DC LEGENDARY MUSICIANS BAND - December 29, 2018
Kennedy Center Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was almost a pleasant winter day as I ambled on down to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see the DC Legendary Musicians as my last show of 2018, and they play a plethora of 20th century soul music that just warms my heart with its feel good vibes. The band is made up of seasoned veterans who played with various backing bands to many of the music greats like Otis Redding, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, and Elvis Presley. I saw them a few years ago and the band was phenomenal as they rocked on many soul classics, but given the advanced age of some of the musicians, the line-up should be a completely different configuration this time around. At 6PM on the dot the band walked onto the stage and silently took their places and the DCLM leader, the Honorable Reverend Truesdale, stood at the podium and pontificated on the band and how that ALL music is God's music with a haughty attitude...I must disagree with that but she went on about the need for protecting the musicians and the legacy of the songs, and then she thanked several notables in the audience and then she finally let the band crank it up as Jimi Smooth soulfully crooned Ben E. King's “Stand By Me” and the band accompanied him with a smooth as silk as he segued into Sam Cooke's “What A Wonderful World” and then into “Chain Gang”, and then several more that made a lovely medley of several timeless R&B classics and Jimi Smooth was quite an affable entertainer and the band did not miss a beat as they moved into Sam & Dave's “Hold On” and they gave it a nice jump up beat that the crowd moved to joyously as the band flowed through their set list. Then they got on the good foot with a lively version of James Brown's “Papa's Got A Brand New Bag” and the guitarist was fantastic on the signature guitar riffs but the drummer T.C. was a bit sloppy, however that guitar was hot as the bassist Mr. Wayne chugged along in perfect sync as they turned it out as the band broke the song down as Jimi Smooth left the stage. Powerhouse soul-shouter Lady Mary came to the stage and her rich soprano voice blew me away as she sang Wilson Pickett's “634-5789” so sultrily as the rhythm section hit their stride as they made the groove flow so succinctly and then the band got their Motown groove on with a lovely version of Miss Ross' “Someday We Will Be Together” and I must say her voice blew Diana's away from tonality to phrasing to breath control because Lady Mary's voice was so creamy smooth...it was just delicious! The drummer T.C. whose married to Lady Mary began kicking it go-go style as they slowly wound it up into a sassy version of The Staples Singers' “I'll Take You There” and Lady Mary's sister Marcee came on stage and she skillfully rapped a socio-political flow about being better people and living a good life and I really liked the way they played the song. Lady Mary brought Jimi Smooth back to the stage and they went into a lively version of B.B. King's and their voices went so well together and it made me want to dance and the keyboardist played some cool fills that made the beat bounce as Lady Mary took a few minutes to introduce each member of the band to the audience and then Jimi Smooth introduced Lady Mary as “the Queen of Southern Soul” and then the band lit up with a groovy version of The O'Jays' “Love Train” and the rhythm section played Lady Mary into the audience where she got everyone to follow her in a giant conga line and following her quite happily with smiles on their faces and the whole thing but me in a great mood as I walked out of the building and into the cold as I rushed home with a smile on my face.
THE DELARCOS, AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH, and FALLOUT SHELTER - December 21, 2018
Dangerous Pies - Washington, DC
It was an overcast Friday night as I headed to Dangerous Pies on H Street NE to catch the debut of DC stalwart Skeeter Enoch Thompson's new band Fallout Shelter which was named after one of his best friend's favorite phrase that he used to quip all the time about everything, the long-deceased but still missed No Trend/Revelation drummer Greg Miller, and I miss the crazy bastard! Gone way too soon! I arrived at the club early and got a stool at the bar where I promptly ran into Skeeter and we had a good time reminiscing about past gigs and catching up and I must say that I really liked his recent solo album. He continued on down the line of well-wishers that waited him as the rest of us waited for the show to start and hopefully it will be a good one. Skeeter and his new band took the stage with some crunchy riffs and a booming rhythm section and he wished us a wonderful Christmas and they burst into some classic DC hardcore with the song “Crossroads” and they sounded great with an updated sound that made me want to mosh like a maniac to Skeeter's funky bass lines as guitarist Mike Dolfi of Black Market Baby just shredded on the guitar and the song was fantastic with great insightful lyrics that meant something. They charged into the ominous bass-driven groove of “Bleed” and I was impressed by Skeeter as he growled, “I don't want to bleed...fuck you!...”, and the song was short like a classic hardcore number but with added righteous fury and then they plowed through a raucous cover of “Blood Stains” that segued into a terse “Andalusian Dog” with the chunky beat of drummer Kent Stax of Scream/The Suspects and bassist Greg M that pounded like a jackhammer but it was very melodic and it had me swaying to the beat sitting in my seat...ok! Next the four of them played the reggae-fied song called “Save” and it had a nice lilt and I liked the message the song conveyed and Mike played some tasty licks. The next song “Thin White Line” was about the evil plague of heroin and life's lost people and it was sadly beautiful with a very prescient look at the problem and the song was well-written and very tuneful. Then the band kicked into the best moment of tonight's set with a volatile “Shame” and I liked its sing-song beat that was reminiscent of DC hardcore legends Void as drummer Kent Stax pounded away with a mountainous thud and the guitars swirled in a crunchy cacophony of manic groove as they flowed into the feedback-laden frenzy of “Break” with its mean groove as Skeeter growled, “Don't make me break my foot off in your ass...”, and for some reason this totally cracked me up and I still find myself humming the song today at the weirdest times. My fucking favorite new song! Fallout Shelter played a fabulous eight-song set that was catchy and full of muscular groove full of melody and I can not wait to see them again. My apologies to the other two bands because after Fallout Shelter I did not feel like seeing any other bands tonight so I said goodbye and great show to Skeeter and ran into the night and headed home.
THE 9 SONGWRITER SERIES HOLIDAY EDITION - December 20, 2018
Kennedy Center Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
BOAT BURNING - December 11, 2018
Kennedy Center Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
LUNA HONEY - November 21, 2018
Kennedy Center Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
KEVIN BROWN & CNN199 - November 2, 2018
Kennedy Center Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a dreary and overcast day as I made my way uptown to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage for the annual “Words Beats & Life Festival” which celebrates and shares with the world the cultural reach of hip-hop music and tonight featured Landover, MD-bred producer and emcee Kevin Brown and he was joined by the Brussels-based hip-hop crew CNN199 that has been making music for the past twenty years and they are here to make some righteous noise tonight in this Sister-City event. The evening kicked off with DJ Jow who laid down a deep and booming beat that drove the groove as the socially-aware or “woke” in modern youth-speak lyrics swirled about like modern-day nursery rhymes and he kept the flow as smooth as cocoa butter and he even had DC native songstress Carolyn Malachi give them a shout-out in the lively mix. At 6PM a festival rep took to the stage and thanked all of us in attendance for coming to the show and then the DJ kicked in with the beats and Kev Brown let the lyrics flow on a variety of topics with his slightly annoying tone of voice but he had some nice phrasing and very articulate and clever wordplay that featured some unique rhyming of very disparate words. The songs were sadly lacking in punch because they did not have a catchy hook as the same old beat monotonously flowed into a state of forgetfulness which really made his lyrics really standout when one listened carefully to his very intelligent wordplay but his stage performance could use a little polish. He slowed down things for a Raheem DeVaughn sample-based groove as he rapped some words of seduction to the ladies and some braggadocio about his 'sexual chocolate' but his over-the-top performance became tiring after awhile...who got the funk...but I really liked his words that he dropped over his seven-song set that was mostly enjoyable. Kev Brown brought CNN199 from Belgium to the stage and they are two MCs who rap “en francais” but I found their use of the language a bit slangy and they used a lot of classical music samples that gave their music an almost progressive feel and their stage performance I found a little bit stationary but I liked their laconic flow as they added some French cabaret samples to the mix as they performed like they were the legendary Cypress Hill's B-Real and Sen-Dog which I found disconcerting in French and then sometimes their music was in the vein of French pop darlings Les Rita Mitsouko as the DJ scratched his way in a style that gave their hip-hop a different feel and textures...one that was almost symphonic. Their nine-song set was interesting with a different view point that showed the universality of hip-hop and how its culture has positively influenced the youth to improve theirs and other peoples lives for the better. I was just nice to see hip-hop being used for the betterment of our world. I left the Kennedy Center with a smile on my face and hope for the future.
GEORGE CLINTON & PARLIAMENT/FUNKADELIC - October 31, 2018
The Howard Theatre - Washington, DC
It was a lovely autumn evening with a hint of excitement in the air as I arrived at the Howard Theater for tonight's “Halloween Funkdown” with George Clinton and Parliament /Funkadelic and so tonight should be quite festive and full of dancing and joyful music. This is probably one of the last times I shall see them perform since George announced that he is retiring from the road as of May 2019, but hopefully they will play one last DMV show in the spring, and so I will treat tonight as if this is the last time for me to give up the funk live! But first up tonight was the eight-piece band Miss Velvet and The Blue Wolf and they cranked out some very retro-sounding funk rock that was driven by the crack three-piece horn section as Miss Velvet let it rip like she was funk godmother Ruth Copeland. The band was tight and they played with swing and they have been on the road with George for a full year and the rhythm section was really good as they rode their groove almost perfectly to my ears. The singer was wearing a Blondie shirt as she twirled and wailed with her gravelly voice but I got kind of tired of them by the end of their eleven-song set...but man, could she sing...and I really liked the song called “Hide And Seek” which featured a fantastic bass solo, and they finished with a spectacular cover of Janis Joplin's “Summertime” that gave me the chills and it was heightened by an exquisite solo from the guitarist. The band finished and quickly left the stage as the scrim came down and we anxiously awaited for P-Funk as DJ Lance Reynolds of WPFW's House Of Soul pumped up the crowd with a wide variety of funk as we were waiting for the imminent arrival of the Mothership. Suddenly the houselights went down and a charming and dapper George Clinton with some kind of futuristic space age head gear on his head and his current band walked onstage and they immediately leapt into a smoking version of the title-track “Up For The Down Stroke” from Parliament's 1974 album “Up For The Down Stroke” and the twenty-one-piece band tore it up as they chanted in unison, “I don't care about the cold, baby, get up for the down stroke, cause when you're hot, you're too much, cause when you're hot, you're hot, look at what you've got, party baby party, you're hot, let's take it to the stage...”, and the crowd just loved it. They then segued into a rather raucous version of “Super Stupid” from Funkadelic's 1971 album “Maggot Brain” and they had it swirling with a deluge of electric guitar riffs and slithery keyboard melody lines and Mike Hampton tore his guitar up with these searing riffs flying like lightning and as usual they mixed in bits and pieces of their other songs. They continued with a funky “Pole Power” from Funkadelic's 2014 album “First Ya Gotta Shake The Gate” that dropped into a smooth R&B stomper as singers' voices went around and around in perfect harmony that had me swaying along with them. Next the band got all slinky and sexy on the sultry “Meow Meow”also from their 2014 album and the sexy female singer Brandy Scott worked it and made you feel it till you got sweaty and then they moved into an abrasive “Get Low” also from the same album and the band traded vocals, “Hop up on the Mothership, I'll take you up to Pluto, then we go to Mars, got me feelin' like Bruno, I'ma sit back and get high while you get low, get low, get low, get low, get low, get low, that your baby mother on the Mothership, get low, get low, get low, get low, Funkadelic-Parliament, we on some other shit...”, as George bellowed, “Get low...”, over and over and over and I must say that his band was so incredibly tight as they grinded along in perfect swing beat as they jumped right into the hip-hop-influenced “Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard On You?” also from the same album and the rhythms flowed around the room as the saxophone lit the song up with a brilliant solo that was full of melody and swing. The musicians led the riotous crowd in singing “Cholly (Funk Getting Ready To Roll)” from Funkadelic's 1978 album “One Nation Under A Groove” and it was smooth as silk as they rolled into a sprightly “(Not Just) Knee Deep” from Funkadelic's 1979 album “Uncle Jam Wants You” that had the crowd grooving in ecstasy as George growled, “...the rhythm of the stroke...”, as the keyboardist Dan twinkled away across his instrument (I really miss Bernie Worrell) as he rode the bass line and then they morphed into a blues-tinged “Red Hot Mama” from Funkadelic's 1974 album “Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On” and Blackbyrd McKnight played the most inventive and fleet-fingered guitar as he shredded away as George growled, “Red hot mama lookin' to the city, taxi dancers and big time spenders, she's been groovin', red hot mama was getting' down, scoping the places where funk is to be found, she was smokin', ride on, red hot mama, girl, you sure look good to me...”, and then the three guitarists dueled away like three gunslingers as a multitude of sounds and melodies just flew every which way and it sounded so beautiful and it was one of my favorite moments of their set. The band slowed things down a bit with a lovely rendition of “Dirty Queen” from “First Ya Gotta Shake The Gate” that played like a torch song as the vocalists Candy and Wren stretched their voices out with depth and vibrato and Blackbyrd McKnight played yet another brilliant solo on his instrument that just electrified me as his skilled fingers were flying all over the fretboard like a voodoo priest on fire. The keyboardist Dan kicked off the next song “What Is Soul” from Funkadelic's 1971 debut album with some great slithery runs in an extended solo as George said we are one nation under a motherfucking groove and then Blackbyrd began playing the electric intro to a glorious “Maggot Brain”, the title-track from Funkadelic's other 1971 album, and he would have made Eddie Hazel proud as his fingers made the fretboard sing with inventive intonation and natural phrasing as he wailed away...it was just mindbogglingly awesome as the crisp perfectly tuned notes flew everywhere with pyrotechnic glory. The full band kicked back in with a punkish rendition of “Psychotropic” from Parliament's new album “Medicaid Fraud Dogg” that they barreled forward as the three female vocalists shrieked and screamed as the other guitarist made his instrument shred and grind like he was in Slayer or some other thrash band and then the band went back into some hardcore funk with a terse rendition of another new Parliament song, the crushing “I'm Gon Make U Sick O'Me” that George delivered the words with the right amount of sarcasm, “I'm gon' make you sick, I'm gon' make you sick of me, I'm gonna give you the antidote, something to make you better, I'm gon' make you sick, I'm gon' make you sick of me, I'm gonna give you the antidote, I got that funk for you...”, as it turned into a freeform jazz workout that was all over the place with its lascivious word-play and funky rhythms as they morphed into the vibrant groove of “Rumpofsteelskin” from Parliament's 1978 album “Motor Booty Affair” and then they seamlessly morphed right back into “I'm Gon Make U Sick O'Me” on the down stroke. Without pausing they went into a heavy version of “Flashlight” from Parliament's 1978 album “Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome” that had the crowd turn into a undulating freaky mass as the Sir Nose character began doing his acrobatic contortions in his long nose mask as the band laid down an extra funky groove and turned it into an extended jam where I just got lost in the funk. They went into a sludgy “Freak Of The Week” from Funkadelic's 1979 album “Uncle Jam Wants You” and they gave the music a stomping swing as all their voices joined together in perfect harmony as the crowd joined them in chanting, “She's a big freak, going to be freak of the week...”, as they danced like wild costumed freaks lost in ecstasy as the band slowed down the groove as the saxophonist led the crowd in a bit of a sing-a-long as he scatted away at the microphone until the band reprised “Freak Of The Week” to its dramatic conclusion with a scorching guitar solo from Blackbyrd McKnight and then the musicians revved up for a booty-shaking “Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)” from Parliament's 1975 album “Mothership Connection” that just shimmered with intricate poly-rhythms as a thousand voices joined them in singing, “You've got a real type of thing goin' down, gettin' down, there's a whole lot of rhythm goin' round, you've got a real type of thing goin' down, getting' down, there's a whole lot of rhythm goin' round, oww, we want the funk, give up the funk, oww, we need the funk, we gotta have that funk, let us in, we'll tear this mother out...”, and the whole experience was a totally mind-boggling affair to me as I got lost in the hypnotic groove. Suddenly my friend's phone rang and jolted us back to reality and he answered and it was unfortunately, a family emergency and since we took the metro here so we rushed to the metro to head to my house where my friend left a few items while we went to P-Funk and we got back in record time so he could rush home and fix the situation. I must sadly say that was the first time I have left a P-Funk show early particularly since this is George Clinton's last tour, but I will be at one of their last shows ever to be held in New York City's Central Park in early June. We rushed out of The Howard with a barrage of their melodies and riffs careening through my head in a whirlwind as we rode the metro to my house and when we got there we said bye and went our separate ways as I stood there thinking that George and P-Funk really turned it out as they made the funk flow and we only missed three or four songs so I should be very happy. I will be seeing you, Mr. George Clinton and his current band, at one of the last shows. Peace out!
ROKY ERICKSON, WHITE MYSTERY, and BAT FANGS - October 28, 2018
Black Cat - Washington, DC
It was a typical fall evening for a Sunday as I headed to the illustrious Black Cat to see the psychedelic rock legend Roky Erickson and his latest band grace the stage with his presence, being that he is seventy-one years old and touring is hard work and more importantly, he founded the seminal Texas psychedelic rock band The 13th Floor Elevators in the mid-sixties and they are touring with White Mystery from Chicago and locals Bat Fangs. But first up tonight was Bat Fangs and they are a duo consisting of Ex Hex members, vocalist/guitarist Betty Wright and drummer Laura King, and they took the stage with their recently-added bassist and they played loud, brash, and angular music that just grabbed you by the short hairs and did not let go as the three of them furiously raced through their set. I liked Betty's voice and what she had to say as she made her guitar duel with the brutal percussion of Laura that moved with incredible ease through the dense and murky bass lines. The stylish way that Betty played her guitar reminded me of some of the seventies' more bombastic riffage as Laura gave things a Ramones-style upbeat clipped thump that made me want to dance as their voices harmonized together like an amped up sixties girl group. I really liked their song “Bad Astrology” because the rhythm section gave it some nice swing that accented the vocals as they sang, “Born under a bad sign...”, and I thought it was just great. Also I was impressed by the bassist, never did get her name, and her intricate playing that was almost funky as it drove their songs with a quiet strength that gave me the chills. They finished their ten-song set with a real boogie stomper that just cooked and the audience really got into them as Betty raged on her guitar with big fat riffs that gave the song a bit of an edge and I was impressed and would not mind seeing them again in the near future as they ended the song like a classic seventies hard rock band. Bat Fangs quickly left the stage and the crew reset the stage for the neo-psychedelia of Chicago's White Mystery who are a brother/sister duo comprised of Miss Alex White on guitar and vocals and Francis Scott Key White on drums and they let the gut-bucket acid blues flow as they seemed to give their sound an everyday pop edge that was interesting as they plowed non-stop through their set like they were The White Stripes. I was amazed by the fact that they played without a break and the drummer Francis played like he was in a grunge band as vocalist/guitarist Miss Alex flung these fat acid-drenched riffs everywhere as she attacked her guitar looking like a seventies groupie as she flashed her extra sharp guitar skills. Their eleven-song set just rolled over the audience like a runaway freight train that caught me slightly off-guard with their originality because I did enjoy their performance very much even though I found them a bit repetitive as they finished up with their set. Once again the crew reset the stage for Roky Erickson and his band who I am finally seeing live since I first fell in love with his music and I was captivated by the original artwork on the cover of The 13th Floor Elevators album that I found in the Dart Drug album cut-outs bin in the early seventies, and then he was detoured by his prodigious LSD consumption and subsequent mental health problems that led to him being institutionalized for decades until his brother began raising money for his health and legal problems in the nineties and the money helped him to get his schizophrenia in check and he began to play live to our amazement for the last ten years or so and now I am getting ready to see him perform. Roky hit the stage with a swirling psychedelic light show that led the way as Roky and his four-piece band was warmly welcomed to the stage and they launched into a grimy “Cold Night For Alligators” from his 1980 album “Roky Erickson & The Aliens” that had a nice swing to it and they made it have a big beat as the guitars slashed away as Roky howled, “It's a cold night for alligators, hiding behind the trees with moss, forever hear the swamp birds screaming, forever in loss, it's a cold night for alligators, in the blend, it's a cold night for alligators, a perfect monster has no end...”, and he delivered it with such vigor that it took me aback. The lights twirled and twinkled as they really enhanced the show as the band pounded through a vibrant “Bermuda” from his 1977 single release with a sense of urgency as the guitars dueled away as they soared into space as they moved into the psycho-billy of “Haunt” from his 1985 EP “Clear Night For Love” and the band made that beat chug along as Roky expressed himself with his dramatic guitar-playing skills and the crowd loved it. Big riffs opened the song “John Lawman” from his 1986 album “Gremlins Have Pictures” with a looseness as the beat slithered around the room as I got lost in the swirling hypnotic light show as they moved into the proto-punk of “Sputnik” from his 1981 album “The Evil One” and his band made the guitars howl with a fury as their fingers were a blur as he screamed, “Everything started by me it could end to begin, it could explode into the cosmos, to begin from nothing on a clear night, as I started in before infinities infinite, spelling your theory, alien I creator, spelling your theory, alien I creator...”, and I felt he meant and lived every word he sang from the deepest depths of his haunted soul. Next they played a countrified and smooth as silk “I Walked With A Zombie” from his 'favored for this tour' 1980 album “Roky Erickson & The Aliens” that had the audience joining Roky in singing with him as they went into a dark and menacing “Night Of The Vampire” also from his 1980 album and I was quite impressed by how tight the band was as the rhythm pulsed and throbbed in double time as he sat in a chair and made his guitar sing as he dolefully moaned of the horror of it all...Nosferatu style! Roky said he felt it was time to do a pair of songs by his first band and the intertwining guitar riffs that they started playing started things off for a giddy “Roller Coaster” from the 13th Floor Elevators' 1966 album “The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators” with an edge of sadness as the beat twirled and floated in the dense and percolating percussion that was propelled by the booming bass line as Roky got all trippy and psychedelic on his guitar and then the band got all heavy and plodding as he growled the lysergic words to the classic song “Reverberation” also from the same album and the band lashed at their instruments with an almost languid attitude and it was great to witness them play these songs with Roky. The band then got all upbeat for a driving version of “Don't Shake Me Lucifer” from that 1980 album and it was the high point of their set as they tore it up as Roky cried out, “Now the world was shakin', looking like it'd shake to bit, Lucifer cried, don't shake me Lucifer, I've had enough of it, don't shake me, don't shake me Lucifer, don't shake me, don't shake me Lucifer, I been up all night, and no suicide clock works...”, and the layers of melody went around and around as they segued into a raucous“Mine Mine Mind” from his 1977 self-titled EP that just rumbled with its catchy beat and the crowd loved it. The band stretched out on a vigorous “White Faces” also from that 1980 album and it had Roky wailing and howling like a madman then they launched into the rolling beat of “The Interpreter” which was the B-side to his 1977 7” single and it grinded along as the guitars exploded with these searing riffs that morphed into the psycho-billy of “Don't Slander Me” from a 1984 7” single and they sawed away on their guitars over the foot-stomping beat that immediately segued into a brisk “Can't Be Brought Down” from his 1986 album “Don't Slander Me” that rolled right over the crowd with a percussive crispness that accented the guitar riffs that seemed to roll with waves and waves of notes and melodies and riffs. Roky looked around the room and smiled as he said it was time for another pair of songs from The 13th Floor Elevators and what was probably my favorite moment of the night and the band made that psychedelic big beat swing as they blazed through “(I've Got) Levitation” from The 13th Floor Elevators' 1967 album “Easter Everywhere” and very much to the audience's delight as he howled, “I don't need these wings to guide me, they are hardly ever there, it's the clear I make inside me, makes me feel light as air, I've got levitation, I've got levitation, I've got levitation, I wanna fly now, fly...”, and the band went immediately into a swirling “You Don't Know” from the 13th Floor Elevators' 1966 album “The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators” and Roky just screamed and wailed away like a mad banshee and he then led the band into a swirling “You Don't Love Me Yet” from his 1995 album “All That May Do My Rhyme” with its subtle groove and crunchy guitar riffs that gave it drive as the band careened through the song. Next they launched into a fantastic version of “Kingdom Of Heaven” from his 1966 album with its blues-tinged vibe that was very happy-go-lucky hippie-sounding and Roky played his heart out in the psychedelic lights and the band kept it so tight as they played some incredible solos that lit the song up with a psychedelic glow as they segued into a rockin' “The Wind And More” from his 1981 album “The Evil One” that had some very succinct riffs that filled the song with a veracity as the band slammed out the beat with sass as Roky noodled away on his guitar. With a squall of feedback they roared into a pulsing “Two Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer)” which was his 1975 debut solo single and it had the band manically playing to their utmost skill as they played the song out. Roky Erickson and his band finished their twenty-two-song set with a garage-y version of his biggest song “You're Gonna Miss Me” from the 13th Floor Elevators' ground-breaking 1966 album “The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators” and Roky was like an angelic vision as he proclaimed, “I gave you the warning, but you never heeded it, how can you say you miss my lovin', when you never needed it, you're gonna wake up wonderin', find yourself all alone, but what's gonna stop me baby, I'm not comin' home, I'm not comin' home, I'm not comin' home...”, and that was accented by a great harmonica solo that made me think about trains and travel plans as I nodded out on the band members as they each took a brief solo, and then Roky was guided off the stage with a slightly dazed look on his face but with a huge grin as the audience roared their approval and they cheered for more. I sat there for a few minutes just totally blown away by the performance that he just gave and his band was tremendous and played tight as shit because they were just phenomenal. I weaved my way through the milling crowd to the front door where I hit the pavement running as I made my way to the metro to get home before it got any later. Fantastic job, Mister Erickson!
NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS and CIGARETTES AFTER SEX - October 25, 2018
Anthem - Washington, DC
It was a chilly autumn afternoon as I headed down to The Anthem on the waterfront to meet my dear friend Holly LeMay to pick up my Nick Cave ticket in the VIP section from her and to hang out together before the show since she lives in Richmond, Virginia, these days and we were tripping on the fact that it has been seventeen years since we had worked together at the 9:30 Club. I could not wait very happily until they opened the doors to the venue because I was starting to freeze from the weather as I watched the myriad of Nick Cave fans who gathered to wait in line and chat and I must tell you that Nick Cave has some very devout and dedicated fans, and especially Holly who follows him everywhere and has one of his songs named after her. Holly hooked me up with a VIP pass to watch the show from a couch where I could write comfortably while sitting with decent lighting and I am so thankful and appreciative for her kindness and friendship for all these years. I watched the people make their way into the venue and wearing so many shades of black and I must say that some “goths” just do not age very well at all. The night began with Cigarettes After Sex from El Paso, Texas, and they are a dream-pop band led by vocalist/guitarist Greg Gonzalez and they are a quartet and they started off slowly with these languid guitar riffs and tempered drumming from Jacob Tomsky that never really went anywhere as Greg sang with a rather androgynous voice and they really reminded me of Velocity Girl. I did like their song “Crush” which had some meaningful lyrics and a nice groove that lent itself to swaying to the beat but like their other songs, it never really took off for me. They played a ten-song set that had its moments with their layers of guitars and Phillip Tubb's synthesizer but the songs sounded the same and they never really changed tempo so I got kind of bored after a few songs and I wished they would just hurry up and finish their set. They left the stage and the crew rushed about to get the stage ready for Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds and a photograph of recently deceased keyboardist Conway Savage appeared on the video screen above the stage and it was accompanied by some song played as an elegy and then Nick and the band walked onstage and opened with an emphatic “Jesus Alone” from their 2016 album “Skeleton Tree” with Nick's seen-it-all rich baritone as the keyboardist Warren Ellis made an ear-splitting space alien sound as Nick gruffly sang, “You fell from the sky, crash landed in a field, near the river Adur, flowers spring from the ground, lambs burst from the wombs of their mothers, in a hole beneath the bridge, she convalesce, she fashioned masks of twigs and clay, you cried beneath the dripping trees, ghost song lodged in the throat of mermaid, with my voice, I am calling you...”, and the crowd loved it as he howled like a banshee. Nick greeted the enrapt audience and he joked about being a vegetarian, but not a Morrissey vegetarian he said with a wink, and then Warren tinkled the piano to intro the mournful “Magneto” also from “Skeleton Tree” and it just oozed into the audience with such sadness...it was just beautiful like he was leading an angelic orchestra with so many adoring fans at his feet. The guitarist George Vjestica got loud and noisy for a rowdy version of “Higgs Boson Blues” from their 2013 album “Push The Sky Away” as Nick intoned the dark lyrics as the band grinded out the pseudo-Goth beat that enthralled the crowd as Nick wailed away so mournfully to their delight. Next the band played a fantastic version of “Do You Love Me?” from their 2000 album “Let Love In” that grabbed you by the soul as Nick growled the heavy words and it was driven by the harsh guitar of George Vjestica and the majestic organ-playing of Larry Mullins that really made the song rock as the band got down in perfect sync. They got hyped for a raucous “From Her To Eternity”, the title-track from their 1984 album, that Nick performed with such vitality and bombast as he sang, “I have begun to long for you, I who have no greed, I have begun to ask for you, I who have no need, you say you've gone away from me, but I can feel you when you breathe...”, and the guitarist George went wild with waves of cacophonous riffs as the band traded melody lines, and then Nick howled, “You're smoking crack...”, to an ominous xylophone melody as the band viciously sang along with him. They paused a few minutes and then they launched into a creeping “Loverman” from their 1994 album “Let Love In” with its slithery groove and abrasive guitar that just rained down on everyone as Nick sounded like a demented preacher as he whispered of the horrors of love. He dedicated the next song “Red Right Hand” also from their 1994 album to the city of Washington DC, and he said it was a cautionary tale and the beat pulsed and throbbed like a slinky cabaret number as he got the crowd worked up as he crooned the biting lyrics as the band crashed through the sassy melody. The band slowed down for a pastoral “God Is In The House” from their 2001 album “No More Shall We Part” as Nick sang of God and his mysterious ways as he played some minimal piano accompaniment as he moved into a laidback “The Ship Song” from their 1990 album “The Good Son” that he sang so wistfully that it made me sad but with a sense of hope, and Nick crooned “Come sail your ships around me, and burn your bridges down, we make a little history baby, every time you come around, come loose your dogs upon me, and let your hair hang down, you are a little mystery to me, every time you calling round...”, and the band played it like they were in church...it was so touching and beautiful. Nick continued playing the piano with a the majestic “Into My Arms” from their 1997 album “The Boatman's Call” that was in the same vein of the previous two songs as the beat slowly marched across the music with my ears with a such melancholia as Nick sang the touching words and his minimal accompaniment. Nick stood up from the piano and his band gently started playing “Girl In Amber” from their 2016 album “Skeleton Tree” like a lullaby that sang of the power of love and it really touched me with its stark beauty and then they got upbeat with a snappy “Tupelo” from their 1985 album “The Firstborn Is Dead”Girl that had some biting guitar from George as Nick sang the bittersweet words, “Tupelo, oh Tupelo, in a shoebox buried with a ribbon of red, oh mama rock your lil' one slow, mama rock your baby, mama rock your lil' one slow, God help Tupelo, God help Tupelo, mama rock your lil' on slow, mama rock your lil' one slow, the lil' one will walk on Tupelo, the lil' one will walk on Tupelo, black rain come down,,,”,, and it was the perfect gothic blues song and it perked up the audience with the driving rhythm section as Nick repeatedly growled, “...little children know...”, and it was my favorite song of the night as the band crashed its way through the thick wall of sound. Nick said it was time for some dance music as the band dove into “Jubilee Street” from their 2013 album “Push The Sky Away” and it was driven by the perfect guitar riff as he sang the sad words and the song built momentum until he sat back down at his piano and he let his fingers slide over the keys for a few bars and then he started to prowl the stage with his words flowing everywhere as the band kicked in with some melodious cacophony and it was another high point of their set. Next they lurched into the jaded melody of “The Weeping Song” from their 1990 album “The Good Son” and Nick let his voice wail and howl on the dark lyrics and it sounded like a riverboat song of yore and Jim Salavunos played a mean fiddle...it was fantastic as Nick walked through the crowd and got everyone worked up while singing with them, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!”, and the people went crazy with adulation and genuine love. He has a real connection with his fan base, it was amazing! The bassist Martyn Casey strummed a deep and booming intro to“Stagger Lee” from their 1996 album “Murder Ballads” and Nick began bringing people up on the stage as he sang the caustic words about being in the position of having to shoot someone and everyone loved it as they screamed with delight as the song reached a crescendo as Jim Salavunos wailed on his violin like Nero when Rome burned until the end as the band made it a real showstopper that just amazed me. The band went into the angelic-sounding title-track “Push The Sky Away” from their 2013 album that the whole audience helped them to sing like a gospel church choir as Nick Cave howled, “And some people say it's just rock and roll, an but it gets you right down to your soul, you've got to just keep on pushing it, keep on pushing it, push the sky away, you've got to just keep on pushing it, keep on pushing it, push the sky away...”, and it was almost holy-like as the crowd watched him with pure rapture and then he wished us a good night and him and his band quickly left the stage. After a short spell of applause, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds returned to the stage and launched into a spirited “The Mercy Seat” with its intricate wordplay about a man's electrocution and open barre chords as Nick howled, “It began when they come took me from my home, and put me in death row, of which I am nearly wholly innocent, you know, and I'll say it again, I am not afraid to die...”, and over the relentless and pounding rhythm...I loved it...and then it exploded into a ball of noise as the band continued with a bombastic “City Of Refuge” both from their 1988 album “Tender Prey” and it was just wonderful as everyone just went wild as Nick yelped, “You better run!”. He took a few minutes to introduce the band and told us how much he appreciated their contributions to this experience and how much he adores the audience for all their love and then the band launched into the last number of their nineteen-song set, an emotionally deep “Rings Of Saturn” from their 2016 album “Skeleton Tree”, and Nick summed up tonight's experience with the succinct lyrics as he crooned, “And this is the moment, this is exactly where she is born to be, now this is what she does and this is what she is...”, and the band gave their last blast of melody and rhythm and then they quickly ran off stage and into the long dark night. I sat back down and waited till the majority of people left the venue and I finally located Holly who was ecstatic from the gig and plotting her way to their upcoming New York City show. The show was absolutely phenomenal from the delivery to the playing skills of his musicians and they put on one helluva performance that will be remembered my me for years to come. Bravo Nick Cave!
THE DAMNED, RADKEY and THE DARTS - October 20, 2018
Black Cat - Washington, DC
It was a wonderful fall evening as I headed to the Black Cat to see legendary punk band The Damned on their “Evil Spirits Tour” with St. Joseph, Missouri's Radkey and The Darts from Phoenix, Arizona, and it should be a real raucous night to get the blood flowing in my veins. I entered the club where I stood in line and when they let us in, I made my way to my usual stool and got comfortable and waited for the evening's festivities to begin. First up tonight was The Darts who are a quartet who play old-school bad girl rock and roll that they deliver with a modern-day fury and the singer Nicole Laurence reminded me of Murder Ink's Joyce Lacovara in her phrasing and tone. I really liked guitarist Meliza Jackson's playing style with her brusque riffs that just marched along as Nicole added these breezy organ parts as the rhythm section of bassist Christine Nunoz and drummer Rikki Styxx flattened my ears with their pounding thud. My favorite song by them was their new 7” single on Alternative Tentacles Records called “Bullet”and it was literally a punch to the gut and I just loved it, plus the bassist was almost funky sometimes. As they played my mind flashed with images of...The Runaways...L7...Babes In Toyland...Tribe 8...but they were something all their own. They played a glorious nine-song set that just rocked my world with its intensity and concise playing that just caught my attention because they were the perfect girl band for the times. The second band tonight was Radkey who are trio of teenaged African-American brothers, vocalist/guitarist Dee, bassist Isaiah, and drummer Solomon Radke, and they were very reminiscent of Death from Detroit and the Bad Brains from here in DC, but without all the aural histrionics but their songs had a nice groove that made you want to sing along with them as they gave the genre a fresh edge. The guitarist Dee was quite the whiz on the guitar as he sawed away perfectly between Isaiah's thumping bass and Solomon's terse drumming and particularly on a song called “Rock'n'Roll Homed School” and they were just electric as they greatly amused me by their sense of melody and their way of adding a poppy edge to their music. They played a pounding nine-song set that was a maelstrom of hard rock, punk, and indie rock that was catchy and full of crisp riffs, booming bass, and razor-sharp percussion that truly impressed me as Radkey left the stage to some rather vigorous applause. Finally it was time for the headliner, The Damned, and they actually made me feel warm and fuzzy as I remembered when I saw them at The Bayou in 1979 with The Bad Brains and I fell in love with them, and then a few years later when deceased noted guitarist David Byers and I bonded over our mutual love for them...lord, I miss David! The Damned hit the stage with a raging guitar riff from Captain Sensible that rang out melodically as the band burst into a killer rendition of “Nasty”, a B-side from their 1987 compilation album “The Light At The End Of The Tunnel”, that had frontman Dave Vanian belting out, “All I want is to make a killing, to drill a killer might be really thrilling, why are my victims so unwilling, you can be sure that you won't see me, with that action meanie, catch, catch a horror taxi, I fell in love with my video nasty, catch, catch a horror train, a freeze frame goin' to drive you insane...”, and it was a delightful way to start their set as Captain Sensible made his guitar sing as they went right into a blistering “Born To Kill” from their 1977 album “Damned Damned Damned” that had the crowd going crazy as he went berserk on his guitar as the band morphed into “Democracy?” from their 2001 album “Grave Disorder” with its thunderous percussion from Pinch as Dave sang about democracy's shortcomings and faults. He joked about modern-day “shite music” and then they plunged into a salacious “Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow” from their new album “Evil Spirits” and Dave sang it with such a sneer and once again Captain Sensible shredded on his guitar with the right amount of disdain. The band paused and he played the gentle intro to “Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde” from their 1980 album “The Black Album” and then Pinch's pastoral drumming drove the groove as Dave wailed, “I'm normal outside, he's evil inside, I'm Dr. Jekyll and he's Mr. Hyde, I want what's right, he walks in the night, searching for sin in his decadent life, my charms will beguile you, and my arms will defile you...”, and it felt like he lived those words. The band seemed to really favor “The Black Album” from 1980 on this tour as they played three more songs from it; first was the almost traditional rock and roll of “Wait For The Blackout” and they had the joint a'jumping as they rocked out with a country-tinged ease as the beat became frenzied as they went into a manic rock-a-billy groove for a terse “Lively Arts” and I was impressed by how tight the band was as they barreled through the song, and finally they laconically swung their way through an almost symphonic “Silly Kids Games”. They rushed headlong into a brash “Devil In Disguise” which was the first single in England from their new album “Evil Spirits” and it had Dave gleefully intoning, “Cos I'm a devil, I'm a devil, I'm a devil, I'm a devil, a complicated rebel, a dirty demon devil, behind my lying eyes, cos I'm a devil, a complicated rebel, a dirty demon devil, a devil in disguise...”, as he danced about like a mad scarecrow and then they burst into the raging ska-ish groove of “Stranger On The Town” from their 1982 album “Strawberries” and the song had a nice swing as Dave sung it like a sixties mod song. The Damned got all bombastic with a Queen-like “The History Of The World (Part 1)” from “The Black Album” and Dave let his voice stretch out with the elegiac lyrics as the band hit its mark with reckless abandon and then they went old-school with a cover of crooner Paul Ryan's “Eloise” which was a Number 3 hit single for them when it was released in 1985 and it came from the “Phantasmagoria” album and they played it like a dancehall sing-a-long and it was just lovely and Captain Sensible capped it off with a sensational solo. Next the band went into the swinging mod sounds of “We're So Nice” from their new album “Evil Spirits” and it was just groovy and made me want to dance as their vocal harmonies swirled about chaotically as the segued into what Dave called the “prehistoric times” with a jaunty “Love Song” from their 1979 album “Machine Gun Etiquette” and they tore it up as the guys raced through it like good old punk rockers as Dave screeched, “I'll be the ticket if you're my collector, I've got the fare if you're my inspector, I'll be the luggage, if you'll be the porter, I'll be the parcel if you'll be my sorter, just for you here's a love song, just for you here's a love song, and it makes me glad to say, it's been a lovely day, and it's okay...”, over the manic beat fueled by Monty Oxymoron's intricate keyboard riffs and Paul Gray's muscular bass lines. The band kept the beat pounding with an energetic “1 Of The 2” from their 1977 album “Damned Damned Damned” and they kept it “punk” with a glorious rendition of “New Rose” from their 1977 album that invigorated the crowd with its furious beat as Dave raged on the microphone as the audience sang along with them and then they piled into a frenetic “Neat Neat Neat” also from the same album and the crowd was tearing it up on the dancefloor as Dave sneered, “I said neat neat neat, she can't afford no cannon, neat neat neat, she can't afford no gun at all, neat neat neat, she can't afford no cannon, neat neat neat, she ain't got no name to call, neat neat neat...”, and Captain Sensible went ballistic on his guitar like he was a seventies guitar hero...it was amazing...then they quickly left the stage to a cacophony of cheers. After a few minutes the five of them returned and immediately launched into a feedback-soaked rendition of “Curtain Call” from their favorite 1980 release “The Black Album” and Captain Sensible led it off with a sweeping synthesizer solo as Dave intoned the words and the band kicked in with a swinging big beat that was just over the top as the segued into a crunchy “Ignite” from their 1982 album “Strawberries” that had a driving groove as the song careened through the people like static electricity, but oddly Dave Vanian sounded like The Cult's Ian Astbury as he led the crowd in singing the chorus. The five musicians left the stage again but they came right back and launched into a fabulous version of “Street Of Dreams” from their 1985 album “Phantasmagoria” that started out slow and then they exploded into a whirlwind of melody and feedback as Captain Sensible made his guitar howl. The band stepped it up for the last song of their twenty-song set, an absolutely explosive rendition of “Smash It Up” from their 1979 album “Machine Gun Etiquette”, and they took their most famous song and turned it inside out as Dave Vanian sneered, “People call me villain oh its such a shame, maybe its my clothes must be to blame, I don't even care if I look a mess, don't want to be a sucker like all the rest, oh oh smash it up, smash it up, smash it up, oh oh smash it up, smash it up, smash it up...”, and it was the perfect closer for a wonderful set by one of my favorite bands ever. The Damned were quite splendid tonight and they showed that they still have it as they played a variety of songs in several styles showcasing their illustrious career but I do wonder what original members Rat Scabies and Brian James are up to these days. I took my leave and left the club and hurried down the street to the metro and on to my home while humming “Smash it up”! Cheers mates!
AN EVENING WITH PUBLIC IMAGE LTD. - October 12, 2018
Black Cat - Washington, DC
It was a beautiful warm autumn evening as my friend Adrian Salsgiver made our way to the legendary Black Cat to see the inimitable Johnny Lydon and his band Public Image Limited on their “The Image Is Rotten Fortieth Anniversary Tour” and it should be a marvelous sight to see and hear. We got to the club early and there was already a line so we joined the rest of the crowd and waited until we got to go upstairs to the main stage to wait for tonight's performance. I saw them three years ago at the U Street Music Hall and they were pretty good even though it was hot and crowded for such a small venue, but tonight they are at the Black Cat and once again it was sold-out but I got my favorite stool at the end of the bar with my buddy Bartender Al, and I sat and waited for the show to start as I drank a Stella Artois. Johnny and his band take the stage and thanked us for coming to the show and the band, guitarist Lu Edmonds, bassist Scott Firth, and drummer Bruce Smith, jumped right into the agit-funk of “Deeper Water” from their 2012 album “This Is PIL” with pizzazz as Johnny Lydon started howling the poetic words, “The ocean seas that's swelling wept, in the harper inside my head, in the spite of salt water, the sailing breeze of tears, and the years, and the returns all in here, and those bristles burns, that will rush with...and dash lead to the shores...”, as the band drove the music with searing guitar riffs and a pulsing rhythm section, and damn, did they sound good! They flowed into the angular riffs of “Memories” from their 1979 album “Metal Box” and it let bits of music fly away over the deep bass groove that drove the song as Johnny howled and bellowed with a comic belligerence , and then the band went straight into the taut rhythms of “The Body” from their 1987 album “Happy?” that growled and snarled like a beast that just rolled over everybody with its bludgeoning melody that killed the crowd. Next they performed a fantastic rendition of “Disappointed” from their 1989 album “9” that was one of their better songs of the night and the guitarist Lu Edmonds played one of his best solos of the night...it was a great version with lovely vocal harmonies. The band was smoking hot as they went into the dark and ominous “Warrior” also from “9” that was full of twisting and stuttering guitar riffs that push the beat forward with tempered anger as Johnny screamed, “Warrior, I'm a warrior, these fields have eyes, these woods have ears, many invade, but I take no quarter, this is my land, I'm a warrior, I'm a warrior, I'll never dismount, I ride the tiger...”, and its many textures and layers of rhythm swirled over me like they were a prog-rock band as they abruptly switched to the scatter-shot rhythm of “The One” from their 2015 album “What The World Needs Now...” that made it a pretty typical rock song but it did have nice flow that made me bop my head to the joyous beat. The band laid down the dense percussive beat of “Corporate” also from their 2015 album and the rhythm section led the way as swirling riffs flew from Lu's guitar as Johnny sneered the vicious lyrics to the raucous crowd and they went right into the song “Death Disco” from their 1979 album “Metal Box” and the beat jumped and pulsed with angular sawing guitar riffs as he yelped, “Never no more hope away, final in a fade, watch her die slowly, saw it in her eyes, choking on a bed, flowers rotting dead, seen it in her eyes, ending in a day, silence was a way, seeing in your eyes, seeing in your eyes, seeing in your eyes, I'm seeing through my eyes...”, and it was spectacular and very driving as the band surged forward with some disturbing sounds. Next the melodic rhythms of “Cruel” from their 1992 album “That What Is Not” pulsed out of the speakers as the band crunched their way through the song languidly as Johnny barked the meaningful words like a politician and the crowd loved it as they roared their approval. The next song “I'm Not Satisfied” from their 2015 album “What The World Needs Now...” was a great piece of agit-funk that twirled and grooved as it was driven by Lu's red hot guitar licks as Johnny roared the words and the rhythm section just marched right over the audience like a demented army, and it was one of my favorite songs of their set. The ragged rhythms of the title-track “Flowers Of Romance” from their 1981 album reminded me of primitive tribal rhythms and they made the song dance almost joyously as the guitar soared into the stratosphere with a crescendo as the chunky beat chugged along with an odd groove as Johnny screamed and wailed with elan. The band burst into my favorite song by them, the classic “This Is Not A Love Song” from their 1984 album “This Is What You Want...This Is What You Get” and the band tore it up as they pounded their way through the song as the guitar sparked and sputtered as Johnny raged on the mic, “Now are you ready to grab the cradle, that tunnel vision - not television, behind the curtain - out of the cupboard, you take the first train - into the big world, now will I find you – now will you be there, this is not a love song, this is not a love song...”, and it was just a brilliant performance that gave me the chills and thrills as they went into an anthemic “Rise” from their 1986 album “Album” that brought down the house as Johnny screeched away and the guitarist went crazy on his axe as the rhythm section thumped away with a laidback ease as mad riffs flew madly about the club. The band quickly left the stage to raucous applause and after a few minutes they returned to the stage and launched into a bass-driven “Public Image” from their 1978 debut album “First Issue” that was full of anger and grinding guitars as Johnny yelped, “Public image, public image, public image...”, and the song was full of vim and vinegar as Johnny screamed at the world with a sneer, and then oddly, they played a cover of “Open Up” by Leftfield and I was actually impressed by their version with its muted rhythms and screechy guitar that wound itself around the manic beat that made the room pulse. They closed their sixteen-song set with the monstrous groove of “Shoom” from their 2015 album “What The World Needs Now...” and the band traded licks as Johnny bought the show to an end as he snarled, “Fuck you, fuck off, fuck sex, is bollocks, all sex is bollocks, s-sex is bollocks, success, it's bollocks la la, me baby bollocks, success suck lemons, suck excess, it's all bollocks, big tits, you bollocks, not got, dogs bollocks, you got bollocks, you talk bollocks, it's all bollocks, you fucking bollocks, now turn to your bollocks, two shits for bollocks, humans are bollocks...”, and the audience erupted with cheers and applause as the band left the stage for the last time. I finished my beer and left the club with a smile on my face because the show was absolutely fabulous and Johnny Lydon did not mention Trump once!
WANTED MAN - October 10, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a gorgeous fall evening as I wandered down to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see the latest in the Hometown Sounds concert series with local upstarts Wanted Man who will deliver an incendiary blend of music genres from punk to country, so hopefully they will put on a good show. The Hometown Sounds reps came to the stage and introduced their podcast and its aims and goals and then they brought the band Wanted Man to the stage and they are a quartet who consist of guitarist brothers Kenny and Anthony Pirog, bassist Scoops, and drummer Rick Irby, and they launched into their first song with a crunch as they punched their way through the Americana country sound with some nice and loud guitars and Anthony let his fingers fly up and down his fretboard and I was quite impressed as they moved into the bluesy rock of their next number “Another Day, Another Time” and they made the groove roll right over my ears and Anthony demonstrated his playing skills like a modern-day bluesman as he made his guitar howl. Next the band went into the hard country of “Desiree” that was dedicated to DC guitar legend Danny Gatton and Kenny's voice reminded me of the Everly Brothers as he sang about love and desire as Anthony played these languid riffs that just hung in the air. Their next song “Make It Real” was a bit of swamp music that just had a nice swing to it and Anthony made his guitar wail with such passion as the rhythm section stomped its way through the song like a dinosaur as the four of them morphed into the punkish throb of “Beginning To Rock” as waves of angular guitar riffs tumbled all over the place and Anthony played an electrifying solo that showed off his playing skills as a guitarist's guitarist, and his brother Kenny howled the words to “Voodoo Shoes” over the terse rhythm that made me want to dance as they segued into the gutbucket groove of “She My Baby” and they were tearing it up some invigorating punk blues as Anthony once again lit up his guitar with his lightning fast hands. They slowed down for the old-school country groove of “Say A Prayer” that reminded of Glen Campbell as Kenny impassionedly sang of lost love and I just love how Anthony plays in so many different styles. The four musicians kicked into the hard blues of “If I Stay” and it was my favorite song of their set as they barreled through it non-stop and it seemed really genuine and heartfelt. They continued with the hard and crunchy “Like I Known You To” and the band was on fire as they made the beat grind as Anthony made his guitar steamroll over my ears as Kenny sang about his wild woman as guitar riffs flew everywhere like a sixties blues song...it was utterly fantastic! Wanted Man finished their eleven-song set with a lovely cover of The Beatles' “Dear Prudence” and they did themselves proud as they soared with these dancing riffs that gave the song a heavy edge as the rhythm section just pounded away as they finished the song and wished us a good night. I walked out of the Kennedy Center with a smile on my face because Wanted Man really rocked and Anthony Pirog once again proved that he is one of my favorite local guitarists.
