Alison Carney
Photo: Photography by Jeremy Mines, | Courtesy of Art Lives Here

The Hidden Ace of DC Singer Alison Carney

Alison Carney is a testament to the great talent that can be found in the DC music community, with an expansive performance history rivaling the touring experience of veteran musicians. The songstress has toured in the U.S. and Asia, as well as shared the stage with performers such as Talib Kweli, A Tribe Called Quest, Pete Rock, Ma Yancey, Sy Smith, Kokayi, Yahzarah, Wayna, Choklate, V.Rch and J. Hayden. She’s also performed regularly in the DC Loves Dilla tribute concert and the now unfortunately defunct Can a Sister Rock a Mic? (CASRAM) Festival.

Carney grew up in both DC and New York City, splitting time between cities and parents. She may consider herself an honorary New Yorker, but her training and her artistic lineage come from the District. She studied at the National Cathedral School, and was influenced by a close family friend during her formative years – Duke Ellington School of the Arts Founder Peggy Cooper Cafritz Carney. It was around that time that Carney plunged herself into her passion for the arts.

“My mother got me involved in so many art-related programs when I was growing up, because all I wanted to do was make art,” she says.

As she developed as a singer, she took cues from the local community to develop her serious musical chops. She cites go-go musicians as among the most well-rehearsed and professional in the country, and credits DMV artists and producers like [Jesse] Tittsworth and T. Fox as gurus in her artistic development.

Carney is currently working on a highly-anticipated EP, especially timely since it’s been five years since her last formal studio project, 2011’s Alison Wonderland. But as part of the development she’s undergoing as an artist, she’s changing everything from her sound to her name. To that end, she wanted to take the time to, “Reintroduce myself [as] Ace Ono.”

“My [new] project is called I Bet You Think This Song Is About You. I’ve been working on it way too long, revamping it way too many times, but now I know what I want and I’m making it happen. I can’t wait to share it with the world.”

We could use more female artists sharing their work like this in DC, which still tends to be a male-dominated environment even in the diverse fields of jazz and indie/punk rock. However, Carney thinks that area music fans could also be doing more to support the fabulous ladies making music locally. Fans, and even people just interested in what’s going on in their hometown, need to put their ears to the ground and listen.

“I think there are so many amazing female artists influencing this music thing, from-hip hop to alternative to [whatever] – Pinky, Reesa, Kacey, Marlee, Kelow. We have women influencing every genre in DC. People just really have to make the effort to pay attention.”

To learn more about Alison Carney, follow her on Twitter: @iamalisoncarney.

Photo: Photography by Jeremy Mines, | Courtesy of Art Lives Here

Live at 9:30
Photo: Courtesy of Live at 9:30

Live at 9:30 Hits National Airwaves

The 9:30 Club isn’t just DC’s favorite concert venue. It’s the cornerstone of our local music scene. For 36 years, 9:30 has been incubating local and national talent, and bringing an eclectic range of world-famous and emerging acts to the club. And it’s not just local recognition that the club has been garnering for decades, with “Nightclub of the Year” and “#1 Big Room in America,” by Pollstar and Rolling Stone, respectively, among its national accolades. Now, the 9:30 Club is taking its success to the next level with a groundbreaking TV show.

Live at 9:30, airing on public television stations around the country in May, is a 12-episode “modern-day music variety show” highlighting the musical and comedic talent who perform at the 1200-person venue. Each episode features masterfully shot performances from several bands spanning genres, band interviews with everyone from NPR’s Bob Boilen to former Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins, and a three-minute, music-focused short film, 180 at 9:30, showcasing the camera work of local aspiring filmmakers and even some well-known bands.

The show’s executive producer, Michael Holstein, is hoping for 80 percent of the nation’s 350 public stations to pick up the show. Five of the nation’s top 20 stations have already approached his team about carrying the show, proving that its buzz is extending far beyond the District.

“There’s definitely excitement about [the show],” Holstein says. “It’s edgy for public television, for sure. It’s pushing the envelope of what people have seen [on public TV] before, especially visually.”

Holstein, who first sealed the deal with club co-owner Seth Hurwitz two years ago and received full funding for the project last summer, is referring to the cutting-edge visual technology used to film bands and comedic acts unobtrusively. Since last September, Holstein’s team has filmed around 60 performances at 9:30 using 15 cameras – that’s four to six hidden GoPros, an app-operated, aerial-view cable cam above the crowd, several mounted cameras for coverage of the entire venue and four to five handheld cameras. Some musicians like Shakey Graves and Yonder Mountain String Band even let the camera crew put GoPros on their instruments for insanely cool shots of finger-picking from each artist’s point of view.

9:30 Club Communications Director and Live at 9:30 Co-Creator Audrey Fix Schaefer says one of the most important things to the club was ensuring that bands and fans had the exact same experience as if they weren’t being filmed. The camera crew needed to be “just a fly on the wall.”

“Michael got that,” Schaefer says. “I think the best testament [to] this was the first night of filming.”

Halfway through the show, the musician’s publicist made a beeline for Schaefer and said, “Audrey, I thought you were filming.”

“And I said, ‘We are.’ [And] then proceeded to point out where each of the 12 cameras were.”

The only constant in each Live at 9:30 episode is variety, according to Holstein. The television producer and entertainment lawyer says he wants the show to be about discovery, crossing genres as much as possible throughout the season. From rock legacies like Garbage and The Jesus and Mary Chain to hip-hop, electronica, folk and country, and different flavors of indie, the first season’s lineup couldn’t be more diverse.

