Photo: Courtesy of St. Pete Holland
Photo: Courtesy of St. Pete Holland

New Single from an Artist to Watch: St. Pete Holland’s “Different Hymn”

Every now and then, dads are right.

Last March, mine told me to check out a new musician – a friend’s son – who had a song on Spotify. Yeah, yeah, sure okay, Dad. Since when did he know what Spotify was?

A month or so later, I needed a procrastination aid and finally got around to looking up, Who was it? [scrolls through emails] St. Pete Holland. By this point, the song Dad had referenced evolved into a seven-track EP entitled Seven Deadly Hymns, which included that first studio-finished single “Yours and Mine.”

Preparing to be underwhelmed by another Romeo and Juliet ballad, I hit the play button on “Capulets.” I was not underwhelmed. In fact, I was kind of whelmed. A whistled intro led me into a perfect little not-love song.

Folksy but not folk and with a little bit of funk, St. Pete Holland is exactly what you want from a modern acoustic act out of Nashville. There is sweet naiveté in the lyrics and singalong beat, but clean progression, clever transformations and educated instrumental references make the earnestness more alluring than maudlin.

A combination of songwriting and guitar skills and a voice tinged with The Fray’s Isaac Slade and The Tallest Man on Earth won the act’s lead – who at the moment goes only by his musical moniker St. Pete/Pete Holland – Demolition Music’s 2017 Nashville Songwriters Competition.

It was also in Nashville where he met the other two core performers on the Seven Deadly Hymns EP, Jackson Bruck (Dukes of Hume) and Patrick Fuller (son of country rock’s Craig Fuller). “Nashville is incredible,” St. Pete says. “It’s porch-sitting. It’s open and vulnerable unlike anywhere else I’ve lived – NYC, Philly, London, L.A…”

St. Pete says he knows what he’s supposed to be doing is music, and soon enough, it’s going to be his main focus.

“When I was about 13, I started playing the guitar. I had stumbled on a Led Zeppelin remastered box set. I went crazy with it and thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I just wanted to be Jimmy Page.”

While his personal style has veered away from Zeppelin, the musician says to be a good songwriter you have to listen to what inspires you. By listening, and paying attention to the ideas that float by, he can sit down and build a song from the inside out to “come up with something that has a pulse when it’s done.”

“I wrote 100 songs in Nashville. Now it’s time to record.”

He has done a bit of recording recently – the latest single from St. Pete Holland, “Different Hymn,” dropped today.

St. Pete is currently based in Los Angeles, but frequently travels back east for musical collaboration (and because we all know that “best coast” thing is bullshit). Take a listen. Maybe we can get him to swing through the District.

For more information on St. Pete Holland and Seven Deadly Hymns, click here.

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Chvrches at The Anthem

Chvrches performed in front of a sold out crowd at The Anthem on October 18. Lo Moon opened. Photos: Shantel Mitchell Breen

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Little Dragon and April + VISTA at Rock & Roll Hotel

Grammy-nominated Little Dragon played a sold out show in the intimate Rock and Roll Hotel on October 17. Local duo April + VISTA opened with a set. Photos: Mike Kim

Shayla S. Simmons // Photo: DJ Corey Photography
Shayla S. Simmons // Photo: DJ Corey Photography

Aida Offers Love Triangle of Mystery

Finding love or defying odds – both are full of risks and layered with potentially upheaving plot twists. This is especially true for the Tony Award-winning musical Aida, an epic love story by Elton John and Tim Rice.

At Source through November 18, director Michael J. Bobbitt leads an ensemble of 14 to produce harmonious ballads, spirituals and pop sensations alike as part of Constellation Theatre Company’s 2018-2019 season, Epic Love.

In a war-torn country, an army captain (Radames) from Egypt, unbeknownst to him, captures the princess of Nubia (Aida) and forces her into slavery to serve his betrothed, the princess of Egypt (Amneris). A love triangle afoot, the mystery of betrayal is onerous – and the only matter worth pondering is the cause that shatters love in an ancient Egyptian tale.

The journey to uncovering the fate of these love-stricken nationalists is one of grand proportions. Each scene scratches deeper at the soul as passionately sung narratives draw tears from audience members. While echoing sentiments of longing for what was once eternal but now is at risk of being forgotten, songs like “The Gods Love Nubia” bring hope for the hopeless and peace for those eternally at war.

Fret not, though. The songs are not just of a melancholy nature. On the contrary – the song and dance numbers have listeners overcome with joy, as intended by the mastermind behind The Lion King score. Tony Thomas II’s choreography and Kenann Quander’s costume designs are paired perfectly with each song.

Chiffon, silk, exaggerated beading and over-the-top headwear grace the stage. With no surprise, Amneris, played by the emotive Chani Wereley, donned the best a princess could find, with at least six wardrobe changes. The breathtaking designs even elicited a witty remark from Aida, exquisitely played by Shayla S. Simmons.

“The Egyptians have a really nice thread count.”

Even the Pharaoh earned best dressed with his gold headwear and black cutout overalls.

If you’re looking for an epic love story that will have you on the edge of your seat, a good laugh and singalong-worthy tunes, or your next fashion obsession, see Aida. The production is the best addition to one’s autumn theatre itinerary. The sacrificial love displayed in this intimate space will warm your heart throughout the season.

Aida is playing at Source through November 18. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased at www.constellationtheatre.org.