AN EVENING WITH THE ENGLISH BEAT - October 7, 2018
City Winery - Washington, DC
It was a gorgeous autumn afternoon as I head uptown on the metro to meet my Brit friend Peter and then we headed to the City Winery in northeast DC to see the English Beat with Dave Wakeling who wrote many of their earlier songs and I prefer them to Ranking Roger's English Beat who are still touring and releasing new music, but it still should be fun to hang out and reminiscence about the eighties and our youthful misadventures and groove to one of my favorite bands from that era with my dear English Ska loving friend Peter. Well, we arrived at the club and I was appalled by the bourgeoisness of the place but one must make do with what one's got so I will endure for the love of music. We were shown our table which had a straight-on view of Dave Wakeling and his modern-day band and we sat down and ordered some over-priced food and drink and I was underwhelmed by it all but we shall see. The English Beat hit the stage and opened with a cover of Prince Buster's “Rough Rider” from their 1980 album “I Just Can't Stop It” and the band was tight as they made that ska beat jump as they joyously sang the words and they topped it off with a languid saxophone solo from Matt Morrish. Longtime frontman Dave Wakeling, and the only original member of the band in this incarnation, and he urged everyone to come together for humanity's sake as the band kicked into the manic beat of “Twist And Crawl” also from their 1980 album and the beat twisted and turned as Dave heartily sang, “Did you think that I'd return, emotions all I need to learn, some day you're gonna feel the same, vice-a-versa love affair, vice-a-versa love affair, now I've made a new way, now my mind is rearranged, now I can't be sure again, twist and crawl, twist and crawl, twist and crawl...”, and it was quite phenomenal and I really wanted to skank like a mad rude boy. They kept things positively upbeat with a sassy rendition of “Hands Off...She's Mine”/”Children Of The Moon Tide”, also from “I Just Can't Stop It”, and it was bubbly and bouncy as Matt Morrish's saxophone drove the beat along over the booming bass of Mark London Sims. Dave Wakeling made a few jokes and then the band got the beat jumping with a lovely version of “Too Nice To Talk To” from their 1981 album “Wha'ppen?” that was crisp and tight and I really wanted to dance as the drummer broke the song down with a rock-steady beat as the saxophonist Matt wailed with all his might...it was sensational! The band broke into the feel-good beat of a cover of Dave's other eighties band General Public's “Tenderness” from their 1984 album “All The Rage” and it had everybody happily singing along with the band, “...where is the tenderness, the tenderness, where is it...”, as the bass-playing of Mark London Sims kept the groove jumping and perky. Dave said he was thinking about running for President in 2020 because whoever used the next song won the election like it did for two former US presidents as they jumped into a ska-ified version of The Staples Singers classic “I'll Take You There” and I was really impressed by how well they performed it and the understated percussion from longtime drummer Brian “Nucci” Cantrell...it was utterly fantastic! The band's toaster Antonee First Class rapped to the crowd about life in the eighties and he had great flow as they launched into a guitar-driven “Save It For Later” from their 1982 album “Special Beat Service” that brought back so many memories as Dave soulfully crooned, “Sooner or later, your legs give away, you hit the ground, save it for later, don't run away and let me down, sooner or later, you hit the deck, you get found out, save it for later, don't run away and let me down, you let me down...”, and damn, the band was tight and once again the sax player Matt turned it out as he made his instrument trill with melody so perfectly. They got old school with a loping “Whine & Grind”/”Stand Down Margaret” from their 1980 album “I Just Can't Stop It” that just grooved along so smoothly as the keyboardists dueled with swirling intertwining melody lines as they moved into the second part as he sang, “Stand down Margaret...”, much to everyone's joy and then Dave dedicated the next song “The Love You Give Lasts Forever” from their 2017 album “Here We Go Love” to his mum and I found it to be quite a toe-tapper and my head bopped along to the simple beat as the musicians let the rhythm flow as they moved into a lovely version of Andy Williams' schmaltzy classic “Can't Get Used To Losing You” from “I Just Can't Stop It” that they gave a ska remake complete with saxophone solo and stuttering bass. Dave Wakeling showed off his whistling skills to start new song, the title-track from their latest album “Here We Go Love”, and it was a nice song with some marvelous keyboard parts but it was a little lacklustre but the band's vocal harmonies were sensational. Next they blasted off with the ska rhythms of their new single “How Can You Stand There?” also from their latest album and it was quite cool and frenetic as the beat bounced and grooved with a modern edge and Dave crooned, “How can you stand there, when all around you is a lie, how can you stand there, and not wonder why, what right to complain, when so many much worse off than you, how can you stand there, and just watch them do it...”, and it was one of the highlights of their set for my ears. The band then slowed down to an old school ska groove as they went into a heartfelt “Doors Of Your Heart” from their 1981 album “Wha'ppen?” and it made me want to gently sway and light up a spliff and lose myself in the heavenly rhythms and the audience sang along with the band. The band livened things up with a jaunty “Ranking Full Stop” from their 1979 12”single that had everyone skanking and the lively beat bounced like a ball as the band joyfully chanted the lyrics and made the beat fill me with joy as they moved into a powerful “Mirror In The Bathroom” from their 1980 album “I Just Can't Stop It”as the keyboardists Kevin Lum And Minh Quan drove the manic beat with clever fills and it was a fantastic rendition that made me feel young as Dave Wakeling sang, “Mirror in the bathroom, I just can't stop it, every Saturday you see me, window shopping, find no interest in the, racks and shelves, just a thousand reflections, of my own sweet self, self, self, mirror in the bathroom, you're my mirror in the bathroom...”, and then toaster Antonee First Class rattled on about how glad they got to rock us and have a good time and he wished us a good night as the band made the music swirl around to a crashing halt. They closed with the old-school rock-steady beat of “Jackpot” also from “I Just Can't Stop It” and it was the perfect closing number for their wonderful sixteen-song set that had me feeling like I was on top of the world but I could not believe that they did not perform “I Confess” tonight! We made our way out of the poorly attended show which surprised me because the show was lovely and kept the spirit alive and then we had to walk down a dark New York Avenue to the metro and all before 11PM. Cheers, mates!
TIME IS FIRE - September 24, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was yet another overcast and rainy day as I looked out my front door and I am so sick of this dreary weather, but time marches on as I left my house for the monthly Hometown Sounds concert series at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage and this month featured local multi-genre rock band Time Is Fire. They play kind of heavy socio-political music with some very hard-hitting lyrics about the world around them and I saw them earlier this summer at the annual concert series that was held at Fort Reno Park where I got a small taste of them, but tonight there should be much better sound and a full set as opposed to Fort Reno Park where bands' sets are usually abbreviated and a bit uncomfortable with no seats and lots of biting bugs. The reps from Hometown Sounds took the stage and gave their usual spiel about their aims and goals in supporting DMV music and then they welcomed Time Is Fire to the stage and they are a quartet led by Iranian-born Sufi poet Kamyar Arsani and they jumped into their angsty agit-funk punk groove that propelled the song along with taut percussion and acid-drenched guitars as Kamyar yelped and howled the biting words and then the band went into the pseudo-reggae of their next number which was about being true to oneself as the guitarist Matthew Perrone shredded on his instrument with a psychedelic fury...it was really intense and very pleasing to my ears. They followed that with a song called “Sun” and it reminded me of Jefferson Airplane's more jazzy moments and the band got lost in a manic groove that ebbed and flowed so beautifully like I was floating on water on a warm spring day. They moved into the punk beat of “Oh I Wonder” and the percussion of drummer Jim Thomson was all spastic as bassist Ashish Vyas gave the song a menacing edge as he plodded along while the guitarist Matthew Perrone added all kinds of screeching riffs. Next was the song “Turn Your TV Off” which was the highlight of tonight's set with its bubbly new wave beat that made the song bounce as Kamyar Arsani yelped, “Turn your TV off, ready or not...”, and I really liked this song as it reached its frenzied climax as they morphed back into the manic funk of their next song, but I wished Kamyar would enunciated the words a little more clearly as he swirled about the stage like a dervish but I just love the guitarist's original sound. Next they played one of their more political songs called “Poor Is Poor, Rich Is Rich” and the singer railed against the ruling one percent and their cold-hearted ways and as the driving funky percussion drove the point home, I just wanted to dance. They continued with the world-beat of “Stories Untold” that was about how different cultures destroy each other by attacking the language and cultural identity of each other as the song burst out like the manic squonk of be-bop but it was great to hear and they dedicated it to the #MeToo movement and the beat twisted and turned as the guitar cut through the dense percussion and taut bass line of Ashish Vyas in a “no-wave” kind of way that was only missing a saxophone. They surprised me with their next song “Mirrors” with its languid country-fied riff that danced about over the rather terse percussion as they plowed through the pulsing groove that just sort of collapsed in the end. Time Is Fire finished their eleven-song set with a punk romp through their last number that jumped manically and Kamyar raged with some heavy political proclamations as Matthew Perrone made his guitar scream and howl as the beat swirled into a cacophony of feedback and the band walked offstage. I was really impressed by their performance especially guitarist Matthew Perrone who played some pretty spectacular fretwork over a rather decent rhythm section that could follow his lead. I left feeling pretty good from their music after that show and I bought their latest CD at the merchandise table and rushed on home. Cheers guys!
ELTON JOHN AND HIS BAND - September 22, 2018
Capital One Arena - Washington, DC
It was a lovely sun-drenched afternoon on the last day of summer as I made my way downtown to pick up my absolutely fabulous ticket to see Elton John and his band on his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour 2018-2020” that was currently going around the world and this was the second gig of his two-night stand in Washington, DC, and I was very glad that I was going to get to see him live one last time. I went back home to chill and wait until the show began in a couple of hours, and so then it became time to take the metro back to the arena to rock out to Elton's brilliant back catalogue of stunning songs. I arrived at the arena and shuffled in with the rambunctious crowd and found my way to my excellent seat on the floor and I planted myself and took in the whole spectacle of it all. Showtime then finally arrived and Elton and his band took the stage and opened with a spectacular “Benny And The Jets” from his second 1973 album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and his longtime guitarist Davey Johnstone led the way as they rocked out full force and Elton belted out the heartfelt lyrics, “Hey kids, shake it loose together, the spotlight's hitting something, that's been known to change the weather, we'll kill the fatted calf tonight, so stick around, you're gonna hear electric music, solid walls of sound...”, and the band segued into a shimmering “All The Girls Love Alice” also from “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and Elton's playing skills were just phenomenal as he tinkled away on his piano with such panache. I was surprised by their wonderful version of “I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues” from his 1983 album “Too Low For Zero” and the band laid down an uptempo groove that just rocked with an gentle ease and the audience was loving it as they responded with rapturous applause. The band was dwarfed by the giant video screen that lined the back of the stage and it was bordered with three-dimensional images of his various achievements in his life and career and then he said that he was so honored when Aretha Franklin did a cover of the next song, “Border Song” from his 1970 album “Elton John”, and he sat there alone as he played the most beautiful piano part that just blew me away while a cavalcade of images flew by over his head on the video screen. They followed that with a marvelous “Tony Danza”...oops, oh Phoebe from “Friends”...I mean “Tiny Dancer” from his 1971 album “Madman Across The Water” and it just oozed with so much soul and it was like a window into his heart as he crooned, “But oh how it feels so real, lying here with no one near, only you and you can hear me, when I say softly slowly, hold me closer tiny dancer, count the headlights on the highway, lay me down in sheets of linen, you had a busy day today, hold me closer tiny dancer...”, and the song featured some excellent double-neck guitar playing from Davey Johnstone. The crowd went crazy as the band roared into the jauntily uptempo groove of “Philadelphia Freedom” which was a non-album single from his 1977 album “Greatest Hits Volume 2” and it was fantastic as longtime drummer Nigel Olsson kept the percussion tight and crisp. Elton took some time to tell us how much he loved and respected lyricist Bernie Taupin and they were just as close as they have ever been and he began the symphonic piano chords to “Indian Sunset” from his 1971 album “Madman Across The Water” with only percussionist Ray Cooper for accompaniment and they threw down with as Elton raged on his piano with a melodious fury...it was stunning! The band members returned as the video screen began showing a countdown and Elton began melancholically singing an absolutely gorgeous version of “Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long, Long Time)” from his 1972 album “Honky Chateau”, and swirling images of space appeared on the video screen as he empathetically wailed, “And I think it's gonna be a long, long time, 'til touchdown brings me 'round again to find, I'm not the man they think I am at home, oh no no no, I'm a rocket man, rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone...”, and it was quite touching and I did not think of North Korean dictator Kim Jung-un or that other racist orange ass-hat who named him “Rocket Man” as a joke in a presidential tweet. The next number was the oldest song of the night, a solemn “Take Me To The Pilot” from his 1970 album “Elton John” and the band rocked it, particularly the percussionists, Nigel Olsson, Ray Cooper, and John Mahon, who were spectacular as they worked in tandem to provide an almost funky groove that had swing for the rest of the band to take turns on some electrified solos on their respective instruments and Davey Johnstone tore it up on his guitar with these muscular and thunderous riffs that cut through me like a knife. Elton said that the next song “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” from his 1975 album “Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy” was about when Bernie and him struggled to make this collection of songs succeed and he said this was his most intimate and heartfelt album and his personal favorite among his releases and you could feel the intensity in his delivery...I almost teared up and the video was really cool and full of futuristic creatures. They followed that with my favorite Elton John song ever since it was released, a riveting version of “Levon” from his 1971 album “Madman Across The Water” and Elton sang it with such gripping intensity, “He was born a pauper, to a pawn on a Christmas day, when the New York Times, said God is dead and the war's begun, Alvin Tostig has a son today, and he shall be Levon, and he shall be a good man...”, and his playing was so sharp and clean as his hands flew over the keys on his piano and it actually made me tear up from its sincerity as the bass-driven percussion gave the song a gentle groove as it flowed along and Davey finished the song with an electrifying guitar solo as the band walked off the stage. They ended the first part of the show with Elton sitting alone at his piano as he played an elegiac “Candle In The Wind” from “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and one could not but think of Princess Diana and her tragic demise, however it was touching and emotional, almost to the edge of sappiness but it was just lovely. The sound of thunder and rain permeated the venue and the band returned to the stage with a bombastic “Funeral For A Friend”/”Love Lies Bleeding” also from same album as smoke billowed everywhere as Elton's piano tinkling floated across the stage until he burst into song and the band was smoking like a well-tuned machine and percussionist Ray Cooper's solo was a real showstopper! The band became real mellow as Elton slowed the groove down for an emotional “Burn Down The Mission” from his second 1970 album “Tumbleweed Connection” and I guess it was the “couples” song of the night as I saw people all around me grabbed their loved ones as Elton became very animated as he sped through a wonderful piano solo and then Davey gave the song a bristling edge with his guitar as the two of them traded notes and runs with an ease that only comes with playing together for over fifty years. Next Elton talked about getting clean and sober from the scourge of cocaine addiction in 1990 and how it led to his philanthropic work in the field of AIDS research as an intro to an uplifting “Believe” from his 1995 album “Made In England” with its stark arrangement as he beseeched us to “Believe”, and it was awe-inspiring as Davey played yet another spine-chilling guitar solo that took my breath away. The band next played what was another show highlight from their set, a gorgeous version of “Daniel” from his 1973 album “Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player” and Elton told this story about how when lyricist Bernie Taupin first wrote the words, he was told that it was too long and to cut the last verse which explained the song somewhat, but he said that loves playing it anyway, and the band was so tight and in sync...their rehearsals must be arduous...but it was worth it and its delivery was breathtaking as his voice sang out, “Oh oh, Daniel, my brother you are older than me, do you still feel the pain of the scars that won't heal, your eyes have died, but you see more than I, Daniel you're a star in the face of the sky...”, and it was just beautiful. They went immediately into a rocking “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” from his 1984 album “Breaking Hearts” that had Elton banging on his piano as he belted out the lyrics with muted ferocity and a hint of graciousness and then Elton thanked us for all of our devotion over the years and he was ever so very thankful and then he introduced the band-members, drummer Nigel Olsson, percussionist John Mahon, keyboardist Kim Bullard, bassist Matt Bissonette, and percussionist Ray Cooper, and Elton said he missed his deceased bassist Dee Murray and last but not least, he thanked bandleader/guitarist Davey Johnstone for all that he has done for him over the years and his daughter was in the audience tonight. Then the band breathed new life into “Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me” from his 1974 album “Caribou” and they turned it out as they made it a symphonic masterpiece as the band roared into a stellar rendition of “The Bitch Is Back” from his 1974 album “Caribou” with its driving piano lines and sad lyrics that Elton sang with such bravado and I liked the humor in the words and then Davey blew my mind with the most succinct guitar solo, which went immediately into a raucous “I'm Still Standing” from his 1983 album “Too Low For Zero” and I was amazed that it still holds true as the band played their hearts out as the melodies and riffs flooded my ears as Elton crooned, “Don't you know I'm still standing better than I ever did, looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid, I'm still standing after all this time, picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind, I'm still standing yeah yeah yeah...”, and I was positively uplifted! The video screen scrolled the words that the next song was dedicated to the fans and from the opening riffs the crowd was on their feet as a glorious “Crocodile Rock” from his 1973 album “Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player” that had everybody singing along with him as each band-member solo-ed on their respective instruments as the song became more and more frenzied until it collapsed from exhaustion and without missing a beat, the band barreled into a pounding “Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting” from his top-selling 1973 album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” that pulsed and throbbed as Elton wailed, “Saturday night's alright for fighting...”, and it was so fitting for tonight as the band took their bows and the audience showed their rapturous appreciation very loudly. After a few minutes Eton John and his band returned to the stage and Elton sat at his piano for a magnificent version of “Your Song” from his 1970 album “Elton John” that was just emotional and beautiful as everyone stood and swayed along to the tinkling piano and heartfelt words. They finished their twenty-four-song set with a bombastic and over-the-top version of the title-track “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” the from his 1973 album and all the musicians were playing like their lives depended on it as Elton John crooned, “So goodbye yellow brick road, where the dogs of society howl, you can't plant me in your penthouse, I'm going back to my plough, back to the howling old owl in the woods, hunting the horny back toad, oh I've decided my future lies, beyond the yellow brick road...”, and I was blown away by the band's intensity as they swirled through the melodies and percussion to the end of the song and the audience responded with such joy and emotion as the band took their final bows and they rushed offstage for the last time. I was exhilarated by their performance that was just incredibly performed with such precision, virtuosity, and song-craft that I will really miss see them play live. Goodbye Elton John! Thanks for all of your wonderful music!
OZZY OSBOURNE and STONE SOUR - September 14, 2018
Jiffy Lube Live - Bristow, VA
KILLING JOKE and PIG - September 10, 2018
Baltimore Soundstage - Baltimore, MD
LIGHT BEAMS - August 31, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
NEW ORDER - August 28, 2018
The Anthem - Washington, DC
It was a dreadfully hot and humid summer afternoon in the city and I was really excited for tonight's sold-out New Order gig at The Anthem on the waterfront as I got ready to go to the DC Wharf and I awaited the arrival of my friend Scott Parks to my home, and when he arrived we watched a new PBS documentary about Betty White and then we excitedly departed from my house and I was wearing my favorite New Order t-shirt from when I last saw them five years ago at Merriweather Post Pavilion and they did not play that many shows in the United States that time either. We rode the metro to the L'Enfant Plaza station and then it was a quick walk to the Wharf where we had a bite to eat at the Shake Shack as we watched the New Order fans standing in two very long lines in the hot evening sun and so I laughed at them. When the line began speeding up, we got in the line and entered the venue and I bought a tour shirt and then we found a nice spot with a good view so we claimed it and we waited for New Order to take the stage as DJ Whitney Fierce churned out some mainstream house and techno until it was time for the show. The house lights went down as Wagner's “Das Rheingold” churned out of the PA and the lights lit up the stage in blue as the original band-members, vocalist/guitarist Bernard Sumner, drummer Stephen Morris, keyboardist Gillian Gilbert, along with guitarist Phil Cunningham, and bassist Tom Chapman, and the band silently walked onto the huge stage and opened the show with a sweeping “Singularity” from their 2016 album “Music Complete” with its soft and gentle intro of percolating percussion that build up into these great majestic synthesizer runs that Phil accented with some haunting guitar licks as Bernard crooned, “One day at a time, inch by inch, for every kiss, on lovers' lips, for all lost souls, who can't come home, friends, not here, we shed our tears, I can feel your presence here, tender softly through the air...”, and the video showed various locations around London to give a sense of intimacy as the song ended. Bernard thanked us for our love and admiration and the crowd just loved it as they cheered and then the bassist Tom started off the terse “Regret” from their 1993 album “Republic” with a nice and driving bass line that had me not missing Peter Hook's playing one iota and Bernard's mellifluous voice sounded in fine form and his lyrics were cool and meaningful...the whole song was wonderful! Next the band went into the gentle and rhythmic groove of “Crystal” from their 2001 album “Get Ready” that just washed over me with layers of synthesizers and guitars that were prodded along by the menacing bass riff that drove the song as the video screens showed hundreds of bouncing kid silhouettes and then Bernard began playing a horn to intro a grooving “Love Vigilantes” from their 1985 album “Low-Life” and Stephen played some cool intricate percussion that made you feel like you are on the ocean bobbing up and down as Bernard's melancholic voice went round and round as the guitar chased it with stuttering glory. Then Bernard picked up the melodica and began wail-fully moaning the haunted melody of “Your Silent Face” from their 1983 album “Power, Corruption And Lies” and the band kicked in with the pastoral groove as Bernard languidly sang, “Sound formed in a vacuum, may seem a waste of time, it's always been just the same, no hearing or breathing, no movement, no lyrics, just nothing, the sign that leads the way, the path we can not take, you've caught me at a bad time, so why don't you piss off...”, and I got lost in the video that showed a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes as I went swimming in the swirling percussive poly-rhythms of drummer Stephen Morris and the song morphed into the disco-fied beats of “Superheated” from their 2016 album “Music Complete” and it was a great song with crisp percussion that made it fun to dance to as the music rode the biting bass as the video screens flashed with cool futuristic graphics and then Phil Cunningham had a moment as he pumped out the guitar solo of the night that was more fury than flash...I was impressed! Next they went into a spastic and jumpy “Tutti Frutti” from their 2016 album “Music Complete” that had the crowd jumping and screaming in pure happiness as the rhythm flowed in every which direction as these really cool graphics lit up the video screens as the band morphed into the cold hard techno of “Subculture” from their 1985 album “Low-Life” and they gave it a new arrangement that had this terse percussion as Gillian Gilbert played this ragged synthesizer riff that just drove the song with a muted fury. Then came a high point of their set, a crisp and relentless “Bizarre Love Triangle” from their 1986 album “Brotherhood” and with a new arrangement and Bernard made my heart melt with his dreamy voice as he languidly sang, “Every time I see you falling, I get down on my knees and pray, I'm waiting for that moment, you say the words that I can't say, I feel fine and I feel good, I feel like I never should, whenever I get this way, I just don't know what to say...”, and Bernard said he was going to take a photograph of the crowd with his camera and everyone screamed as he did and then the video screens lit up with images of thousand of jellyfish that flowed by as the precision-sharp percussion locked into the cold groove of “Vanishing Point” from their 1989 album “Technique” and I liked how the band ebbed and flowed in an organic style even though the song was very electronic. But the low point of the night was a murky “Waiting For The Sirens' Call” which was the title-track from their spotty 2005 album and it had its moments with its sharp percussion and deep guitar riffs that just sort of fell apart as the melody meandered through the layers of rhythm. The band shook off the last remnants of the previous song, and for me, they had their best moment of the night when they joyously went into the spacey groove of “Plastic” from their 2016 album “Music Complete” and it was my favorite performance of the night with its lingering guitar riffs and terse and spastic percussion and Bernard sarcastically crooning, “It's official, you're fantastic, you're so special, so iconic, you're the focus, of attention, but you don't want it, cause you're so honest, one of these days, one of these days, right when you want me, baby, I'll be gone, cause you're like plastic, you're artificial, you don't mean nothing, baby, so superficial...”, and the crowd and I loved it! The band was smoking by now as they slid into the ambient groove of “The Perfect Kiss” from their 1985 album “Low-Life” and it was wonderfully melancholic as it bubbled along and then there was some kind of commotion happening directly in front of us with this drunk off his ass A-List queen who was floundering about with his touchy-feely hands and two of his embarrassed friends tried to reel him in before he caused an incident and then he grabbed the left buttock of the hipster black guy standing next to him in a sexual matter as he slurred something rather gratuitous to him and the guy reacted very badly as he set to delivering a beat-down while screaming about him touching him on his ass with such venom and scorn for someone at a New Order concert, but it was quickly put under control as security came over and took them away and things returned back to normal as the band morphed into a crisp and upbeat “True Faith” from their 1987 compilation album “Substance (1980-1987)” and it was grooving and moving with the song's new arrangement accenting the intricate percussion and synthetic beats and the crowd was getting active and then they went crazy as the solemn marching beat of their 1983 12”single“Blue Monday” began its relentless trudge as Bernard intoned the sad lyrics as the music fell on us in layers and I was lost in the musical whirlwind to the point where I was lifting off the ground. Bernard said that this was one of the best shows on their short American tour and he thanked us for being so welcoming and then the video screens began showing the colorful concentric circles and the band slowly started into a crystalline version of their 1982 12”single “Temptation” and it had Bernard wistfully crooning the adoring words, “From time to time, I find I've lost some need, that was urgent to myself, I do believe, oh, you've got green eyes, oh, you've got blue eyes, oh, you've got grey eyes, and I've never seen anyone quite like you before, no, I've never met anyone quite like you before...”, and I felt like he was singing directly to me as he put the band through their paces as the song ebbed and flowed and then surged all in that New Order-style disco that had me rocking with a sense of joy as the song rushed towards it climatic conclusion with everyone in the band on the down stroke and then they quietly left the stage to an absolute roar from the completely elated audience and then they began chanting for more that they kept up for several minutes. The house lights went back down and New Order returned to the stage to thunderous applause as a video tribute to Joy Division's vocalist Ian Curtis rolled on the screens and they languidly kicked into a lovely rendition of “Atmosphere” which was Joy Division's September 1980 12”single that put them on the map and I got lost in the soothing rhythms driven by Stephen Morris's terse poly-rhythmic percussion and Gillian Gilbert's masterful synthesizer riffs as they swirled around melodiously together and I was blown away by their updated version and then they flowed into a biting “She's Lost Control” from Joy Division's 1979 album “Unknown Pleasures” and the band blew it up and made the rigid groove just crunch and flow and the crowd and I loved it. Then came the moment that I have waited for all summer to see, a heartrending but joyous version of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” which was Joy Division's June 1980 12”single and it went on to become the chart-topping highlight of their musical discography and Bernard Sumner's voice gave me the chills as he crooned, “When the routine bites hard, and ambitions are low, and the resentment rides high, but emotions won't grow, and were changing our ways, taking different roads, then love, love will tear us apart again...”, and the band put their all into the music that flowed into the room as everyone undulated to the beat as they sang along with them and I was in heaven as the song faded away into the night and New Order walked offstage and the houselights came up and then Scott and I quickly escaped into the steamy night. I was totally in awe of New Order's performance tonight and they could not have picked a better nineteen-song set to play. Each of them gave their best as they made some beautiful music as an complete unit and it seemed that they have finally gotten rid of that bitter and acrimonious Peter Hook after-taste. Joy Division and New Order all in one night...I could not been happier! Oh yeah, I miss Ian!
