Photo: www.930.com
Photo: www.930.com

Mura Masa Brings His Minimalist Multi-Instrumentalism to 9:30 Club

Alex Crossan took the 9:30 Club stage without much of a fuss on Friday night. Mere moments after the lights dimmed, he took his place while beaming white lights washed over the various musical equipment stockpiled around him. Aside from the myriad of musical tools, there seemed to be a minimalist approach to the stage design, as he opted for only his name – Mura Masa – to appear behind him in white Helvetica on a solid black background.

Virtually every color was represented by lights throughout his set, but only one at a time. The performance itself had very few frills  and honestly, it wasn’t a bad thing. The strategic and somewhat conservative approach to effects was my first clue that the main focus of this show from beginning to end would be the music itself.

Mura Masa did everything himself, from playing drums, guitar and keys to singing and working the soundboard. The 22-year-old, Guernsey-born artist is a mega-multitasker. And aside from being a multi-instrumentalist, he also produces his own music and writes his own songs.

It was amazing to see him constantly rotate from instrument to instrument before chiming in vocally without missing a beat. Since much of Mura Masa’s music features collaborations from artists like A$AP Rocky, Charli XCX, Cosha (who recently switched over from the moniker Bonsai), NAO and more, naturally he needed a versatile vocalist to accompany him for his DC performance. He brought out London artist Fliss as his collaborator for the night, and she took on the various features in her own style.

Whereas Mura Masa couldn’t give us much stage presence (most likely because he was playing literally all of the instruments onstage), Fliss did with ease. She imbued the crowd with energy as she danced across the stage, swinging her long braids to the beats Mura Masa meticulously constructed.

I was very impressed by how similar to Charli XCX she sounded when she sang “1 Night,” and she provided a terrific cover of Cosha’s vocals on “What If I Go?” and “Nuggets,” as well as NAO’s on “Firefly” and her newest Mura Masa collab, “Complicated.

Though Mura Masa’s music lends itself really well to some vocal instrumentation, to me it still seems to be less about what’s being said and more about the overall feeling it gives you. It was a wholly positive experience, though I admittedly wasn’t incredibly familiar with his music beyond the uber popular tracks.

The crowd was comprised of people I’d imagine you’d see at a college frat party, but the overall mood was far less raucous. I’d chalk that up to the music and the way it was presented, because it never really came to a boiling point.

During his last song, Mura Masa expressed his gratitude to the audience for coming out, but much of what he said I couldn’t make out because of his thick British accent. After he left the stage, those of us watching in the audience lingered to see if he might come back out for one more song. But the lights went up and we collectively realized he was gone for the night.

Mura Masa will be on tour on the West Coast for the rest of the month. For more information about tour dates, click here, or check out his website, Twitter or Instagram.

Photo: Courtesy of ThreeLockharts PR
Photo: Courtesy of ThreeLockharts PR

BLT Steak’s Fearlessly Fresh Cocktails

As summer draws to a close and cooler months await us, it’s time to ditch the sugary, syrup-based drinks that permeate summer cocktail programs in favor of something fresher. Light enough to enjoy while the heat continues but not so summery they seem out of place, BLT Steak’s Drink Your Veggies program from beverage director James Nelson features fresh fruits and vegetables in every drink.

The result is potent and refreshing drinks without the sugar that cocktail connoisseurs know can lead to overpowering a drink’s complex flavors – or a dreaded headache the next day. And since the drinks are made on the spot with farm-to-table ingredients, you’re guaranteed vibrance in every sip.

For an elevated take on the orange juice and vodka, look no further than the What’s Up Doc. The vinegar in the  carrot shrub keeps the Orange Hangar 1 Vodka-based drink refreshingly tart, while cinnamon adds a dash of fall flavor to the vividly colored cocktail.

Most of us could use some more greens in their diet. The Don’t Forget The Fennel definitely counts – it even has slivers of nutritious beets floating in it. The bite from the fennel and lime paired with Bombay Sapphire gin and refreshing cucumber will make you forget there’s even a healthy ingredient in this drink.

But the real highlight of Nelson’s menu is a wildly creative take on a simple dish that has taken breakfast menus by storm. The Have Your Toast and Eat It Too is all the ingredients of avocado toast condensed into a cocktail – a dream for any millennial and/or avocado lover.

