Photo: www.womadelaide.com.au
Photo: www.womadelaide.com.au

Thievery Corporation’s Eric Hilton on The Anthem

Down to earth is the quality that comes to mind when speaking with Eric Hilton, who, along with Rob Garza, co-founded Thievery Corporation, the DC-based electronic music group known for their blend of dub, acid jazz, reggae and hip-hop. On Tap recently chatted with Hilton about the group’s upcoming New Year’s Eve show at The Anthem, and the impact the new venue at The Wharf is having on our city.

Thievery Corporation has become one of the most well-known bands to come out of DC since the group’s start in 1995, but Hilton is also known for having his finger on the next “it” spot in DC. Venues like American Ice Company, El Rey and Satellite Room are just a few that he’s been involved with. And Thievery Corporation actually got its start out of the Eighteenth Street Lounge, which Hilton founded along with a few DJs. When we asked his thoughts on The Anthem, he described the venue as a game changer for DC.

“You have arena size, like Capital One, and then you have 9:30 Club, and then of course the small clubs,” Hilton said. “But you know, some bands are caught in-between. Some shows are not going to sell out [at] Capital One, but people don’t want to do multiple nights at 9:30 Club.”

Thievery Corporation has been known to play five nights in a row at 9:30 Club, but Hilton added that the difference is that they’re from the area. Hilton shared an anecdote about The Anthem as well.

“[This] is a kind of ‘ra ra for DC’ comment, but I was talking to the manager for Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, and he was saying that he felt that after New York, DC might be the best live music market in the country because of the addition of The Anthem.”

Hilton said people in DC spend a lot of money per capita on live music, and he thinks it’s because “they work their ass[es] off. They work hard, they make their money and they want to get something good for it.”

He said his upcoming Anthem show might be Thievery Corporation’s last in DC for the next year or two. The group plans to travel to record music and take a break from their touring pace.

“I don’t know if we’ll be back anytime soon, but this is a big show for us and we’re excited about it.”

Thievery Corporation will share the stage with gypsy punk rockers Gogol Bordello and Trouble Funk, a fellow DC band who have been making funk and go-go records since the 80s, at The Anthem on New Year’s Eve. Doors are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $75. Learn more about the band here, and keep your eyes peeled for their upcoming album Treasures from the Temple, out next March.

The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; 202-888-0020; www.theanthemdc.com

Rosslyn Carols Holiday Celebration at Central Place Plaza

It was a fun holiday evening around the tree on Rosslyn’s Central Place Plaza! Guests enjoyed live music from The Woodshedders and holiday carolers while sipping on a glass of wine or hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps. Fun holiday games and a life-size snow globe photo booth kept the crowd in the holiday spirit! Photos: John Gervasi

Cinema Hearts at Fort Reno DC/Photo: Mike Maguire
Cinema Hearts at Fort Reno DC/Photo: Mike Maguire

Guitars and Tiaras: Cinema Hearts’ Caroline Weinroth

Pageant shows and rock ‘n’ roll are two things you probably wouldn’t picture together, but Cinema Hearts are proving that a beauty queen can rock a tiara while shredding on guitar.

Based out of Fairfax, Virginia, Cinema Hearts are Miss Mountain Laurel 2017 Caroline Weinroth on guitar and vocals, her brother Erich on bass, and new addition Dylan van Vierssen on drums. Equal parts sugar and spice, the band combines a modern pop take on 50s nostalgia with rock-leaning electric guitars and accentuated drums that cut through the sweetness.

While an undergrad at George Mason University, Weinroth started a solo career doing open mic nights on campus. It wasn’t until 2015 that Erich joined her on bass and their mutual GMU friend James Adelsberger rounded out the group on drums.

Since then, the band has released two albums, 2016’s Feels Like Forever and 2017’s Burned and Burnished; parted (on good terms) with Adelsberger, who was later replaced by van Vierssen; and will soon be performing at the Black Cat, one of their biggest performances to date. Cinema Hearts will be joined by local band Julian and New Orleans-based New Holland at the Black Cat’s backstage on December 12.

