside Gladiator who lost their drummer just a few days ago so they are turning tonight's gig into a memorial for their departed drummer Bradwell Sheppard, and due to these unfortunate circumstances they will not be playing a full set tonight. First up tonight is guitarist Dave Eads who is playing solo electric acoustic and he played some rather forgettable songs about the trials and tribulations of life and survival but he just did not spark my interest as he strummed his guitar and droned on and on, and he really needed a tight rhythm section to back him up and give his songs some muscle because he did play some interesting riffs that had style. He played a six-song set that ran the gamut of metal sub-genres but he finished better than when he started so I was not that annoyed by his music, particularly his last song “Some Call Us Fuck-ups” that just about said it all. After a few minutes Baltimore's Zekiah took the stage with the screaming guitars of Josh Wood and Mike Bossier and the pounding drums of Jim Zill that was propelled by Chris Hicks' muscular bass lines as the singer Mark Lorenzo let loose with his metal baritone that carried some incredible notes with perfect pitch and I was in awe. I was impressed with his powerhouse vocals as he expressed his gratitude for being able to do what he does with the band. Their songs had excellent crunch and grind to them as the twin guitars dueled over the avalanche of thunderous percussion and rhythm that rolled over the audience like a crashing tidal wave. My favorite song of their set was called “Red Flag” and it was about the de-humanization control that social media has over our lives and how it effects us and the band just pummeled the message home with molten fury as the guitars wailed and burned into my ears. I really liked their take on metal because their songs had different tempos and they did not sound alike as they roared through their six-song set and vocalist Mark Lorenzo had the best metal voice that I have heard in a long time and he had something cogent to say. They totally rocked my earholes! Zekiah left the stage and the crew readied it for Seasick Gladiator's tribute to their fallen comrade drummer Bradford Sheppard, first they showed a short film about his life and we all got sad for a few minutes to the sad soundtrack that meandered along with the right attitude and respect. After the film showing, the remaining Seasick Gladiator members, guitarist Chris Rasley, bassist Daniel Euphrat, and violinist Patrick Geddes, joined King Giant to perform a song for Bradford called “Cold River Crossing” and they blew it out of the park with its jagged rhythms and searing guitars and effected vocals and the band dedicated it to all of the recently departed, and King Giant vocalist Dave Hammerly's voice sounded great as he rasped the meaningful and deep words from his heart. After they played the song everyone left the stage for a quick breath and then King Giant returned and let loose with their blistering sonic attack and vocalist Dave Hammerly is a great engaging frontman as he bellowed the words to his songs as the maniacal guitar riffs of guitarists Todd “T.I.” Ingram and David Kowalski swirled like menacing spectres. They plowed through their set as it oozed like sludge as Floyd Lee Walters III made his bass rumble in sync with the thunderous drumming of Brooks and the fleet-fingered riffage, and it gave them a great swampy groove and they should be huge. I like their ominous heaviness and the cool textures they created with their guitars as the rhythm section rumbled like a thunderstorm in the background. King Giant played an excellent ten-song set that just grabbed you by the balls and took you on a madcap ride that left you shaken but not stirred. I hope to see them again and Zekiah rocked.


AZTEC SUN - January 12, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

Winter has finally descended on the city with a quiet coldness that just chills you to the bone as I made my way to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see local band Aztec Sun for my first show of the night and I arrived early so I just chilled in the quiet solitude of The Grand Foyer until it was showtime. Aztec Sun was formed in 2013 and the eight members brought a bright and vibrant brand of funk to the city when it needed some uplifting joy, and they are led by Stephane “Steph” Detchou on the guitar and vocals. The band took the stage and they opened with a slinky and upbeat saxophone-driven number that floated on the taut guitar playing of Ray Lamb and Stephane wailed like James Brown as he sang of missing his woman amidst the soaring horn riffs of trombonist Michael Dranove and trumpeter Adam Kent. I liked their version of laidback Southern soul and the way it had made the crowd rock and sway to the perky beat as the keyboardist Ryan “Catch” Sarafolean tinkled away as the horns punctuated the song with their good time vibe and Stephane sang with a deep passion that lit the song up. Next the band got into some hardcore funk with some crazy wah-wah guitar and the crisp percussion of drummer John Heinze that was propelled by the solid bass-playing of Shane Weckesser that gave the groove some oomph. Next keyboardist Ryan Sarafolean sang the lead on the song “Why Do I” and it had a lighthearted buoyancy that had an almost ska groove to it as it skipped along to Ryan Schleeter's jazzy saxophone lines. Stephane began the next number which was new and the band was playing it for the very first time live and it had an urgent beat that propelled them forward in a way that reminded me of blues-rockers Vintage Trouble as they called for the audience to wake up and have a revolution as they broke down the beat to a heartbeat rhythm as everyone clapped and cheered them on as Shane's bass throbbed away like a panting beast. The horns signaled the start of the next song with some creamy riffs that danced over the psychedelic keyboard riffs of Ryan Sarafolean and Stephane let his voice soar into the stratosphere. The band pumped things up for some more hardcore funk and the rhythm section had a nice and tight groove going on as Stephane led the band and the audience in some call-and-response, but to quote George Clinton, “Sounds like you got your funk is on three!”, because the band just did not have enough swing because the saxophone was more “Kenny G” than “Maceo Parker”, but Ryan did play a lovely airy keyboard solo as did the guitarist who lit his axe up like Hendrix. They began the next song with a soul-stirring keyboard bridge and then the band kicked in with the pounding rhythm of “Searchin'” which was the best song of their set as it got everybody up and dancing to the joyous rhythms that segued into the funky James Brown groove of “Jump Around” that had the crowd going wild as the band members traded solos on their respective instruments until the music collapsed into a sweaty pile. Aztec Sun finished their eleven-song set with a mostly instrumental upbeat number that was full of flashy rhythms and pulsing grooves that went swirling everywhere much to the audience's delight. This was a wonderfully fun show and I really liked their music that they played so well and so I will go see them perform again.