REX - August 28, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
ISABELLA DE LEON + THE FLOW - August 23, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
CRYS MATTHEWS - August 22, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
MEATBOT, SMALL DAD, and THE NRI'S - August 6, 2018
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
So the city government decided that the Fort Reno Concert Series could do a make-up week because of rain cancellations, and tonight featured Meatbot, Small Dad, and The NRIs, and it should be an interesting show. First up was Meatbot who were a loud as fuck punk trio who played straight-forward three-chord punk rock in a West Coast style that just grinded away as they made a lot of noise. Their songs all basically sounded the same and somewhat dated as they raged against the system with vaguely socio-political lyrics over a raggedy groove and I really liked the song called “NFL” which they said was about religion. After several more songs I kind of got tired of all the repetition and very basic songwriting skills and I wished that they had a better guitar player who played some interesting licks. They played an eleven-song set that just did not finish soon enough for me...sorry, guys...I just wanted them to end. Next up was Small Dad who were a quintet who played quirky indie rock that vaguely reminded me of The Pixies and they had some interesting vocals and lyrics that went around and around in the dense percussion and rhythm as the guitarist Conor played some cool licks that sort of reminded me of Vampire Weekend or some other world-beat band and filled with millennial angst, but the drummer Jasper had no swing and his playing seemed disjointed to the rest of the band, however they had some ploddingly interesting lyrics but I wished their music was catchier and they played it tighter. After awhile I became quite bored with them as they meandered through their seven-song set with a haphazard ease because their songs just fell apart by the end and they seemed bored with each other...and all I am saying is...practice, practice, practice...because I believe there is something there! The final band of the night was The NRIs who are eight-piece outfit who played horn-driven almost progressive rock that was full of melody and they had some cool lyrics about being yourself. I liked the guitarist's sound and the way the songs were structured but I think they were too big for the sound system because they kept getting lost in the murky mix and the keyboardist did add some nice and melodious fills to the groove. After a few more songs I just lost interest and decided to go home so I headed out and caught the metro and thinking that this gig was a waste of my time...oh well!
HEARNOW - August 4, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
BRANCH MANAGER and FLASHER - August 2, 2018
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
It was yet another dreary day in the city but it seems that they are still having tonight's show at Fort Reno Park and only two bands are performing, first the return of 90's legends Branch Manager and then noisy upstarts Flasher, and the other band canceled. I metro-ed uptown to the park and I got my usual spot as I looked at the the overcast sky with concern, and I just hoped it does not rain again tonight. The first band Branch Manager who had just recently re-united for the first time since their heyday in the nineties and I am looking forward to hearing them play live again after all these years. Branch Manager took the stage with blazing full-force as vocalist/guitarist Ron Winters played a little intro on his guitar and then bassist Dave Allen and drummer Derrick Decker launched into their genre-bending music as the trio made some big riffs and throbbing bass with Derrick's fantastic percussion exploding from the stage with touches of thrash, jazz, and funk that showed that they still got it. Ron's golden voice has aged into a mellifluous rasp as he sang his thought-provoking lyrics as Dave's bass playing propelled the groove with muscular and funky bass lines and Derrick proved that he is still one of the best and innovative drummers in the DMV area as he made the songs' beat swing with an original style. I really liked their new songs and Ron was an amazing guitar player with some great riffs and an ear for melody that made the songs really interesting and fun to watch him play as he sang so blasé but with passion for what he was singing about and he was awesome on the instrumental called “Bent Flagpole” and he played some electrifying slide guitar on the next song, but my favorite song of their set was a little ditty called “Broken Man” that featured some really intricate playing on his part. Branch Manager played a vibrant twelve-song set that covered many genres and the songs were well-written and the instrumentation brilliant and skillfully played with zeal. I am so glad that they got back together as a band and they are better than ever. Cheers guys! The second band was called Flasher and they were a trio consisting of vocalist/guitarist Taylor Mulitz who also plays bass for socially-aware local punk band Priests, bassist Daniel Saperstein, and drummer Emma Baker, and they played rather mundane indie-rock that was so derivative and their songs had some rather dumb lyrics that they performed like they were stuck in a vacuum and their sound was pretty bad and really noisy with annoying squeals, fuzzy white noise, and chaotic feedback that left me scratching my head. They got rather annoying after three songs so I left before they finished their set. Such is life!
ROB ZOMBIE, MARILYN MANSON, and DEADLY APPLES - July 31, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
Today, July 21st, was one dreary-ass day that was full of endless rain and bad traffic as my friend Joel Sklar and I trekked out to my childhood hometown of Manassas in Virginia to the Jiffy Lube Pavilion in order to see one of my favorite musicians, Rob Zombie, along with the always amusing Marilyn Manson and up-and comers the Deadly Apples from Montreal who are playing their technicolor nightmare music on this “Twins Of Evil Tour: The Second Coming” and it should be a devilishly delightful evening full of big guitar riffs, slithering bass, pounding drums, and lurid vocals that will piss off and scare most parents and “fake christians” everywhere alike. As we were driving out there, the rotten weather got worse and worse as we got closer to the the outdoor venue...it was the absolute worst concert-going experience ever and I mean...ever...the two of us finally got there and made our way into the unpaved rain-drenched parking lot and found a decent space and then we sat there praying for a break in the heavy rain so we could run into the venue and find our seats that were down in front way deep in the pavilion under the roof on this night of terrible weather which seemed fitting for a Rob Zombie/Marilyn Manson concert. Then at the very last minute, the powers-to-be deemed it to be finally time to postpone the show and the word of this slowly spread throughout the parking lot that the show was going to be postponed until July 31st and then we very slowly made our way out of the lot for what seemed like forever. We were tortured by these surging cloud bursts and it seemed that every road we went down, we had to turn around because some bridge was washed out because of the storm, and so finally we made it to Interstate 66 and the car hydro-planed all the way back to the city and keeping us on edge the whole time and I must say this was the worse concert experience I ever had in my life and I did not get to see a show! So the ensuing time just flew by until it was July 31st and once again I found myself in a car with a different friend, Andy, and we were driving out to Jiffy Lube Pavilion and being annoyed by the heavy rush hour traffic but we made the journey in one piece and got a good parking space with easy access to the exit later that night and our fellow metal-heads were fun and generous with their beer and laughs as we tail-gated for a little while with them before we went in the place. We entered the venue which was like salmon swimming upstream as we found our way to our seats and we only had to wait for a little while for the Deadly Apples to take the stage and play their thunderous sludge that was very reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails as they sledgehammered their way through the melody to the opener “Further” and they plowed through an ominous “Infection” as the singer/leader Alex Martel rasped, “Can you feel the infection, we are infected...”, and he sung it with such disdain but is voice was rather effected and reminded me of so many other singers as they plowed through a thunderous “Petty”, a pounding “None Of Them”, and an off-key “Abuse”. The guitarist Dan Pelletier did have a few nice and crunchy riffs that were inventive and original, but sadly they were few and far between as the four of them pounded their way through their “Best Of 90s' Metal” set like they were possessed automatrons. However, the last song of their six-song set was tellingly called “Self-Inflicted Oppression” and it had a rock-hard groove that just pummeled us in the way I like and the keyboardist Raul Campued added some cool vocal samples that hammered their message home but I was glad that they were done playing and leaving the stage. The crew set to work and readied the stage for Marilyn Manson and his latest band; guitarist Tyler Bates who scored TNT's nightmarish TV mini-series “The Purge”, bassist Juan Alderete, and drummer Gil Sharone, and then they took the stage and roared to life with a chaotic rendition of “Irresponsible Hate Anthem” from his 1996 album “Antichrist Superstar” that they played with a vengeance as Marilyn Manson cackled the lyrics, “I am so all-American, I'd sell you suicide, I am totalitarian, I've got abortions in my eyes, I hate the hater, I'd rape the raper, I am the animal who will not be himself, fuck it, fuck it, fuck it, fuck it...”, and his band was tight and well-rehearsed for once as they grinded the melody to a pulp unlike other times that I have seen them perform. Marilyn said that he “loved us” for coming back to this show after last week's travesty and then the band plunged into the primal groove of “Angel With The Scabbed Wings” from his 1996 album “Antichrist Superstar” with its razor-sharp guitar from Tyler Bates that drove the song as Marilyn screamed like a banshee. Next the drummer Gil Sharone went into the staccato beat of “This Is The New Shit” from Marilyn's 2003 album “The Golden Age Of Grotesque” and it lumbered and lurched to the monolithic beat as Marilyn intoned, “This is the new shit...”, and the groove swirled and thumped along like wild madmen sitting in a drum circle. They followed with the marching beat of “Disposable Teens” from his 2000 album “Holy Wood (In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death)” and Marilyn screamed the mocking words so sarcastically wonderful, “You said you wanted evolution, the ape was a great big hit, you say you want a revolution man, and I say that you're full of shit, we're disposable teens, we're disposable teens, we're disposable teens, we're disposable...”, and Tyler Bate's guitar sawed its way into my head as it bobbed away on Juan Alderete's ominous ocean-deep bass sound. They performed a thunderous “mOBSCENE” from his 2003 album “The Golden Age Of Grotesque” that had the place going crazy as the guitarist tore off my head as Marilyn led the crowd in singing his satanic nursery rhymes with an almost sickening glee, and then they went into the buzz-saw grind of his latest single “Say10” from his 2017 album “Heaven Upside Down” that ended with a stunning display of guitar pyrotechnics from Tyler as Marilyn chanted, “You say God, I say Satan...”, and then began the ominous sounding medley of “The Dope Show” and ”I Don't Like The Drugs” from his 1998 album “Mechanical Animals” with their sing-a-long vocals over the fantastic rhythm section that had a dark groove as Tyler made some feedback-laden guitar racket that caught my attention with its intensity and virtuosity. Then it was time for the cover song that made him famous, a totally whacked out version of The Eurythmics' “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” from his 1995 EP “Smells Like Children” and he changed it up with bluesy sound that featured a phenomenal guitar solo from Tyler as Marilyn wildly flailed around the stage like he was a dancing scarecrow before he screeched the enigmatic lyrics and the crowd loved it as I wondered how much The Eurythmics were getting paid from his sickly beautiful performance...they must be getting something. In what I considered to be the highlight of their set, the band launched into a very melodic “Kill4Me” from his 2017 album “Heaven Upside Down” and I liked how his voice sounded as he menacingly growled the sarcastic and psychopathic words, “Your hotel-heart won't be so vacant, and I can tell that you ain't faking, because I take death threats, like the best of them, would you kill, kill, kill for me, I love you enough to ask you again, would you kill, kill, kill for me, you won't be kissing me unless you kill for me, kill, kill, kill for me...”, and all over the terse percussion of Gil Sharone, and he was one intense drummer, and once again the band ended the song with yet another crisp and blues-y guitar solo from Tyler. Drummer Gil took the lead with some grinding stop-and-go percussion that built into the booming bass groove of “Anti-Christ Superstar”, the title-track from his fantastic top-selling 1996 album, and the crew put into place a very large podium lined with a lot of microphones so Marilyn could do his fascist leader thing very well with ominous hand gestures as he raged against God's own fascism and it was a marvelous song with these deep political undertones but some of his stage props were soooooo cheesy! Marilyn began tapping out a groove on a bass that started the intro to “The Beautiful People” also from his 1996 album and then the thunderous rhythm section roared to life and Tyler began to maniacally slash at his guitar releasing these muscular and serpentine riffs as Marilyn screamed, “Hey you, what do you see, something beautiful or something free, hey you, are you trying to be mean, if you live with apes, man, it's hard to be clean, there's no time to discriminate, hate every motherfucker that's in your way...”, as he frantically paced the stage much to the delight of the audience and I really liked how he carried it off. They finished their twelve-song set with a new song called “Cry Little Sister” which was a Gerard McMahon cover from the iconic eighties film “The Lost Boys” movie soundtrack and which was their contribution to the soundtrack of the upcoming X-Men horror spinoff “The New Mutants” and the song turned out to be actually pretty good with its shimmery percussion and soaring vocals and Tyler took one last chance to show off on the guitar with a taut riff that went all over the place with searing precision...the essence of great metal guitar to the very end. The band melted in the dark as the house lights went up and I was actually surprised by how enjoyable his performance was to watch judging by the fact that his last couple of area performances were a bit lackadaisical and under-rehearsed but with his current band, it seems he has got it together as the band gave a solid performance that was well-paced and made you think with his lyrics...yes I was quite impressed...he has still got it! The crowd showed a lot of love for Marilyn Manson as they rapturously yelled and screamed like wild animals for more from the band, but they quickly left the stage as the crew reset things for Rob Zombie and it looked like a spectacular set for him as the crew rushed around with gear and stage props that made Marilyn Manson's look cheap and shoddy. Then it was showtime and Rob Zombie and his band; master guitarist John 5, bassist Piggy D, and former longtime Marilyn Manson drummer Ginger Fish, took the stage as it lit up like a giant garish technicolor cartoon Christmas tree to their ominous intro music “Sawdust In The Blood/Sinners Inc./Call Of The Zombie” and it was like a siren call for all their fans down on the floor as they started screaming and writhing to the beat as John 5 set his guitar on stun for a sinister “Meet The Creeper” from Rob's 1998 album “Hellbilly Deluxe” and drummer Ginger Fish pounded out the slithering groove as Rob growled, “Meet the Creeper take it deeper, meet the creeper yeah, yeah, ah I see the dead in your eyes, ah I transform in the skies, stabbing out the city's crowd, like a dagger falling on your baby, thrill the kill you know you will, feed the monster and the lady...”, and they had on these really cool stage costumes and sensational visuals on the video screens as they were off and running as they segued into a booming “Superbeast” also from “Hellbilly Deluxe” with its dark and intense drumming and searing guitar riffs molding into something you would hear at a Satanic go-go with the crowd chanting along and Rob made the whole thing very visceral to watch. Rob then announced that today was John 5's birthday and he thanked him for being a great person and a phenomenal guitarist and he got the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” to him as Ginger provided some rapid-fire percussion that erupted into the metal-pop of “Well, Everybody's Fucking In A U.F.O.” from his 2016 album “The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser” and I really like Rob Zombie's style of singing as the band morphed into a raucous version of “Living Dead Girl”, again from “Hellbilly Deluxe”, with its kinky bass-heavy beat and buzzsaw guitar and Rob has turned into quite the entertainer these days as he maniacally howled, “Crawl on me, sink into me, die for me, living dead girl...”, and the female members of the audience seemed to really love this song as they howled their appreciation like wild animals in heat. Rob made a few jokes about the band and dealing with the recent spate of rainy days that caused them to re-schedule a few shows and then they launched into the upbeat badass-ery of “In The Age Of The Consecrated Vampire We All Get High” from his album “The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser” and the music swirled like a buzzing swarm of killer bees led by the grinding stutter of John 5's guitar as Rob howled, “Well, I've got a jukebox stuck in my head, cracking on the grooves so bloody red, how can you make a move as bad as me, I thunder and roar like a rip in the sea, I swear I saw a goat last night, picking at the bones by a traffic light, you're either in the hell or out with me, cage this wild beast or set it free...”, and the rhythm section gave the heavy groove some powerful and muscular thrusts as they segued into the dirty funk of “Dead City Radio And The New Gods Of Supertown” from his 2013 album “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor” and Ginger showed off on a drum solo full of pounding double-time percussion and I really loved the “leer” of the song and the sing-song satanic nursery rhyme quality to the backing vocals, it was a hoot and Rob was merrily leading us down the path to impending doom with a grin and a wink of the eye. And what turned out to be the highlight of the evening was a pumped-up rendition of his former band White Zombie's “More Human Than Human” from their 1995 album “Astro-Creep: 2000” and his band turned it out and tore it up and it got the pit jumping as bodies were flying in a great big blur and I was amazed by the punters and their almost joyous energy, and then Rob maniacally howled with glee, “Fucker I ain't done yet, more human than human...”, and the crowd just exploded with raucous applause and cheering for more. I must say that Rob Zombie is one charismatic motherfucker and I just love him and his music! The very original John 5 began playing the wonderfully grinding intro to “Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Groovy)” from Rob's classic 2001 album “The Sinister Urge” and then the rhythm section just exploded with the serpentine groove that propelled the song as Rob roamed the colorfully lit stage and sneered the malevolent words, “Yeah, the devil ride it down the shore, he painted the monster red so the blood don't stain the floor, in and out, real savage show, the story of the shocking sickness, and watch it blow, yeah, never gonna stop me, never gonna stop, never gonna stop me, never gonna stop...”, and the band was lost in a whirlwind of pounding beats and searing riffs and strange and wild images on the video screens as they segued into what Rob called “a love song for the female fans”, a shimmering “The Hideous Exhibitions Of A Dedicated Gore Whore” from “The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser” album and the groove pulsed and throbbed like it was a strip club dance beat that was relentless and catchy as hell as Rob put on quite a musical circus sideshow extravaganza with his dancing and prancing like an insane circus barker. John 5 began playing these ominous bluesy riffs that pulsed with electricity as they went flying everywhere and Piggy D.'s bass playing was incredibly supple as he assaulted us with sonic waves of ocean-deep groove that was like a John Lee Hooker song on speed but it was a menacing-sounding “House Of 1000 Corpses” from Rob's “The Sinister Urge” album and the rhythm flew around and around until the band finished the song. Rob, Piggy, and Ginger walked off the stage as it turned blood red from the lights and on the front of the stage the number of the Beast “666” was garishly lit up in bright neon yellow lights as he went crazy on his guitar with some fleet-fingered pyrotechnics filled with layers of crunchy riffs and scorching licks that was a cross-genre mix of styles that got lost in the sonic maelstrom he produced with such tawdry elegance. Rob and the others returned and they launched into a super-charged version of “Thunder Kiss '65” from White Zombie's 1992 album “La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume One” as Rob screamed that were no phones allowed and the rhythm section thrashed away like they were a hardcore funk-rock band as they roared through the song at a lightning pace and then a giant devil puppet came out of the back and danced around the stage as the crowd went wild and it was one of my favorite moments of the night. I miss Sean! (former White Zombie bassist) Rob then said it was time for some punk rock and they jumped into a raucous version of The Ramones classic “Blitzkrieg Bop” that got the crowd in motion as they sledgehammered their way through the song and then they barreled into The Beatles' “Helter Skelter” and Rob invited Marilyn Manson to join them onstage and the two of them gleefully raged through the dark lyrics as they bounced across the stage until they danced offstage as John 5's squealing guitar peetered out into a squall of feedback and white noise. The stage went dark and the crowd went crazy and I was quite impressed by the show and then a movie trailer for Rob's upcoming feature film called “3 From Hell” appeared on the screens and it seemed pretty gruesome and scary with a great soundtrack, of course, and then the band burst into a percussion-driven “Dragula” from his 1998 album “Hellbilly Deluxe” and it was heavy metal perfection as Rob Zombie howled, “Dead I am the life, dig into the skin, knuckle crack the bone, twenty one to win, dead I am the dog, hound of hell you cry, Devil on your back, I can never die, dig through the ditches, and burn through the witches, I slam in the back of my Dragula, do it baby, do it baby, do it baby, do it baby, burn like an animal...”, and his band let loose with one last burst of molten metal madness as Ginger's bludgeoningly intricate drumming led the way to the end of the song and John 5 just went mental on his guitar as his fleet-fingered pyrotechnics with multiple riffs and licks overloaded my ears with their intensity as Piggy D. pounded at his own percussion set-up as the song disappeared into a maelstrom of sound, video, and lights and the band left the stage to the outro song “The Life And Times Of A Teenage Rock God” and I stood there stunned by their brilliant neon-lit over-the-top fourteen-song set that was way more entertaining than I expected it to be and it was almost like a Broadway musical with a story and all....and the show was quite spectacular in itself and it was a fantastic selection of modern-day heavy metal music! My buddy and I rushed out of the venue just as it was starting to rain but we beat the rest of the crowd out of the parking lot before it turned into a crowded wet and mad rush that took hours to navigate one's way out to get on home. Been there, done that...never again! This was the best large venue package show I saw this summer! Rock on Rob Zombie! Looking forward to the movie.
