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: Shawn Brackbill
Photo: Shawn Brackbill

Inside the Ever-Evolving Dream Pop World of Beach House

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

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Cake Keeps Touring to Make Cake

Cake hasn’t released an album since 2011’s Showroom of Compassion, but the five-man group hasn’t exactly been sitting around twiddling their thumbs. Instead of spending time in the studio, they’ve made their way around the world touring – a lot.

“I think we like playing music,” lead vocalist John McCrea tells On Tap. “I’m definitely a better live performer than I was when I first started – not anything theatrical, not doing tricks, but actually playing my instrument and singing. What I don’t enjoy is traveling through space endlessly in buses and cars and airplanes. I think most people romanticize touring if they haven’t actually been traveling for two years straight.”

Despite the constant Mad Max, road warrior lifestyle, the band has found times for breaks. It’s during these moments that McCrea is able to break away and pen music. He’s not sure what will and won’t be on the band’s future releases. In the past seven years, he’s accumulated an enormous amount of songs on the shelf, waiting to be recorded when the band finds time.

“It takes a lot longer to record material because you’re doing it sort of in between the paying job,” McCrea says. “It’s like a weird hobby. I don’t know many people who can really record on the road, because you play until late at night and then you pass out, get up early and drive all day. It’s what we have now.”

McCrea has hundreds of incomplete songs, and potentially “hundreds and hundreds of fragments.” The ratio he uses in this interview is 1:9, as in for every song he takes to his fellow band member, one makes it to the next stage.

“I pretty much bring finished songs to the band. What they help me with is figuring out arrangements, baselines and guitar riffs. Sometimes I’ll add on stuff later.”

As a writer, he doesn’t fixate on the fragments, and instead chooses to leave them where they lie as newer, fresher ideas come to mind. In some cases, years pass before he regains the inspiration to revisit a particular “fragment.”

“It’s a feeling,” he says. “It’s intuitive when to revisit [a song]. I think it ends up sounding better if I just move on to another song. If I hit a wall, I think it sounds forced to pretend that the wall is not there. I know a short fiction writer who just couldn’t finish a story and left it there for five years. Then he came back to it and it was easy.”

Cake has a history of turning songs written by other musicians into hits as well. With the band’s unique style involving the fusion of spoken-word singing, rock and folk guitar riffs, and a generally laid-back attitude, the band’s covers of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” sound like independent works rather than rehashes.

“I think it’s more likely we do a country album [instead of a cover album], which would itself contain covers on it,” McCrea says. “I think that would be a lot of fun for us and the cool thing about playing other people’s material is that it’s a chance to inhabit someone’s thought process. I think that’s probably true of writing fiction. Like learning a song, it allows you to intuit someone else’s thinking, which is wild.”

With another tour on the horizon, there’s no telling when McCrea and his bandmates will huddle into a studio to record another album. Luckily, they’re still out there endlessly touring, and Cake is soon to inhabit the same space as Ben Folds.

“I think it’s probably the worst thing if you go to a concert or a festival and everyone is playing the same drum beat at the same time,” he says. “The human brain just sort of turns off when things sound too similar.”

Learn more about Cake at www.cakemusic.com.

See Ben Folds and Cake at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday, August 18. Tall Heights will open. Tickets start at $45. Doors at 5:30 p.m., show at 7 p.m.

Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; 410-715-5550; www.merriweathermusic.com

Photo: Elijah Jamal Balbed
Photo: Elijah Jamal Balbed

A Day in the Life: DC Drummer Isabelle De Leon

Encouraged by family, Isabelle De Leon has been playing music since she was four and the drums since she was seven. But hers is not a story of a child prodigy forced into a life of performance at any cost. De Leon has talent in spades, and she marches to the beat of her own drums. As an early teen, De Leon found a deep connection in writing music. She has since made it her mission to use the power of music to inspire and heal, and she does it in hundreds of different ways. On any given day, you can find her jetting from one gig to another, running jam sessions, teaching music lessons, serving as an ambassador to the DC music community and being the kickass lady drummer in a rock band.