Constellation Theatre Company at Source: 1835 14th St. NW, DC; 202-204-7741; www.constellationtheatre.org

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Cage The Elephant at St. Elizabeths East Entertainment and Sports Arena

Cage The Elephant performed Saturday, October 13 for the grand opening of the St. Elizabeths East Entertainment and Sports Arena in DC. The new venue features a gymnasium-style auditorium with a 4,200-person capacity, and two levels directly across from the stage with one level on either side of the stage. The floor space is quite large, with the option of bleacher seating extending from the back. Cage The Elephant delivered an energetic set including hit favorites such as “Closer,” “Cigarette Daydreams” and “Shake Me Down.” Lead singer Matt Shultz kept the audience entertained as he bounded across the stage and frequently interacted with starstruck fans in the front row. Judah & the Lion opened – their short set exploded with energy and ended with frontman Judah Akers leaping into the crowd.  Photos/write-up: Shantel Mitchell Breen

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Kali Uchis at 9:30 Club

Kali Uchis played her hometown twice this week on October 9 and 10, electrifying the crowd at 9:30 Club during sold-out shows. Touring on her debut album Isolation, Uchis brought her angelic voice and diva presence to the famed stage. Her set was filled with songs the crowd wanted to sing along to, such as “Tyrant,” “Just a Stranger” and “After the Storm.” Photo/write-up: Mike Kim

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Nine Inch Nails and The Jesus and Mary Chain at The Anthem

Nine Inch Nails performed twice at The Anthem this week on October 9 and 10, treating fans to nearly two hours of music each time. Both sets included well-known favorites and songs only true hardcore NIN fans would know. Trent Reznor and his band also treated fans to a few surprises, including “Home,” which had not been performed live since 2009, a guitar-filled version of “Closer” and an excellent cover of David Bowie’s “I’m Afraid of Americans.” Jesus and Mary Chain opened for NIN both evenings; their 12-song set opened with “Honey” and ended with the loud guitars of “Reverence.” Photos/write-up: Shantel Mitchell Breen

Photo: Dan Ball
Photo: Dan Ball

Unheralded Lucero Soldiers on through 9:30 Club

Lucero‘s upcoming concert at 9:30 Club will hopefully serve as a reminder of how hard longevity is for rock bands and why the accomplishment is worth celebrating. Returning to their “home away from home,” Lucero will feature new literary songs fashioned by solo singer and lyricist, Ben Nichols, who has written their heartbreaking hits since the band’s inception in 1998.

For 20 years, Lucero has toured under the radar, serenading listeners across the country. Even with 12 albums under their belt, Lucero sometimes sees blank expressions when their name is mentioned. Fortunately, this does not deter them from traveling year-round for an ever-growing following throughout the U.S., U.K. and Australia.

The band’s current lifespan was unexpected for the four-piece band.

“I didn’t think it would last, but I had this romanticized idea of starting a rock and roll band and piling in a van and traveling the country,” Nichols says. “I never planned on changing the world or becoming The Beatles. I just wanted to be one of those garage bands that get in a van and play punk rock shows.”

Despite playing for two decades, the band doesn’t lament mainstream notoriety, as Nichols humbly insists, “we are not a slick, professional-type band. We have shot ourselves in the foot numerous times, probably. Poor decision making here and there.”

“I think there are only certain music listeners that are going to appreciate what we do,” he continues. “It’s not for the general public, even though our crowds keep growing. It’s never going to be mainstream; we don’t want to be.”

Content with their status in the music industry, Lucero prides themselves on maintaining artistic integrity.

“We are a small business, a working band,” Nichols says. “We’re not rich and famous, but we get to do what we love doing, and we’re paying the bills [while] doing it. We ended up exactly where we wanted to be.”

Nichols’ life has traditionally provided much of the inspiration for the band’s often emotional music. However, the latest album Among the Ghosts features a generally fictional narrative drawn from books and old war letters.

“I wanted to become a better songwriter,” Nichols says. “It’s easy to write down a diary entry and have raw emotions spill out on the page, which works sometimes, but we’ve done a lot of that in the past.”

The reach of the new LP is broader, meant to connect with different listeners.

“There’s a song, ‘To My Dearest Wife,’ [and] it’s kind of about a soldier being far from home and writing back home to his wife,” Nichols explains. “There’s an impending battle, and he doesn’t know what’s going to happen. He says [in the letter] kiss our baby girls.”

“There are things I can relate to in this song that aren’t about me,” he continues. “Obviously, I’m not a soldier. I’m not in a war anywhere, but being gone from home is tough. I have a two year-old baby daughter back home, and it’s a different kind of heartbreak being on tour now.”

For a time, Lucero was touring 200-250 shows a year, but has recently scaled back to an average of about 140 per year.

Though the style and years have changed Lucero, their tone has largely remained unchanged.

“I like old rock and roll songs,” Nichols says. “There’s nothing wrong with songs about girls, songs about having a good time. I do a little bit of that, but I like dark, sad songs too.”

To engage their following, Nichols constantly strives for consistent resonance between the band and fans.

“Writing these songs have really gotten me through some tough times,” Nichols says. “To hear from those who have been through tough times and hearing that our music helps [is] big. Hearing about soldiers in Afghanistan… and it helps get them through, those are very nice stories to hear.”

Even though Lucero has accomplished more than they originally set out to, the band still has more goals for the future.

“I would love to have Stevie Nicks’ voice on some of the stuff we’ve written,” Nichols says. “Especially with the Among the Ghost record, her voice would actually fit right in there perfectly. That would be a dream come true.”

Lucero will perform at 9:30 Club on October 14. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased at www.930.com.

Learn more about the band here and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @luceromusic.

9:30 Club: 815 V St NW, DC; 202-265-0930; www.930.com