JIMI SMOOTH AND HIT TIME - January 11, 2016
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

It was a blustery winter day as I started on my way to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see Jimi Smooth and HitTime perform some sweet soul music to uplift my spirits and they have been doing this for many years in the DMV from nightclubs to White House Christmas parties, so tonight should be a great musical experience. Jimi Smooth and his seven-piece band took the stage and opened with a stomping version of Tyrone Davis' 1969 hit single “Can I Change My Mind” and the guys flowed together in perfect harmony as Jimi soulfully crooned the words and the band went right into a sassy “Turn Back The Hands Of Time” also by Tyrone Davis from 1970 and it featured a wonderful saxophone solo from Johnny and it lit the place up as the band laid down a sweet Philly-Soul groove. His rhythm section was fantastically tight as they made the beat tight and funky as they moved into Ben E. King's 1961 classic “Stand By Me” and Jimi sang the words like he meant it and the guitarist Mike Jones blazed on his guitar with a beautiful riff as Jimi mixed in a bit of Louis Armstrong's 1968 song “What A Wonderful World” and I loved the way he danced as he sang bits and pieces of several other classic soul songs. Jimi got everyone clapping as they surprisingly played a Neil Diamond cover from 1969 and Jimi gave “Sweet Caroline” some funk as he sang in a lower key than Neil, and the band grooved along with ease. Jimi took the time to introduce the band and then they got real deep into some lovers songs and Jimi emoted so beautifully as he expressively sang Melvin Smith's 1954 nugget “You Can't Stay Here” and the saxophonist punctuated the song with some tasty blasts from his instrument. The band pumped up the groove with a crisp and tight version of the James Brown's 1970 chart-topping anthem “Super Bad” and they tore it up and Jimi let his voice fill the room as they kept the beat on the one, and the guitarist Mike Jones was so incendiary as he made his guitar wail and cry with fiery soul as the trumpet player Buzzy rode the groove with these mournful blasts and Jimi could almost scream just like James Brown. Next the band kicked into the big beat of the 1963 Marvin Gaye classic “Pride And Joy” and it was a fantastic version but the song did not have Marvin's suaveness and the guitarist Mike Jones played his best solo of the night. Their next song choice surprised me as the band launched into a raucous version of Bob Seger's 1978 rabble-rousing banger “Old Time Rock And Roll” and the guitarist really shined with a scintillating solo that gave me chills and they made it a soul music classic as they segued into the 1965 Mack Rice-penned classic “Mustang Sally” that the band gave a soulful edge as they sang, “Ride, Sally, Ride” like they were playing for The Blues Brothers but Jimi spiced things up with a medley of the 1962 Marvin Gaye Motown classic “Hitchhike” and The Temptations' 1965 gem “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch”, and then the band rode the bridge back into “Mustang Sally” as they raged on the coda. Jimi Smooth and HitTime finished up by delivering a spectacular and rousing version of Sam and Dave's 1966 single “Hold On, I'm Comin'” and the band was on fire as they charged through the song as they gave it new life, particularly the guitarist Mike Jones whose playing was sublime. They rocked their closing number, a wild version of The Isley Brothers 1959 barnstormer “Shout” and they got the whole audience up and dancing as they rocked the song for all it was worth until the end. This was a really great show to kick back to in the middle of the winter and I was glad I went to this show because it put me in a really good mood with a kick in my step.