At 27, De Leon has already played major venues including the Kennedy Center and DAR Constitution Hall, is the recipient of countless music scholarships and recognitions – including a stint as a Strathmore Artist in Residence – and still finds time to rock out with local synth-pop bands Prinze George and Paperwhite, and funk/soul band Lionize. Even with her many accomplishments, the local musician remains humble. On Tap caught up with De Leon to learn more about her  “constant learning journey” and how the musician incorporates her life experiences into the music she plays.

On Tap: You’ve played all over the country. What keeps you in DC?
Isabelle De Leon: I’m from Montgomery County, so not far. I’ve always loved the city, and it was always a dream of mine to move here and be more immersed in the scene. It’s great because the music scene is very active so there are a lot of opportunities to perform and meet other musicians. What’s cool about being here is that DC is a much smaller city but there’s still a lot happening, and I feel like I can be part of creating something here versus where it’s already oversaturated.

OT: You started out playing music at a young age with your family. How did your relationship with music develop as a child?  
IDL: It was always a family thing. My whole family played music. My dad was the one who taught us music when we were really young. He was teaching us all piano, guitar and bass. When I was seven, he brought home a drum set and taught me some basic things. At that point, he started asking each of us which instrument we wanted to take lessons for. I think he had a vision for what to steer us each toward. Our whole family played at church every weekend, and that was where we really learned about music theory, chord structures, arrangements and how to play in an ensemble – the nuances of improvising, taking cues and listening to each other. Those things are really valuable and hard to teach in a classroom.

OT: What drew you to the drums?
IDL: One of our favorite movies [growing up] was Selena, and it’s even more precious now because their story was very similar to ours. Their dad loved music and started them young, playing in this family band. I just remember that scene where he’s trying to get Suzette to play the drums and she’s adamantly protesting and she’s like, “Girls don’t play the drums.” And for some reason, I took that as, “Oh, I’m going to play the drums now and prove everybody wrong and show people that girls can play the drums.” So that was one of the reasons why I wanted to pursue it.

OT: It can be hard to make a career out of your passion. How did you make music both for you?
IDL: When I was really young, I didn’t know any other female drummers except [Santana’s] Cindy Blackman, who I idolized and still do. I realized that I was in a very unique position being a woman on a male-dominated instrument, and also being a woman minority in the music industry. I realized there was a power in that, in being able to inspire young girls to go out for things that people were telling them they couldn’t do. In a way, that’s really what my mission is. It’s one of the reasons why I feel like I can’t ever quit, necessarily. I yearn for that kind of figure I can look up to myself, and if I can be that for someone else who needs a role model, I would love to be that person for them.

OT: How does being a Filipino woman in this space affect what you do within the creative industry in DC?
IDL: Being a female drummer already sets me as a minority, and that’s something I’ve experienced my whole life. But one thing that I didn’t realize until I was much older was what my identity was and who I was. We grew up primarily around white people and because of that, I felt in a way more connected to American culture even though I know I don’t look “American.” But in Filipino circles, I didn’t feel like I fit in, in a way. That same kind of conflict came out when I started studying jazz music and participating in the DC music scene.

OT: What challenges have you faced breaking into the local jazz scene? 
IDL: Right now, I’m trying to get better at and play jazz, funk and soul music that’s oriented around really groovy drumming. There was an instance recently where it came to my attention that some people either roll their eyes at me when I come and play or they kind of judge me because according to them, I didn’t grow up in the “church” so I don’t really have a gospel background. That was hurtful because first of all, it’s not true. Also, music is supposed to be about camaraderie, sharing and connection. People who get hateful like that, or just bitter, defeat the purpose of what we do.

OT: You recently started a regular jam session at Pearl Street Warehouse. Is that a jazz series?
IDL: It’s called Southwest Soul Sessions. It’s not specifically jazz per se. I actually started the jam session with Elijah Jamal Balbed, who’s also an accomplished musician here, and our goal with the session was to bridge all of our music communities in DC. I’ve done a lot of work in the rock and pop scenes, and he’s very heavy in the jazz, R&B and go-go scenes. We realized that together, we would have a vast network of people and we really wanted to bring all of them together. The great thing about jam sessions is that you’re playing with people you may have never played with before and may never again. But in that moment, you’re just trying to create something that’s different and bring all of your influences to the table. We really wanted it to be like a dance party too, and Pearl Street Warehouse is perfect for that.