“The challenge is we’ve got 60 bands to fit in 12 interviews,” Holstein says. “How do we do this in a way that’s interesting but still coherent? It’s like putting together a puzzle. But I think we’ve come up with a really cool episode plan.”

Lianne La Havas, Pusha T, Youth Lagoon, Of Monsters and Men, Cold War Kids, Ibeyi, Leon Bridges, Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, The Arcs, and Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals are among the dozens of music acts featured in the first season. Holstein says he’s been blown away by some of the musicians he was less familiar with, like indie pop band MisterWives and English songstress Jess Glynne. And of course, he had his own fan boy moments, like geeking out when interviewing Garbage drummer Butch Vig (who also produced Nirvana’s Nevermind). Holstein channeled his inner Chris Farley with the question: “Remember that time you invented Nirvana?”

Universally known or up-and-coming, he says all of the musicians have been really sweet, kind and generous with their time. And they all seem pretty psyched to be involved.

“The 9:30 Club is one of the best venues in the country,” says EL VY’s Matt Berninger (also the frontman for The National). “It’s always great to play there, and Brent [Knopf] and I were more than happy to be a part of the show.”

This enthusiasm extends to the comedians, with a steady stream of talent supplied by DC Improv including Tony Rock and Top Gear’s Adam Ferrara, and the notable inclusion of larger-than-life stand-up comics like Ralphie May. All comedy bits tie back to music, and Holstein says the comedians have come prepared and really know their stuff. He describes the comedic elements of the show as an inverse SNL setup.

“Instead of breaking up our comedy with music, [we’re] breaking up our music with comedy.”

Holstein says if the comedians are funny and like music, he’s happy to have them on the show. Some comedians were among this season’s contributing interviewers, plus a range of other talented folks including other bands, authors, actors and music buffs. Jill Kargman (Bravo’s Odd Mom Out) interviewed 80s ska band The English Beat, and went into “VJ mode” with a handful of band introductions and histories in multiple episodes.

“There’s a hole in the marketplace for that kind of edgy, small-venue concert series,” Kargman says. “It’s what I loved about MTV Unplugged. I guess [ Live at 9:30 will] be the modern alternative: Plugged.”

Bob Boilen, who Holstein says “knows everything about everyone,” interviewed a half dozen or so artists over the course of the first season. The All Songs Considered host’s history runs deep with 9:30 as a music journalist, musician and fan. His band, Tiny Desk Unit, was the very first and last band to ever play the original club at 930 F St. Since then, he’s hosted hundreds of live audio and video webcasts from 9:30’s newer location, and developed relationships with Hurwitz and other folks on staff.

[ Live at 9:30] is going to be the sort of show that appeals to an audience that wouldn’t necessarily be in the crowd at the 9:30 Club, but a crowd that loves music,” he says. “I think that’s what they’re after, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Boilen notes a particularly special interview with folk rocker Frank Turner, who had been quite close to 9:30’s Josh Burdette (the venue’s former manager who passed away in 2013 and was known for taking excellent care of visiting bands). Turner wrote a song about Burdette that he performed at 9:30, bringing a lot of audience members to tears, and spoke with Boilen about it.

“It sort of sums up a lot about what the club is about,” Boilen says. “It could be like so many clubs you walk into – just get the band in [and] get the band out. But that’s not them at all. [9:30] connects us with people.”

Boilen and other interviewers spoke with bands around the club, on their tour buses and even at DC-based electronic music collective Thievery Corporation’s local studio (the group is also featured in the show’s first season). An impressive amount of detail went into the shooting and editing of each episode, with behind-the-scenes snippets, short takes between segments showcasing the club and more alternative parts of the District, and memorable episode intros – apparently there are some surprises in the queue involving “people with aspirations of elected office, on both sides.”

Holstein says he wants to take advantage of the opportunity to show that DC is hipper than people think it is: “Not just showing, ‘Oh, here’s the Lincoln [Memorial],’ but ‘Wow, I didn’t know there was this cool street art scene in DC.’”

The show also offers unique animation, with opening credits courtesy of Live at 9:30Art Director Wayne White (best known for his design work for Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and art direction for The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight” video), who joined forces with his son for the project.

As the show’s debut grows closer, the Live at 9:30 team is becoming increasingly more pumped. Schaefer says she can’t wait to see each episode, because it will be like reliving four or five nights at the club in a single hour.

“When I think about what each episode will look like, I get butterflies in my stomach – the kind you get on a roller-coaster ride. I think of the 9:30 Club as a kaleidoscope. It changes as each night turns. Sharing bands people know and love, while introducing them to acts they might not have ever discovered otherwise – that’s pretty thrilling.”

Though not yet confirmed, Holstein is hopeful for a second season that flows right out of the first, with 9:30 Roadtrip excursions to Merriweather Post Pavilion as early as this summer. The producer wants to show some love to Hurwitz’s other I.M.P. Productions venues in future seasons, Merriweather chief among them to give filmmakers the opportunity to shoot at a bigger, outdoor venue and feature acts in the summer 2016 lineup like The Cure, Tame Impala and Ellie Goulding.

“I’d like to not wait at all [between seasons],” Holstein says. “If our sponsors are happy and they want to keep doing it, we’ll just keep it going. Austin City Limits has been on for 40 years. I’ll be dead in 40 years, but hopefully the show will still be going.”