DOC'S NIGHT featuring SCREAM, HR with CHUCKIE SLUGGO, NIGHT'S CHILDREN, THE SCOTCH BONNETS, THE GO-GO ALL-STARS, SITALI & JUJU, and hosted by CARL CEPHAS AND JOHN GIBSON (THE PSYCHOTICS) and HEAD-ROC - January 2, 2016
The Black Cat - Washington, DC

It was a dreary winter night as my friend DK Phoenix and I walked up 14th Street to the venerable Black Cat to celebrate local musician Andre “Doc Knight” Williams' life and musical contributions to the local music scene and to raise some money for his family who are reeling from his unexpected and untimely death. So we arrived and we got two stools at my favorite spot and we waited for the celebration to begin. DJ Tom Berard kicked the event off with a funky mix of music from Parliament to Trouble Funk as I watched so many familiar faces slowly fill the place as he played a tribute set. Tonight's hosts John Gibson and Carl Cephas of The Psychotics took the stage and they reminiscented about their many musical memories about Doc Night, and then local rapper Head-Roc introduced the first band and Doc Night's son jumped out and thanked the crowd for their help and love and he brought Sitali & JuJu to the stage as their trumpeter blew his horn as he walked through the audience and the fourteen-piece band started to drop a spiritual N-Rican groove as everyone sang and clapped along with them as the horns wailed gloriously like they were at a New Orleans funeral walk. They played some genre-hopping rhythms and grooves that covered everything from the blues, jazz, and psychedelic rock and it was nice and soulful and made my mind just reel with thoughts and memories of Doc Night as the music carried me away. The band just grooved through their set as each member played a tasty solo as JuJu laid down the deep go-go groove that had the place dancing with abandon. They played a marvelous four-song set and they left the stage and John and Carl along with Head-Roc returned and the three of them reminisced about Doc Night and their former band The Psychotics for a few minutes and then they introduced the next band, The Go-Go All-Stars joined by Head-Roc, and they rocked the fierce old-school go-go groove as the drummer got down on the beat as it meandered around Head-Roc's succinct observations about life and the guitarist was just ablazin' with an incredible solo that electrified me, and Doc Night's son wailed on the violin with great skill as they played a set that seemed to appear to be one long song as they flowed through many of go-go's greatest hits and cliches. The crowd applauded wildly for them and they left the stage and Doc Night's children's band The Hipnotix took the stage and laid down the ferocious ska-beat that had the crowd skanking away as they plowed through their three-song set and it was punctuated with tasty guitar riffs and nice melodic piano runs that gave their songs a jazzy feel, and the song “Ten Minutes To Midnight” just rocked as they showed us just how much they adored Doc Night as they plowed through their set. They left and the crew quickly changed the stage as John and Carl told some more stories about Doc Night and then the Scotch Bonnets came on and they let their upbeat ska fill the room with happy rhythms as they rocked and skanked in memory of Doc Night. They laid down a deep reggae groove that had the crowd going wild as they rocked the beat with some added African flourishes and then they blew me away with their reggae version of Lorde's “Royals” and the audience just loved it as they walked off the stage and the crew set to work quickly and Night's Children launched into their rock-infused reggae and they let the “riddim” as his son sang about the troubles of the world and the band was in the pocket with their organ-heavy music and then they played a wonderful version of the song “Homicidal Tendencies” that was the highlight of their seven-song set. They finished with a great song celebrating Doc Night's life and legacy and they left the stage and the crew hurriedly got it ready for HR and Chucky Sluggo and John and Carl returned and said a few words and the HR and Chucky Sluggo raged through a heavy rendition of their songs, but I really really missed my departed friend David Byers on the guitar, but Steven Balthorp of Rasputin fame played some fabulous guitar as Grant Garrett pounded on his drums. They were pretty competent but I really missed David Byer's fleet fingers flying over the fretboard with such ease. They brought HR to the stage and the band went reggae as he yelped into the microphone and Steven wailed on the guitar as he segued into a dub groove that had everyone skanking to the beat through their four-song set. Doc Night's son addressed the crowd about how much he and his family greatly appreciated their love and support and he brought out the final act of the night, Scream, but first, hosts John Gibson and Carl Cephas thanked everyone for showing up to honor Doc Night, and then Scream launched into their set with a tempered fury that showed how important they are to the DMV music scene as they rocked their brand of DC hardcore that they played with a maturity that showed the emotional depths of their songs as vocalist Pete Franz let his volatile words flow and his brother Franz made his guitar howl over the throbbing rhythm section of bassist Skeeter Thompson and drummer Kent Stax just like they have for over thirty years now. They roared through their five-song set and brought down the house, and I was pretty amazed for the events of tonight and the thoughtfulness that went into it. It was nice to see some of my old acquaintances and all I got to say is Rest In Peace Doc Night!






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