OT: You are very accomplished and constantly working on different projects. What keeps you focused and awake?
IDL: I’ve always known what my goals are. They’re pretty big, but I also have some that are more tangible like to be Beyoncé’s drummer. [Laughs] One thing that my mom taught me early on was to write down your priorities and goals and make lists of steps that you can take to get there. I make sure I check in with myself pretty regularly. My overall goals have been the same since I started to really pursue music, and I always keep that in the back of my mind. It’s really important to always remember your “Why?” It’s also important to take a break every once in awhile. There are days where I don’t do anything music-related.

OT: What do you enjoy doing on those days away from the music scene?
IDL: I really enjoy movies. I love being adventurous and trying new things, whether it’s an activity I’ve never done or something like bowling or just going on a walk in a park. I love cooking and catching up with friends. Relationships are really important to me, so I try to make sure I stay in touch with the people who are important and make time for them. I also really love shopping. I don’t mind spending money to beautify my room, because I’m creating music there and it needs to be a place of inspiration and a beautiful place that I can relax in and enjoy. My room is pretty decked out and full of plants.

Follow De Leon on Instagram at @isabelledeleon_ and on Facebook at @IsabelleDeLeonMusic. Learn more about her Southwest Soul Sessions with Balbed at www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com and sign up for drum lessons with her at www.7drumcity.com.

Photo: Courtesy of Ben Folds
Photo: Courtesy of Ben Folds

Ben Folds Breaks Boundaries Because He Can

When Ben Folds rolls through Merriweather Post Pavilion on August 18 on his co-headlining tour with Cake, he’ll be nearing his 52nd birthday with 30-plus years of music business experience under his belt. Lots of musicians play their music for decades, and while it’s impressive to have the wherewithal to endure any extended stretch in a creative field, Folds is unusual in how he uses his reputation. He takes risks, he gets scared and he keeps pushing forward.

“It’s a big, organic mess,” he says. “Sometimes, I get really interested in something and pursue it. You never know the best thing to do, but the common thread in the whole thing is I follow what I’m interested in. That can be very different day-to-day, and I have to live with it. Sometimes I’ll be interested in something and agree to a future show, and then in six months, I’ll be like, ‘What the hell?’”

This “What the hell?” feeling isn’t new for Folds. In fact, it’s what motivates him at this point in his career. This is the reason he agreed to satirize himself on the FX show You’re the Worst, and the reason he’s done bizarre covers like “Bitches Ain’t Shit” over the course of his career. His range in musical interests is boundless as he bounces from rock band to piano soloist to orchestra composer. But before he jumps headfirst – or onstage – for new projects, he’s a little scared.

“Now I have to arrange all these weird things [for the show] and it’s exciting. It’s a slightly scary tour, and it doesn’t have to be big things – it can be small things.”

Folds is not a risk-averse artist based on his collaborations – William Shatner and Weird Al Yankovic among them – to the genres he finds himself dabbling in. Part of his confidence in floating from idea to idea comes from his longevity in the industry, which he says grants him more opportunities to be a little off the wall.

“I get more leeway every year,” he says. “After awhile, they’re like, ‘He wants to try that? F—k it, let him do it.’ Nothing is probably going to kill [my career], so I get to be less and less responsible really, and it serves me well. It’s what they call in U.K. politics a backbencher. It makes for a creative career that’s fun for me.”

This unpredictable path wouldn’t be as riveting to watch from the outside if not for his prolific nature in releasing projects and music.

“I don’t really have an answer. I don’t think I’m particularly superhuman. You’ll be doing one thing, and it’ll sit on the shelf for awhile, and then it’ll come out together with another project. Right now, I’m writing a book, so I’m spending my time on that and then I’ll go to next thing.”

Slated to be a biography full of advice for musicians, Folds says he’s gotten into a good groove with the switch from writing lyrics to penning prose.

“There’s an adjustment for sure, because when you have what seems like unlimited real estate, you have to find your pace and it takes a little bit of time. I think it’s true that you never learn how to write a book, just the one you’re on. Right now, I’m cranking out 3,000 words a day.”

As for more on what the words are about, Folds puts it simply with, “We’re all interested in a good journey, no matter what part you’re on.”

Learn more about Ben Folds at www.benfolds.com.