THE XX and KELSEY LU - July 27, 2018
The 9:30 Club - Washington, DC
It was yet another humid and rainy summer day as I headed uptown on the metro to the venerable 9:30 Club for the third and final sold-out show from The XX and my book publisher could not get me a ticket but my 9:30 pal Larry hooked me up with a ticket and a reserved stool in the upper balcony so I was feeling quite happy. The XX are actually one of the very few 21st century bands that I really love and admire them for their music, and even though my pal bassist Greta Brinkman (Drug Lord/Moby) once said they were “hipster twaddle”, however I dig them anyway. I entered the club and went upstairs to find my reserved stool with its great view of the stage and I thought about the two times I saw them play live at Merriweather Post Pavilion and they were brilliant with their well-constructed songs and their laconic delivery. First up tonight was Kelsey Lu who took the stage dressed in a wedding gown as she performed her melancholic EDM that was very trance-y and reminded me of Bjork as she droned on with her mellifluous voice as she swayed to her music that was mostly sequenced and pre-programmed, but she played a guitar on a couple of the songs in her five-song set. I sadly found her somewhat boring and her guitar playing skills were very rudimentary and the backing tracks were kind of lifeless and stationary and the songs were terribly repetitive, but thankfully she only performed five songs and then she quietly slipped off the stage to a smattering of applause. The stage crew cleared the stage of her minimal gear and plugged in The XX's equipment which was already set up and the crowd was getting excited but sedately as they waited for the show to start...damn lazy-ass millennials. The house lights went down and guitarist/vocalist Romy Madley Croft, bassist/vocalist Oliver Sim, and synthesizer player/percussionist Jamie “XX” Smith took the stage to rapturous applause as they opened with an upbeat and dance-y “Dangerous” from their 2017 album “I See You” with its dark and brooding synth riffs and Jamie's inventive electronic percussion that made me want to dance as Oliver sang the biting words, “They say we're in danger, but I disagree, if proven wrong, shame on me, but you've had faith in me, so I won't shy away, should it all fall down, you'll have been my favorite mistake...”, and Romy would accent the song with her succinct guitar playing. The three of them went straight into the moody “Islands” from their 2009 self-titled debut album with its clipped guitar riffs as Jamie made the song swing with his bank of electronic percussion instruments. They started the next song “Say Something Loving” from “I See You” with guitarist Romy's stuttering riff and a catchy chorus and I really liked how their voices complimented each other, and they have gotten way better as performers than they were last time I saw them live, plus I just love Jamie XX's electronic percussion that almost sounded like real instruments. Next they performed a really groovy version of “Crystalised” from their 2009 self-titled debut album that was powerful and full of melody as they made it exuberantly swing as their voices intertwined, “You've applied the pressure, to have me crystalised, and you've got the faith, that I could bring paradise...”, and the audience loved it. The next song was a Jamie XX remix of the lovely “Sunset” which was originally from their 2012 album “Coexist” and it was quite a beauty as Romy sang it ever so gently as she made her guitar play these big open chords as Oliver made his bass throb and pulse like the tides at the beach and Jamie XX knew how to work his gear beautifully almost like a heartbeat and they even enlivened the music with a bit of Madonna's “Ray Of Light” in the middle of the song. The band performed a shimmery “Reunion” also from “Coexist” with a lackadaisical attitude as Oliver sang the wistful words, “If I wait too long, I'll lose you from my sight, maybe tonight, I could stop dreaming, and start believing in forever, and ever and ever and ever again, reunion, reunion, never not ever, never not ever again...”, and Romy's guitar gently wept with these extended barre chords as the band morphed into a dark and seething “A Violent Night” from “I See You”...and I loved it! They moved into the gorgeous love song “I Dare You” also from their latest album and it was so elegiac like a painting with extended notes just dripping all over the groove as the audience sang along with them with such passion. The band had the crowd screaming like a bunch of teeny-boppers as they left the stage and then Romy came back by herself and she thanked the audience for giving them a great last show on their tour, and then she played the sparse groove of “Performance” from “I See You” as she sang the lyrics from the bottom of her heart, “I'll put on a performance, I'll put on a show, it is a performance, I do it all so, you won't see me hurting, when my heart it breaks, I'll put on a performance, I'll put on a brave face, even when I was hiding, you could always find me...”, and she made her guitar howl with a sense of angry loss. Oliver and Jamie XX returned and they joined in with Romy as they launched into a sensational rendition of “Infinity” from their 2009 self-titled debut album with its terse groove and gentle percussion as the song slowly built up into a storm of melody and cascading rhythms as the song reached its finale. Jamie XX started the next song “VCR” also from their debut and it kicked off with loping electronic beats that Oliver accented with deep bass lines as they harmonized together, “Watch things on VCRs, with me and talk about big love, I think we're superstars...”, and there was a palatable feeling of genuine love between them as Romy closed the song with some staccato guitar-playing that was wonderful to hear. Oliver talked to the audience about them touring for the past two years and how he can not wait to get back home to England to see his parents and he would like to dedicate the next song to the LGBT community and then Jamie XX's precision percussion opened “Fiction” from their 2012 album “Coexist” as Oliver sang the prescient words and he really touched my heart with his message as Romy made her guitar soar with her delicate riffs as Jamie XX added layers of percussive sound that just swirled around and around so elegantly with its almost funky beat. Then it was time for Jamie XX to shine with a heavily percussive intro to “Shelter” from their debut album and Romy and Oliver joined him with a deep groove as they sang in unison, “Maybe I had said, something that was wrong, can I make it better, with the lights turned on, maybe I had said, something that was wrong, can I make it better, with the lights turned on, could I be, was I there, it felt so crystal in the air...”, and the audience joined them in singing along to the disco-fied beats and flashing lights as Romy played a great cascading guitar riff that I got lost in as they crescendo-ed into a new song called“Loud Places” and Jamie XX made the beat jump and thump and the crowd roared its approval with great delight as Jamie XX took the stage by himself and he kicked off with the hardcore techno of brand new song “On Hold” and he deftly played his patented “Jamie XX remix” that got the crowd jumping and cheering and then Romy and Oliver walked back on to the stage with their instruments and they launched into a shimmery “Intro” from their debut album that swirled with layers of flowing rhythms and samples as they sang about the dangers of love. Romy announced that the three of them would be playing their last song of the night and they gently began the heavenly “Angels” from their 2012 album “Coexist” and it seemed like they were performing the song with a bit more edge as their voices rose in perfect harmony as they sang the hopeful words, “And everyday, I'm learning about you, the things that no one else sees, and the end comes too soon, like dreaming of angels, and leaving without them, and leaving without them, being, as in love with you as I am...”, and then they wound it up with one last whirlwind of melody and rhythm that had the audience roaring with raucous cheers and heartfelt adulation as Romy, Oliver, and Jamie XX basked in the glowing applause as they wished us a goodnight and rushed off the stage. I was blown away by their stunning and magnificent seventeen-song set that was emotionally touching and left me with a sense of hope as I hurriedly rushed out of the venue to get home. I was totally impressed by their performance that was tight and in sync and the songs were well-written and crafted to entertain while educating you, and I must say that I love The XX and I cannot wait to see them again.
ERASURE and CAROLINE & REED - July 21, 2018
The Warner Theatre - Washington, DC
It was a surprisingly nice and pleasant summer day but with a fast-moving cloudy sky as I walked down into the Stadium/Armory metro to take the train downtown to the historical Warner Theatre to see the always fabulous Erasure on their “World Be Gone World Tour” and this was the first of two sell-out shows and it was the second iconic British band with a gay singer that I have seen this week, the first being Boy George and Culture Club whom I saw on Wednesday at Wolf Trap with The B-52s who also have a gay singer coincidentally. So I put on my best “snotty gay face” and wearing my favorite Divine t-shirt and I strutted into the venue and sashayed to my third row seat giving some fierce attitude and I sat down with a great big smile on my face. I have loved Erasure since they released their first album “Wonderland” in 1986, but since at that time I was well-known on the local music scene as a “rock guy” and one just did not ever admit that to anybody that you liked Erasure, and it was mainly due to the homophobic attitudes of the time and plus there were no discernible guitar parts in their songs, but the times have really changed for the better since I saw them perform at the original 9:30 Club on F Street on May 14, 1987 for the “Circus” tour and I watched and stage-worked for them several more times over the years up to September 2014 when I saw their “The Violet Flame” tour at a sold-out 9:30 Club show when they were regaining popular appeal with their music...a comeback of sorts if you will. Erasure are just one of my favorite 'comfort food' bands who just made me feel good when I was facing obstacles in life, and as I was getting comfortable in my beyond fabulous seat, I noticed that their stage set-up would fit in a medium-sized moving truck with room to spare, it was sparse but as I will witness tonight, a very effective presentation with nominal production values and I guess that is the wonder of modern sound technology, and all the while the PA was booming with a marvelous mix of synth-pop classics that had my head a'boppin' and my toes a'tappin'...Kraftwerk...OMD...Shriekback...Human League...Soft Cell, and etc....and then it was time for the opener, New York City-based Reed & Caroline, who are an EDM duo consisting of instrumentalist Reed Hays and vocalist Caroline Schutz and the two of them are on tour supporting their brand new album “Hello Science” on Erasure's Vince Clarke's music label Very Records. They opened the set with a furiously upbeat song called “Travel With Me” that had a nice Kraftwerk-esque groove and percolating electronic percussion that kept it moving at an jaunty pace and then Reed played some sort of stringed instrument like a dulcimer that had a nice bass sound as his tiny set-up produced an angsty beat that just marched on and on but pleasantly, however their sound got kind of tepid and repetitive after a couple of songs. Caroline had a lovely dulcet-toned voice that sometimes made her sound like she was singing a lullabye to a small child but what she sang did have some positive lyrics that were trying to affect everyone in a positive way and sometimes her voice reminded me of Alison Moyet, who incidentally was the singer that Vince Clarke wrote and played music for in Yaz(oo) earlier in his career and they were estranged for many years until they reunited in 2008 for a few concerts and a live recording. Reed played some very lush and orchestral music that sometimes reminded me of the Human League and then sometimes Kraftwerk, but their music was concise and well-written and held my attention. They played a pleasant seven-song set that was an inventive take on the EDM formula and I really liked the song called “Singularity” and they had some cool images flowing on the large screen behind them that also vaguely entertained me. Reed & Caroline finished and walked offstage as the stage crew cleared their equipment and then re-checked Erasure's rather unusual 'jungle gym' set-up with Vince's gear set up above the fray in a framed box flanked by two large frames with an opaque screens in them. The place had finally filled up to capacity and everyone eagerly awaited for Erasure to start the show, and then the houselights went down and Andy Bell ran on stage with the two backing vocalists behind the framed screens and Vince Clarke up above and they opened with an almost spiritual “Oh L'Amour” from their 1986 debut album “Wonderland” and it had the audience on their feet as the crisp rhythms filled the venue as everybody sang along with Andy as he sang, “Oh l'amour, broke my heart, now I'm aching for you, mon amour, what's a boy in love, supposed to do, looking for you, you were looking for me, always reaching for you...”, and damn, Andy has aged over the years. They flowed into the gentle and soothing rhythms of “Ship Of Fools” from their 1988 album “The Innocents” and it was a gorgeous version that was sublime and smooth and the two backing singers added some humanity with their wonderful voices. Andy joked about having to kill a mosquito in this swampy weather that has given him a summer cold as Vince started the loping percussion of “Breathe” from their 2005 album “Nightbird” and it rocked in a gentle way and then they went right into a techno-tinged “Just A Little Love” from their recent album “World Be Gone” and it had a very modern tone to it as the song pulsed along with gentle ease. The very second the electronic percussion of “Chains Of Love” from the “The Innocents” album started its catchy hook, the crowd was on their feet again and singing along at the top of their lungs with Andy as he crooned, “Do you remember, there was a time ahaha, when people on the street, were walking hand in hand in hand, they used to talk about the weather, making plans together, days would last forever, come to me, cover me hold me, together we'll break these chains of love...”, and I tell you, when straight people love a song, they make it their own, but there was beauty in the song's message...it was just gorgeous! Next they performed a touching ballad called “Sweet Summer Loving” from “World Be Gone” and the sparse percussion and synth washes made for a beautiful song that was emotional and touching as Andy traded vocals with the two backup singers, and they followed that with an oddly perky “Victim Of Love” from their 1987 album “Circus” and the song had the place jumping as Andy sang with such passion, “I don't wanna look, like some kind of fool, I don't wanna break, my heart over you, I'm building a wall, everyday it's getting higher, this time I won't end up, another victim of love...”, and the audience loved it as the percussion made it swing and dance so elegantly to the beat. The somber beat of “Phantom Bride” from the album “The Innocents” began to pulse and throb so elegiacal as the crowd swayed back and forth as Andy sang about comforting someone close to him, and the beat flowed into the melancholic title-track “World Be Gone” from their recent album and Vince made the song sweeping and majestic as Andy crooned his heart out. The band went into the classic gay disco of “Who Needs Love Like That” from their debut album “Wonderland” and the manic beat just rolled over me with a wink and a sneer as he sang the biting words, “Love can turn you upside-down, then leave you cold, it's plain to see, you're losing all control, who needs love like that, who needs love like that...”, and I really wished I could still dance like a champion. Andy paused and spoke of his undying love for Debbie Harry and Blondie and she was the reason that he cut his hair and dyed it blonde in honor of Debbie and then Vince launched into a electro-pop version of Blondie's “Atomic” and they made it their own as the three singers' voices rose in perfect harmony as the groove grinded along with a bit of clatter that made the song shudder in ecstasy...it was an awesome version and Debbie Harry and Chris Stein would have been proud. Next they went into the big beat of “Love To Hate You” from their 1991 album “Chorus” which was one of my favorite songs by them and the beat jumped and thumped along as Vince's synths swirled with the sassy melody as Andy sang, “And the lovers that you sent for me, didn't come with any satisfaction guarantee, so I'll return them to the sender, and the note attached will read, how I love to hate you, I love to hate you, I love to hate you...”, and the crowd went wild as they joyfully sang along with them. Andy said the next song was “a twisted love song” with a Motown edge called “Take Me Out Of Myself” from “World Be Gone” and Andy sang it with such gusto over a very sparse rhythm that was flowing out of the PA that Vince was deftly producing with a jaded perspective and Andy's love of Gladys Knight and her voice really showed in the song. He babbled on about taking up crochet and how bad he was at it and then Vince started the symphonic beats of “Blue Savannah” from their 1989 album “Wild!” and everyone sang along so happily as the subtly deep rhythms glided through the song like a soaring eagle as Vince's fingers fluttered across his keyboard and when they finished, the crowd roared their approval. Next the band performed one of their biggest singles, a raucous “Drama!” also from “Wild!” and it was quite powerful and full of jaunty rhythms and disco-esque synth fills that had the place jumping and cheering then Vince picked up his guitar and strummed a nice intro to “Love You To The Sky” from “World Be Gone” that he peppered with some rock-a-billy riffs that were big and booming as Andy crooned the words, “And you blow me away to the soul, will you be my port in a storm, and I want to climb inside your head, I'm stronger to know that you care, I love you to the sky, sky, sky, sky, I'll not tell you lies, lies, lies, lies...”, and then Andy made some jokes about the cold medicine he was taking tonight to stifle his cold. The signature synth riff of “Sometimes” from their 1987 album “Circus” began playing and the crowd was ecstatic as he sighed, “Ooh sometimes, it's the broken heart that decides...”, while the electronic horn wailed so languidly as the song slowly faded away, and Andy thanked us for coming to the show and then the synths twinkled their way through a pulsating “Always” from their 1994 album “I Say I Say I Say” and Andy's voice danced with the melody to the beat so gracefully. He then spoke of how he just loves American drugstores and how it seemed to him that Americans appeared to be a bunch of hypochondriacs with so many drugs and pills for everything under the sun, and then they started into the pulsing and exuberant beat of “Stop!” from the 1988 EP “Crackers International” and it rocked the crowd into a near-frenzy, but the song was glorious and the three singers let it rip as they impassionedly belted out, “Stop! Stand there where you are, before you go too far, before you make a fool out of love, stop, don't jump before you look, get hung upon a hook...”, and then they left the stage and the audience erupted with cheers and cries for more. I was just electrified and after a few minutes they returned and burst into a flamboyant over-the-top rendition of the real crowd-pleaser “A Little Respect” from their 1988 album “The Innocents” and Andy had the whole place totally lost in the joyous rhythms and grooves as he crooned, “I try to discover, a little something to make me sweeter, oh baby, refrain from breaking my heart, I'm so in love with you, I'll be forever blue, that you give me no reason, why you're making me work so hard, soul, I hear you calling, oh baby, please give a little respect to me...”, and the song seemed to be the perfect ending to a perfect night...it was just absolutely flawless. Erasure's twenty-song set was an incredible selection of all their songs over the years that showed just how diverse their influences and styles are and how they went on to influence the next generation of musicians. The whole performance was well thought out and choreographed to the second, and Andy turned out to be quite a comedian as his chatter between the songs was quite amusing and his well-timed delivery made the audience roar with laughter. This was one of the better shows that I have seen over the past couple of months and I really liked how diverse their audience was, gay, straight, young, old, and all races. It made me feel hopeful for the human race. Thank you Andy and Vince!
BOY GEORGE & CULTURE CLUB, THE B-52S, and TOM BAILEY (THE THOMPSON TWINS) - July 18, 2018
Filene Center At Wolf Trap - Vienna, VA
It was just the perfect summer day as my best friend Scott and I headed out west in his car to the Filene Center at Wolf Trap to see three of my favorite bands from the eighties; the Thompson Twins' Tom Bailey, the lovely The B-52s from Athens, GA, and from England, the fantastic Boy George and Culture Club, and it should be an awesome night. We arrived there and parked for an quick exit and then we had a fabulous buffet dinner at Ovations located on-site and then we went to our lovely seats in the center of the venue by the sound board and waited for the night to begin. First up was the dapper Tom Bailey from The Thompson Twins who were playing their greatest hits but I saw the set list and no “Sugar Daddy” which was my favorite song by them, so Tom and his three-piece all-female band took the stage as their intro music played and they opened with “Love On Your Side” from The Thompson Twins' 1983 album “Quick Step & Side Kick” with its terse electro-percussion and ominous keyboard riff that propelled the song forward as Tom sang, “And I don't understand just what I'm doing to myself, I guess that's nothing new, cause when you meet someone who doesn't follow all the rules, it changes everything you do, cause you got love, love, love on your side...”, and it had a groovy percussion break. Next Tom strapped on his guitar and launched into the Latin-tinged “What Kind Of World?” from his brand-new solo album “Science Fiction” and it was a nice song full of the driving percussion of drummer Paulina Szczepaniak and the dual swirling synthesizer lines of keyboardist/vocalist Charlotte Raven and keyboardist/vocalist Amanda Kramer that made the song very lively and full of slithery funky grooves. Next they played a harmonica-led “You Take Me Up” from The Thompson Twins' 1984 album “Into The Gap” that was jaunty and very perky and it made me want to dance, and then the band breathed new life into the song “Lies” from the “Quick Step & Side Kick” album as they made the wicked groove dance with all kinds of poly-rhythms as Tom belted out, “Lies, lies, lies...”, and the crowd loved it. They flowed into a soulful rendition of “Lay Your Hands On Me” from The Thompson Twins' 1985 album “Here's To Future Days” and they played it with a re-vamped arrangement and they made it rock as Tom squeezed some noisy chords out of his guitar while Amanda and Charlotte traded some shimmery synth washes as the three of them empathetically sang the chorus, “When it almost seemed too much, I see your face and sense the grace, and feel the magic in your touch, oh, lay your hands, lay your hands on me, oh, lay your hands, woo hoo, oh, lay your hands, oh, lay your hands on me, oh, lay your hands...”, and the audience drowned them in cheers of approval. Tom then introduced his fellow band members and also he thanked all the people who work really hard for them behind the scenes and then they burst into the melodious “If You Were Here” from “Quick Step & Side Kick” and it sounded so lovely as he rocked a cool synth solo and he sang the song from his heart with such genuine emotion. Next the band performed a jumping and jiving version of “Doctor! Doctor!” from The Thompson Twins' album “Into The Gap” that also had an updated arrangement and Tom strummed his guitar and wistfully sang the lovelorn words and then he noodled out the signature melody line on his synthesizer as the audience screamed their appreciation. He then ended their eight-song set with a wonderfully over-the-top version of their biggest hit single “Hold Me Now” also from “Into The Gap” that was really touching as he lead the audience in enthusiastically singing, “You say I'm a dreamer, we're two of a kind, both of us searching, for some perfect world, we know we'll never find, so perhaps I should leave here, yeah, yeah, go far away, but you know that there's nowhere that I'd rather be, than with you here today, oh whoa, oh, whoa, hold me now, whoa...”, and Tom sang it with such passion and warmth for the whole world and his band was tight and melodious as they flowed melodiously behind him before they took their bows and left the stage to a very appreciative audience who just loved their brief set. The crew worked quickly to reset the stage for the next band and after a few minutes the lights went down and video screens began showing a brief history of the The B-52s and then Fred Schneider, Cindy Wilson, Kate Pierson, and their band walked onstage and grabbed their instruments and launched into a lively “Planet Claire” from their 1979 self-titled debut album with pizzazz as Kate Pierson sang an extended note with a heavily effected tone and Fred Schneider burst into the nonsensical lyrics, “Ahhhahhahhahh, she came from Planet Claire, I knew she came from there, she drove a Plymouth Satellite, faster than the speed of light, Planet Claire has pink hair, all the trees are red, no one ever dies there, no one has a head...”, and bassist Tracy Wormworth stomped out the muscular groove as they continued with a languid “Strobe Light” from their 1980 album “Wild Planet” and it rocked with its frenetic beat that was so infectious that one could not dance...you just could not. Fred made a few bad jokes and then they rushed into a stomping rendition of “Mesopotamia” the title-track from their 1982 EP and the song had a re-vamped arrangement as they sincerely sang in perfect harmony as the drummer Sterling Campbell pounded out the fierce beat. Next the band kicked into the sassy beat of “Lava” from their debut album which was about fellatio and they burned it up as the vocal harmonies just weaved their way in and out of my ears as the three of them joyously sang, “I'm gonna let it go, let it flow like Pompeii or Herculaneum, let it sizzle, let it rise, don't let your lava love flow turn to stone, keep it burnin', keep it burnin' here at home, I'm gonna jump in a crater, see ya later, oooo hot lava, oooo hot lava, hot lava, red hot lava, yeah...”, with glee and elation as they moved into a giddy “Private Idaho” from “Wild Planet” that they sang the clever words so fiercely over the taut guitar playing of Greg Suran. Fred made a wry joke about being on the most dangerous bands list in Russia and it said that they promoted anarchy and that gave the band the giggles as they went into the manic beat of “52 Girls” from their debut album that had the crowd madly dancing and the drummer Sterling led them immediately into the highlight of their set, a wonderfully lush “Roam” from their 1989 album “Cosmic Thing” that brought the audience to their feet as the band tore the song up as Fred, Kate, and Cindy harmonized together with such synchronicity, “Roam if you want to, roam around the world, roam if you want to, without wings without wheels, roam if you want to, roam around the world, roam if you want to, without anything but the love we feel...”, and the crowd was delighted as the guitarist Greg shredded his axe with a brilliant fury that lit the song up and he was on fire with riffs flying everywhere as the band went into a frenetic “Party Out Of Bounds” from their 1980 album “Wild Planet” and it was awesome as the band smoked through the song with its punchy percussion and Tracy's earth-rumbling bass. The band then slowed the tempo down and went into the seductive groove of “Give Me Back My Man” also from “Wild Planet” and they were so tight as the song rolled out in gentle waves and Cindy's voice sounded fantastic as Fred played the xylophone and keyboardist Ken Maiuri added some sparkle with some lovely melody runs. Next they took turns introducing each other to the audience and then everyone launched into their biggest hit single, a heartwarming “Love Shack” from “Cosmic Thing” and they made the groove bristle as they made the beat jump forward and everybody got on their feet and they played a small interlude of War's “Lowrider” that merged perfectly as they flowed back into “Love Shack” and their vocal harmonies were impeccable. The B-52s finished their eleven-song set with an uproarious “Rock Lobster” from their 1979 debut album “The B-52's” that had the whole house up and dancing with abandon as their voices weaved in and out with each other as the three of them made strange vocal sounds as they sang in unison, “We were at the beach, eww, everybody had matching towels, eww, somebody went under a dock, eww, and there they saw a rock, eww, it wasn't a rock, eww, was a rock lobster, eww, aaaah rock lobster...”, with such joy and their band just went off so spectacularly on their instruments until they finished and waved goodnight and left the stage. The crew set to work and readied the stage for the final band of the night and the house lights went down and Boy George and Culture Club hit the stage and opened with a booming cover of David Bowie's 1983 classic “Let's Dance” and it was an excellent version that was bouncy and the band finished it with a sweltering saxophone solo instead of the guitar that gave me the chills. Next the band went into a joyous and upbeat rendition of “It's A Miracle” from their 1983 album “Colour By Numbers” that was full of swing as Boy George belted out, “Guns that cross the street, you never know who you might meet, who's in disguise, ooh as you blow a storm, there's no one there, to keep you warm, it's no surprise, there's something in my eyes, it's a miracle, it's a miracle, it's a miracle...”, and vocalist Mary Pierce, who sang with Chaka Khan back in the day, added some fierce diva gospel-esque wails to the song that made it so heavenly to me. Boy George shouted out “Welcome to the Culture Club experience!” and they went into a new arrangement of “I'll Tumble 4 Ya” from their 1982 album “Kissing To Be Clever” and it was played like a swing song and the jaunty beat of drummer Jon Moss that made the soulful groove sound great as the percussionist pounded out an intricate and serpentine solo part and the dancing audience and I just loved it. Boy George told a few more funny jokes like he was a professional game show host and with a sweep of his hands the band started playing the gentle reggae-ish groove of “Let Somebody Love You” from their unreleased 2015 album “Tribes” and I was impressed by the song and the keyboardist added these lavish hooks that livened up the music and everyone swayed along to the beat with a smile on their faces. Boy George was full of jokes galore and then he told us that back in the day, he really loved Gladys Knight and he was going to get her to sing with him on their forthcoming album. Next the band kicked into the sweet R&B of “Time (Clock Of The Heart)” from “Kissing To Be Clever” and it was beautiful and it is still one of my favorite songs by them and Boy George said the next number was #1 in thirty-two countries in its day in a humble brag kind of way and it was accented by great saxophone and flute solos and the band was fantastically tight as they slid into a sensual “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” from the same album and Boy George was just marvelous as he soulfully crooned, “Give me time to realize my crime, let me love and steal, I have danced inside your eyes, how can I be real, do you really want to hurt me, do you really want to make me cry, precious kisses, words that burn me, lovers never ask you why...”, over the bubbly reggae-ish groove that was in a kind of dub style that was driven by the deep and booming bass of Mikey Craig then came another soaring sax solo and the song was one of the best moments of their set...just brilliant! Next the band played a slow and languid “The Truth Is A Runaway Train” from their unreleased 2015 album “Tribes” and it was in the vein of classic soul as they had everyone up on their feet and swaying to the intoxicating beat and then they moved into the groovy funk of “Different Man” from their 2017 album/DVD “Live At Wembley – World Tour 2016” and it reminded me of a cross between The Time's uptown funk and Sly Stone's psychedelic soul and it was a uplifting song about redemption and I liked how it flowed like a sixties soul-stomper that ended up as a pair of duets between Boy George and his backing vocalists Mary Pierce and Vangelis Polydorous and it was just wonderful as their sublime voices danced together in the mix. Then it was time for the band to perform my two all-time favorite Culture Club songs; first they got a real work-out with a jumping bass-driven “Miss Me Blind” from their 1983 album “Colour By Numbers” that was full of joy as their vocal harmonies soared above the crowd as they roared its approval and it was my favorite performance of the night and the band was just rocking as guitarist Roy Hay went ballistic on his instrument...just wow! They went straight into a glorious rendition of “Church Of The Poison Mind” from the same album that drummer Jon Moss led off the band with an extended percussion breakdown that Boy George accented with a crisp and fluttery harmonica solo before he crooned the wise words, “Just move your feet and you'll feel fine, who would be the fool to maybe, trick a kiss in time, who am I to say that's crazy, love will make you blind, in the church of the poison mind, in the church of the poison mind...”, and his voice sounded great as the clipped beat drove the song as all of the musicians took a few minutes to shine on their respective instruments until they walked off the stage to the crowd's roaring approval as we cheered for more of their beautiful music. After a brief moment, Culture Club returned to the stage and launched into an uplifting and soulfully jaunty rendition of “You Give Me Hope” from their forthcoming new album and it showed that they still got it after all these years because the song was just magnificent as Boy George sang of the enduring power of hope and love over the full symphonic force of the band and then they went into a deep soul version of Robert Palmer's 1986 classic “Addicted To Love” that had everybody dancing along as the rhythm section gave it a crisp new-jack beat that made it jump and pulse. Culture Club finished their thirteen-song set with a shimmery “Karma Chameleon” from their 1983 album “Colour By Numbers” and Boy George really outdid himself with an out-of-this-world vocal performance as he sang, “I'm a man without conviction, I'm a man who doesn't know, how to sell a contradiction, you come and go, you come and go, karma karma karma karma karma chameleon, you come and go, you come and go...”, and the band elegantly swirled away into a whirlwind of melody as my friend and I quietly made our way through the rapturous crowd to the exit so we could beat the rush out of the place. We quickly made our way to our car and hit the road and sped our way back into DC as we reminiscenced about how wonderful the bands were tonight and all three of them brought back such great memories and it was nice to see that they were keeping vibrant as their songs become a part of our cultural vernacular. Cheers guys and gals!