Learn more about Live at 9:30 at Check out web-only footage, behind-the-scenes content and full episodes of the show starting in May.

Photo: Courtesy of Live at 9:30

april music dc

This Month in Music: April 2016

King Soul and Texas Chainsaw Horns
Retro, Southern-fried soul gets an energetic update when local eight-piece outfit King Soul hits the stage. Sporting matching suits and a who’s-who of DC area musical all-stars, King Soul routinely gets DMV dance floors jumping. The band includes dynamic lead singer Tom Clifford, guitarist-vocalist Jake Flack of the Rhodes Tavern Troubadours, bassist-vocalist Mark Noone of the Slickee Boys and tenor saxophonist Matt Rippetoe, who has played with Funk Ark and Thievery Corporation. Also on the bill at Bethesda Blues are the Texas Chainsaw Horns, inspired by the soulful sounds of Tower of Power. $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club: 7719 Wisconsin Ave. Bethesda, MD;


Carrie Rodriguez
A singer-songwriter and accomplished fiddle player from Austin, Rodriguez is among the leading lights of the ever-expanding genre known as Americana. Her newest project, the upcoming Spanish/English album Lola, offers a Texas-bred twist on Mexican ranchera songs, creating a musical hybrid for a culturally blended world. The album features Spanish songs written by some of Rodriguez’s favorite Mexican composers, as well as original songs written in English, Spanish and that hybrid patois known as “Spanglish.” Tickets are $20. Jammin’ Java: 27 Maple Ave. East, Vienna, VA;  

Yacht Rock Revue
If you can’t get enough of 70s light rock, Yacht Rock Revue is for you. This band of merry musicians puts on their 70s threads, and plays the hits of bands like Hall & Oates, Michael McDonald and Steely Dan. They’re all top musicians and they’ll make you get up and dance. $20-$25. The Hamilton: 600 14 th St. NW, DC;

Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals
After a nearly eight-year hiatus, Ben Harper’s backing band The Innocent Criminals rejoined him last year, and they sound right at home on Harper’s new record , Call It What It Is. As always, Harper’s passionate amalgamation of rock, soul and reggae is punctuated by his fiery, lap slide blues guitar. Early word on the reunited band says they’re recapturing the bluesy boogie that burned so brightly in the late 1990s and early 2000s on such albums as Lifeline, Burn to Shine and Diamonds on the Inside. $57.50. 9:30 Club: 915 V St. NW, DC;

Gracie Terzian
Though she may now live in New York, Oakton’s own Gracie Terzian is a proud member of the Virginia/DC music scene. The jazz singer grew up going to shows at Blues Alley before studying and performing jazz at UVA and in the Charlottesville area. She released her first EP, Saints & Poets, last year. It’s the stuff of classics. Terzian’s vocal tone is a crisp yet smooth warmth, a filling sound – much like a slice of apple pie. Her writing, which is just as strong, aspires to the kind of charming wordplay and sophisticated romance of Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. She’s still a rising figure in the jazz world, but her star is due to shine. $10. Twins Jazz: 1344 U St. NW, DC;


She may no longer be filling arenas, but Jewels songs persist to fill radio waves and ear canals all across America. Bursting into the musical landscape of America in the late 1990s alongside other blonde-haired pop divas like Britney and Xtina, Jewel quickly lost her “Intuition” for pop and turned to the twang and soul of country music. She’s recorded with Dolly and Merle Haggard, and gone on to still have every one of her albums hit the Top 40, and often Top 10, of the Billboard charts. This is an uncommon opportunity to see one of the stars of the last two decades perform in a more intimate, accessible setting. $55-$75. Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC;  

An Evening with Molly Ringwald
Known for her 80s acting roles in such iconic films as The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candlesand Pretty in Pink, Molly Ringwald is also an accomplished and acclaimed jazz vocalist. Since 2013, Ringwald has been touring with her quartet, supporting her debut album,Except Sometimes. $35-$45. AMP by Strathmore: 11810 Grand Park Ave. North Bethesda, MD;

People’s Blues of Richmond
People’s Blues of Richmond, young veterans of the Richmond, Va. hard rock music scene, conjure the spiraling swirl of late 1960s psychedelia in their heavy rock. There are the slamming triplets popularized by Zeppelin’s John Bonham, the classical-aspiring, flamenco-spiced guitar runs and riffs, and the wail of a lead singer broken by drink, drugs and evil women. The group also takes influence from more groove-based music, so expect an occasional reggae-like slow jam to wash over crowds like waves on Jamaican beaches. $13. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 Water St. NW, DC;

Quiet Life
Quiet Life’s constantly-evolving sound can be hard to pin down. Written over a lazy summer on the coast of Rhode Island, their new album, Foggy, is truly a product of its environment, with songs that sway between verse and chorus with the steady rhythm of a swinging hammock. $12. IOTA Club & Café: 2832 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA;


The Jason Masi Band
A depression-era movie palace renovated as an art deco treasure, the Tally Ho in Leesburg showcases some of the DMV’s best local musical talent. April’s lineup features Jason Masi, a DC-based singer-songwriter with an appealing acoustic soul and R&B sound. Masi has released three solo albums in the past six years, and keeps his live show sharp with more than 250 gigs per year. Teddy Chipouris, an 18-year-old singer-songwriter out of Lovettsville, Va., is also on the bill. $15 in advance, $20 day of show. Tally Ho: 19 West Market St. Leesburg, VA;