This isn’t just a drink that relies on recreations of the flavors in avocado toast, though. Hendricks Gin is the perfect vehicle for fresh, muddled avocado. Nelson makes a tangy and refreshing tomato soda to add some effervescence to the concoction, and it’s finished with an everything bagel rim and lemon slice. The result is a creamy, bubbly drink that would beat a Bloody Mary in a contest for the best brunch drink with flying colors.

BLT Steak: 1625 I St. NW, DC; 202-689-8999; www.bltrestaurants.com/blt-steak/washington-d-c/

Photo: www.dawestheband.com
Photo: www.dawestheband.com

Folk Rockers Dawes Come to Wolf Trap

Dawes has spent nine years perfecting the art of the soaring folk-rock singalong. With an impressive six albums in tow, the band is hitting the road this summer with a stop at Wolf Trap on August 24. We caught up with guitarist and songwriter Taylor Goldsmith on their new record, being compared to your heroes and what to expect from Dawes at their live show.

On Tap: Your sixth studio album Passwords was released on June 22. Can you tell me more about some of the themes and inspirations on this album?
Taylor Goldsmith: I think for anyone who works in any creative field – whether you’re a painter, writer or musician – the work that you do tends to reflect the however many years of your life have passed since you put out something else. Right now, we live in this interesting moment. Through politics, culture divides and technology, things are changing very fast and I think [those things] are constantly in the conversation and constantly on our minds. I felt like I needed to explore that in order for me to feel honest as a songwriter. If I’m trying to show people what’s been on my mind, I’ve got to talk about that stuff. Meanwhile, I was getting engaged and falling in love and so there’s a lot of that as well. But beyond that I feel like this album is the relationship between those two ideas: how my worldview and how my concerns for the future and more broad sense of fear are handled through the concept of falling in love.

OT: How did the process of writing and recording Passwords differ from your previous records?
TG:
We went back to working with our first producer who made our first two records, so that was really exciting. It required us to go into the studio a lot earlier than we planned, which meant some of us going in without knowing all the material. I feel like [that’s] true to a lot of music that we love. When we listen to certain Neil Young or Bob Dylan records, there’s always this sense of urgency – this sort of live attitude where you can tell that this group of musicians is learning the material as they’re going.

OT: Speaking of Neil Young and Bob Dylan, you are quite frequently compared to them and other similar artists. How do you feel about that?
TG:
We don’t mind them. It’s just an inevitability at this point. Anybody who is making music needs to be true to what is putting a smile on their own face or what is making them feel motivated or inspired. We’re not chasing down our heroes and trying to just do what they did, but we’re not trying to just shut our influences out. We’re going to do what comes naturally to us. With any artist, the work that they do is a hodgepodge of all of the stuff they’ve ever loved rather than us trying to like get a little heady and be like, “Well, how do we do something no one has ever done before?” I feel like that’s a pretty impossible way to approach representing yourself. I think you’ve just got to write what you write and make what you make, and hope that some sort of individuality shines through.

OT: Are you doing anything differently on this tour than you have in the past? How do you go about putting together your setlist?
TG:
With every new record, our show shifts significantly. We try to incorporate new instruments, like certain drums or keyboards. We try to bring in different ideas for certain songs so they vary from what you might hear on the record. We also try to incorporate certain productions and always try to make sure we’re showing off the new record we made. But I feel like we’re very lucky. Not all bands can say this, but we like all of our music and we like representing it – and we actually make a point to. Anybody who comes to our shows will hear songs from all six albums.

OT: I had the opportunity to see Dawes open for Bright Eyes back in 2011 at Wolf Trap. Do you have any great memories from your last visit? Are you excited to be playing the venue again?
TG:
I remember when Conor [Oberst] invited us to come onstage and sing “Road to Joy” with us. We were honored. It’s a very special place and we’re grateful to get to come back and do our own co-headlining show.

Dawes play The Filene Center at Wolf Trap on August 24 with Shovels & Rope and Joseph. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $35.