“It’s our first time playing Black Cat as a band so I’m really excited,” Weinroth says. “This is our first traditional venue show in a few months and we have some new songs that I think people will really enjoy.”

She adds that with Cinema Hearts shows, she tries to make it a “glamorous affair” with all details centered around having a well-rounded, sensory-visual experience. Part of that glamorous setting involves her wearing her crown and sash to go with her pageant queen onstage persona, which Weinroth says started as a joke.

“No doubt that there’s a very strong presence of women in music and there’s so many different, talented, diverse artists who are women who are playing guitar or other instruments, but you don’t really see that in the mainstream. And at the time with Cinema Hearts, I was like, ‘What if I took this super masculine instrument – the electric guitar that has a very male-dominated history – and I combined it with the most feminine thing I can think of?,’ which to me was the Miss America pageant.”

For that reason, Weinroth says even from the beginning of Cinema Hearts, she has always played in a sequin dress and high heels.

“I really want to show that, though I’m a very womanly person, I can play electric guitar and convey the song’s message that I want to convey.”

Eventually, she wanted to stop being a poseur and signed up for a pageant and won. But dressing like a pageant queen to prove a point isn’t Weinroth’s only feminist move. On songs like “Fender Factory” off of their last album, she sings to her male antagonist that just because she’s a girl doesn’t mean she doesn’t know her way around a guitar – a true story of the time she went to the Fender Factory in California and had to deal with a pretentious tour guide.

But “Fender Factory” is just one of the many songs off Burned and Burnished that deals with growing up and innocence lost.

“The overarching theme of the album was a lot of disillusionment and letting go of naïveté,” she says. “If our first album was more of coming-of-age, I felt like our second album was much more ‘Alright, I really feel like an adult!’”

As for the album title, it pays homage to one of her favorite quotes from the play The Fantasticks, which goes, “The play is never done until we’ve all of us been burned a bit and burnished by the sun.”

Erich, who studied music technology at GMU while producing both albums, added that mixing proved easier the second time around, having gained more experience but also having a clearer sense of what he wanted Burned and Burnished to sound like.

As for where Cinema Hearts goes from here, Weinroth hopes to see the band spread out from the DMV scene and share their music with more people.

“I’m really excited and hopeful that we’re the kind of act that will be able to make an impact in the music scene of America,” she says. “And being able to inspire other women and girls through our music and being able to hit bigger stages where we can share these messages with people would be astounding.”

Catch Cinema Hearts at Black Cat’s backstage on Tuesday, December 12 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. Learn more about the band here.

Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; 202-667-4490; www.blackcatdc.com

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Hot Tuna at The Birchmere

To some, Hot Tuna is a reminder of some wild and happy times. To others, that name will forever be linked to their own discovery of the power and depth of American blues and roots music. To newer fans, Hot Tuna is a tight, masterful duo that is on the cutting edge of great music. Hot Tuna graced the DMV once more on Tuesday at The Birchmere. Photos: Mark Raker / Write-up: Hot Tuna’s website

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B-52’s Cindy Wilson at Black Cat

The B-52’s Cindy Wilson traded in her iconic beehive and funky outfits for a Twiggy-esque haircut and more alt-rock look, and hit the road last month with her solo project bandmates Suny Lyons, Ryan Monahan, Lemuel Hayes and Marie Davon. Wilson describes Lyons and Monahan as her partners and songwriters; the two musicians wrote the majority of the songs on her new solo album CHANGE. Wilson unleashed her new sound on the Black Cat‘s backstage on Monday. Photos: Mark Caicedo / Write-up: Monica Alford

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Steve Earle at The Birchmere

If you ever had any doubt about where Steve Earle’s musical roots are planted, his new collection, So You Wannabe an Outlaw, makes it perfectly plain. “There’s nothing ‘retro’ about this record,” he states. “I’m just acknowledging where I’m coming from.” So You Wannabe an Outlaw is the first recording he has made in Austin, Texas. Earle brought the sounds of his renegade country to The Birchmere on Wednesday. Photos: Joel Boches / Write-up: Steve Earle’s website

