Flume rocked the house at 9:30 Club. Photos: KGabriellePhoto
“It was pretty surreal,” Howard said. “The White House is one of those experiences that you go into not sure what to expect, and come out just amazed at how nice everyone was and how well we were treated. The President and First Lady are so sweet, and I love that they have brought so much music to the White House over the past eight years. I even got to dance with the President for a moment! I hope this is a tradition that continues.”
Photo: David McClister
When some of Fitz Holladay’s friends were unable to play their gig at DC9 back in 2010, his first thought was, “Let’s do a house show.” He promptly hosted a concert for his buds and another band, solidifying his love of hosting intimate concerts in unique spaces. Six years later, the DC native is leading the city’s rapidly expanding chapter of Sofar Sounds, a global movement bringing the living room experience to live music.
Holladay is pumped, but pragmatic. While Sofar has received an overwhelmingly positive response from the local community, from artists to guests, and he’s been able to grow his team of volunteers and production staff to 60 people, he says the DC chapter still has a ton of potential for growing its audience and finding out about more new music in the area. He views this as an evolving process, where he and his team learn from the feedback provided by guests and improve upon the experience each time.
“We’ve refined out process to try to make each show really special,” he says.
So here’s how it works. Holladay and his team book three acts per show, with each musician usually playing a four-song set that’s about 20 minutes long. The shows, which run from about 8 to 10 p.m., are hosted in a mix of one-of-a-kind residential and buzzworthy commercial spaces. The target audience size for most shows is between 40 to 60 people, with an absolute max of 120.
“I’ll tell ya, the shows hosted in someone’s living room where we can’t have more than 40 people are always so powerful,” Holladay says. “That’s what Sofar Sounds is all about – that intimate experience. We just look for any non-traditional space that has a cool vibe where we want people to walk in and say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m seeing live music here,’ no matter where it is.”
The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington National Cathedral, Kreeger Museum, Studio Theatre, Shake Shack at Union Station and the Former Residence of the Ambassadors of Spain are just some of the notable spaces Sofar DC has hosted shows. Holladay is working to line up some upcoming gigs at the Freer and Sackler Galleries and maybe an all-Swedish show at the House of Sweden, and hopes to one day host a performance at the Hirshhorn or even at the White House Rose Garden.
The city director says as long as Sofar is able to keep booking quality artists, the sky is the limit for the amount of shows they’ll host and variety of venues they’ll explore. He’s quick to point out that Sofar DC pushes for an eclectic lineup at every show, encompassing all genres. From hip-hop and reggae to string ensembles, he wants it all for the District’s shows. His team is even exploring adding spoken word and comedy acts to the experience.
Holladay strives mightily to strike a healthy balance between highlighting local and national acts, and books artists who are stopping through DC while on their respective tours whenever possible. He’s also had great success with nabbing musicians who hail from Philly or NYC, since it’s fairly easy for them to come down to the nation’s capital for a show.
LA-based electro-pop duo POWERS, Philadelphia alt/surf rock band Bel Heir, pop rock songstress Vanessa Carlton and New Zealanders Broods (who just played a Sofar gig on July 30) are some of Holladay’s favorite artists from outside the city who’ve headlined Sofar shows. He’s got an impressive wish list for national acts as well, including Radiohead (he’d settle for just Thom Yorke), Red Hot Chili Peppers and LCD Soundsystem.
When it comes to local artists, Holladay gushes about the amount of talent in the District. While it’s hard to name just a few local Sofar performers that have stood out to him recently, he has no problem rattling off an enthusiastic list that includes queerpop artist Be Steadwell, American roots singer-songwriter Lauren Calve, ethereal pop duo Nuex and dynamic pop band Shaed (formerly The Walking Sticks).
“I think every show is special,” he says. “I swear, some of the talent that’s kind of unrecognized, sometimes those are the most exciting ones because you’re like, ‘Who is this person? They’re incredible.’ And then you can say down the road, when they’re headlining 9:30 Club, ‘Oh yeah? Well I saw them in a living room.’”
To learn about upcoming Sofar shows, go to www.sofarsounds.com/washington. Each month’s performance locations and dates are announced two weeks in advance. If you’re interested in volunteering with Sofar, email Holladay and his team directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: Jeff Krentel Photography and Kill the Light Photography
We live in an era where it seems increasingly difficult for musicians to create an original sound. Especially in indie music, artists are often compared to their influences, conjuring up feelings of nostalgia for genres that made their debut in earlier decades. Allah-Las is one of those rare bands that actually draws from the past without mirroring it, reinventing a garage-surf-psychedelic rock sound that pays homage to the authenticity and rawness of those genres’ beginnings while still writing music that’s truly their own.
Correia and his bandmates have been cultivating a sound based on their shared taste in music since three of the four members (Correia, bassist/vocalist Spencer Dunham and lead guitarist/vocalist Pedrum Siadatian) worked together at Amoeba Records’ Sunset Boulevard location in 2008. Rhythm guitarist/vocalist Miles Michaud and Dunham were buds growing up, and met Correia back in high school.