The Filene Center at Wolf Trap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; 703-255-1800; www.wolftrap.org

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Taste of Tennis

Photos: Mark Raker

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Arctic Monkeys and Mini Mansions at The Anthem

The Arctic Monkeys performed two nights at The Anthem on July 28-29. The band’s stage setup consisted of a massive “Monkeys” sign lining the back of the stage with dramatic lighting throughout their songs. Frontman Alex Turner took the stage wearing a stylish suit and immediately captivated the audience. Between songs, band members switched things up by rotating instruments and positions onstage. The band kicked off their set with “Four Out of Five” and ended with “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor” both nights. Their setlist included 17 songs with a three-song encore. Los Angeles-based band Mini Mansions kicked off both evenings. Photos/write-up: Shantel Mitchell Breen

Photo: Aja Neal
Photo: Aja Neal

Fresh Fountains

DC heat got you down? Feast your eyes on some of the District’s most iconic fountains and maybe even dip a toe in a few of the city’s kid-friendly water features, because we’re all kids at heart during the dog days of summer, right?

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

7th Street Park Fountain, District Wharf
700 Wharf St. SW, DC
While you can often find little ones dashing through District Wharf’s water feature, all are welcome to partake in the fun. And don’t be afraid to take a seat on one of the plastic rocking horses either.

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

Bartholdi Fountain, U.S. Botanic Garden
100 Maryland Ave. SW, DC
Designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, also the talent behind the Statue of Liberty, this massive water feature stands at 30 feet tall. Its original home was Philadelphia, and the gorgeous structure now rests on the grounds of the U.S. Botanic Garden. Stop by and admire this Gilded Age stunner on your next garden adventure.

Photo: www.landcollective.com

Photo: www.landcollective.com

Canal Park Fountain, Capitol Riverfront
200 M St. SE, DC
Canal Park is a sustainable community hub open year-round but is especially vibrant in the summer due to its built-in, ground-level illuminated water features. Take a dash through the water on your walk to Nats Park or people watch on one of the many benches or colorful chairs.

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

The Court of Neptune Fountain, Library of Congress
68 1st St. SE, DC
Neptune and figures of the Tritons touting their conch shells keep watch over this Library of Congress fountain. It’s especially stunning at night, with lights adding to the majestic nature of the bronze Roman statues.

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

District Square Fountain, District Wharf
100 District Sq. SW, DC
While not for sitting or splashing around in, this elegant fountain is a welcome sight for those perusing District Wharf’s shops and restaurants on a beautiful summer afternoon.

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Dupont Circle Fountain
1 Dupont Cir. NW, DC
Flanked by benches, trees and plenty of shade, this marble memorial fountain is smack dab in the middle of Dupont Circle’s many bars and restaurants. On the weekends, you can often find events, live music and more taking place near the iconic structure.

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Georgetown Waterfront Park
3303 Water St. NW, DC
Try walking through the space in this arching fountain without getting soaked or go all-in on a hot day. Located right on the water in Georgetown, it’s the perfect (free!) post-dinner and drinks pit stop.

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

Summerhouse Fountain, U.S. Capitol Building
West Front Lawn, Senate side of the U.S. Capitol Building in SE, DC
If you’re craving respite from the tourist-filled grounds of the National Mall, look no further than Summerhouse. This shady grotto has a water feature inside with seating for more than 20 people, tucked away on the outskirts of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Tivoli Fountain, Columbia Heights
1445 Ogden St. NW, DC
This colorful fountain is nestled among the shops and restaurants in Columbia Heights. You can sit on one of the surrounding benches to cool off after a shopping spree or sprint through it if you’re feeling adventurous.

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

Water Feature, Yards Park
355 Water St. SE, DC
This cascading water feature is a great spot to fully splash around in or just admire on your next visit to Capitol Riverfront. It’s surrounded by lots of grassy park space, so you can even settle in for a sunny picnic.