Often the most vital, powerful music is born from intense personal tragedy and catastrophe. The members of Bleached have gone through plenty of that in the three years since their first LP, Ride Your Heart. The California-based trio went through hell in their personal lives, but came out resilient in the ferocious new songs on their record,Welcome The Worms. They’re unabashedly a punk band, but more like the first generation with their knack for earworm harmonies and simple, enjoyable power chord riffage. Throw in some sun-kissed keyboards and you have a pretty fun rock ‘n’ roll band. $12-$14. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC;

Buddy Guy
A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and a major influence on guitar heroes like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy is now 79 and shows no signs of slowing down. The wild man with the polka dot Fender Stratocaster still knows how to play the blues like it means life or death. $67. The State Theatre: 220 N. Washington St. Falls Church, VA;

David Lindley
Like many great instrumentalists and accompanists of the rock age – Ry Cooder, Al Kooper or Adran Belew – David Lindley tends to be known more for who he plays with than his own music. But the music he has made with partners is phenomenal. The multi-instrumentalist is best known for his work with Jackson Browne – the pair constructed much of the country rock sound that make Browne’s first few albums required listening. Here he performs his own works, and it’s the chance to see a true master at work. $22-$30. Jammin Java’: 227 Maple Ave. E, Vienna, VA;

The Joy Formidable
Welsh alt-rock trio The Joy Formidable is one of those modern rock bands who reach through the history of alternative in their influences. The result is a sound that’s hard to pin down, but you can taste the familiar ingredients. There’s the dark, dance floor vibe and rhythms of Joy Division, the ethereal transcendence of shoegaze, and the hard-hitting distortion of Wire and other punkier groups. The musicianship is also clearly there, making this group just one of those all-around got-to-see good bands. $25. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC;

Waco Brothers
No one melds alt-country twang with punk rock energy quite like the Waco Brothers. Formed by John Langford of Mekons fame nearly 20 years ago in Chicago, the Waco Brothers are as revered as much ( if not more so) for their live performances as their recorded efforts. As author Sarah Vowell recently told Chicagoist: “I’ve never been able to find a live band in New York as consistently thrilling and funny and fun as the Waco Brothers.”  The band, touring in support of their new record, Going Down in History,  is sure to deliver an incendiary set at IOTA this month. $15. IOTA Club & Café: 2832 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA;

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down
You may remember Falls Church native Thao Nguyen from local solo shows, before she relocated to San Francisco, signed a record deal and hit the big time with her band, The Get Down Stay Down. After three critically-acclaimed albums, she’s back with her new one, A Man Alive, and back in town to play live. $20. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC;

Har Mar Superstar
Sean Tillman, a.k.a. the indie dance/R&B crooner Har Mar Superstar, aims to create a retro-futuristic dance party every time he hits the stage. Although his persona is jokey, Har Mar Superstar’s exuberant pastiche of late 80s R&B grooves, crisp synth samples and cheeky lyrics make for a seriously booty-shaking live experience. Har Mar is also bringing some major indie rock firepower to his new album, Best Summer Ever, which features production by Julian Casablancas of The Strokes and a duet with Karen O of the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. $15. The Black Cat: 1811 14 thSt. NW, DC;

Justin Jones
Justin Jones has been a fixture of the DC music scene for more than 10 years. He’s toured all over North America and played some of the most storied stages in the country. For the release of his sixth album, Prairie Rain, Jones comes to the Hamilton to play old and new songs from his catalog. $10-$15. The Hamilton: 600 14 th St. NW, DC;

Ryan Montbleau Band
Ryan Montbleau hails from Massachusetts, but his music drips with New Orleans soul, which isn’t surprising considering how much time he spent honing his musical chops in the Crescent City over the years. Blending rock, funk, soul, folk, psychedelia and even strains of jazz, Montbleau’s sound is fiercely unpredictable but always satisfying.  His new album, Growing Light, which drops in April, was produced by Ben Ellman of the New Orleans-based jazz-funk powerhouse band Galactic. Expect a tight, upbeat and accomplished live performance when Montbleau and his longtime band visit Gypsy Sally’s this month. $15. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC;


Creed Bratton
Don’t miss an evening of music and comedy from the one-of-a-kind Creed Bratton, most well-known from NBC’s The Office. But Creed also co-founded the popular 60s band The Grass Roots, and continues to release new music. He’ll be joined by musician Andrew Tufano and comedian Michael Larrick. $20-$30. Jammin’ Java: 227 Maple Ave. E., Vienna, VA;

Over the course of three increasingly impressive albums, Minneapolis-based Polica has honed a mesmerizing synth-pop sound featuring big bass riffs and Channy Leaneagh’s gorgeous, soaring vocals. Polica’s latest record, United Crushers, is at times reminiscent of Depeche Mode, Garbage and even The Eurhythmics, but still sounds intensely fresh and immediate. In recent years, Polica has rocked some of the world’s biggest music festivals, including Coachella and Glastonbury. Now you can watch them work their magic in the much more intimate confines of the 9:30 Club. $20. 9:30 Club:915 V St. NW, DC;

