Hannah Hickock and Maggie Kraus began playing together in 2010, and have since honed their live show into “toe-tapping, knee-slapping spectacles of crystal-clear harmonies and heartfelt acoustic arrangements.” Well, yes but…the lyrics are also sad and introspective, occupying the familiar ground of a singer-songwriter’s lament. In the tradition of artists like Jackson Browne and Aimee Mann, though, buried in the music and lyrics one still finds the joy of ultimate redemption. And like Jackson and Aimee, the inbetween song banter and easy stage presence easily offset the weightiness of the tunes. Or, as Hannah and Maggie put it, “…the silver lining to heartbreak is the idea that, although painful, it may be the catalyst for new creation.” Photos: Mark Caicedo
Singer/songwriters, Heather Nova and Mishka come together for their first tour as a brother-sister duo. In an intimate acoustic setting they play highlights from their respective 20-plus year careers as singer/songwriters; trading songs, backing each other up and debuting some original collaborations. Photos: Mark Caicedo/PuraVida Photography
DREAMCAR played 9:30 Club this Thursday, May 18 with Superet, and both bands brought down the house with a visceral 80s experience both in style and sound.
There are two types of opening bands: ones that have nothing to do with the headliner musically, and ones that sync perfectly. Superet fell into the latter category, hitting on a range of sounds reminiscent of Green Day, Boy George and The Vines. With a strong start and finish, the five-piece band was the perfect choice for opening the show, and made the best of their 30-minute set time to corral the crowd of 20-somethings and older fans alike.
As the crowd quickly grew from 100 to 200-plus attendees once the clock struck 9:15 p.m., it was time for DREAMCAR to take the stage. Joined by two female backup singers and a gentleman wielding a saxophone in a Blues Brothers getup, AFI’s Davey Havok and crew made their presence felt throughout the venue in spectacular fashion.
Sporting an all-salmon pink suit and slick, gelled-back hair, Havok took immediate command of the stage with a profound voice that has only improved over time. A mix of Elvis and a refined Gomez Addams is the best way to describe Havok’s look and performance style as he worked the stage like runway.
As the show progressed, the band’s sound became more defined with No Doubt’s Tony Kanal and Tom Dumont bringing their signature string sounds with strong power chords and a heaping dose of bass backed by 80s synth leads. By the fourth song, Havok’s sports coat and tie were off, and the gentleman with the sax took center stage. Havok was a hard man to pin down, taking advantage of the entire space and moving around left to right, addressing the crowd from the pit to the balcony.
Despite the raucous energy, midway through the set, there was a significant drop in sound quality as all instruments started to get muddled and harder to distinguish from one another. However, the 80s sound of the band became sharper toward the later stages of the set, and finally got the entire venue moving with their closer, “Kill for Candy.”
As the crowd yearned for an encore, they were only met with bright lights and the stage crew breaking down equipment. As a relatively new band, DREAMCAR only had one album to play, which they did in a quick hour. Overall, the show was a huge success, but seemed a little short for the admission paid.
Havok’s stage performance and playful mannerisms brought the entire show full circle, and transformed a good show into a great performance. If you are an 80s music fan who’s looking for something a little different with a vocalist that has some solid pipes, DREAMCAR might be the band for you.
9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; 202-265-0930; www.930.com
Singer/songwriters, Heather Nova and Mishka with special guest Kate Grom came together for their first tour as a brother-sister duo. In an intimate acoustic setting at Birchmere they played highlights from their respective 20+ year careers as singer/songwriters; trading songs, backing each other up and debuting some original collaborations. Photos: Mark Caicedo
Free-spirited at its core, the eighth annual Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival last Saturday rallied supporters once again. Benefiting the Living Classrooms Foundation, the occasion is one worth noting as a must-attend yearly event. The collection of local bands handpicked by past performers inspired a camaraderie among attendees, and there was a sense of freeness at this festival allowing one to explore and find hidden gems.
Often during a music festival, attendees cram to see the headlining acts and overlook the intricate joys of the festival grounds. In stark contrast, elation manifested in a truly organic fashion on Kingman Island. Though the lineup packed a heavy punch with headliners Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Town Mountain, and Dom Flemons, if you happened to wander under a graffiti-decorated bridge adjacent to the Anacostia River, you certainly weren’t disappointed to hear the enchanting sounds of an impromptu performance by unaffiliated artists. Sharing in a once-in-a-lifetime moment of soulful melodies and heartwarming lyrics, one easily found solace, leaving them wanting more.
There was free-flowing beer, kayaking, leashed dogs roaming and children enjoying the simplest things such as playing in mud. Peace comes to mind; an odd sense of peace. All were in sync, “vibing” to the synergistic performance of The War and Treaty. It was magical. As the crowd danced passionately, they were uncontainable but not unruly. It was the perfect combination of philanthropy and entertainment.