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The xx with Kelsey Lu at 9:30 Club

The XX played three sold out shows last week at the 930 Club ending with a dynamic performance on Friday, July 27. Fans came from all over to see this stellar show, which was the last show on their I See You tour. The three piece band took the dark stage in uniform style, and kicked off with strobe lights and droning guitars. They treated the fans to 17 songs, including “Crystalised,” “Reunion” and a remix of “Sunset,” including a cover of Madonna’s “Ray of Light.” Opening for this show was Kelsey Lu, who made her appearance dressed in layers of white and amazed fans with her incredible voice. It was almost like an angel had appeared at the 9:30 Club. Photos/write-up: Shantel Mitchell Breen

Photo: www.ticketmaster.com
Photo: www.ticketmaster.com

Quirky Bands Can Rock Too: Arcade Fire at Jiffy Lube Live

Glittering kimonos, a giant disco ball and tambourines thrust into the crowd were just a few of the highlights from Arcade Fire’s show at Jiffy Lube Live on Friday night. But would you really expect anything less quirky from a band like Canadian-based Arcade Fire? Maybe not, but that doesn’t keep their show from being any less exciting each time lead singer Win Butler and the band, including wife Régine Chassagne and brother Will, hit the stage.

Where theatrics for Arcade Fire’s Reflektor tour came in the form of luminous silvers and golds and flashing mirrors everywhere, their Everything Now Continued tour – a second round set for their fifth album Everything Now (released July 2017) – uses vivid colors and giant screens to symbolize the album’s themes of consumerism, content overload and hopelessness in our modern age. Plenty of reflective objects are in the mix too, as technology is a running theme for the band.

Setting a subtle tone to open the show, Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise” was followed by an instrumental version of Arcade Fire’s “Everything Now (Continued)” before the musicians appeared. But as the band hit the stage with their classic anthem “Wake Up,” the show went from whimsical violins to foot-stomping fun that had the whole audience singing along.

“Put Your Money on Me,” “We Don’t Deserve Love” and the Chassagne-fronted “Electric Blue” from the band’s latest album were performed in succession early on in the set, but not many more songs from Everything Now made the setlist. It seemed this leg of the tour is less about the band promoting their new album and more about having fun and giving some lesser-played songs some love. Cue the dance-inducing “Here Comes the Night Time” transporting listeners to Chassagne’s home country of Haiti during Carnival, or decade-old lyrics that could have been written for 2018 in “Suburban War,” where Win sings, “Now the music divides us into tribes // Choose your side, I’ll choose my side.”

Other songs proved not just old favorites, but reminders that many genres make up the band’s sound. For all their labels – self-prescribed or not – as the friendly Canadian hipsters that use zany instruments like accordions and keytars, it can be easy to think of Arcade Fire as just a breezy indie rock band. But jumping around and shouting the lyrics to “Neighborhoods #3 (Power Out)” and “Creature Comfort,” it struck me that they’re authentic rock and rollers to the core.

Other memorable moments from the night included the band entering the stage by walking through the crowd, Chassagne (who I swear played almost every instrument on the stage at least once) dancing with concertgoers during “Afterlife” and Will continuing to bang his drum during the show closer despite having tripped and sprained his ankle.

With the show coming to an end, Win noted that a portion of the money made from the night would go toward the Arcade Fire <3 Haiti campaign with Partners in Health. The band then broke out in fan-favorite “Rebellion (Lies)” that had the whole crowd shouting “Every time you close your eyes // Lies, lies!” proving that indie darlings Arcade Fire can rock with the best of them.

Learn more about Arcade Fire here.

Photo: Aja Neal
Photo: Aja Neal

Fall Forecast: Fresh Autumn Brews

Swig the last gulps of refreshing summer sours and get ready for fresh autumn brews recommended by some of our favorite local retailers. If you’re not too pumped about pumpkin ales, there are plenty of other familiar flavors brewed or sold locally – from sweet beers with hints of pecan, yams or coffee to malty Belgians and crisp brut IPAs. And don’t worry, you won’t have to give up sours completely, with some fall-forward fruit options on the horizon. Learn more about what’s hot for fall from these beer experts.

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

Julie Drews and Beth Helle
Co-Owners, The Brew Shop

On Tap: What beers are you looking forward to stocking in fall?
Beth Helle: One thing we love to do in the fall is create our own pumpkin patch, which is our own in-house, mixed six different pumpkin beers. It allows customers to have their pumpkin fix and to try a bunch of different ones without committing to a full six-pack.

OT: Which local brands are popular sellers in the fall?
Julie Drews: Port City’s Oktoberfest is always a big hit. Old Ox does a can, which is somewhat unique.
BH: Three Notch’d always does well. They always hit us up with amazing seasonals. Their seasonal gose will be pomegranate during [fall]. It’s fun to see the sour trend continuing over the fall. I’m sure that it’ll continue to be popular with the changing of fruits for the season.