HONEY, TIRED ALL THE TIME, and THE SARA CURTIN FIVE - July 16, 2018
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
It was one of those weird weather days as it was sunny and then it was raining and then it was sunny again as I headed to Fort Reno Park for the annual concert series and tonight featured Honey, Tired All The Time, and Sara Curtin from noted locals The Sweater Set, and I did not know what to expect. First up tonight was Honey who are a female trio consisting of vocalist/bassist Saman, drummer Ebony, and guitarist Karen, and they played some pretty melodic post-punk rock and the three of them showed that they are quite skilled on their instruments especially the guitar player...she could shred. Their songs were well-constructed and they each had a nice melody to them and the drummer held down the solid groove as the vocalist sang her lovely words with great bravado as she made her bass throb and pulse ever so gently behind the guitarist's crunchy riffs, and sometimes the songs were quite beautiful with a great balance of music and lyrics that showed the vocalist's emotional depth and they never really reminded me of any other band which was great. I really enjoyed their nine-song set with their hooky songs that were catchy and fun to dance to and the lyrics were actually quite engaging and full of deep meaning. The second band tonight was locals Tired All The Time who were a quartet consisting of vocalist/keyboardist Edward Barakauskas, guitarist M. Richard Talley, bassist Brian Miller, and drummer Daniel Euphrat, and they played some Joy Division-influenced doomy noise-rock that was deep and somewhat heavy as the singer sang his blunt socio-political words with a sneer as he made some interesting melody runs on his keyboards. The guitar player had some really cool riffs and licks that danced in-between the keyboardist's dancing notes while the rhythm section just pounded away at an easy gait, but the vocals got lost sometimes, however the band had a nice groove that made them listenable as they warmed up and started to play with punch as the keyboardist's synthetic beats played off the drummer's terse percussion with goth-y undertones, but I did get tired of the heavily effected vocals. I found their seven-song set to be somewhat enjoyable as the beat ebbed and flowed as the singer sang the succinct lyrics with an edge of sadness that explained the goth influences but with the singer's porn star mustache...very disconcerting sometimes. The final act of the evening was Sara Curtin from The Sweater Set and she was accompanied by her quartet and they performed basically adult contemporary with an indie edge that reminded me of The Indigo Girls as Sara sang of the important things in life as her band grooved along with her country-fied rhythm section as the guitarist Olivia Mancini noodled away on his instrument and the songs were quite lovely as she sang her thought-provoking words. I found their music quite slow and plodding and a little lacking but I liked how she phrased her lyrics and it made you listen intently, particularly on the song “So It Seems” from her latest album and the idyllic song “Summer” that drummer Ryan Walker gave some punch with his steady beat. But then I received a phone call and I had to leave abruptly but I saw them play five songs that made me think that I would not mind seeing them again.
TACITURN, BORN DAD, and THE MESSTHETICS - July 12, 2018
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
It was once again a beautiful summer day as I headed uptown on the metro to Fort Reno Park for the latest show in their annual concert series and tonight featured some local favorites with post-punkers Taciturn, gay rockers Born Dad, and DC's latest supergroup The Messthetics who feature the rhythm section of Fugazi so tonight should be quite a show. First up was Taciturn who are a trio who play minimalist post-punk with an intense ferocity as they raced through their songs. The rhythm section was exceptionally tight as the drummer Kevin Ralph bashed away at his kit over the bassist Natasha Janfaza's loping bass lines as vocalist/guitarist Nyle Hamidi made his axe wail and howl with several effects making him sound possessed but you could hardly hear his vocals and I could never quite decide what their songs were saying but their music did have a nice danceable beat. They seemed to wear their influences on their sleeves as the band seemed a bit derivative of PIL and The Damned and they never stood out as playing something that was all their own but at least their music was interesting, particularly the song “Taxman” with its surging riffs and intricate bass line. Taciturn ended their seven-song set with a wall of effected guitar noise that pulsed and throbbed over the rock-steady drumming and studied bass lines that they were playing with a slight sense of boredom as the song reached its explosive and cataclysmic ending. The second band tonight was Born Dad who were a female-led group with a male drummer and they were very LGBTQ-positive, and I was expecting a more raucous sound from them but they played more traditional roots-rock with a saxophone but they sang some pretty modern lyrics about real world issues like about the struggles of gay people in this world. They played a pretty interesting set and some of their songs were blues-tinged but their songs were really short but sadly, they are sounded the same, however Born Dad were bearable because of the inventive playing of the sax player and they sort of reminded me of legendary seminal girl band Fanny. Their eight-song set was interesting and thought-provoking but I felt their music lacked punch when they should be in your face and visceral judging by the content of their lyrics. The final band of the evening was local “supergroup” The Messthetics who featured the rhythm section of bassist Brendan Canty and drummer Joe Lally of the legendary Fugazi and hotshot guitarist Anthony Pirog and they are in the middle of the national tour for their debut album and they took the stage and roared to life with their muscular and serpentine instrumental jazz-metal-punk music that was full of twists and turns that they played with ease. The three of them played the crunchy “Serpent Tongue” and the scorching “Quantum Path” and the audience loved it but I was getting hot and itchy from the insects that were landing on us in their search for blood, so I decided to leave because I was feeling a bit overheated and I made my way to the metro to head on home to rest in the air-conditioning in the dark. All in all it was a pretty good show that I immensely enjoyed but it was just too hot.
ALLTHEBESTKIDS - July 11, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was yet another hot and sweaty day as I wandered around the city aimlessly before I had to head to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see local favorites Allthebestkids play their multi-genre feel-good hip-hop psyche rock music that will hopefully put me in a good mood. I arrived at the Kennedy Center a little bit earlier than usual so I caught the band's soundcheck and found their sound very interesting and unique which made me look forward to seeing them. Today's gig was a part of the monthly showcase sponsored by Hometown Sounds podcast and their reps took the stage and gave their spiel about the aims and goals of their organization then they introduced the band as the ten members of Allthebestkids took the stage and picked up their instruments and opened with their first song that started with the drummer Cati Sesana's smooth beat that was punctuated by tuneful blasts from the horns of saxophonist David Whitehead and trombonist Wes Boling as vocalist Anya Ross crooned so beautifully as rapper Cody Valentine dressed in a silver suit dropped some succinct socio-political lyrics and the song was quite good that reminded of an amped-up Fifth Dimension. The pianist Christiana Vandermale was a fantastic player as she picked the notes and Cody let some insightful lyrics flow with ease over the almost funky groove that got even funkier as they moved into the horn-driven groove of “Where Did You Go” and several balloons bounced into the crowd causing the audience to wake up and dance to the stuttering guitar of Will Pierce and the song ended with a cacophonous rush of sound and music. Cody dedicated the next number “I Want You Bad” to the strong women in our lives and Anya sang some very positive lyrics as Christiana made some squiggly sounds on her synthesizer as the horns wailed away as they segued into the very modern sounds of the next song and it had an ominous edge to it as the two singers traded vocals so nicely as they rallied the audience to embody love and to be their best selves. The next song “Drunk Logic” started out like an old R&B number that humorously discussed people's bad decisions and how to overcome them with a positive mental attitude as the band languidly flowed into the staccato beat of “Talk To Me” that had a tight groove that the drummer Cati kept taut and crisp as the various melodies flowed around her as the horns sounded like the house band at Stax Records. For the song “Child Of My Condition” the band got a little reggae-ish sounding as Cody sang about making the best of any situation that one may find oneself in...”I might dream but I keep on swimming...”...it was my favorite song of their set and it seemed to say the most relevant things. The band got a little dark on the next song “Nothing Left” as they crooned wistfully about losing touch with reality as the horns ebbed and flowed throughout the song as the piano added these little melody runs. They really rocked on “Unsung Hero” which was about Cody's deceased uncle and the bassist Kevin Kask was booming and zooming over the crisp percussion and the various horn solos as the band careened rhythmically through the song and it featured the best guitar solo of their set from Will Pierce. Next the band played a somber “Into The Lost Woods” that was about not giving up and striving for more as the beat gently grooved and made the melody wind its way into my ears as they crescendo-ed into a blur of notes and chords. Allthebestkids finished their twelve-song set with the tight groove of “Dream Masters” which was about making one's deepest dreams come true with hard work and perseverance as they tenaciously roared through the upbeat song. The audience responded with tumultuous applause and cheering and I was really impressed by their performance and the earnestness that they exhibited with some great music and I recommend that if you get the chance...go see them.
COOL BABY, WE CAPILLARIES, and KING SOUL - July 9, 2018
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
It was a fantastically beautiful summer day as I headed out from my house to Fort Reno Park for an evening of local music with Cool Baby, We Capillaries, and King Soul who feature Mark Noone of The Slickee Boys fame and it looks to be a rather raucous evening. First up was Cool Baby who are a horn-enhanced septet that play old-school sixties-style R&B and they opened with a loping beat that the guitarist Reid Williams crooned some heartfelt words that was capped by two cool melody runs by the horn players, trumpeter Julian Bregstone and saxophonist Zack Wathen. The band kept up their smooth groove that flowed like creamy butter as the keyboardist Ian Donaldson laid down a sparkling melody that drove the song. The rapper gave their music an updated edge as the groove just flowed through a lovely ditty and then they performed a number called “Mellow 105” that told a little story about their lives and it had a positive message. I found their music to be well-constructed and melodic and they had a lot of catchy hooks, but they have not quite gelled yet with a few disconnects but with some more stage experience they should get there. Cool Baby finished their six-song set with their summer single release “Single Life” which is available on most digital platforms except for the music service Tidal because the band says that “Jay-Z owes them money”. Next up was We Capillaries who were a quartet who played pretty basic rock and roll but with a didgeridoo player and it seemed that they played a lot of covers. They were pretty raw and loose and their songs seemed to fall apart towards the end of the song, however sometimes they played something that veered more to abstract free-form jazz especially when the saxophonist let loose with some cacophonous blasts from his horn, and the bassist added some nice stomp to the mix as they burned through their eight-song set. They were very pleasant to hear them perform but they were quickly forgotten once their set was finished with a squonk. The final band of the evening was King Soul who drew a lot of old-timers who wanted to mingle and chat with each other and totally unaware of the other people who came for tonight's festivities, but they are a septet dressed in matching red suits and they play old school soul music with a blues edge that they delivered with raucous verve and the music seemed to get the crowd up and moving to the beat as the band rocked that stage like they did in the old days with their various former bands that played the park back in the seventies and eighties. Sadly I got quite bored and easily distracted after a few songs because the guys made the music sound so old and dated, so I just left and I was hoping that the next gig is better.
YSAYE MARIA BARNWELL, BE STEADWELL, and CAROLYN MALACHI - July 7, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a beautiful sunny summer day as I slowly meandered downtown to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to help celebrate the Fortieth Anniversary of Roadwork DC, a group which has promoted women and their original music and helping them to play gigs all around the world. So tonight featured former Sweet Honey In The Rock vocalist Ysaye Maria Barnwell, the queer pop of Be Steadwell, and my favorite Grammy-nominated local R&B singer Carolyn Malachi and they will sing a variety of soulful music that makes the world more beautiful and the event happens to be part of the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The reps for Roadwork/Sisterfire got things started as they welcomed the audience to the show and they told us about the upcoming documentary film that has begun to document their forty year history and hopes for the future. The first performer Be Steadwell kicked things off with some fierce acapella singing and then she used a looping machine to create layers and layers of her voice until the synthesizer cranked out the repetitive drum beats and she said that she thinks a love song is just as revolutionary as a socio-political revolution song. I liked how she mixed musical genres as she sang her wonderful songs with an LGBT bent that she delivered with humor and style, particularly the lovely neo-soul stylings of “Ooo Baby Baby” written by Smokey Robinson and she even got the audience to sing along with her on the song's memorable chorus. Be Steadwell played a four-song set that just gave us a small taste of her music that made me wish that she was performing for the whole show, but I will settle for her overtly political song that mashed in a segment of “America The Beautiful” and then she got humorous with the words as she crooned, “Let's go home and have gay sex, we'll do it for the president and the sons of the confederates, oh they wish they could have love like us...”, and the song made me laugh my ass off. The next performer was Carolyn Malachi and her bassist Kendra Rutleigh and keyboardist Deanna joined them in a swirl of synthetic percussion and fragments of famous MLK quotes from his civil rights speeches and then the song kicked in with her beautiful soprano and her thought-provoking lyrics and she even skillfully rapped a bit. Her voice sounded great as she sang about loving yourself and she hit some high notes as the band ended the song. She asked the audience to visualize something that each of us wanted, anything at all, and then she let her voice soar as she sang her last number of her three-song set. To introduce tonight's final performer, singer/songwriter Toshi Reagon came to the stage and urged us to help make a change for the positive as she welcomed Ysaye Maria Barnwell, who sang in Sweet Honey In The Rock with her mother Bernice, to the stage and led off things by singing a prayer that morphed into the old spiritual “Kumbaya” and her performance was pretty intense. Next she brought new life to blues legend Odetta's “God's Gonna Cut You Down” as she belted it out with such passion and zeal, then Be and Carolyn joined her onstage and the three of them led the audience in singing about the power of women and unity and then Ysaye got the audience laughing and interacting and having a good times as she joined in with everyone lifting their voices to the sky. Then it was over and I rushed back in the stifling heat and headed home.
NO PLANS, VICTOR ARCHIE, and DON ZIENTARA - July 5, 2018
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
It was yet another boiling hot summer day as begrudgingly I made my way to Fort Reno Park to get my bi-weekly dose of local rock and roll, and so at the second show of the season I will get to see local bands, No Plans, Victor Archie, and legendary punk producer/engineer at Arlington's Inner Ear Studio...Don Zientara. So first up was No Plans who are quartet that play disjointed post-punk music that sort of reminded me of Gang Of Four meets The Buzzcocks but they give their music an original edge. The bassist Brian Moran and drummer Sam Sherwood provided a rock-steady bottom to the music as vocalist/guitarist Morgan Daniels dueled with the other guitarist Jason Mogavero as they sang their obtuse lyrics about some weird off-beat subjects like brains. They performed a cool rendition of their song “Eye To Eye” that had some real cool guitar parts that swirled around and round my ears. Their sound became a bit tedious after awhile as their songs all started to sound the same as they tweedled away on their instruments, but they were pleasant to hear but just not that memorable, but their eight-song set was interesting and they had something to say about making the world a better place by being better people. Next up was Victor Archie who are a guitar/bass duo with a drum machine providing percussion and they played some pretty traditional but mundane rock and roll and I found them to be pretty hard to listen to as they played some basic barre chords with way too much effects on the guitar and the vocals which made them even harder to understand through the noise, and their fake drummer was just plain annoying as hell, and I hate to say this, their songs just did not capture my interest. They played a brief four-song set that showed promise but they need to perfect their stagecraft and make their songs more interesting and ear-catching because the guitarist did have some cool riffs. The last act of the night was Don Zientara and his acoustic guitar and his performance was actually quite interesting as his guitar made some nice riffs as his lyrics told quite a story which was the best part of the show tonight. He reminded me of a modern-day John Prine as he made his guitar twang as he quietly sang his political without being too overtly political lyrics with a world-weary attitude particularly during a song called “Affirmation” and I also liked his conviction about surviving people and life on the song “So It Goes”. The sky was getting overcast with dark clouds that started sprinkling so I rushed to the metro after five songs to get home in a reasonable amount of time, but I did enjoy Don Zientara and would like to see him again in a more adult situation with beers.
A CAPITAL FOURTH CELEBRATION - July 4, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
LOTION PRINCESS, TIME IS FIRE, and DES DEMONAS - July 2, 2018
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
It was a stiflingly hot and humid summer afternoon as I headed uptown on the Red Line to the Fort Reno Park to attend the start of their annual concert series for its 50th Anniversary year with local-area bands, Lotion Princess, Time Is Fire, and Des Demonas, and as the first show of the season and it should be a nice and diverse gathering tonight. First up was Lotion Princess who are a quartet comprised of vocalist/keyboardist Sasha Fried-Snoad, guitarist Andrew Grossman, bassist Katie Parker, and drummer Dan Sachs, and they delivered a set of piano-driven music that sort of reminded me of Baltimore's Beach House and the vocalist Sasha sang their rather pointed lyrics about life in this world and the guitarist Andrew had a good ear for playing some intricate solos that caught my attention. Sasha's voice had a country-tinge to it and the rhythm section laid down a nice solid groove that was held down in the pocket as their voices complimented each other as they rose in harmony together. The band played some cover song by somebody that I did not recognized but they sounded okay and vocalist Sasha performed a song by herself with her keyboard and it showed off her plaintive vocal style as it soared over her sparse playing on her instrument. The band finished their seven-song set with a pair of songs that just gently swirled and flowed with a touch of melancholia as the crowd listened to them very receptively and gave them some warm applause, and then they played their gentle music with gentle ease and I kind of liked them as they finished up with the lovely reggae-tinged “Take Care” and it seemed like a good song to end their set on before they left the stage. The next band Time Is Fire went onstage and they are a quintet who played an almost maniacally spastic agit-funk and whose vocalist Kamyar Arsani dressed in an Arabic kufi costume as he spat out these very socio-political lyrics as the band pulsed with the electrified riffs of guitarist Matthew Perrone and the thundering waves of rhythm provided by bassist Ashish Vyas and drummer Jim Thomson that flew everywhere as they got a serious groove going as the two guitarists battled each other with intertwining riffs and licks and then they slammed into a song called “Sun” and vocalist Kamyar was quite emotive as he danced around the stage and they sometimes reminded me of sixties bands like The Doors and Iron Butterfly. Their music sometimes had an air of menace to it as the band played it like they meant it and I loved how the guitars sounded and played well together in perfect sync while the bassist Ashish held it all together with his throbbing and lyrical bass lines. My favorite song of their set was called “Stories Uncalled” that was pure controlled rage played in a Gang Of Four style that I really enjoyed and then they performed a song about “turning off your television and listening to music”, and the song had a great guitar riff propelling it forward. Time Is Fire played an engrossing six-song set that made you think and get funky, so I would not mind seeing them again as they left the stage. The final band of the night was Des Demonas and as they were starting their set, my phone rang with an urgent call and I had to leave, but from what I heard of their music as I was walking towards the metro, it seemed like I would have enjoyed them.
BEAUTY PILL - June 24, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
BOOMSCAT - June 14, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a gloriously beautiful summer day as I ventured downtown to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see the DC-based Peace & Body Roll Duo known as BOOMscat who consisted of multi-instrumentalist/producer Asha Santee (BOOM) and vocalist/songwriter Jennifer Patience Rowe (scat) and the two of them play hypnotic and soothing Hip Hop/R&B music in the vein of Floetry and Eryak Badu and they are going to be performing their new album “Kinetic (An emotional, meditative journey through life, love, and relationships)” with a full band tonight. They have been making a name for themselves for these past couple of years and they even were recognized by social media darlings BYT (Bright Young Things) as being one of their Top 25 Artists To Watch in 2015, and they have been touring regularly since then to much acclaim and with their new album “Kinetic” they hope to break big on the international level. At 6PM a vocal sample announced that they were setting the stage for their production as the band took the stage and Asha Santee began gently tinkling on her keyboard and then Jennifer started crooning ever so sultry as she let the words of their first song “Real Love” take control and then their guitarist Cody Taft let loose with a muted guitar snarl that accented Jennifer's vocal acrobatics. Next the band slid into the slinky rhythm of “Like Water” and they tore it up with ease as Jennifer's voice soared and really caught my attention as noted drummer Dante Pope and the bassist laid down the stomping groove, and the guitarist did his best Eddie Hazel impression. The band laid down a sexy funk groove for a number called “I Know It's Fine” and it swirled and cascaded into my ears like floating feathers as Jennifer sang, “What's for me is me ...”, and she had the most amazing voice and she thanked the audience for “manifesting” with them and the two of them thanked us for our support and buying the new album. They softly launched into “Please Come Back” and I really liked the song and its intricate groove that just that oozed into the venue with a subtle swing as the song honored the recently departed with such beautiful humanity and dignity. The band then got into a subtle go-go groove as Jennifer let the song's words tumbled out of her mouth with a nice flow and it was the best song of their set and her voice was just exquisite as the band ended the song, and then Jennifer said the next song was called “Run For The Ice Cream Truck/Wind Me Up” and they wrote it just for tonight's gig and it was for celebrating the wonderful audience and Asha started laying down an electronic groove and the band got experimental-sounding as Jennifer let the spur of the moment lyrics spin with some “starter words” culled from the crowd. I was impressed by their improvisation skills, especially the bassist who played an awesome and supple solo on his instrument. Next they played their recent single “Feel Good” that is getting a lot of airplay on urban radio and guitarist Cody Taft went off on his instrument with a shimmering solo that set the song off with its beautiful tone and swirling melody but it was not long enough. BOOMscat finished their eight-song set with the smooth neo-soul of the upbeat song “Happy Beginnings” and Jennifer really put her heart into it as she made her voice soar into the stratosphere ever so warmly into the air as she crooned about the beauty of love and how it makes one feel, and Asha and her played it as a duo and it was a great show. The audience went wild with raucous applause for them so they decided to do one more number and so the whole band returned to the stage and they launched into the creamy “Quiet Storm” soul of “Watch Me” and it was like they were making sweet love to my ears as Jennifer purred, “Hey, how you doing, I see you standing there alone...”, and her voice hit higher and higher notes...it was amazing! They bid us good night and rushed off the stage and I was totally amazed by their performance because it was not what I was expecting to see and hear and their music was sensational and made one feel better one's self...a top-notch top job...keep it up because y'all were just overwhelming and fantastic.