Bob Mould
Sometime DC resident, former member of Husker Du and Sugar, and little-known pro wrestling aficionado Bob Mould is back in DC with a new album. Mould’s recent work may be considered his “third act,” but it’s widely seen as some of the strongest work of his career. $25. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC;

If you still haven’t seen RDGLDGRN, arguably the most prominent of the rising generation of bands to emerge from DC, then this will certainly be an interesting experience. The indie hip-hop/go-go band opens for sun-soaked, California hip-hoppers Dirty Heads at the Fillmore, but they bring an attitude that is all East Coast. And all DC. Their sound is laced with the rhythmic power of go-go, and their rhymes and tunes aim for the heart. $31.50. Fillmore Silver Spring: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD;  

The Quebe Sisters Band
Not even most prolific bluegrass musicians these days – even if they were born right here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia – can boast harmonies as tight as fiery sister trio from Texas. Their “old timey” music aspires to a different time – a period in American music where dances where still held in barns and the fiddle was the weapon for heroics. Their music sounds like it is fresh out of the time capsule, but in reality it’s just fresh out of Texas. Fresh fiddle music should be enjoyed more regularly. $22-$25.The Barns at Wolf Trap: 1635 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA;  

Washington-based power trio Fellowcraft recently released their debut album, Get Up Young Phoenix, a tightly-crafted set of loud, snarling rockin’ blues. High energy, intensely percussive and raucous, Fellowcraft has been featured on NPR and is among the emerging bands to watch on DC’s indie rock scene. Check out the track “West Texas Blues” online to get a feel for this up-and-coming band’s eclectic sound. $12.Rock and Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC;  

Maggie Rose and The Morrison Brothers
One of the Washington area’s greatest musical success stories of the past couple years, Maggie Rose, has moved to Nashville and managed to find her place among Music City’s A-list country talent. In fact, she’s already notched more than 30 appearances at the legendary Grand Ole Opry. In April, Rose brings her big voice and genre-spanning songwriting chops home for a gig with fellow hometown favorites The Morrison Brothers, whose unique brand of country rock is also gaining notice well beyond the DMV. $20. 9:30 Club: 915 V St. NW, DC;

Kingman Island Bluegrass & Folk Festival
Now in its seventh year, this event has become the largest all-local music festival in the National Capital Region, attracting over 13,000 attendees in 2014. Local favorites such as Herb & Hanson, Jonny Grave and Oh He Dead will be the soundtrack to a beautiful day at one of DC’s hidden natural wonders. $20. Kingman Island Bluegrass & Folk Festival: 575 Oklahoma Ave. NE, DC;

Photo: Kingman Island Bluegrass & Folk Festival, courtesy of festival

The Young Dubliners - 003

Young Dubliners at Hamilton

The Young Dubliners rocked the house in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day at The Hamilton. Photos by Mark Raker & Michelle Goldchain

Shamrock Fest - 066

ShamrockFest 2016

Locals shook their shamrocks to Celtic rock bands at ShamrockFest. It was pure shenanigans as the beer flowed strong and everyone was Irish for the day. Photos: Michelle Goldchain

Photo: Elliott O'Donovan Photography

DJ SAAM at ShamrockFest

Eleven years in and Montgomery County-born DJ SAAM cites “[having] a pretty good following, being able to bring out people, establish great club nights and play consistently good sets at a high level” as his keys to becoming a well-regarded veteran and area professional. The resident spinner at clubs including DC’s Ultrabar and Midtown, Arlington’s A-Town Bar & Grill and other noted area locations is also one of the headliners for the National ShamrockFest, taking place on March 12 at the RFK Stadium Festival Grounds.

The first two decades of the 21st century have seen a significant uptick in neophytes believing that they have what it takes to reach the success of someone like SAAM. In reference to what it takes to achieve that, or any level of success in the DJ craft, SAAM says, “You have to put in the time. There’s that cliché saying about putting in 10,000 hours of time in order to develop your skills, and to become a good DJ, that’s true. Practicing and listening to other DJ’s sets will allow someone to pick up new techniques and allow their brain to make new connections that can improve their skills.”

SAAM puts an emphasis on something other than matching beats and knowing when to drop the perfect remix.

“It’s important to have great character as a person,” SAAM says. “DJs that are reputable, friendly, nice to staff and patrons, and reliable get booked often.”

SAAM notes that sometimes the success of a gig isn’t as much defined by what music is being played, but who the people are on the dance floor or at the venue. Relaying a story from a recent set at

A-Town Bar & Grill, his fanatical love of sports and his job behind the decks happily collided when a group of players from the Washington Capitals were in the room.

“I was working the Sunday brunch at A-Town, and it’s sometimes a wild party from [noon to midnight], or longer, with three DJs there,” SAAM remembers. “On the Sunday night in question, the entire Washington Capitals team came in. I’m a big sports fan and have been a huge Caps fan my whole life, so I knew their practice facility (Arlington’s Kettler Capitals Iceplex) was directly behind the bar. Nicklas Bäckström and others came into the DJ booth and were partying with me, and it was kinda cool! To have those guys hang out, tell me about artists they liked and what their taste in music was, it was cool!”

Regarding being in the city during dance music’s most recent boom generation, the DJ notes the national capital area’s history with the genre, and is hopeful regarding the present and future.