Photo: Monica Frissel via www.facebook.com/dannybarnesbanjo/
Photo: Monica Frissel via www.facebook.com/dannybarnesbanjo/

Danny Barnes Trio Brings Grit To Waterfront

Pearl Street Warehouse welcomes one of the greatest banjo and bluegrass musicians of his generation this Friday night. Danny Barnes – who along with Joe K. Walsh and Grant Gordy formed the Danny Barnes Trio – has been honing his craft since 1971, back when he was immersed in the music of punk and dub gods. He has transferred that grit into his songwriting, and it surfaces in both his banjo playing and his twangy, dirt-devil accent. He claims his present style is directed toward a “select group of people,” as far as a $20 ticket can be selective. In a recent phone interview, Barnes discussed his artistic approach, cataloged his breadth of experience and told us what to expect from his upcoming show.

On Tap: Will you be playing a lot songs from Stove Up on Friday?
Danny Barnes: We have a lot of tunes from that, especially the new record. But then, I have songs from my back catalog – from this record called Pizza Box and another record called Rocket. Then there’s stuff that Joe and Grant bring in as well. We try to keep things as a bit of a democracy where we try to represent everybody and what they’ve got goin’ on. We try to make a soup out of everybody sort of thing.

OT: How did your trio form?
DB: When you’re out here doing this, you kind of end up meeting everybody after a few years [laughs]. I think we met through camps – teaching at camps, different music camps. They’re friends with Darol Anger, and he’s also one of my friends. They have a band called Mr. Sun that they’re in with [Anger]. It’s kind of a big family thing, you know?

OT: A few years ago, you received the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, which recognized your many years contributing to the form. How does your current work compare to your work in the past?
DB: [The award] was the biggest honor of my life. I’ve always thought of myself as a songwriter first. What I do is make up music and use the banjo as a way of getting the music out. So the banjo is kind of a pencil. I didn’t really ever look at myself as an instrumentalist, so to speak. That award meant a lot to me in that regard because a lot of the guys on the board were banjo players – very influential guys like Béla [Fleck], Tony Trischka, J.D. Crowe, Alison [Brown] and Steve Martin himself. I felt like it made me rethink my banjo playing; I think it suddenly did change how I do my work. I’ve never done a banjo record [until now]. All my records are song-based records with other musicians or sample-based things where I make things on the computer.

OT: Where do the punk and dub influences turn up in your music?
DB: When I was in high school, the music that was kind of happening was punk rock. Socioeconomically, it was music for people that were kind of broken. That’s what I feel about bluegrass and country music, at its best, and those kinds of things are really for people that have the blues. I think punk rock was like that in a way. It came from [a] socioeconomic disadvantage. So did bluegrass [and] country music in a sense. As far as dub music, when I was learning, I always messed around with tape recorders. At that time, there were all these Jamaican records coming out. They use really basic elements like delay, equalization, tape compression and panning – pretty normal studio stuff. But they sort of played the studio like an instrument. I’ve drawn on both of those aspects quite a bit on a lot of my records.

OT: What are the advantages and disadvantages of playing an intimate venue like Pearl Street Warehouse? 
DB: The good thing about it is if people are hip to your references, then there’s a lot of good energy. I’m sort of an underdog of an underdog, an underground of an underground. Typically, I feel like my audience reads books and is aware of things. You have to to know who I am – I’m a pretty small person in terms of status and clout. I don’t have meatheads coming to my shows. We’re really playing for us. It’s kind of like, “If you can catch it, you’re welcome to come along.” We have a better chance playing at a smaller venue with that aesthetic. We’re not trying to entertain the mass. We’re really trying to bring a select piece of art to a select group of people.