See Ben Folds and Cake at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday, August 18. Tall Heights will open. Tickets start at $45. Doors at 5:30 p.m., show at 7 p.m.

Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; 410-715-5550; www.merriweathermusic.com

Photo: Kimberly Adamis
Photo: Kimberly Adamis

Lots of Heart On Ann Wilson’s Latest Album

Heart is one of the most popular rock bands of all time, with a catalog of hits like 70s and 80s radio staples “Alone,” “Crazy on You,” “Barracuda” and “These Dreams,” among many others. These classic rockers have sold more than 35 million records on the strength of Ann Wilson’s iconic voice and her sister Nancy’s exceptional guitar work.

While the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers are currently on hiatus, Ann Wilson is concentrating on her solo career this summer. She’s set to release a new album in mid-September and is now on tour with Jeff Beck and Paul Rodgers in what the trio is calling the Stars Align Tour.

“Touring for me is exciting as it ever was, and I still love it just as much as I ever have,” Wilson says. “This show is about the mastery of Jeff Beck, the incredible bluesy voice of Paul Rodgers and what I’m doing, so people can be rest assured they will go away humming.”

The tour makes a stop at Wolf Trap on August 20, though Rodgers will be MIA with only Wilson and Beck performing at the Filene Center.

“I’m not going to be harking back to the Heart stuff almost at all,” Wilson says of her upcoming set. “I only have one Heart song planned on the night. I’ll basically be covering the songs on my new record and doing songs that I have written over the last few years. It’s going to be really different but a lot of fun.”

Even though some fans may be disappointed that there’s not more Heart tunes being played, Wilson expects everyone to still enjoy her performance as most will be familiar with many of the songs. She feels it’s more important to support her new record than to draw from Heart’s discography.

“What I wanted with this [tour] is to be able to be shown as a singer. So far, we’ve done one show on this tour, but we got a fantastic response. I of course pay tribute to Heart by doing the one song, but I wanted to be brave and live on the edge and do new stuff.”

Wilson’s new release, Immortal, is named after the concept of the album, which is a tribute to some of the legendary musicians who are making the band in rock ‘n’ roll heaven even stronger.

“One of the criteria [for the album] was that all of the artists had passed on in the last few years,” she says. “The expressions these artists left in these songs are really great work, with great lyrics and great poetry. They need to be passed down in an oral tradition, sort of like cave drawings. They need to be left for generations to dig.”

With 10 tracks, Wilson pays homage to some of her favorite artists on songs that aren’t usually the first ones associated with the late musicians. For instance, her tribute to George Michael is with the song “A Different Corner” from his Wham! days, while she chose “Luna” to honor Tom Petty.

“I didn’t want to just go and cover a bunch of hits. My main theme was to honor the artists, so I went back through their bodies of work and found songs that really resonated with me, and it was really satisfying. I wanted to get really personal with the artists’ work.”

Of all the artists, she knew Chris Cornell the best, and honors him with the song “I Am the Highway.”

“I really love that song, and I wanted to bring it into a slightly softer acoustic mood without going all acoustic. I even play a flute solo in it. I just wanted the song to have a swing and be something people could feel ‘up’ about. The song itself is part of [Cornell’s] heart, and a wonderful song.”

Other tunes on the album include “A Thousand Kisses Deep” by Leonard Cohen, “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse and “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore. All three offer genres a little different than Wilson is usually associated with.

“I let the songs tell me what to do. The Cohen song is almost jazz and the Winehouse tune is almost gothic chamber music, so it’s definitely different for me. I welcome that and relish that. I’m always trying to push my boundaries out.”

Wilson is already thinking about what comes next after her tour ends. She’s formulating and developing an idea for an interactive storytelling tour and will continue writing when the mood hits her.

“I’m going to continue experimenting and moving ahead as long as I continue to enjoy it all,” she says. “I’m never going to become old and stale and do the same thing over and over. That’s not who I am.”

Catch Ann Wilson with Jeff Back at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center on Monday, August 20 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35-$75, and can be purchased at
www.wolftrap.org. Learn more about Wilson at www.annwilsonofheart.com.