“DC’s a diverse and close-knit area of DJs, promoters and supporters that’s always been strong and supported many musical scenes. [Trance kingpin] Armin van Buuren’s first American gig was actually in DC, and now there’s local DJs and producers becoming known worldwide for making techno and deep house who are being supported at clubs serving as platforms like Flash, U Street Music Hall and Eighteenth Street Lounge.” Continuing, SAAM tells On Tap, “Also, there’s DJs like Tiesto and David Guetta who are big in the mainstream and play spaces like Echostage.”

When it comes to his big gig on March 12 at ShamrockFest, SAAM is excited.

“I’m looking forward to having a great time. I know a lot of the DJs playing there very well, and it’s my second time DJing the event. I’m going to see what the crowd is vibing with, and [given that] people will be drinking and looking to have fun, my mindset is to go with the flow. The crowd will dictate what I’ll play. When I’m done, I’ll have some beer and relax with the other DJs there.”

To learn more about DJ SAAM, follow him on Twitter: @DJ_SAAM.

Tal Wilkenfeld

The Transformation of Tal Wilkenfeld

At 29 years old, Australian fusion musician Tal Wilkenfeld has a resume that musicians 40 years her senior would kill for. After releasing her first album, “Transformation” in 2007, her first major outlet as a musician was accompanying keyboard legend Chick Corea on his tour of Australia. She has gone on to play with many  other great musicians throughout the last nine years – Herbie Hancock, Ryan Adams, John Mayer and Prince among them – but her true break into the public and musical consciousness was during her tenure in the trio of blues and fusion guitarist extraordinaire Jeff Beck. Her performances with Beck were captured in significant recordings such as Beck’s live album “Live at Ronnie Scott’s” and the “25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concerts.”

After nearly a decade of growing musically alongside heroes and legends, Wilkenfeld is asserting herself as a virtuoso and bandleader, preparing a new album and embarking on a slew of headline tour dates. She will visit the DC area twice this month, headlining the Birchmere in Alexandria on Tuesday, March 15 and performing at the Verizon Center on Thursday, March 24, where she will open for The Who. On Tap spoke with Wilkenfeld in anticipation of her touchdown in the District come mid-month.

On Tap:  Did either of your parents play instruments or records around the house [when you were growing up], or was it something you had to come to on your own?
Tal Wilkenfeld: I discovered guitar on my own. Neither of my parents are musicians, but my mum has a very musical ear and is also a great visual artist. My dad also has amazing taste in music.

OT: When did you know that you were meant to be a musician?
TW: I knew music was my primary method of expressing my creativity after (or during) the first time I strummed a chord on the guitar.

OT: You started out as a guitar player. Was there something more freeing about the bass, a pattern of creative thinking associated with the instrument that fit you naturally?
TW:  Everyone around me, myself included, recognized that I played guitar like a bass player. I was always the first one to run to a drum kit or a bass; I think I was just born to be a rhythm player. And that doesn’t exclude rhythm guitar.

OT: What drew you to fusion? Was it listening to musicians like Herbie, Chick and Jeff Beck – was there something in their playing that resonated with you? 
TW:  I admire and enjoy their desire to move toward limitless musical expression.

OT: Did playing with [these great musicians] change your perspective on how you write and perform your own music?
TW: Musically, interacting with these greats has informed my instincts; the way I respond in any given moment to what’s musically thrown my way. In reality though, everyone I interact with informs my perspective on music. They don’t even need to be a musician!

OT: As a bass and six-string guitar player, you had one of the best possible teachers in the form of Jeff Beck. Did playing with him in a trio change the way you approach guitar and bass? 
TW: He was a walking reminder that one doesn’t need to open their mouth to sing.

OT:  When you think about music you make now as opposed to on “Transformation” and before, has it changed? 
TW:  Thankfully, it’s forever changing.

OT:   So let’s talk about the elephant in the room. You are opening for one of the biggest acts in music of the last century: The Who. What are you most looking forward to about that tour?
TW: I like elephants. I heard The Who was going on tour and I decided to email Pete Townshend and share some of my new songs that I’ve been working on. These are songs where I’m singing and playing guitar and bass. I told him if the opportunity was there, I’d love to open for The Who. He was extremely complimentary and supportive of this new music and invited me to open for them.

OT: You’re also going on your first headline tour around the same time. Who is in the band? Introduce us!
TW: First is Owen Barry, a very talented guitarist that Jeff Beck introduced me to; then Tamir Barzilay, a super versatile, grooving and interesting drummer that I actually met randomly when I went to see a friend of a friend perform in LA. Finally, the multitalented Chris Price is playing keyboards, guitar and singing. He’s our “everything man,” and he’s great at it.

OT: What will make these shows different experiences for people who have been following you? What are you looking forward to most about your solo shows?
TW: I really just can’t wait for people to hear these new songs! They really are the truest expression of my soul at this moment in my life. After working on and off on this record for so many years now, it’s super exciting (and a relief) to finally go out there and play!

Catch Tal Wilkenfeld at the Birchmere on March 15 for $25 or with The Who at the Verizon Center on March 24 (check Ticketmaster for ticket prices).

THE BIRCHMERE: 3701 Mt Vernon Ave. Alexandria, VA; 703-549-7500;

VERIZON CENTER: 601 F St. NW, DC; 202-628-3200;


Scythian Takes the Stage at ShamrockFest

A family of second-generation Ukrainian immigrants playing Irish music; a band from DC whose members have worked hard for a decade to get where they are today; and a rocking group of musicians that will have you up and dancing for their whole show.  All of these things define Scythian.

