Mr. Jimijam



Merriweather Post Pavilion - Columbia, MD

SHE WANTS REVENGE - May 26, 2018
Rock And Roll Hotel - Washington, DC

Gypsy Sally's - Washington, DC

Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

PINK - April 17, 2018
Capital One Arena - Washington, DC

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.

Anthem - Washington, DC

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.

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.

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.

Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC

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.

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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