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

kina_grannis

Music Picks: August 2018

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 1

Kina Grannis and Imaginary Future
High school sweethearts turned singing and songwriting power couple Kina Grannis and Imaginary Future (Jesse Epstein) are bringing their soft acoustic sounds to the Birchmere stage this summer. I expect them to perform a decent amount of duets together (they have quite a few),  and a few covers of other popular songs you may know. Grannis, a YouTube success story, has found her own niche in the music industry after being signed to Interscope and becoming independent shortly after. In 2017 Grannis created KG records, a label supported entirely by her fans via Patreon. Her newest release  In the Waiting is the first album to debut on the label. If you’re a fan, especially one that donated to this project, I highly encourage you to come out and experience her new music in person. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $25. The Birchmere Music Hall: 3701 Mount Vernon Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.birchmere.com

Victory
After just one listen to her cover of Feeling Good, I can see that Victory Boyd has rightfully earned the comparisons to the great Nina Simone. Her unique blend of folk, soul, and  jazz makes for a refreshingly new take on all three genres. The Detroit-born singer/guitarist got her start busking in NYC after her family relocated to a nearby New Jersey suburb. After making waves on social media from a video of her singing recorded by a passerby, her music caught Jay-Z’s eye and she was signed to Roc Nation. Her newest album The Broken Instrument should serve as an inspiration to any musician that aspires to showcase their art on a larger platform. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15-$20. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

FRIDAY, AUGUST 3

Sons of Bill
The Sons of Bill mean their name in all seriousness. Aside from the bassist and the drummer, they really are the sons of Bill, a theology and Southern literature professor at the University of Virginia. Their father is also a musician and taught his three boys to sing and play guitar, and they like to talk about how they had to because they had no TV or radio otherwise growing up, but listen to their songs and you’ll hear that his lessons weren’t limited to chords only. Doors are at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $20. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

FRIDAY, AUGUST 3 –  SATURDAY, AUGUST 4

Tiny Cat Dark Music Festival 
Working Order Records and Black Cat are coming together to host Tiny Cat Dark Music Festival. What’s so great about this festival, besides the fact that it’s called a “Dark Music Festival” and features acts like Hante., Kontravoid, Crash Course in Science, and more is that 100 percent of the proceeds from tickets sold go to Greater DC Diaper Bank. The nonprofit accepts donations to help get families the supplies they need for their baby, as well as providing personal hygiene products to those in need. Go and rock out for a good cause. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets $20-$35. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 4

Stu Larsen & Natsuki Kurai
Australian folk guitarist and singer Stu Larsen and Japanese harmonica player Natsuki Kurai recently announced a world tour in support of their latest EP together, Stu Larsen & Natsuki Kurai II, which comes five years after their first together in 2013. The unlikely duo first connected nearly eight years ago when Larsen first adopted his vagabond lifestyle in 2010. They met in Tokyo, Larsen spoke no Japanese and Kurai spoke no English, but they connected over music. Doors are at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $15. Jammin Java: 227 Maple Ave. E Vienna, VA; www.jamminjava.com

Takenobu
This folk string duo features Nick Ogawa on cello and Kathryn Koch on violin, both of whom have wide ranging credits. Koch is a regular member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Ogawa tours with Kishi Bashi and composes for NPR’s “Invisibilia,” which probably explains the Takenobu style. They call their music folk, and thought there’s only two of them, their final sound is almost more like an orchestral take on folk, because of the live-looping they do. Doors are at 7 p.m. Entry is free with a suggested donation of $5. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

Wayne Wonder
Bliss Nightclub is throwing an outdoor music festival featuring a live performance from Wayne Wonder, the man who gave us the ever-iconic “No Letting Go” in 2003. In this song’s 15 year existence, there has never been a moment when I’ve heard this song at a party or in a club that the mood didn’t immediately change to summer vacation romance and whoever was next to you when it came on became the love of your life for the next three minutes. I don’t know if he performs often, so don’t miss this. Gates open at 2 p.m. Show at 4 p.m. Tickets $30. Bliss Nightclub: 2122 24th Pl. NE, DC; www.blissdc.com