ROBERT PLANT & THE SENSATIONAL SPACE SHIFTERS and SHERYL CROW - June 12, 2018
Merriweather Post Pavilion - Columbia, MD
SHE WANTS REVENGE - May 26, 2018
Rock And Roll Hotel - Washington, DC
It was a lovely overcast day as I ventured down to the Rock And Roll Hotel on H Street NE to see alterna-goth band She Wants Revenge and Social Station rock the place with their jaded view of life and love and it's been a long time since I last saw them at the Black Cat before their hiatus from the scene. They have gotten back together recently and on a small tour before they record a new album, so I am happy about that news and I am looking forward to new music and tonight's performance. First up this evening was locals Social Station who are a solo project with Paul Todd that turned into a band and they are called “dark-wave post-punk” and the band took the stage as a duo in a swirl of notes and a plodding bass and Paul delivered his lovely lyrics with a melancholic edge that went on and on over the electronic percussion that made me miss the nineties. His voice sounded just like Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan and that made him somewhat interesting and he was actually not too derivative and the crowd seemed to enjoy him and his vocal delivery. Their songs were alright with nice melodic hooks and some punchy danceable electro-beats, but they never seemed to grab me by the ears and made me want to dance, even though the bassist Jake kept a nice and muscular bass groove for the entire set. I really liked their song “Pray For Me” and it had some cool introspective lyrics that showed some emotional depth. Social Station finished their eight-song set with a brand-new song “Pretty” that seemed to excite the crowd but I was only somewhat impressed by their performance as they left the stage. The crew set to work to ready the stage for She Wants Revenge and after a few minutes the four members of the band took the stage to the pounding electro-beats of “Red Flags And Long Nights” from their 2006 debut album “She Wants Revenge” that they delivered so sardonically as the groove flowed ever so elegantly and I found it funny that the band's image did not look like a band that played the kind of music they performed for us. They rocked on a pulsing version of “These Things” also from their debut album and the song woke the crowd up as the shimmering beat just flowed as vocalist/guitarist Justin Warfield sang with such conviction, “I heard it's cold out, but her popsicle melts, she's in the bathroom, she pleasures herself, says I'm a bad man, she's locking me out, it's cause of these things, it's cause of these things, let's make a fast plan, watch it burn to the ground, I try to whisper, so no one figures it out, I'm not a bad man, I'm just overwhelmed...”, and the band played the song tersely to the end and then they moved into the dark beat of “Reasons” from their 2011 album “Valleyheart” and they delivered it with a sarcastic passion. Bassist Adam Bravin led off with the next song “Take The World” with a haunting groove, also from “Valleyheart”, and he made it almost funky as the insistent beat bounced along as it was driven by the intertwining guitar riffs of Thomas Froggett and vocalist Justin Warfield that just cut into me to the soul. Next they went into the perky beat of “Someone Must Get Hurt” from their debut album and they turned it out with bits of melody flying everywhere as the drummer Scott Ellis drove the music forward, and then they really stepped it up for a fantastic rendition of “Little Stars” from “Valleyheart” that the band made swing as Justin sarcastically cooed, “Are you here to debate me, are you here to waste my time, the sun's coming up, and you've worn me down, I see you're trying to hate me, you can try all you want, but I'm on your mind, despite what you say, you're still holding on...”, and his voice gave the song a bit of sassiness and an edge of “joie de vivre” and that made it one of their better songs that they played tonight. They seemed rather punkish in their delivery of the next song “Written In Blood” from their 2007 album “This Is Forever” and it got the crowd movin' with its propulsive drumming and very crunchy guitars that were driven by the most fantastic bassline that made you just want to wiggle to the beat as Justin chanted “This is forever...”, as they segued into the sassy swing of “Sister” from their debut album and the bass was great but I wished the guitarist Thomas Froggett was more upfront in the mix because he was never loud enough and then the band abruptly ended the song which I noticed that they always seem to do with their songs. They continued with a driving beat that seemed to “blur” everything as they went into a mediocre “Sleep” from their 2008 album “Save Your Soul EP” and I guess this was the low-point of the night and I noticed that their was not much audience interaction and actually they seemed to be totally disinterested at all in our presence at the club. It was kind of perfect for the night! Then a stomping cool guitar riff began grinding its way out of the amps and woke the audience up and the rhythm section kicked in with the groovy swing of “This Is The End” from “This Is Forever” and Justin stoically wailed the honest words, “This is the end, though I saw it coming before we went to bed, no I never could be the one for you, this is the end, though I saw it coming before we started and no one gonna be brokenhearted here, staring straight ahead and never looking for answers, dumb yourself down it's a great disguise...”, and I was so thoroughly impressed by the four of them and their songwriting skills. They slid into the ice-cold rhythms of “Maybe She's Right” from “Valleyheart” and they actually let loose as the drummer Scott Ellis just rocked that beat as Thomas Frogget and Justin Warfield traded some incredibly melodic guitar riffs that really caught my attention. The band charged into a raucous version of “Replacement” from “This Is Forever” with its soaring guitar riffs that made the crowd jump about wildly as they screamed for them as Justin crooned, “Come back baby, please don't go...”, and the catchy guitar hook was really cool as the music swirled in the kaleidoscopic lights until the four of them quickly slipped off the stage and into the back and the audience went koo-koo bananas with some really loud applause which surprised me with its intensity and genuine care because I find that modern-day audiences are not as vigorous in their responses to bands. But She Wants Revenge put on a really good performance tonight that they delivered with sparkly pizazz and a wonderful sense of melody to their tunes, and all and all it was a great night and I am glad they came back from their hiatus, plus Justin said that the band loves coming to DC because of the fans here. The four of them returned to the stage and launched into a very musical “True Romance” from their 2007 album “This Is Forever” and it was full of fluttery percussion and crunchy guitar riffs that made it nice and driving as the rhythm section propelled them forward until drummer Scott Ellis took over in a percussion break that had him playing his drums while they were synched up with the ice-cold electro-beats that marched out of the speakers as he when into the fantastic boom-bap percussion of “Out Of Control” from their debut album and Justin sang with a whisper that just captivated the audience as they made the music slither all over us. She Wants Revenge closed their brilliant and emotional fifteen-song set with the vicious “Tear You Apart” also from their 2006 debut album and it pulsed and throbbed with a strip club beat as guitarist Justin Warfield sexily sneered, “I want to hold you close, skin pressed against me tight, lie still, close your eyes girl, so lovely, it feels so right, I want to hold you close, soft breath, beating heart, as I whisper in your ear, I wanna fucking tear you apart...”, and it was such a great song that summed them up with its title and the band charged through it until the coda and then they abruptly left the stage and disappeared into the night. I went, damn, and then I made my way past all the hipsters and neo-goths and out the front door to H Street while thinking that the show was great and I really wanted to dance like a sexy madman but you can never know these days...watch yourself! The show was excellent with a nice selection of songs that tweaked your emotions just right and their deft playing was perfect for tonight. Glad y'all got back together...welcome back...cheers guys!
THE SKIP CASTRO BAND - May 19, 2018
Gypsy Sally's - Washington, DC
THE BEANSTALK LIBRARY - May 3, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was an absolutely beautiful warm spring day as I got on the metro and headed towards the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see the latest Hometown Sounds pick for hot new local band and this month was The Beanstalk Library and they played their take on rock'n'roll with smatterings of The Grateful Dead, The Beatles, and Tom Petty thrown in the mix, judging by what I heard from them during their soundcheck, but the band did have their own take on the classic rock genre as they ran through a couple of numbers. I got my usual seat and sat down and waited for 6PM to arrive, but the Hometown Sounds guys came on first and rattled off their spiel with nerdy enthusiasm and then the six members of The Beanstalk Library took the stage and went right into the melancholic introduction to their first number and guitarist Ryan Walker sang the meaningful words to “Hallelujah” so soulfully as the band gently followed him with some lovely melodies, especially the violinist Erin Ryan, and the band was rocking as the guitarists Brian Pagels and Ryan Walker dueled it out with these catchy big riffs and their voices rose harmoniously above the crowd. With some jangly guitar riffs leading the way, the band started pounding out the rock-steady beat of the next song as guitarist Ryan Walker sang the insightful lyrics about life and the band had a good groove going as the two guitarists traded some interesting licks as they went into the clipped Beatles-ish beat of their next song and their vocal harmonies were really good and the guitarist Ryan gave the song some menace by the way he sang the words. The next song had a sense of swing that had some urgency to it as Ryan played a stellar guitar lead that just hung in the air as the drummer Adam Neubauer kept the groove upbeat and propulsive. The band turned into a jam band with the lovely “Wait” from their latest album “Easier” and it had a lot of soaring riffs to go along with the jaunty percussion that almost made me want to “hippie” dance as keyboardist Joel Hicks' quick hands kept the beat going with some jazzy playing that gave the song a bit of an edge as David Gassman made his bass surge to the rhythm so expertly. The band kept things going with a solid “Easier”, the title-track from aforementioned album, and it was accented by violinist Erin Ryan's skillful hands that gave the song some bite as she brilliantly solo-ed to the song's coda. Then the six of them went back to their jam band roots with lots of noodling guitar riffs that began “Adelaide” and the crowd was digging their Allman Brothers-esque playing that went around and around and giving each member a chance to shine on their respective instruments as Ryan Walker sang, “I just can't shake you loose...”. Next the band played a song called “Whiskey Mountain” that was dedicated to a recently departed friend and it was about how he was so intense that it superseded his mental control as Ryan sang, “Full steam ahead...”, and the violinist Erin made the song sound so melancholic but I was touched by the lyrics' emotional impact and the sadness of Erin's wonderful playing. Then they performed a sensational version of Elton John's “Levon” that gave me the chills and the guitarist Brian Pagels had this fuzzy booming riff that was an earwig that just dug its way into my ears as the band turned it out and Ryan's vocals brought some warmth to the lyrics and I liked their new arrangement of the song...Elton and Bernie would be proud. Next the band jumped into a brand-new song from their “Easier EP” and it was the most upbeat song of their set and it had a great groove with some cool lyrics about being yourself and it reminded me of an eighties song as the two guitarists battled it out with some crunchy riffs that flew everywhere. The Beanstalk Library finished their eleven-song set with a very Santana-sounding song that they dedicated to Hometown Sounds and they rocked it with some incredible intertwining vocal harmonies and some pseudo-psychedelic guitar playing that made me want to “frug” to the beat like I was in some counter-culture sixties movie. The band said goodnight and left the stage and I rushed out of the venue into the evening and thinking that I just saw a really decent show and I would go see them again.
PINK - April 17, 2018
Capital One Arena - Washington, DC
Once again the weather was just awful and dismal as spring receded away into the dreary chill that has landed on the city and with no temperate weather in sight for weeks and much to my chagrin, but my pal Scott and I are going to see Pink tonight at the sold-out Capital One Arena on her “Beautiful Trauma Tour” with Fun's Jack Antonoff's side project Bleachers. So I picked up my wonderful tickets from the box office earlier in the afternoon and then I went to Taco Bell at Union Station's food concourse and then I went back to my house to wait for tonight's event to start and when my pal Scott arrived, we left my house and went down into the metro and rode it to the arena. We arrived at the venue and made our way to our fabulous seats with such ease and the view was spectacular, but we were horrified by opening act DJ Kid Cut Up who played an over-the-top melange of nineties dance-pop that seemed to be geared to the casual listener than the music fan and it seemed that he was just a glorified “strip-club” DJ and not much more...I was so glad when he was finished spinning his mediocre set. Next up was Bleachers who took the stage and kicked into their upbeat alt-power-pop that leapt into the audience's ears and short attention spans with glee as the band joyfully rocked out with their feel-good music that sometimes reminded me of The Cars and I found them more palatable than leader Jack Antonoff's other band Fun.. I liked their socially-aware lyrics and pleasant disposition and he had a really good saxophonist in Evan Smith who blew some nice solos that brightened their songs. They played a driving eight-song set that was full of big guitar riffs, a pounding rhythm section, and catchy sing-a-long choruses that the audience seemed to enjoy a whole lot as we applauded them off the stage. The road crew rushed to the stage and quickly set to work getting things ready for Pink's always spectacular stage show and then the house lights went down to the strains of Whitesnake's “Here I Go Again” as an intro and the band burst into a bombastic “Get The Party Started” from her 2001 album “Missundaztood” and Pink came swinging onstage on a hanging chandelier singing, “Get this party started on a Saturday night, everybody's waitin' for me to arrive, sendin' out the message to all of my friends, we'll be lookin' flashy in my Mercedes Benz, I got lotsa style, got my gold diamond rings, I can go for miles if you know what I mean...”, as her guitarist Justin Derrico from Charlottesville, Virginia, and her crack band led the way with some forceful playing with an updated arrangement of the song and as her dancers shimmied and shook their way across the demented art deco stage and it was just fantastic and I really loved the spectacle of it all. Pink's voice sounded amazing and clear as a bell as she started belting out the touching words to “Beautiful Trauma”, the title-track from her recent album, and it was driven by Eva Gardner's muscular and pulsing bass as Justin played some delicate guitar riffs and it was visually stunning with so much going on the huge stage which made it a fantastic showstopper. Jason started the next song “Just Like A Pill” also from “Missundaztood” with a heavy metal-ish guitar intro and then Pink grabbed the microphone and she really knows how to work the stage as she howled the lyrics and it was a great version and I saw a little bit of Murder Ink's Joyce Murder in her. The drummer Mark Schulman kicked off the number “Who Knew” from her 2006 album “I'm Not Dead” with a nice lilting beat and then bassist Eva Gardner kicked in with some serpentine bass that weaved in and out of the groove as Pink snarled the words with great vocal inflections and such emotion...it was electrifying and powerful as the stage darkened and the band receded offstage and the screens began showing some video interlude titled “Revenge Land” and it was about some social commentary/revenge fantasy on the topic of men and the trouble and hurt that they bring to your life. A huge blow-up doll of Eminem began inflating as the stage lights up and revealed a stark stage set with minimal lighting and the band went back to her neo-soul girl group days with“Revenge” from her new album “Beautiful Trauma” which was a duet with Eminem and they rocked it old school style until the Eminem rap which they did with that giant blow-up version of him that bobbled around the stage and while this little “rap break” was happening, Pink got harnessed into some acrobatic device that let her twirl and spin high up in the air like some Circus de Soleil trapeze act and she did this all while singing in perfect key and sounding wonderful with her vibrato and intonation while bouncing across the arena, “I'm daydreaming, let me count the ways, how I'll get you, or how I'll make you pay, babe, I'm hurting and now you'll feel the same, that's my plan, that's my plan, that's my plan, we could do revenge, revenge, revenge, revenge, together, together, together, we could take revenge...”, and for a second I did not mind Eminem. Pink returned to the ground and went right into the sassy beat of “Funhouse”, the title-track from her 2008 album, and gave it a sped up and updated arrangement that the band delivered with such passion, and in the middle of the song they played a segment of No Doubt's “Just A Girl” in tribute to front-woman Gwen Stefani and they tore it up as Pink blew the roof off the place with her voice and then she paused the show and introduced her eight-piece band and then they jumped right into a frenetic cover of Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Justin was spectacular as he played these big buzzsaw riffs on his guitar that just blew the song up as it swirled all awash in the undulating bass lines of Eva Gardner. As the third video interlude “Secrets Film” was shown, Pink took to the sky once again in her acrobatic contraption with a male dancer that had her whirling and twirling as he held tightly above the cheering crowd as she provocatively sang the classy R&B of “Secrets” from “Beautiful Trauma” which had a fantastic electro-funk groove that made one want to sway along to the beat...it was quite lovely. The fourth video interlude titled “Nature” was shown as the stage transformed into a swampy backwoods setting as the keyboardist Jason Chapman played this eerie Southern Gothic keyboard intro to “Try” from her 2012 album “The Truth About Love” and Justin played this stuttering guitar groove that was dancing across the loping beat of the percussion and Pink gave her most heart-wrenching vocal performance of the night amid her twirling dancers as she made her way across the huge stage. The next song began with a bass and piano intro that was soft and lovely and wrapped the song “Just Give Me A Reason” from “The Truth About Love” with warmth as Pink wailed, “Just give me a reason, just a little bit's enough, just a second we're not broken just bent, and we can learn to love again, it's in the stars, it's been written in the scars on our hearts, we're not broken just bent, and we can learn to love again...”, and it was one of the few slow songs by anyone that I actually like and she sang it so touchingly from a suspended bed above the enrapt audience with violinist Jessy Greene playing some wild riffs fast as lightening. Justin kicked in with some big crunchy riffs that opened a volatile and fiery “I'm Not Dead”, the title-track from her 2006 album, and Pink let loose with yet another spectacular powerhouse vocal performance that gave me the chills. The band went into the straight-forward rock of “Just Like Fire” which was her 2016 contribution to the “Alice Through The Looking Glass” movie soundtrack and the stage turned into a fiery inferno on the video screens and I found the song's words to be inspirational and Pink and her three back-up singers, Jenny Douglas, Stacy Campbell and Vivian Sessions, sang their hearts out with such passion on these incredible vocal harmonies that just took me there and the raucous crowd loved it. The fifth video interlude “Women Are Strong” played and when it was done Pink spoke for a few minutes to the audience about what it meant to her and other females and then she said that her and the band were going to play four songs from the “Beautiful Trauma” album and they started off with a bucolic “What About Us” that featured some sensational keyboard playing from Paul Markovich and it was another cool slow song that went on to top the pop singles charts and I loved its message of unconditional love and hope for the world, and then they segued into a showstopping version of “For Now” full of crescendo-ing synthesizer runs and a deep and plodding rhythm section as Pink stood in silhouette on the elaborate stage and she crooned the soothing words with such kindness in her heart. Justin Derrico took center stage and with the spotlight on him, he began strumming these grandiose riffs on his acoustic guitar that were very Led Zeppelin-esque but quite beautiful all the same and then Pink whimsically sang the words to the song “Barbies” with an edge of sadness, “I wish I could go back to playing Barbies in my room, they never say that you gotta grow up, quite this soon, how fast things change, and now I'm here, and all I wanna do, is go back to playing Barbies in my room...”, and the band kept things acoustic with the punk Americana sound of “I Am Here” and it was pumping and lively as they finished the “Beautiful Trauma” segment of the show. Pink and Justin walked to the front of the stage and he began strumming his guitar in a country rock style as she crooned the intro of “Fuckin' Perfect” from her 2010 album “Greatest Hits...So Far!!!” as the band laid down a laidback groove that just flowed perfectly and then Pink rapped about her love for her daughter and then there was a final video interlude called “My Daughter Is Beautiful” that celebrated her child with hope and love and then Pink brought her daughter to the stage and she hugged and kissed her with so much motherly love and affection that I was touched and then the band launched into a souped-up version of “Raise Your Glass” from “Greatest Hits...So Far!!!”, and it was a joyous celebration of life and it made one feel beautiful no matter who you are in this scary world and drummer Mark Schulman laid down a wonderful groove that just grabbed you by the short hairs and made you shake, rattle, and roll...it was fantastic. The band got a little funky with “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” from her 2012 album “The Truth About Love” which was their last song and it had Eva Gardner pumping her bass like Bootsy and it was sassy and flippant as it bounced along to some cool colorful graphics and Justin played some trilling guitar leads that got stuck in my ear as her dancers skipped around the stage and it pretty much summed up tonight with its provocative title as the band finished and disappeared into the back. Pink and her band returned to the stage to mass hysteria and roaring applause and they encored with the manic groove of “So What” from her 2008 album “Funhouse” that had her roaring the bad ass lyrics, “So, so what, I'm still a rock star, I got my rock moves, and I don't need you, and guess what, I'm having more fun, and now that we're done, I'm gonna show you tonight, I'm alright, I'm just fine, and you're a tool, so, so what...”, and for the last time tonight Justin Derrico went wild on his guitar with all kinds of fleet-fingered pyrotechnics and crunchy riffs...he was rocking...and then Pink took to the skies in her trapeze gear and again while singing in perfect key as the band morphed the rocking groove into the almost melancholic “Glitter In The Air” from her 2008 album “Funhouse” as a kind of farewell and goodnight and the audience was losing their minds as they finished the song and left the stage as the house lights went up. The sudden lighting change caught me off-guard and I almost fell but I got my balance back and my friend and I started walking out of the arena and I could hear people around me saying that was the best show they have ever seen and I must say that the show was definitely in my top ten for this year so far. Pink performed a twenty-one song set that covered many genres and styles but with her own empowering imprint and it was just spectacular and made me feel good and Justin Derrico is one of my favorite guitarists these days and his performance was phenomenal. Bravo Pink!
DEAD MEN'S HOLLOW - March 29, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It seems that spring has finally got here on this lovely and pleasant day as I headed towards the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see the next-to-last farewell performance of Dead Men's Hollow who have been playing alternative country music for the past seventeen years all over the DMV at various venues but they are going their separate ways in the next few weeks. The band featured guitarist Mike Clayberg who used to be one of my associates on the mid-eighties underground rock scene with his bands Malefice and Scythian who were pretty big on the circuit and recently I have been wondering about whatever happened to him and I was surprised to see that he had been in this country/bluegrass band for the past seventeen years, and I find it interesting that a lot of old punkers turn to country music later in life. At 6PM the band took the stage and they opened with a lively number called “Burn Your House Down” and it showcased their breathtaking vocal harmonies as the song chugged along at a jaunty pace as the various members took turns solo-ing on their respective instruments. Next the six of them played a song called “I'm Still Here” that was played like a traditional song about surviving life and thriving...”How about that...”...and Mike Clayberg played some real nice and intricate fretwork on his acoustic guitar and the upright bassist Jared Creason kept things moving with a little swing in the back-beat. Next they played a song called “Dead Men's Hollow” which told the little-known history of Rosslyn before the high-rises appeared and it was originally called Dead Men's Hollow when it was the bad side of town, and that went right into a cover of The Carter Family's “The Wabash Cannonball” which was the original country train song and guitarist Amy Nazarov, banjo player Belinda Hardesty, and Mike Clayberg provided the remarkable vocal harmonies as fiddle player Marcy Cochran accented the vocals so well as they soared over the bassist Jared Creason's calming groove and then they flowed into a pastoral “When I Stop Dreaming” by the Louvin Brothers pledging oneself to that special someone forever. Jared lead off the next song “Father I Haved Sinned” with a mournful bass solo as he plaintively sang about being forgiven by the Lord for all of his sins just like it was an old school country-gospel song, and the band kept things going at a nice pace with a song called “Shady Grove” and their intricate vocal harmonies were out-of-this-world and the song was very percussive even though there were no drums on the stage...absolutely amazing! Next they performed a song called “The Ballad Of The Four Chaplains” whom died saving people on the rapidly sinking WW Dorchester when it was bombed by the Germans on February 1943 during WWII, and the lyrics celebrated their heroic sacrifice and the song was beautiful and touching and driven by the melancholy mandolin of Caryn Fox and their wonderful harmonies. The fiddle player Marcy Cochran had her turn to shine on the bluesy “I'm Not Walkin' Along” and she sang her heart out as she gave the words feeling and then she played the most wonderful solo on her instrument as the bassist Jared propelled the song forward with a jaunty walking beat as guitar Mike played his best solo of the night with great zeal. Next the band played a morose song about the passage of time and the beat had a lilt to it that made one tap one's toes as Marcy and Caryn dueled with soaring riffs from their instruments that made the song feel alive with melody and melancholy. The next song was a phenomenal rendition of bluegrass legend Hazel Dickins' “Working Girl Blues” which she wrote in the seventies about workplace inequality and the song's sentiment still holds true which is really sad that things have not got much better for equality since then, and the band just chugged along like an old school country band with Belinda Hardesty's solid banjo playing leading the way as their voices blended together so beautifully as they moved into a really pop-ish version of Miley Cyrus' “Wrecking Ball” and they actually made it sound great with their warm vocals giving the song a new edge that made me forget Miley's version, and the fiddler Marcy lit it up with a groovy solo. The mandolin player Caryn took the lead on their next number “Hallelujah, You're Not Coming Home” which took potshots at being trapped in an unhappy marriage and then getting the last laugh, the lyrics were quite biting but very genuine and the song rocked. The band thanked everyone for coming to their show as they launched into an uptempo version of The Andrew Sisters' “Boogie Woogie Bulge Boy” and it was a real cool juxtaposition of swing and country that sounded real good together, and then they finished their fourteen-song set with a splendid version of “Shenandoah” that was a hyped-up jaunt through the pastoral beauty as each musician played their last solos of the night and it was glorious. The crowd went crazy with applause and cheering and the six members of Dead Men's Hollow stood in a line and sang a wonderful piece of a cappella that their voices rose in a soaring crescendo thanking everyone for all the years of support and love and to say goodbye. It is too bad that they are breaking up because I would love to see them again. Cheers guys and good luck.