Scythian celebrated 10 years as a band last year, a decade that has seen them rise from playing the streets of Old Town Alexandria for gas money, to playing for the president and the pope. Along the way, they’ve released both live and studio albums, including their most recent, “Old Tin Can.”

They refer to their sound as “immigrant rock,” a term that reflects their family history as well as the style of music they now call their own.

“My parents emigrated from Ukraine during the Second World War,” says Dan Fedoryka, one of Scythian’s founding members and rhythm guitarist, accordionist and vocalist.

“Joe Crosby’s (the band’s other founding member, fiddle and bass player, and vocalist) mother emigrated from Austria, so we all grew up with an Old World sensibility and were exposed to ethnic music our whole lives. We have tried to stay true to our roots while becoming headliners on the Irish circuit. So you might see us play a song in Ukrainian at an Irish festival. At first, people didn’t know how to take it, but now people have come to expect it and want us to keep throwing them curveballs. We’re proud to keep our heritage alive in this way and happy that people seem to dig it.”

In addition to Fedoryka and Crosby, the band features Tim Hepburn on drums; Fedoryka’s brother, Alex, on fiddle, mandolin and bass; and their sister, Larissa, on cello. Dan Fedoryka says that playing together as a family is “one of the best things ever.”

“We’re able to anticipate each other musically,” he says, “in ways that kind of freak us out. It’s really magic. We grew up playing together as a family band, so all those years of practicing alone in our bedrooms are paying off on the big stage, which is pretty gratifying.”

Fedoryka credits the band’s three-year gig as the house band at Fado Irish Pub with making them into the live act they are today. The Fado gig led to shows at the 9:30 Club, and that got them noticed by the organizers of ShamrockFest. This year, the band returns to the festival that gave them a boost of confidence in the early days, and kept them reaching for bigger and better things.

“Scythian and ShamrockFest started the same year,” Fedoryka says, “and we played the first one when it was still in Clarendon. It’s been fun to grow with this festival, and we can say ShamrockFest gave the local boys a chance to cut their teeth by sharing the stage with bands like Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. This let us know that we could hang in the majors and really inspired us to keep pushing.”

Last year, as part of celebrating a decade as a band, Scythian introduced two new traditions. First, they started their own roots music camping festival called Appaloosa, which takes place in Front Royal, Va. during Labor Day weekend. This year’s festival will feature 30 bands from the U.S. and Europe, as well as giving the band a chance to meet the next generation of musicians.

“We’ve set up a Heritage Music School,” Fedoryka says, “where kids will get music workshops and the whole weekend will be a giving back to the community and celebrating the good things in life – friends and family. That is really what is inspiring us and the direction we’re heading.”

Secondly, they started fan trips to Ireland. The band travels the country on a bus with fans and explores places that have inspired their music.

“It’s always great to see how our music is received by the Irish locals,” Fedoryka says, “and to have our fans interact with them is really something special. Lots of Guinness, lots of amazing music and sightseeing, and not so much sleep equals Scythian in Ireland.”

Fedoryka and the other members of Scythian had no idea that their music would take them this far, but they appreciate it all.

“We definitely had no clue that this is where we’d end up,” he says, “but we wouldn’t change a thing. We can honestly say that ‘work’ doesn’t feel like work. We feel pretty lucky.”

Scythian will be rocking the “Shamrock Green” stage at ShamrockFest on Saturday, March 12 at 5:30 p.m. Check out for more info. For a complete lineup of artists performing at ShamrockFest, visit


Photo: Danny Clinch

The ‘Starlight’ Shines for Muse

The most rock ‘n’ roll part of Muse’s spectacular spectacle of arena rock, performed at the Verizon Center this past Monday, may surprise you. It was not the pounding, driving Bonham-meets-Peart drumming of Dominic Howard; nor the flashy, LED-neck basses of Chris Wolstenholme; nor Matt Belamy’s guitar heroics, strut, or soaring vocals. All of those things are pretty rock ‘n’ roll, but rock is as much about attitude, as it is about the music itself. So, the most rock ‘n’ roll thing about Muse’s show was the fact that they broke the DC metro area ordinance that bans drone flight within the beltway, and by my count, they broke that rule about ten times at once. Now that is rock and roll!

Muse is a consummate arena rock band, and Generation Y’s answer to the Boomer’s crowned emperors of dramatic, production-focused arena rock: the bands like Journey, KISS and Pink Floyd. You could tell that there were elements of these emperor’s trade secrets. Their stage design recalled U2’s spaceship stage from their360 Tour. Their art rock narrative recalls Rush’s commitment to thematic presentations in the 1970s. The provocativeness of their effects, such as the giant puppeteer who appeared to pull Belamy and Wolstenholme’s strings during “The Handler,” recalled the dramatic productions of Pink Floyd. Finally, the immense virtuosity reflected the ferocity of a band like Van Halen. But, during the “Drones Tour” shows, which ended at the Verizon Center, these elements did not feel borrowed. Instead it felt like Muse were students who, having studied the techniques of the masters before them , finally learned to produce an arena spectacle as well as the masters of the 70s and 80s.