Yung Bae
This one is a show which some people never imagined might happen. Yung Bae is an artist who like so many of his future funk contemporaries, e.g. Saint Pepsi, got his start on YouTube and it was unclear whether it would ever go beyond that, but also, like Saint Pepsi, Yung Bae has started to take his show on the road, and that he’s playing Flash shows the caliber of his purely-for-fun, purely-for-dancing beats. Doors are at 4 p.m. Tickets are $15. Flash: 645 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.flashdc.com

Zigtebra
At Slash Run, in addition to great burgers you can often find undersold touring band playing alongside some up and coming DC bands. This time it’s Zigtebra, a dream pop duo from Chicago with sound that’s like a somewhat spookier Postal Service. And playing with them is Stronger Sex, another duo, making experimental electronic. The show will also feature Lambda Celsius and visionary artist Katie Macyshyn. Slash Run: 201 Upshur St. NW, DC; www.slashrun.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 4 – SUNDAY, AUGUST 5

Summer Spirit Festival
The folks at Merriweather have brought together your favorite R&B, rap, hip-hop, and neo-soul artists to celebrate the summer. There’ something for everybody when you’ve got classics like Erykah Badu, Nas, The Roots and Backyard Band sharing a stage with newer artists like Lizzo, Daniel Caesar, Phony PPL and many more. It’s sure to be an unforgettable experience. Doors at 1 p.m. Tickets start at $108. Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; www.merriweathermusic.com

SUNDAY, AUGUST 5

Christian Loffler
If Christian Loffler couldn’t find the beat, you might find him a bummer. Unlike his German contemporaries coming out of Berlin, Loffler grew up in a remote part of the country and had to teach himself to make electronic music on his own, which he began to do as a sort of escape from and deep dive into his surroundings. Throughout his music you can hear a sort of melancholy, almost like if Bon Iver remade For Emma, only this time as dance music. Doors are at 4 p.m. Tickets start at $8. Flash: 645 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.flashdc.com

Juice WRLD
Riding off the high of his single “Lucid Dreams” hitting #3 on the Billboard charts, 19-year-old Chicago rapper Jared Higgins (a.k.a. Juice WRLD) will be coming to Echostage. Based on the success of his debut singles added to the ability to hold his own on the freestyle he dropped for HOT 97 back in mid-July, it’s clear that Juice WRLD is poised to make his mark in the rap world. His style lies somewhat in the vein of the sadboi rap that’s been circulating the airwaves as of late, but I’m looking forward to seeing what new elements he can bring to the genre. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $30-130. Echostage: 2135 Queens Chapel Rd. NE, DC; www.echostage.com

Lunar Vacation
This indie quartet is so young and yet has a style that’s so throwback that you might think they’re someone else’s brainchild. And if you only were to see the band’s pictures you might have had enough at that point, but once you hear their music, it’s hard to turn away from something so unabashedly gorgeous. It’s like 90s throwback indie rock with the production values of dream pop bands Wild Nothing or Real Estate. Doors are at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $10. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 9

Rae Sremmurd, Wiz Khalifa
Wiz Khalifa recently caught some flak for his hyper-masculine take on why straight men shouldn’t eat bananas (hint: they’re too phallic for his liking), but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t support my faves Rae Sremmurd who have never not given us a bop since their 2014 radio debut “No Flex Zone.”  The co-headliners will be supported by O.T. Genasis and Lil Skies. Doors at 6 p.m. Tickets $28-$183. Jiffy Lube Live: 7800 Cellar Door Dr. Bristow, VA; www.bristowamphitheater.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 11

Alice Bag
Comet Ping Pong is another one of those venues around town that’s doesn’t receive enough attention as a music venue. Not only are the pizzas and drinks good, but you can also find some good music. This time it’s Alice Bag, formerly of the Bags and an LA-punk scene legend by this point. The Bags broke up in the 80s, but she’s been Alice Bag ever since and her latest music lacks none of the fury she first earned a name for. Alongside her will be local bands Homosuperior and Faunas. Doors are at 10 p.m. Tickets start at $15. Comet Ping Pong: 5037 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.cometpingpong.com