“When we got together to play, this is the stuff that came out just based on what we listened to,” Correia says of the band’s beginnings. “But I think timelessness is what we look for in the records we buy, and that’s the idea behind our songs.”
When Correia chats about the band’s greatest influences, scenes from Empire Records and High Fidelity start playing in my head – only in my version, Allah-Las is debating the importance of 80s and 90s Britpop and shoegaze versus 60s downtempo garage rock.
The guys devoured the sounds of Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, The Jesus & Mary Chain and Primal Scream, while simultaneously kicking it to Kevin Ayers, Lou Reed, The Beach Boys and The Byrds. They also dug the sound of a lot of the bands they were playing with around L.A. at the time. With such range in their combined musical tastes, it’s no wonder they’re hesitant to label their own sound.
“I don’t really know how to describe [our sound] when people ask me,” Correia says. “I usually say California music of some sort.”
Their unnamed sound has been evolving since the release of their eponymous debut album in 2012. The band is currently on tour to promote the release of their third album, Calico Review, out on September 9, which veers into new aural territory for the band. The guys experimented with some different instrumentation on the 12-song album, and honed their individual songwriting skills.
Correia partially credits their recording space, L.A.’s Valentine Recording Studio, with inspiring these changes. The studio hadn’t been used since 1979 until recently, by Allah-Las and other musicians including retro soul and R&B crooner Nick Waterhouse (who produced the band’s first two singles and their first album).
“It’s trapped in time,” Correia says. “We’ve been calling it the time capsule studio.”
But the drummer is quick to note that it’s not just the old-school equipment, shag walls, terrazzo flooring and lighting reminiscent of a middle school classroom that give Valentine its vintage charm.
“They’re all my children,” he says. “I can’t pick. I love them all.”
Upon further consideration, he notes that he’s got a soft spot for “Autumn Dawn” and “High & Dry,” both written by Siadatian. And the album’s last song, “Place in the Sun,” is definitely a favorite “just ‘cause I wrote the lyrics to it.” If the album’s first single, “Could Be You,” is any indication, we’re in for a real treat. The impossibly catchy song gives the subtlest nod to The Velvet Underground’s signature guitar-fueled openings on songs like “Rock & Roll” and “Foggy Notion,” and begs the existential question, “But if you had the chance to, would you do it all again?”
When asked what’s on the horizon for the band, Correia says they’re flirting with the idea of international travel after this tour ends – Mexico, France, Spain and South Africa are chief among the locations on the drummer’s wish list.
“Maybe a chance to stay in some of these places for an extended period of time,” he says, “and to record some music in another place and have those influences [appear] in some of our songs.”
Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; 202-388-7625; www.rockandrollhotel.com
It’s entirely possible that if you hit a Washington Nationals baseball game and a DC area nightclub in the same 12-hour period, you’ll hear the sounds of veteran area spinner DJ Trayze at both locations. But Matthew Alexander is recognized far beyond the nation’s capital. The current U.S. champion of Red Bull’s vaunted Thre3style competition is gearing up for a trip to Chile this winter for the week-long world championships.
Thre3style challenges DJs in 24 national competitions worldwide to compose 15-minute mini-sets to “impress both the crowd and the judges with their originality, skills and track selection” while also playing at least three genres of music. The DJ notes that his winning performance was largely comprised of “snippets of things I’ve developed while spinning in the club,” that he “wrote down on Post-it notes, and then put together in an entertaining and cohesive set.”
One of the highlights of Trayze’s winning set at the competition in Philadelphia was the DJ dropping in a snippet of Kanye West’s 2013 single “Bound 2” that asks, “What you doing in the club on a Thursday?” Given that the competition was, indeed, on a Thursday, the statement’s meaning in the context of Thre3style flipped into a braggadocious showcase of hip-hop swagger consistent with a DJ battle.
Like many of his other DJing skills, this idea was derived from a party-igniting trick learned while performing at clubs – in this case, playing songs that are related to days of the week.
Regarding this idea, Trayze says, “I’ll be playing somewhere like [Dupont Circle’s] Heist on a Saturday night, and after midnight, I’ll play Cam’ron’s [2002-released hit rap single] ‘Hey Ma,’ which samples The Commodores’ [1977 soul hit] ‘Easy.’ At the appropriate time, I’ll blend ‘Hey Ma’ into the section where Lionel Richie sings, ‘Easy like Sunday morning,’ and it gets a huge reaction every time.”
This level of awareness is nothing new for Trayze, who notes that he “takes [his] craft seriously, and is always listening to and studying all sorts of music.” From “standing in Target while buying dish detergent and hearing a melody” to “always wanting to keep a unique and entertaining flow to a party,” Trayze says that “he wants to elevate the art of DJing and push [his own] music, talent, skill and creativity to the next level.”
When he’s not preparing for the Thre3style championships, Trayze is maintaining a frenetic schedule of local and national gigs. He’s also working on an EP of original music, and keeping up with life as a husband and father. What motivates his desire to excel at DJing while maintaining such a busy schedule?