OT: Could you describe your relationship with the music and culture of DC?
DB: [I’ve been] coming there and playing there forever since the 80s. I think I’ve played every iteration of the 9:30 [Club]. I’ve played the Birchmere, the Kennedy Center and the Barns at Wolf Trap. DC is great – a lot of great restaurants, easy to get around. Typically a pretty hip audience, you know? People that read. They have pretty good radio support there. You’ve got – is it WAMU? You have kind of a hip audience. There’s plenty of jobs so people can go out.

The Danny Barnes Trio will play at Pearl Street Warehouse on Friday, December 8. Doors open at 7 p.m., show at 8:30 p.m. For tickets, click here.

Pearl Street Warehouse: 33 Pearl St. SW, DC; 202-380-9620; www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com 

Kris Allen/Photo: Courtesy of Triple 8 Management
Kris Allen/Photo: Courtesy of Triple 8 Management

Miracle for Jammin Java Owners

Brothers Jonathan, Luke and Daniel Brindley know their way around the performance space side of the music industry. Since opening Jammin Java more than 16 years ago, they have hosted countless award-winning and almost famous music artists in their small, Vienna, Virginia-based venue – and, more importantly, managed to bring crowds in to see them.

“[Jammin Java] shouldn’t work, but it does,” says Brindley, the trio’s booking manager.

Bon Iver, Andrew Bird, Brandi Carlile, Fun, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are just a few of the big names that have played the “random strip mall in the suburbs” over the years. But now the brothers are embarking on a new adventure, and bringing it inside the Beltway. Their happy New Year will involve the opening of Union Stage on Pearl Street at the new Wharf development – a 450-seat venue, bar and restaurant.

“Since about year five. we’ve been on the lookout for an opportunity outside of Jammin Java, but nothing was ever quite right,” Brindley says.

When approached about the space a year-and-a-half ago, the brothers knew it was the one. And despite the opening of several other new venues in the area, they are sure Union Stage will be a success.

“This is a very natural step for us to complement what we’ve done at Jammin Java,” Brindley continues. “We’re going to have this bigger, badder, cooler club on the waterfront in the city. It’s a good thing.”

While neighboring venues Pearl Street Warehouse and IMP’s Anthem have already opened doors to concertgoers, the team behind Union Stage is still waiting for an official open date, slated for sometime at the start of 2018. But they certainly haven’t been resting on their laurels. Instead, they’ve found creative ways to expand their business further, and promote the new venue at the same time.

Nestled inconspicuously in the center of Barracks Row is the Miracle Theatre – a 350-seat renovated theater built in 1909. Originally home to vaudeville acts, and then silent and Western films, the theater is now host to a variety of performances, events, concerts and traditional cinema.

It’s in this renovated space that the new Brindley venture makes its debut. With the help of booking agents John Weiss and Jen Lee, the Java/Union Stage team have teamed up with Miracle Theatre for a long-term partnership curating a concert series. Once Union Stage opens, shows at Miracle will continue, rounding out the soon-to-be three-venue business offering a mix of musical genres to experience on any given night.

A folk rock act may perform at Jammin Java while an R&B performance takes Union Stage and a singer-songwriter plays at Miracle. Tonight for example, the team brings Kris Allen of American Idol fame to the theater for a holiday-themed show. Allen, winner of Idol’s eighth season, has six albums under his belt and continues to tour, most recently for his seasonal Somethin’ About Christmas.

“I think more than anything, I’ve learned a lot about myself and the type of music I really want to make,” Allen says. “I’ve learned to be really honest with myself and I think that has come out in the music that I have made over the past four or five years. People want to hear honesty.”

As for tonight’s show at Miracle, Allen describes it as a bit of “a step back in time.”

“I got really inspired by the 40s and 50s Christmas radio shows that I found. That idea that families and friends were huddled around one radio listening together to these shows just made me want to create a show that felt a little like that. There are some fun things that happen during the show and I definitely think it’s hard not to get into the spirit after this show.”