Shakira
After postponing a majority of her tour in order to heal her strained vocal chords, Shakira is back in the U.S. for her El Dorado tour, named for her Latin Grammy winning (and Anglo Grammy nominated) 2017 album. Her newest single “Clandestino,” featuring frequent collaborator and fellow Colombian artist Maluma, is a smooth and summery reggaeton-tinged take on secret love. Shakira is a versatile artist who has an incredible resume. She’s acted in soap operas (and voice acted in Zootopia), served as a judge on the Voice, and had hit singles with both Rihanna and Beyonce on top of her own solo tracks, many of which she had a hand in writing. Plus, you just KNOW she has to do “Hips Don’t Lie,”  which you and I both know would be so fun to see and dance to live. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $86-$450. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.capitalonearena.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 11- SUNDAY, AUGUST 12

Moonrise Fest
Even though it’s out in Baltimore, it would be remiss of us to skip over one of the largest east-coast tours to come to this area every summer. Showcasing some of the best EDM, DnB, hip-hop and house acts, Moonrise “touches all corners of the dance floor”. The festival also features art installations and vendors, not to mention performances from Diplo, DJ Snake, Marshmello, Cashmere Cat, Vince Staples, Phantogram, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, and Gunna to name only a few. 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. both days. Tickets $99-$274.50. Pimlico Race Course: 5201 Park Heights Ave. Baltimore, MD; www.moonrisefestival.com

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 15 – THURSDAY, AUGUST 18

Rock and Roll Hotel 12th Anniversary
To honor more than a decade of existing as a performance space in the renowned H Street Corridor, the DC area venue is bringing together an eclectic mix of artists to perform. Nothing, nowhere. , Bat Fangs, The Messthetics, The Love Language, and Sparta will be performing all ages sets on separate nights at Rock and Roll Hotel to celebrate. Tickets $15-$20. See website for full list of times. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 16

Casual War
I’m trying to find where the “casual” part of Casual War comes in. In the what they publish about themselves they seem nonchalant, judging from not heavily curated Instagram, or the title of their EP, Demo, but the music’s a different story. Led by a frontwoman with a voice reminiscent of Nightwish and Evanescence, their take on indie rock can be dark and heavy. Doors are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. Velvet Lounge: 915 U St. NW, DC; www.velvetloungedc.com

Cup
I have to say, this is one of the shows I’m most excited about this month. Cup’s music is a garage punk, very reminiscent of 80s punk music, but with a more angular and experimental approach. The Queens-based band will play alongside DC’s own Bottled Up who continue to rise through DC’s music venues and Ontario-based three piece rock outfit, Bike Thiefs. Doors are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $10. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

FRIDAY, AUGUST 17

Trombone Shorty and Galactic
I don’t know how much there is to be said about Trombone Shorty that The Anthem didn’t already say by featuring him as one of their first acts. But he’s not the only artist to be featured this night, not even the only one from New Orleans. New Orleans funk jam band Galactic as well as the Preservation Hall jazz band will perform as well, and no doubt there will be some set overlap. It should be a night of nonstop ecstatic music and outrageous musicianship. John Williams has nothing on this brass. Doors are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $30. Wolf Trap’s Filene Center: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org

Vacationer
After a four-year hiatus, (I’m doing my best not to say vacation), Vacationer returned in 2018 with his latest record Mindset. The album artwork very much fits the spirit of the music. It pictures the silhouette of a head in profile which get smaller and smaller in concentric circles, or heads rather. It could be read as a topographical map and a matryoshka doll X-ray. It’s dreamy much like Vacationer’s synth and sample heavy tracks. Doors are at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 18

Crushnpain
This show was another unexpected find. Velvet Lounge is known for having great DJs, but often they play downstairs unannounced, but Crushnpain is getting the full billing this time. He’s a DC-based DJ, who from the sound of his shuffling drum and bass and his more deep house sounding tracks, I might have thought to find him at Flash, only he has no Resident Advisor page. But that only means you’ll be ahead of the curve. See him at Velvet Lounge because shortly he’ll get picked up elsewhere. Doors are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. Velvet Lounge: 915 U St. NW, DC; www.velvetloungedc.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 23

In The Whale / Company Calls
Colorado-based duo In The Whale is celebrating 7 years of making their high energy blend of garage rock by going on a massive U.S. tour until mid-October. During their time as a band the pair have graced stages at Lollapalooza, Riot Fest, AfroPunk, and Warped Tour (RIP). Their supporting act Company Calls hails from DC, was formed in ‘08, and shares its name with a Death Cab for Cutie song. Fun Fact: Someone from my old church youth group’s eldest sister is a member of the band, too. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $10. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 23 – SUNDAY, AUGUST 26