At the helm of Muse’s space-y, art rock flight is front man and guitarist Matt Belamy. Belamy is one of those rare singers, like Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson or Robert Plant, whose voice resonates to greatly throughout the arena, that even the patrons in the upper sections feel like he is singing to them in the pit. It’s easy for him to remind someone of Geddy Lee of Rush—if Geddy had the guitar chops possessed by bandmate Alex Lifeson. Add a Jagger strut into the mix, and you have one of the few individuals left in the music scene that is truly worthy of the moniker “rock star.” He shredded on songs like “Reapers” and “Uprising,” his vocals soared on “Starlight” and he brought his piano out of trap doors for songs like “Apocalypse Please.”

Yet, through all this time in the spotlight and being the group’s main attraction, Muse does very much feel like a band of equals. Their design for the “Drones” stage, playing in the round, aided this. Without the standard stage-against-the wall arrangement, Muse eliminated the unspoken, passive hierarchies that befall rock bands. With Howard, Wolstenholme and Belamy all in the center, the attention stayed on the unit of the trio as a singular unit. There were particular moments throughout the night, what stood out in my mind was a small exchange during “Map of the Problematique,” when the three would gather around the drum kit in council, and the swelling, kinetic energy was palpable.

Too often rock bands use flashy, over-the-top, escapist productions to hide their mediocrity as musicians and songwriters. Muse use the spectacle of the arena to tell the story, and the space of the arena as a way to amplify their already walloping, huge prog-rock sound. It seems like fewer and fewer rock bands today possess the ability to fill the arena space, and fewer still have little to no desire to occupy it at all. We can only hope that bands like Muse continue to lead their congregations in these rock ‘n’ roll megachurches, and inspire a few, young musicians along the way to do similar someday.

To learn more about Muse visit

Photo: Stephan Lupino

2CELLOS Come to DAR Constitution Hall

Two Croatian cellists post a YouTube video of themselves playing Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.” It goes viral and racks up over 16 million views. They sign a record deal, tour with Elton John, and become a worldwide phenomenon. It’s not your everyday rock and roll success story, but it’s the true tale of the whirlwind rise of 2CELLOS.

Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, who make up the duo, had both studied and played classical cello since childhood. When they posted their video in 2011, they wanted to increase the range of what cello music could do, Hauser tells  On Tap.

“We felt our imagination and creativity was limited by playing only one kind of music,” he says. “We always liked all different kinds of music including rock, pop, and film music. Cello is such a universal instrument; it has so many possibilities and is capable of doing so many different things—different sounds and effects. We wanted to expand the possibilities of playing the cello and develop ways and techniques of playing it, and show the world how cool, diverse, and powerful this instrument can be. We had this big desire to attract a wider audience, and make young people interested in the instrument and great music in general.”

But why rock and roll? After all, Hauser and Sulic could’ve chosen many different genres to showcase the cello’s unique sound and dynamics. Hauser said that, in fact, they always had secret dreams of becoming rock stars.

“There was always this rock animal inside of us that wanted to explode,” he says, “and one side of us wanted to fill up big places, arenas, and stadiums. We wanted to experience this euphoria—crazy screaming fans, light show, adrenaline, wild rock atmosphere. We were so excited about this idea.  We always played with a lot of passion, energy, and adrenaline, even the classical pieces, and were sometimes criticized for that, and now finally we can rock our souls out.”

2CELLOS had fans throughout the music industry, and one in particular gave them a huge career boost when they first started. After the “Smooth Criminal” video went viral in 2011, the duo received a surprise call from none other than rock legend Elton John, who wanted them to join him on tour. They were blown away by his support.

“The whole thing was incredible!” Hauser says. “I will never forget the day the principal from the Royal Academy [of Music in London] showed Elton the video and he said how much he loved it, and our playing too. And the same afternoon he invited us to join him on the tour. It was truly amazing.”

The duo signed with John’s management company, Rocket Music, inked a record deal with the Sony Masterworks label, and recorded and released their eponymous first album, “2CELLOS,” in 2011. It included “Smooth Criminal,” along with covers of U2, Nirvana, and Guns N’ Roses. “In2ition,” which followed in 2013, featured guest stars like rock guitarist Steve Vai (covering AC/DC), and classical pianist Lang Lang (on Coldplay’s “Clocks”).

The duo’s newest recording “Celloverse,” features their biggest YouTube sensation to date: a cover of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” which has garnered over 52 million views. “Celloverse” features another milestone for the duo: the release of their first original composition.

“We wanted a challenge,” Hauser says, “which is why we did an original composition. We were nervous how fans would respond but everyone has been so enthusiastic. We would love to do more originals in the future.”

That future looks bright for 2CELLOS, with plans and opportunities galore. Hauser said there are numerous artists they’d like to work with, including U2, Sting, and Eminem, among others. They are on a North American tour at the moment with many dates selling out. And they’ve done what they set out to do, Hauser says, to change the way the world thinks about the cello.

“Now we feel so blessed and so fulfilled,” he says, “because we are in a position to experience everything, both sides—rock and classical—and it is equally beautiful and magical! We can experience a spiritual intimate atmosphere playing Bach in church for example, but we can also play in front of thousands of screaming fans and experience a total madness.  There are so many possibilities and we are so rich by the opportunities this instrument has offered to us. We really wanted to revolutionize cello, and I think we have achieved that.”

The 2CELLOS show is Sunday, February 21 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available For more info about the band, check out Follow them on Twitter (@2CELLOS), Facebook (@2cellos), and Instagram (@2cellosofficial.)

DAR Constitution Hall: 1776 D St. NW, DC; 202-628-4780;

Photo: Stephan Lupino