OT: What brands will you have on tap?
BH: We always have a dedicated sour line, and that will continue all year. We’ll be shifting our fruited sours to more fall-forward fruits. I also think we’ll have an opportunity to play around with more brut beers versus true sours. As we move into the cooler weather, we can play around with a little more funk on that sour line.

The Brew Shop: 2004 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.arlbrew.com

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Erika Goedrich
Owner, Craft Beer Cellars

OT:  When people think fall, they often think pumpkin. Is there another top flavor people overlook?
Erika Goedrich: 3 Stars’ Southern Belle imperial brown ale is year-round now, but that’s a good fall drink. Abita comes out with a pecan harvest at that time. There are different pecan beers available that I think are good for that time of year.

OT:  Is there a summer beer that you think people can still enjoy in the fall?  
EG: I feel like DC summers go into the fall, so are you going by weather or calendar year? [Laughs] I drink lagers and pilsners year-round – for me that’s great. The Old Pro from Union [Craft Brewing] is a gose that our customers can’t seem to get enough of. That one’s technically a summer seasonal. It goes until September I think; it’s a gose-style, which is a salt-forward sour. Again, people are looking for that year-round.

Craft Beer Cellar: 301 H St. NE, DC; https://dc.craftbeercellar.com

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Sean Michaels and Josh Whisenant
Society fulfillment associates, The Bruery Store

On Tap: What Bruery flavors are on-trend for fall?
Sean Michaels: We actually have fall beers we carry year-round. We use a lot of yam and spices like cinnamon – a lot of the beers for fall are darker.
Josh Whisenant: I don’t think we have a specific “every fall we produce this beer” apart from The Bruery’s flagship beer, which is called Black Tuesday and comes out every October.

OT: What is your favorite fall beer crafted by The Bruery?
JW: We have so many different beers that come in every month. I really do like Autumn Maple; I think it’s a wonderful beer. It’s easy to drink and it’s not super heavy.
SM: I would probably go for the So Happens It’s Tuesday or [something] with coffee. It’s just a heavier, darker style that kind of gives you that fall feeling. But don’t get me wrong – you can drink it year-round.

The Bruery: 513 Morse St. NE, DC; www.thebruery.com

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Tristan Walton
Store manager, Schneider’s of Capitol Hill

On Tap: What are some hot sellers for fall?
Tristan Walton: I’m always a big fan of the traditional German Oktoberfest – Hacker-Pschorr, Paulaner. Those are always the biggest sellers for me, the traditional styles.

OT: What about the best summer-to-fall flavor transition?
TW: You can do like a nice amber, like Chin Music from Center of the Universe [Brewing Company] is a good one. So, [beers] keeping in the amber themes.

OT: Your personal fall favorite?
TW: During the fall, I always enjoy a good Schlafly pumpkin [ale].

Schneider’s of Capitol Hill: 300 Massachusetts Ave. NE, DC; www.cellar.com

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

Shawntel Pike
Assistant manager, Total Wine Alexandria

On Tap: Tell us about your favorite fall seasonals.
Shawntel Pike: I like a lot of the more Belgian-style dark beers. Hardywood will start putting out some really nice stuff [for fall]. They do some nice Belgian-style, and they will start doing some barrel-aged, darker stuff in the fall, but they’re still on the lighter side now. I like their peach one now. I like fruity flavors for fall; I don’t think people really look for them, but I like them. Blackbeard’s Breakfast by Heavy Seas is really good – it’s very dark and boozy.

OT: What are some of your best-selling beers?
SP: I know we do really well with the pumpkin beers. They’re really popular, but those will die off around Thanksgiving. As far as the rest of the fall beers, they’re just all over the place depending on what people are looking for. Schlafly flies out of here.

OT: What do you feature in the growler station during the fall?
SP: I try to feature different beers all the time because we don’t want to do the same beers over and over – people get burnt out that way. We tend to have a couple of IPAs on tap. We’ll have a couple of darker beers like a stout or a porter. We normally keep a sour on tap, and we’ll do a couple of pale, golden wheat-style ales.

Total Wine Alexandria: 6240 Little River Turnpike, Alexandria, VA; www.totalwine.com