Cyrus Chestnut
I’m sure you’ve heard jazz before, and maybe you think once you’ve heard, you’ve heard enough, but seeing it live is another thing, especially seeing someone of Cyrus Chestnut’s caliber. Georgetown’s a trip to get to, but Blues Alley is worth it. It’s in an actual alley and when you find yourself in the line out the door, you’ll realize you’re somewhere special. Plus, the po’boys are fantastic. Bring some good company, have some good food and watch Chestnut shred in the Oscar Peterson school. Shows are at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tickets start at $30. Blues Alley: 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.bluesalley.com

TUESDAY, AUGUST 28

New Order
The incredibly iconic post punk outfit, born like a phoenix out of the ashes of Joy Division, embarks on a short tour this summer and DC is lucky enough to be a stop. See the band responsible for producing numerous 80s bops and influencing a pantheon of younger artists in the flesh at The Anthem. 8 p.m. show.Tickets start at $55. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthem.com

Slaughter, Beach Dog
Modern Baseball came on the scene in 2012 and shortly established themselves as one of the most dominant pop punk bands on the scene. But this is not them, this is the solo project Modern Baseball guitarist and vocalist, Jake Ewald. Ewald released his second record under the name in 2017. It’s less pop and less punk, and a little more straight forward gorgeous indie songwriting, somewhat like a tamed AJJ. Doors are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $13. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

THURSDAY, AUGUST 30

Lucki
Chicago-native Lucki was on the vanguard of today’s alterna-trap/mumble rap sound back when he was going by Lucki Eck$ in 2013. Since then, he’s collaborated with artists like FKA twigs, Chance The Rapper, King Krule and Danny Brown. After a series of setbacks and taking a hiatus from making music in 2018, Lucki is back posting new music on SoundCloud and working on new projects, the latest of which is a series of singles and his DAYS B4 II EP.  Though he’s only 21, I can tell he’s an artist that’s confident in his sound and style, and committed to re-distinguishing himself in the genre that many would argue he had a hand in making popular. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15-$50. Union Stage:  740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

Ty Dolla $ign, Lil Uzi Vert, G-Eazy
I’m going to be honest here and say that I was confused when I saw this lineup and was under the impression that G-Eazy was the headliner on this tour. According to Rolling Stone though, these three are co-headlining, which I can accept (even though we all know it should be Lil Uzi or even Ty Dolla $ign off the strength of his features alone). YBN Nahmir, P-Lo and DJ Murda Beatz will also perform at this show, which is sure to be a nonstop party from start to finish. Doors at 6:30 p.m.. Tickets $33-$160. Jiffy Lube Live:  7800 Cellar Door Dr. Bristow, VA; www.bristowamphitheater.com

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A Night at The Vineyard at The Vine Apartments

The Vine Apartments in Laurel, MD hosted A Night at the Vineyard with complimentary wine and specialty cocktails, hors d’oeuvres provided by Hudson Coastal and Lib’s Grill, live music from Trailer Grass Orchestra, and model apartment tours. Photos: Mark Raker

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Taste of Titanic at the National Geographic Museum

The National Geographic Museum hosted a night of dining, dancing and exclusive exhibit access at Taste of Titanic. The event featured DC’s top restaurants, including Duke’s Grocery, Lucky Buns, Ri Ra, Hank’s Oyster Bar, Par Pila and District Commons, signature cocktails from Bar PX and Trummer’s on Main, and live music from King Teddy. Photos: Mark Van Bergh

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Sylvan Esso with Moses Sumney at The Anthem

Sylvan Esso brought their electronic pop tunes to The Anthem Thursday, July 24. The duo, Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn, formed in 2013 and have built quite a following. The crowd cheered loudly as the two musicians took the stage in total darkness.  Seconds later, the lights exploded in sync with the beats, as the pair engaged the crowd and kept everyone dancing until the last song. Opening for Sylvan Esso was Moses Sumney, who enlightened the crowd with his looping and powerful vocals, performing as a one-man-band.  It was a great night at The Anthem and definitely a fun show. Photo/write-up: Shantel Mitchell Breen