But the champion of the festival was Kingman Island’s director and member of two-time festival performing group Blue Plains, Lee Cain. Before and after a well-received set, Cain could be found operating heavy machinery to manage intense mud conditions (necessary for spring growing season on the island), welcoming former Mayor Vincent “Vince” Gray, and carrying every permit needed to ensure a successful and safe event. When asked about the reasoning behind bluegrass and folk music as the genres of choice for the festival, Cain said there’s a certain energy on Kingman Island that is evoked by these genres, but he also hopes to bring music like jazz and R&B, and even hip-hop, to the festival.
Kingman Island’s Bluegrass and Folk Festival was indeed true to form, surpassing all expectations. The marketing was evident as all understood the importance of this event and the cause it supported. Many spoke of the children impacted and lives being changed, and look forward to returning next year.
Learn more about Kingman here.
Photos below by Langford Wiggins
Locals headed out for DC’s signature folk festival now celebrating its eighth year. Guests celebrated spring with amazing local talent and the natural beauty of the nation’s capital while enjoying music, food, drinks and community! Photos: Mark Raker
Described by its creator as “an ecstatic work of negativity,” Robyn Hitchcock instantly stands among the most energized and ambitious recordings of the iconic troubadour’s long career. Guests enjoyed a live performance at Jammin’ Java. Photos: Joel Boches
DC’s favorite spring festival is back this Saturday, inviting music and nature lovers alike back to Kingman Island for the eighth year. The eco-friendly Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival along the Anacostia River draws crowds of up to 10,000 locals annually, plus food trucks, vendors, and a dog and family-friendly vibe. We caught up with Lee Cain, the director of Kingman Island at Living Classrooms (and a member of Blue Plains, performing at this year’s festival) to learn more about all of the moving parts behind this one-of-a-kind event, plus what to expect from this year’s lineup.
On Tap: How long have you been involved with the festival, and what led you to your current role?
Lee Cain: Before this, I ran the education and recreation programs at the Anacostia Watershed Society for 10 years. Living Classrooms was a super strong partner in that work and had just opened Kingman Island with the District, although no one knew it existed. Tommy Wells (Ward 6 Councilman) and one of his staff [members], Dan Conner, had this idea to host a bluegrass festival to drive people to Kingman Island. It started out with a couple of kegs, a band and a couple hundred people, and then it grew. I remember the year it went from around 1,000 people to 7,000 people, and the excitement. The cat was out of the bag and people figured out what Kingman Island was. A couple years ago, as part of the water trail project, I permitted and installed the floating dock on Heritage Island, a project funded by REI. The next year, I was working for Living Classrooms and running Kingman.
OT: What exactly does your role entail?
LC: I’m the caretaker of the island, fundraiser, maintenance worker, partner coordinator and government liaison. Sometimes I’ll use a chainsaw while wearing a suit. I’ll cut a fallen tree blocking a trail, and meet with a councilperson 30 minutes later about how to make camping happen on the island happen. Seriously, I get to wear many hats. It should be said that last year 1,600 volunteers did over 5,000 hours of work to enhance the park, maintain natural resources and prepare sites for education/restoration projects, so it’s not just me. I also coordinate the Living Classrooms education team and partners such as the Anacostia Watershed Society to do education programs on the island. Last year, we worked together to bring over 3,000 kids out to Kingman to learn about wetland ecology and help make a difference by restoring native ecosystems.
OT: How do the proceeds from the festival directly benefit Living Classrooms’ initiatives? Any tangible outcomes you can share with us?
LC: Living Classrooms of the National Capital Region takes out 2,000 District kids on the Anacostia River every year on our historic oyster boat called the Halfshell. We manage Kingman Island, conducting workforce development programs to help 16 to 25-year-olds [prepare] for the workforce, and we take one-third of the fifth graders in the District each year on overnight camping and stream study expeditions. The funds from the festival go toward making all of that happen.
OT: How has the festival changed and grown over the past eight years? What has surprised you about it, year to year?
LC: The idea worked and people discovered Kingman. That’s a pleasant surprise. While it’s a large festival now, there is an element that hasn’t changed at all. It’s so close you can get there by bike, streetcar [or] Metro, but it’s always been an escape [within] the city where it feels like a bunch of musicians just showed up with their stuff and decided to start playing.
OT: Who attends the festival? Do you have a niche audience?
LC: 80 percent of the attendees last year came from inside the Beltway, [and] 60 percent came from District proper. I think one of the elements that’s really cool about this festival is its focus on local talent and local people. There is a span of ages and families find this festival friendly.
OT: How many folks do you anticipate attending this year?
LC: I’m guessing 10,000 again. We have nearly 40 bands, five stages, 13 food trucks and a BBQ caterer.
OT: Any notable additions to this year’s music lineup? Who are you most excited to hear?
LC: The headliners are going to be great: Dom Flemons, Town Mountain [and] Frank Sullivan. But I’m not going to miss Lady Bird. Run Come See is blowing up right now. By and By of course. I should note that I am in one of the bands this year; Blue Plains will go on the Fraser stage at 3 p.m.
OT: What about festival mainstays?