JUDAS PRIEST, SAXON, and BLACK STAR RIDERS - March 18, 2018
Anthem - Washington, DC
“Warpigs”/”Guardians” intro “Firepower” “Running Wild” “Grinder” “Sinner” “The Ripper” “Bloodstone” “Lightning Strikes” “Saints In Hell” “Turbo Lover” “Angel” “Evil Never Dies” “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” “Breaking The Law” “Hellbent For Leather” “Painkiller” “The Hellion” outro “Electric Eye” “Metal Gods” “You've Got Another Thing Coming” “Living After Midnight”
THE HORSE LORDS - March 14, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
Once again I had to trek downtown on the metro to go to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see some new rock and roll at the Direct Current Festival with “avant-heavies” the Horse Lords from Baltimore who are a very nerdy quartet who play straight-up American rock and the band consisted of saxophonist/percussionist Andrew Bernstein, bassist Max Eilbacher, guitarist Owen Gardner, and Sam Haberman. Formed in 2011 and they took to the streets with their multi-genre sound-scape music and they have released three albums including their latest “Interventions” on Northern Spy Records, and their sound is an amalgamation of many genres and styles that give their sound such variety and intonations. At 6PM the Horse Lords took the stage and launched into their squonky riffs and disjointed that felt a little off as they plowed through their first song as the saxophonist Andrew Bernstein played on and on in a atonal haze with these extended wails that reminded me of eighties NYC No-Wave music. For the next number, Andrew led things off with a cowbell and Max's simplistic bass line that just seemed to repeat itself in an endless loop that seemed more fitting for a film soundtrack than a live performance. The music was very percussive with all kinds of rhythms popping in and out of the band's flow but the song seemed to be missing something like a consistent melody as they went through many tempo changes. I could hear African poly-rhythmic influences in Sam's drumming mixed with free jazz and other sub-genres in their playing as Owen played some very intricate riffs on his guitar as the flow of the music crescendo-ed into the coda. Andrew started the next song with another extended saxophone solo whose wail was full of feedback and noisy squonks and then the band kicked in with a more traditional mid-tempo groove that seemed to last forever as random notes drifted across stage ever so carefully as Owen played a long disjointed guitar solo that was a little short on melody but really dense. As usual, because they were an instrumental band, I became quite bored with them halfway through their set and I sat there wishing for more melody in their songs and some vocals, because most of the time their songs seemed to be almost over-intellectualized studies in all assorted types of percussion and grooves that really never seemed to go anywhere on their next couple of songs that were full of mindless noodling and punchy bass. They played a six-song set that basically went in one ear and out the other as the band pounded out the simple beat of their last song as Owen and Max played their most consistent groove of the evening but other than that they left me cold as they got a bit jazzy towards the end and I was glad when they finished their performance.
IRREVERSIBLE ENTANGLEMENTS - March 13, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a deceptively sunny day as I stepped into the outside world where winter's icy grip clung tenaciously to the area as I made my way out of my house and into the metro to go to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see the free jazz collective called Irreversible Entanglements, and the band features the poet Camae Ayewa a.k.a. Moor Mother backed by alto saxophonist Keir Neuringer, bassist Luke Stewart, drummer Tcheser Holmes, and trumpeter Aquiles Navarro, so it should be an eye-opening experience that makes me feel like a sixties hipster in a dark and smoky off-the-beaten-path jazz club as I sat in the foyer and watched the band soundcheck with random jazz riffs flying everywhere over the pulsing rhythm section as they awaited the late arrival of Camae Ayewa. At 6PM the rep Alex from the Direct Current Festival told us about their purpose and goals about bringing new culture to the masses and with the mournful wail of Keir Neuringer's saxophone they began the show as his horn told the story of the search for freedom as Aquiles Navarro started his trumpet's staccato response as the two of them dueled away with layers of melody as the rest of the band joined them with a sparse and percussive rhythm section and they noodled on and on. Next Camae took the microphone and over the driving beat, she let her measured words flow as she raged, “I don't give a shit...”, as she expressed her anger and rage over the dark side of the American Black Experience. The band pulsed and oozed with some unusual percussion and some squelchy trumpet from Aquiles as Camae expounded on the “death culture” of today and Camae tried to convert her raw anger into righteous rage about the unfairness of life and death over the disjointed melody that the band played as the song slowly faded away. The next song “Upright Climbing” was about survival and self-worth and achieving something worthwhile as the inspirational words bounced along to the chaotic percussion and random and muscular horn runs with an odd symmetry that was pleasant to my ears. For their fourth number the band started with some scatter-shot drumming from Tcheser Holmes as he solo-ed for a few minutes with military precision and Camae let loose with some chastising words about violence towards women and children which seemed to be a topic that has plagued her words as she howled, “She was five and she knew how to play dead...”, and the music subtly pulsed and throbbed like an irregular heartbeat as the saxophonist Keir played all kinds of weird percussive instruments and then he picked up his saxophone and let out a wail that wound itself into my brain with its tweedy blasts that sounded like Coltrane on the nod with his unusual ways of fingering his horn. For their fifth number Camae poetically shouted, “Not only do we disappear...”, which was about the shame and trauma of slavery that has destroyed many people as God looked away from our disgrace and she raged about the rhythm of oppression as Keir's saxophone let out a mournful and elegiac wail as the drummer Tcheser pounded out a disjointed beat with the enveloping bass groove of Luke Stewart following him with an ear for filling the spaces between the horns' mellifluous notes as the band careened on through the dark groove that ended with a delicious trumpet solo from Aquiles that was a clarion call to stand up and fight oppression. For the last song of their six-song set, the band got all space-y and psychedelic as random riffs floated above us as Camae shouted to the heavens, “No one remembers...”, and the drummer Tcheser laid down a taut beat that propelled the song forward as the horn player Keir made all kinds of noises and sounds that accented her deep words as the song ended in a psychedelic deluge full of extended notes. The band took their bows to very appreciative applause and Camae Ayewa said goodnight and please get home safely. I thought tonight's show was quite inspirational and I liked how the band approached their political topics with poise and grace, and that really said something and with a nice groove.
PUNJABTRONIX - March 12, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
ABDU ALI - March 7, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was once again a chilly and overcast winter day as I begrudgingly readied myself to trek across town to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see up and coming Baltimore rapper Abdu Ali do his thing with some futuristic urban sounds and rhythms in a performance piece titled “Zip Into The Yellow Light” as part of the Direct Current Festival that celebrates all contemporary culture, and the DMV has been abuzz lately with a plethora of hip-hop performers from Oddissee to Logic to Fat Trel to Rico Nasty, and they are all worthy of your attention. So tonight we have Abdu Ali who is black, queer, and proud, plus he is the cultural figurehead of a radical underground scene with its roots in the angry DIY ethos of punk, the raw grittiness of hip-hop, and the gay sassiness of Baltimore club music that he delivers as a visceral punch in the face to the status quo. Abdu Ali and his three-piece band, drummer Joshua Stokes, keyboardist Amy Reid, and saxophonist Theljon Allen, hit the stage in a flurry of sound as they let loose with a house-y jazz groove that just swung and Abdu Ali started to sing/rap about something but his vocals were murky and hard to understand but the music was percussive and sort of in the be-bop jazz range that was all over the place with its clattery rhythms. Abdu Ali's voice became a little clearer in the mix as he cajoled the audience into awareness with his politically-charged lyrics as they worked their way into my ears. Next the band got a bit discordant on a song called “I Wanna Be Free” that seemed to be overpowered by drummer Joshua Stokes' relentless pounding that seem to go on for ever as I tried to discern the lyrics from the chaotic noise or “free jazz” as it is called these days, but it was just too much to bear...I like melody. The third number was actually interesting and full of these quirky little semi-melodies but the drummer was just too damn heavy footed and very distracting as the synth player Amy Reid squiggled away on her keyboard but she never went anywhere with it. Abdu Ali seemed to be more of a performance artist than a vocalist as he ranted about “the tears of a black woman...”, and his voice sounded a bit thin and reedy and also it was hard to understand but his lyrics seemed to be modern-day urban nursery rhymes when I could make them out. The saxophone player Theljon Allen had some skills as he made his horn wail and dance with Amy's piercing keyboard solos as the drummer relentlessly followed Abdu Ali's laptop's digital groove. For the fifth song the band drew upon their punk influences as Abdu Ali howled and Joshua pounded their way through the pre-recorded music on the laptop and the song had a Bad Brains feel to it, except that Earl Hudson is a way better drummer but I did like how they paced the song. On their sixth song they went into the dense rhythms of Baltimore club music as Abdu Ali seemed to sing about being “woken” and helping to change the world for the better and the beat went on and on as Amy re-joined the groove with some squonky melody fills and I just wished they had a bassist to fill the bottom with some swing. The singer got a little spiritual and uplifting about overcoming the various negative obstacles and living a honest and free life but the song just seemed a little lacking in melody and cohesiveness but I liked his message about not becoming someone that you do not want to be. For their final song, Abdu Ali dedicated it to the iconic Sun Ra and His Arkestra whom he opened for in 2016 and it was the most melodic song of their seven-song set and I vaguely enjoyed it as Abdu Ali raged and danced himself into a frenzy as he yelped, “I did that, I did that, I did that...”, and drummer Joshua Stokes finished the song with a burst of clamorous percussion that he just pounded out until the end of the song. The band left the stage to the applause of the crowd but they just left me slightly amused and mildly confused because I liked Abdu Ali's style but I think he should put more melody and song-craft into his music.
ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK and GGOOLLDD - March 6, 2018
The 9:30 Club - Washington, DC
It looked like an unwanted return to wintery weather as the sun went down behind a looming bank of gray clouds as my pal Scott and I headed out to ride the metro downtown to the illustrious 9:30 Club to see synth-pop legends Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark on their “The Punishment Of Luxury” tour along with openers GGOOLLDD from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who are supporting their new release called the “Teeth EP”. We arrived at the club and went upstairs to our reserved stools by the bar with a fantastic view of the stage and settled in for the evening and we sat and watched as a wide variety of people slowly filter in from the cold as we made sarcastic comments about them. Soon it was time for the opening band GGOOLLDD who formed in 2014 and they were a quintet who dressed in white as they played mid-tempo retro-eighties rock with a female singer who sounded like Garbage's Shirley Manson just a little bit too much but the drummer Mark Stewart had a nice sense of groove that propelled their music forward. However I found the guitarist Thomas Gilbert was a bit lacklustre but the synth player Nick Schubert did liven the music up a bit over the mundane playing of bassist Nick Zieman. The band seemed to have a lot of energy to their sound but they never went anywhere with it because all of their songs had a ring of familiarity to them that just left me befuddled and I found myself wishing it was Garbage on the stage instead. Their songs did have a nice sense of rhythm to them but but it sounded like they were missing some parts that would have made their songs really rock and the audience seemed kind of bored. I liked one song in particular called “Gold” from their 2015 release “Gold+” and it had a cool dual electronic/acoustic beats dynamic with some interesting and meaningful lyrics. They played a pleasant but forgettable eight-song set that reminded me of so many other bands with touches of My Bloody Valentine and Blondie in the mix, but they just did not seem that original and I was glad when they finished playing and the stage crew preceded to re-setting the stage for Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark or as they are often known...OMD. I have loved OMD since the early eighties and their masterpiece album “Architecture And Morality” and they have not toured America for several years and this is the first gig of this tour in support of their brilliant new album “The Punishment Of Luxury”. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark took the stage to the strains of their intro music “Art Eats Art/La Mitrailleuse” from their recent album in the swirling lights as they opened with an elegaic “Ghost Star” from their 2017 album “The Punishment Of Luxury” that slowly built up the pulsing beat as vocalist Andy McCluskey languidly sang, “Across the sky and clear away, reaching out to hold you, echoes dead across the bay, I wish I could have told you, and sand it blows into my eyes, as love it tries to blind me, far beyond horizon's fall, the darkness yet to find me...”, and the groove flowed so elegantly over the deep and percolating percussion of drummer Stuart Kershaw as the band kicked into a futuristic-sounding “Isotype” also from their new album and the synth washes flowed over me with a lush precision and an icy edge but Andy's warm vocals made the song come alive. The audience livened up for the next number, a sprightly “Messages” from the band's 1980 self-titled debut and Andy picked up his bass and made it go boom as he followed the intricate rhythms and melodies that swirled out of Paul Humphreys and Martin Cooper's synthesizers. The band pumped it up for a spectacular rendition of “Tesla Girls” from their 1984 album “Junk Culture” that got everyone dancing as Andy sang the song with such conviction and enthusiasm. They started next with an exhilarating “History Of Modern (Part 1)” from their 2010 album “History Of Modern” that got the entire audience dancing for joy, and to quote Andy, for a “boring love song” and the song's Kraftwerk-ian percussion was punctuated by these piercing synth lines as Andy led the crowd in singing, “Everything you say, everything you do, all the things you own, all the things you knew, everyone you love, everyone you hate, all will be erased and replaced, everything you take, everything you gave, all the things you've found, all the things you've made, everyone you lost and saved, nothing will remain, cradle or grave...”, and the percussion kept marching along with military precision as Andy crooned away about the mysteries of love and I must say the sound was impressive and was so clean. Next the band got a bit poppy on the upbeat “One More Time” from the “The Punishment Of Luxury” album and with a loping beat and a catchy chorus that made me flashback to the eighties and dancing away the night at Poseurs in Georgetown, then the four of them went into the touchy-feely rhythms of “(Forever) Live & Die” from their 1986 album “The Pacific Age” and it really rocked the audience as Andy crooned the lovely words with a passion as the crowd clapped along in unison with such joy as the song's melodies swirled and eddied into every corner of the room as the crowd broke into rapturous applause as they segued into a glorious “If You Leave” from the 1986 film soundtrack to “Pretty In Pink” that was just sensational. Andy said it was time for a few songs from their career-defining 1981 album “Architecture & Morality” and they kicked off with a lush “Souvenir” and the gentle groove was just so wonderful as Andy's bass bathed the song in a luscious thump as Paul Humphreys took over lead vocals and wailed away on the emotional words, “All I need is co-ordination, I can't imagine, my destination, my intention, ask my opinion, but no excuse, my feelings still remain, my feelings still remain...”, and then they segued into a glorious “Joan Of Arc” that had a galloping beat that just propelled the song into the funky rhythms of “Joan Of Arc (Maid Of Orleans)” that the band played with military precision with these epic crescendo-ing synth washes covering it in waves of dancing melody. The band moved into a warm and luxurious rendition of “Of All The Things We've Made” from their 1983 album “Dazzle Ships” that showed us why they have lasted so long because all their songs are so well-writtened that they have made a lasting impression on the modern musical landscape forever. The four musicians switched things up to their newer material and a disembodied synthetic voice gave us some instructions then the four of them stood in a line on the stage and performed a melancholic “What Have We Done” from their 2017 album “The Punishment Of Luxury” and the song was simply arranged as the melody swirled about as Andy almost chanted, “You could talk without speaking, cry without weeping, your secrets will never be told, leave your bonds left unbroken, words left unspoken, and dreams that can never unfold, what have we done...”, and Paul got all bombastic on the synth as their voices blended in perfect harmony and I really enjoyed it. The band let their melodious rhythm get a little loose with the Motown-ish beat of “So In Love” from their 1985 album “Crush” and its raucous beat got the crowd moving and then keyboardist Martin Cooper broke out in a succinct saxophone solo that just echoed in my ears as they moved into the uptempo Motown groove of “Locomotion” from their 1984 album “Junk Culture” and the band seemed to be having a lot of real fun and camaraderie as they rocked out on several small percussive instruments that gave the song a calypso feel that made me want to wildly skank and move. The band turned it out with a pulsing version of “The Punishment Of Luxury”, the title-track of their new album, and it was probably my favorite performance of the night and they did it with such classy verve as they sang, “So close your eyes, and shut your mouth, you make me want to scream and shout...”, and the audience went crazy as they morphed into the thunderous groove of “Sailing On The Seven Seas” from their greatly-overlooked 1991 album “Sugar Tax” and Paul played these cool little riffs full of melody as he worked the keyboards of his synths with great flourish. The four of them paused before they jumped in and from the first note of “Enola Gay” from their second 1980 album “Organisation” the crowd went absolutely crazy as the song's insidious little keyboard riff drilled its way into my head and it was just beautiful and the band played it for all it was worth. It was just wonderful as Andy crooned, “It's eight fifteen, and that's the time that it's always been, we got your message on the radio, conditions normal and you're coming home, Enola Gay, is mother proud of her little boy today, ah-ha this kiss you give, it's never ever going to fade away...”, and the song slowly faded away and the musicians took their bows and thanked us for being so supportive all these years and then they quickly left the stage as the audience erupted with cries for more. After a few minutes OMD returned to the stage and immediately burst into a heavenly “Dreaming” which was a 1988 single from their “The Best Of OMD” album and they cranked out the terse rhythm with ease as Andy bellowed the hopeful words as he did some weird hand-dancing as they moved into a tepid rendition of “Secret” from their 1985 album “Crush” and it was the low point of the gig for me. The band however was bathed in applause and adoration and they just loved it. Andy then said they were going to finish their twenty-song set with their oldest song and from the first note of “Electricity” from their 1980 self-titled debut, they were incandescent as Andy gloriously sang, “Our one source of energy, electricity, all we need to live today, a gift for man to throw away, the chance to change has nearly gone, the alternative is only one, the final source of energy, solar electricity, electricity, electricity...”, and Paul and Martin went crazy on their synths in a splendid burst of soaring solos as the song made you want to put on your dancing shoes until the song collapsed into a swirling mass of melody and rhythm as the band walked offstage and into the night as the crowd screamed themselves raw for their return but alas...the show was over. I was so very glad I made it to this show because it was one of the best shows I have ever been to this decade and I am glad that OMD has lasted all these years and still making great new music along with their classic hits. And oh yeah...a big shout out to my friend Larry and the 9:30 Club for my reserved seats with the ultra-fantastic view of the stage...thanks so much...and cheers OMD!
THE CARIBBEAN - March 4, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a lovely but chilly day as I left my house for the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see The Caribbean play their unique brand of multi-genre music that will make you think besides dance and move. The band consists of vocalist/guitarist Michael Kentoff, guitarist/synth player Dave Jones, and drummer Matthew Byars, and they formed in 2000 as a sort of “Steely Dan on a shoestring” and they have not looked back as they play their very original music in the showcase for Hometown Sounds. At 6PM Tony and Paul took the stage and explained what Hometown Sounds did for the community besides their website and podcast, and then they brought The Caribbean to the stage and after a slow start, they proceeded with some guitar strumming with Michael Kentoff's rather insightful lyrics as the music meandered round and round ever so gently. Next the three of them got even slower as the groove seemed to softly breath in and out like one was asleep as the music swirled like a gentle summer breeze as drummer Matthew Byars kept the beat terse and controlled. The band punched up the tempo for their third song and it had these surrealistic lyrics about the ways of the world and how one should react as all kinds of snippets of music clashed in unison. They seemed to take a long time between songs but the fourth song “Traveling Light” was my favorite song of their set with its verbose lyrics about floating through life as Michael Kentoff sang it with slightly jaundiced eyes and I liked the guitar solo that he played ever so languidly as the notes seemed to just hang there in the air as the band into the next number that got a bit raucous for them as Michael made his whammy bar go crazy with the wah-wah effect. For the sixth number “I Haven't Give Up”, the band made the groove pulse and flow as his vocals danced across the melody and the words were quite insightful and had a nice flow as he repeatedly sang, “Dial 9-1-1...”, and Dave Jones added some intricate little riffs as the drummer Matthew Byars plodded on and on in time and with a pleasant tempo. Next they played a number called “All Of Us” that was about their circle of friends and how they eventually end up dead as Dave made these unearthly sounds on the synth until it abruptly ended on the down stroke. The next song Michael sais was based on a Graham Greene novel which would explain their grandiose lyrics about being a human being and the struggles that follow but I found their music a little bit staid and it seemed that they never changed tempos but they did have some interesting guitar licks and the drummer had a lovely laidback style that was slightly jazzy as guitarists Michael and Dave played a cool dual lead that was the high point of their set. They slowed things back down as they played a very winsome number about feeling secure in this world and how to deal with it gracefully as the guitars got a bit chime-y as the effected vocals told the hard-hitting story. The three of them really effected their vocals for the last number of their ten-song set but I was getting bored it seemed all their songs sounded the same but their songs had some nice and edgy guitar solos but they had no memorable hooks to draw me in and their stagecraft could use some improvement, but overall it was an enjoyable show.
IDA CAMPBELL AND HER BLUES NATION BAND - February 14, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
BACKBEAT UNDERGROUND - February 5, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a cold and windy winter afternoon as I bundled myself up and headed towards the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see to the latest installment of the Hometown Sounds concert series and tonight featured Backbeat Underground who are an octet who play a soulful blend of funk, soul, and jazz improvisation that just warmed my heart with its genuineness. At 6PM the guys from the Hometown Sounds podcast took the stage and told us about the organization and its aims and goals and most of all, their love of local music, and then they brought the band to the stage and leader/saxophonist Satya Thallum took the microphone and rambled on about the mechanics of music and then the band kicked into their first song of their set and Gerald Pierce's bass-playing was fantastic as the horns bounced like ships on the ocean in all their instrumental beauty as they grooved on with their subdued funk. They seamlessly flowed into their next song that was a guitar-driven tornado of notes and guitarist John Wedeles played some nice licks that seemed to wrap around my ears as the organist Brad Booth propelled him forward with his sassy melody runs. Next the band went down-tempo as the beat subtlely grooved as the various instruments swirled with snatches of melody while riding the bass. Satya Thallum brought guest rapper Flex Mathews to the stage so he could add some DC-centric lyrics to the song “I Be On The Green Line” and he had great flow as the beat rhythmically meandered like a pulsing snake as saxophonist Satya let loose with a lovely run on his instrument. The next song was very percussive with some James Brown-style licks from the guitarist John and the band was amazingly tight as the audience clapped along and the groove made me really miss James Brown a whole lot as organist Brad wound the song up with a majestic coda as John finished the song with a wicked solo on his axe. The next song “Less Means Better” had some go-go influences in the Reginold James' drumming as the others played a silky smooth groove that never seemed to go anywhere but the saxophone playing was sensational as the band morphed into another jazz-lite number that just lost me but the guitarist did keep it perky with these clipped and sharp riffs, and also on the next song where his playing reminded me a little bit of the late great Eddie Hazel of Funkadelic fame, however as usual I found a mostly instrumental band a bit boring because there are no vocals to keep my attention and it would add so much more to the music. And as if the band heard me, Satya brought guest vocalist Pamela “Swee' P” Lawrence back to the stage and the band kicked into the deceptively upbeat melody of “Made It Easy” and Swee' P crooned about the “other woman” and fighting for their man and she somehow sympathized with the “other woman”, and the band sounded like the Stax Records house band and with Gerald Pierce's walking bass groove they went into their next song as Satya tried to make everyone get up and dance and John Wedeles made his guitar rock in sync with Brad's lively organ. The band finished their twelve-song set with a frantic horn-driven number called “Scrambled Eggs” that seemed to propel itself as Satya brought Swee' P back to the stage and they got real funky as she wailed about men and their shady ways and the band made that groove swing as they played out the song as they took turns solo-ing and it was real cool...but as George Clinton proclaimed...”sounds like yer funk is on three...”..., but overall the band played a nice and engaging show and I liked some of their songs, so what more can I ask.
CHOPTEETH AFROFUNK BIG BAND - January 29, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
SUPER! SILVER! HAZE! - January 18, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was a dreary-ass winter day as I began my trek to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see this month's Hometown Sounds podcast hosted show with Super! Silver! Haze! whom featured Washington's own Brendan Canty from Fugazi on drums and Doug Kallmeyer from Verses Records on bass and keyboards along with Monica Stroik on video presentations, so this evening's show should be pretty interesting and psychedelic – a full-sensory experience. Brendan Canty has been on the Washington DC music scene for almost forty years now, including a stint in Dischord Records' iconic emo-rockers Fugazi plus many other bands throughout the years, however I do not know much about the other two members. The guys from Hometown Sounds intro-ed the show with their usual spiel and then Super! Silver! Haze! took the stage and opened with a bass-driven number that was sad and hopeful at the same time and Brendan laid down a slab of percussion that just rolled over everything as Doug Kallmeyer played some really melodic riffs on his bass that sounded like he was playing a guitar and it made the song soar over Monica Stroik's lovely video graphics that accented the song and gave it motion. The music was ambient jazz more than anything else but it was warm and gentle and seemed to take me on an aural journey. The second song was a little more propulsive and had a bit of swing from the drummer as Doug played these big open riffs that rode the beat like skin as the song pounded on and on but I wished they had some vocals or just said something but the music was good. They added hints of all kinds of music as they got real progressive rock-sounding on their third song that reminded me of King Crimson as they went into the dark groove of their fourth song as they chugged along so melodically while Monica's spectacular flowing images lit up the video screen behind them. The fifth song was their most “rock” song yet as Doug's bass melody ebbed and flowed over Brendan's succinct and taut percussion with a grand ease as the beat marched on non-stop and some of Doug's innovative bass solos reminded me of The Dixie Dregs as the song gently ended like how the day does with the setting sun and its fading light flayed so beautiful across the sky. I found their soundscapes to be quite beautiful and made me feel blissful among the bass' whimsical melody and Brendan Canty purposeful drumming that almost lulled me to sleep as the song meandered on and on almost like an Indian raga. I really enjoyed the Super! Silver! Haze! performance today, the music was tuneful and interesting even though there were no vocals, and Monica Stroik's large-scale projections were so immersive and cinematically vivid that they brought the music to life.
WES SWING - January 2, 2018
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
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