Allen’s performance will build the momentum for Union Stage’s opening at the end of the year. Union Stage’s owners seem to be creating community partnerships like the one with Miracle Theatre, and already bringing in new job opportunities in the city – having expanded their team to about 60, which will likely expand further once doors are open.

“If we can do what we did at little old Jammin Java in the suburbs in a strip mall, we can, with the help of the Wharf and the visibility of the Wharf and all the features that we have there, grow with the Wharf,” Brindley says. “We’re a big small business, and we feel good about that. We like what we’re doing.”

Kris Allen plays at Miracle Theatre tonight; doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available here.

Miracle Theatre: 535 8th St. SE, DC; 202-400-3210; www.themiracletheatre.com

Angel Gil-Ordóñez Photo: Behrouz Jamali
Angel Gil-Ordóñez Photo: Behrouz Jamali

PostClassical Ensemble Rescores the Symphony

PostClassical Ensemble (PCE), an experimental music laboratory led by conductor Angel Gil-Ordoñez, is partnering with Washington National Cathedral. And together, the two are reconceiving the classical experience.

This Thursday, PCE will put on a Pearl Harbor Day performance in the main nave of the National Cathedral. It will be the ensemble’s first performance as artists-in-residence at the cathedral, featuring the National Cathedral choir led by choral conductor and music director Michael McCarthy.

The program will include excerpts from Hanns Eisler’s “Hollywood Songbook,” Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano “Trio No. 2” and Arnold Schoenberg’s “Ode to Napoleon.” Aside from the Shostakovitch, these are pieces almost unheard in classical canon; and that’s the PCE way. For Gil-Ordoñez, the “problem with classical music nowadays is not the classical music.” Rather, the music loses its valence when presented in the highly codified symphony format.

“[It’s] the same way it was done 300 years ago,” he says.

PCE curates each performance to be both germane and memorable. Sometimes that means working with other media, including narration, actors and film. But more than anything, the programming is thematic and tells a story.

For the Pearl Harbor Day concert, PCE will tell the story of composers and artists reacting to World War II. Schoenberg’s “Ode to Napoleon” was written in direct response to Pearl Harbor, and the ensemble will feature Franklin Roosevelt’s famous “A Date which Will Live in Infamy” speech beforehand. 

Gil-Ordoñez believes this will be the first time the piece is performed in DC, and he says the same about the Eisler. The piece bears less on WWII; however, he was a figure shaped by the war. Like Schoenberg, he fled Hitler’s Germany on account of his Jewish heritage. Following the war, he was deported as a communist.

The PCE’s conductor gushes about the ensemble’s partnership with the cathedral. He feels it’s time that his long itinerant orchestra become identified with a specific space, and he’s also excited to collaborate with the choir. He feels that the ensemble has found the perfect partner in McCarthy, who in return has become enamored of PCE’s rethinking of the concert format, and decided to offer the PCE a home at the cathedral when he felt it was time to expand the space’s arts offerings.

“It was a beautiful marriage at first sight,” Gil-Ordoñez says.

Already, PCE and McCarthy are planning further collaborations. On February 28, the duo will tell the story of African-American spiritual “Deep River.” On May 23, PCE will put on a Cold War program at the cathedral. In addition, PCE will do a live scoring of the classic Soviet film The New Babylon by Grigori Kozintsev on March 30 and 31, 2018. 

Don’t miss the Pearl Harbor Day concert on Thursday, December 7 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $25-$65. Learn more at www.postclassical.com.

Washington National Cathedral: 3101 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; 202-537-6200; www.cathedral.org

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The District’s Holiday Boat Parade at The Wharf

The Wharf got DC into the holiday spirit with the annual Holiday Boat Parade where guests enjoyed hot cocoa, s’mores by the fire pit, photos with Santa by the lighted Christmas Tree, ice skating and live music from Go Go Gadjet, Wil Gravatt Band, carolers and more! Plus, guests enjoyed winter drinks at the Waterfront Wine & Beer Garden on District Pier. Photos: Josh Brick