LC: By and By is a great band that has played the festival since the beginning. They are the only one. Our talent people try to roll bands off after two years in a row and get some new acts. That gives us a chance to help [give] new acts a boost into the scene.
OT: Any new food vendors this year?
LC: Rocklands BBQ. They’ll be cooking all day, and I have a feeling I won’t be able to resist the smells.
OT: Tell me a little bit about the festival going green last year and becoming the first zero-waste music festival. How did that initiative come about? What will you do this year to maintain that eco-friendly status?
LC: Last year, we hit 80 percent compostable and recyclable. We’re shooting for 90 percent this year. Everyone gets a reusable cup when they enter, and we limit the kind of things people can bring onto the island to control all waste on the island. I’ve been to my share of music festivals and honestly, it just feels good to not be wallowing in trash toward the end of the show, especially for an event that is focused on social good.
OT: Why do you think Kingman Island is the right fit for the festival each year?
LC: I think that if it weren’t on Kingman, it would be a very different festival. Part of the magic is the walk over the river and through the woods. Please forgive me for that one. The music is spontaneous. You just arrive in a meadow and there’s a fantastic band playing.
OT: What makes the festival unique? Why should newbies check it out?
LC: There really isn’t any other place in the District quite like Kingman Island. There are parts of it that are some of the most remote in the city. There’s a sense of magic at this festival because of the energy that Kingman holds. It’s a special place and [there’s] good will involved in the festival – the local music focus, the stewardship of nature, the escape in the city. Beer makes you feel good, but when you drink a beer on Kingman Island, you feel that good twice over because of where the money you spend goes.
Don’t miss the eighth annual Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival on Saturday, May 13 from 12-8 p.m. Tickets are $30. Click here to learn more.
Kingman Island (on the Anacostia River): 575 Oklahoma Ave. NE, DC; www.kingmanislandbluegrass.info
Locals in DC gathered in the spirit of Earth Day to celebrate environmental sustainability through music. This year’s big names in music include Solange and Rae Sremmurd, along with others like 21 Savage and Lil Yachty. Photos: Brittany Thomas
After about a decade at the helm of the Washington Chorus, music director Julian Wachner will conduct his last official performance with the group on May 14 during their season finale concert at the Kennedy Center.
Wachner will go out with a bang, however, as the Washington Chorus will be joined onstage by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, the Children’s Chorus of Washington, and the Washington National Cathedral Boy and Girl Choristers. The program will feature Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana and Igor Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex.
“It’s going to be an incredible performance with so many forces onstage, and another 80 extra men up there,” Wachner says. “Carmina Burana is such a popular and well-known piece, and doing Oedipus Rex on Mother’s Day brings sort of a primitive feel to it. I think it’s a great combination of pieces.”
Featured singers in the concert include soprano Colleen Daly, mezzo soprano Margaret Lattimore, tenor Vale Rideout, tenor Robert Baker, baritone Christopher Burchett and bass Morris Robinson. NPR’s Ari Shapiro will serve as guest narrator. The secret to conducting so many voices at one time, Wachner says, is maintaining a zen-like calm.
“When you add the orchestra into it, it’s really several hundred people, and you have to get everybody around a singular artistic vision,” he says. “There’s the basic, practical aspect of how you get people to start and stop together, but then you have to move on to how to get everyone to make an artistic statement together. It’s mostly through gesture and coercion and will.”
The show starts at 5 p.m. at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.
“The reason I chose Carmina Burana as my finale is I had never conducted it before, which is a weird thing for a conductor because it is so popular, and I wanted my chance,” Wachner says. “It’s secular in nature and helps us fill the hall with ticket sales because it’s a piece everyone loves.”
And although the season will officially end with that performance, a 100-person choir from the group will gather once more on May 24 to sing in the Hubble Cantata, a new work of music by New York-based composer Paola Prestini. The performance features opera stars Nathan Gunn and Talise Travigne, plus a 20-piece instrumental ensemble.
Wachner says it combines a narrative of a couple experiencing loss with the life and death of a star, and audience members will be given cardboard virtual reality headsets so they can view actual images of a voyage through the universe (as long as they download an app first).
“It’s about an astronomer and his wife, and is the tale of two lovers all wrapped up in life’s discoveries and the universe,” he says. “It’s a very forward-looking piece; very lyrical and is scored for two soloists, a child choir, an adult choir and then adds the VR experience, which is mind-blowing. It’s something truly special.”
In addition to conducting the Washington Chorus, Wachner is music director of Trinity Wall Street in New York and leads the church choir, the Trinity Baroque Orchestra and the contemporary music ensemble Novus NY. He also has an incredibly busy schedule of guest-conducting appearances, which all combined led to his exiting the choir.
“I will miss the energy and vitality that volunteer music making can offer. It’s been an incredible turn, and I’ve been very pleased with the process. We knew this was coming for awhile. We are all parting as friends, and I’m looking forward to continuing relationships with the people here as I move away.”
For more information on the event, visit here.
Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600; www.kennedy-center.org