Every Thursday in August, The Rock at the Row Summer Concert Series at Pentagon Row features amazing local bands like Capital Sounds + Brigadier Brass from the 257th Army Band, delicious bites from local restaurant partners such as Bonefish Grill, and ice cold craft beer and wine at the pop-up bar. Photos: Devin Overbey
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.
The Filene Center at Wolf Trap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; 703-255-1800; www.wolftrap.org
Each Wednesday evening this summer at The Wharf, you’ll hear live music on Transit Pier presented by Landshark Lager, and this week’s featured band was pop and R&B group Pebble to Pearl.
Every Friday evening, the Capitol Riverfront BID features live musicians such as energetic bluegrass band Trailer Grass Orchestra at Yards Park with ice old Corona and wine at the outdoor tented bar, and last week’s special show included a Pacifico airstream. Photos: LAFlicks Photography
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
The Wharf celebrated the 30th Anniversary of Shark Week at Shark Bites & Brews on Transit Pier with a mechanical shark and other shark themed games.. The 7 Deadlies played upbeat rock hits and the Transit Pier beer garden poured shark themed brews. Photos: John Gervasi
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
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.
On the day we’re scheduled to chat, Victoria Legrand of Beach House is called to jury duty. Even masters of their craft with incredible work ethic are not immune to the tedious call of bureaucratic obligation.
When I interview Legrand a week later, the vocalist-keyboardist for the Baltimore-based dream pop duo speaks with enthusiasm and insight into everything we cover in our conversation. It was supposed to be a brief 15-minute call, but when I tell her that Beach House is my favorite band, she’s quick to continue our conversation and tells me to ask her anything I really want to know. For someone at the helm of one of the dreamiest bands in the world, she is refreshingly kind and down to earth.
With bandmate and guitarist Alex Scally at her side, the pair crafts ethereal, enigmatic songs with incredible consistency. Beach House is responsible for a colossal catalog, with seven albums and nearly 80 songs to date. Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars were released a mere two months apart in 2015, and the band’s B-Sides and Rarities compilation was announced barely two years later. Their seventh album, unpretentiously titled 7, arrived this May.
Legrand and Scally embarked on a world tour for 7 in July – with an upcoming stop at The Anthem planned for August 25 – and they’re allowing fans to select the top three songs they want to hear most at the show they’re attending. Much like the rest of the creative endeavors the pair’s pursued over the course of their 14-year career, it’s an ambitious concept. And with 77 songs to their name, the fan requests are no small feat – but it’s something they’ve been waiting to enact for some time.
“Alex came up with that idea three or four years ago – time flies,” Legrand says. “It’s something that he’d been toying with as a way to get to know our audiences more in every city. You’ll see the list of what songs are being requested over others, and it’s very fascinating. It’s a way for fans to interact with us, so it’s not just this one-sided relationship where it’s like, ‘Band plays onstage in front of audience! Take it!’ It was based off some very innocent ideas on how to make things a little bit more fun and interesting.”
The band’s meticulous approach to everything they do as musicians becomes more evident as Legrand and I discuss the imagery surrounding 7. For previous records like 2010’s Teen Dream, the band crafted a music video for each song. But with 7, they drew heavily from the black and white visuals in the style of op art – the use of black and white geometric shapes to create striking optical illusions – and the iconography of Andy Warhol’s Factory. Each song has its own op art video that marries audio to visual.
“The black and white really connected with the music and was an inspiration for the record,” she says. “I think that we wanted the op art to be something that people would identify with for 7, and it seems to be working.”
Musically and aesthetically, it definitely is. Their label, Seattle stalwart Sub Pop Records, released colored vinyl editions of 7 that sold out the same day the record came out. The album itself received rave reviews and has already clocked in high on many early album of the year lists. Legrand breaks down the cover of 7 for me – a dizzying array of op art, black and white clips, holographic elements, and a woman’s obscured face – all of which she provided creative direction for alongside Post Typography, a design house based in Baltimore.
“You have some psychedelia in there – this hallucinogenic aspect,” she says of the album cover. “There’s bits of chaos in there. Those are some of the themes off the record, especially on a song like ‘Dark Spring,’ which is embodying nature, change, chaos [and] darkness. And then you have glamour and destructiveness. There’s a lot of very cinematic themes throughout the record.”
Cinematic is a word that’s often ascribed to Beach House’s music and unsurprisingly, the band is a go-to for soundtracking movies and TV shows. Their work has appeared in movies such as The Future and the documentary Ivory Tower. You can hear their songs on shows like The OA, Skins, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Atlanta and New Girl, to name a few.
“I usually make the decision just purely based on the show – the storywriting and who I think the audience will be,” Legrand tells me. “I tend to love and gravitate toward shows for younger people because I really care about young people emotionally and psychologically. I have a great deal of empathy for people who are just trying to survive in the world. Any shows that are about that, I am always happy to let them use our music.”
Beyond their highly stylized album art and impressive soundtracking credits, Legrand says her band has their sights set on breaking into the world of composing.
“We’re literally just waiting for a person to hire us. I think we just really want someone to just say, ‘Hey Beach House, would you soundtrack my film?’ and we would do it.”
Don’t expect the band’s first foray into composing to be another record though. Legrand views entering that universe as a way to incubate ideas outside of the work she and Scally are used to producing and tap into currently uncharted territory.
“Scoring and soundtracking use totally different parts of our writing process. There’s stuff we would make that probably wouldn’t sound at all like what any of our previous work sounded like. It would be using totally different aspects of our creative writing, which is something that we’re dying to do because we’d be able to develop more of our other unknown creative sides.”
Brimming with creative energy, I can’t help but wonder if Legrand is ever uninspired by the world around her or feels overwhelmed by the pressure to constantly create.
“I personally do burn out and go through great periods of what I call ‘nothingness’ where I am almost forgetting what I do,” she tells me. “I don’t say, ‘I’m a singer, I’m a musician.’ It’s almost like I don’t even identify as that. It’s more like, ‘I’m Victoria, I’m a human being.’ I do whatever, I’m fascinated by many things. Boredom – or whatever that is, the nothingness – is an extremely important part of the process of then being able to have new things start to creep in.”
It’s clear that Legrand has arrived at a place where she can embrace the nothingness. She tells me about the intense writing and recording and touring for their record Bloom about seven years ago, where she experienced her first bout of burnout brought on by “our own insanity, propelling us forward.” Since then, she’s learned to accept these feelings as part of the ebb and flow of existing in the world as a creative person.
“It’s very normal to feel all of the sudden that you’re not a creative person at all. I might not hear a melody or come up with lyrics or have a story in my mind. But I might be going down a rabbit hole of things that lead me, for example, to develop the ideas for the visual of 7. I was into art and just seeing things. I wasn’t into hearing or listening. I was more into looking. It’s important to accept oneself if you feel like you’re all of the sudden flattened. You’ll come up again – you just have to let that moment be.”
Beach House bring their electrifying new album 7 to The Anthem on Saturday, August 25. Papercuts open. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $38. For more on Beach House, visit www.beachhousebaltimore.com.
The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; 202-888-0200; www.theanthemdc.com