“What is that stands before me? Feathered and black / That points at me?” As those words rung out across the grounds of Jiffy Lube Live – and seemingly across all of Northern Virginia – on Sunday night, a chill ran through the air. The damp grass stood straight, the gusts in the trees fell silent and goosebumps sprouted across thousands of people as Ozzy Osbourne invoked Black Sabbath’s opening hymn for the final time for the DMV.
Sabbath, the prototypical metal group founded by Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward almost 50 years ago in Birmingham, England, is closing the cover on its grimoire of heavy, haunting music. “The End” tour, which stopped by Bristow’s Jiffy Lube Live on August 21, promises to be the formal end of the band’s activities – confirmed vocally by Osbourne during one of his regular “I love you all” song breaks. For most of rock’s original vanguards, the farewell tour exists either as one last ego trip or the chance to prove that you’ve still got the chops to keep up with the whippersnappers selling out at the clubs these days.
Most farewell tours then fall on their face because it becomes clear that the rock stars are trying very hard to be rock gods, and that their chops have indeed faded with age. And while the basic symptoms of “farewell tour syndrome” were present among the three original members of Sabbath, joined on drums by Tommy Clufetos of the Ozzy Osbourne Band, the godfathers of heavy metal showed a vitality and potency that few of their contemporaries can.
Part of this lies in the members’ apparent immortality. Osbourne, Iommi and Butler’s physicality as performers has not changed much since they sent teenagers screaming out of theaters in the early 70s. They stand, clad all in black cloth, leather and golden crosses, rarely moving, as if they are anchored in spot by the weight of the dark powers they conjure in songs like “Black Sabbath,” “N.I.B.” and “Hand of Doom.”
Speaking of such conjuring, what dark ritual did these sorcerers of sound perform to maintain their gifts? Iommi’s guitar riffs conjure darkness that is impenetrable, Butler’s bass thunders like hellish knights across the plains and Osbourne’s bone-chilling wails echo into the deepest recesses of the mind. Cannibal Corpse and Death may always be more brutal, and Norwegian black metal bands may be actual Satanists, but Black Sabbath still perform music with unmatchable menace.
In fact, watching Sabbath today is like a crash course in cultural trends toward horror. Sabbath was truly scary when they emerged with their witchcraft woes in 1970, but like the images of skeleton fields that accompanied “Children of the Grave,” we’ve grown to accept such art as part of the fabric of 21st-century life. Should we be mad then? Has Black Sabbath helped make us numb to what we could find awful in the world?
It’s easy to blame an outfit like Sabbath, as many in the U.S. have certainly tried during the band’s career. But that is failing to see the point of the genre of horror music they helped create. In the encroaching darkness of numbers like “Hand of Doom” and “Children,” Sabbath reflects the dark reality that we are often confronted with, and tend to ignore in our everyday lives. It’s a reminder that there are truly horrible things in the world.
But there’s also a real beauty in Black Sabbath’s sermon of darkness. The chill that runs up your spine when Iommi launches into the menacing riff of “Into the Void,” or when Ozzy unleashes that punishing vocal wail – they’re nice reminders that you’re alive.
Strange as it may sound, a world without Black Sabbath will be a darker one. Just be thankful for the time and chills the band gave us. Amen.
Folk rocker Mat Kearney and rock band NEEDTOBREATHE played small shows together 10 years ago, and now they’re taking the stage at Wolf Trap tomorrow night as part of their Tour de Compadres. On Tap chatted with Kearney about his return to the DMV, country music in Nashville, his TV show bucket list and becoming a dad.
On Tap: Do you have any special DC shows that stick out in your memory since you started touring 10 years ago?
Mat Kearney: Absolutely. We love coming to DC. 9:30 Club is one of my favorite venues to perform at in the country. They just know how to do it right. They have an amazing staff and gear, and you can always count on the best fans there. People go there knowing it is going to be a special night since the atmosphere is so special. We’ve also opened for John Mayer at Wolf Trap, which was pretty fun. I am excited to play [at Wolf Trap] tomorrow.
OT: Have you spent any off time in DC between shows? What fun things have you done?
MK: I love museums. We spend a lot of off days in DC visiting museums. I love the National Portrait Gallery. We spend so much time on the bus eating pizza and drinking beer – it is refreshing to hop off and do “sophisticated” things every once in awhile.
OT: You live in Nashville, which is known as quite the music hub. Do you enjoy country music?
MK: As a songwriter, you have to appreciate country music. Some of the best songwriters in the world live in Nashville. I like visiting Honky Tonk and grabbing some beers. I get out there about [every] six months.
OT: Can you tell us the story behind writing “Ships In The Night”?
MK: Oh, this is a good one. We had a really great beat on the piano and we had the chorus written, but I was having a hard time with the rest of the song. I was getting on a plane after having a huge argument with my wife, and I couldn’t leave without resolving things with her. As I hung up the phone after apologizing, I knew exactly what the song was going to be about. It turned out to be a song about two people connecting. I literally opened my laptop and started writing the rest of the song as we were getting off the phone.
OT: A lot of your songs have been featured in popular television shows such asScrubs, One Tree Hill and Friday Night Lights. Do you have a favorite show that you would love to write a song for?
MK: So, I actually already had my emotional bucket list song on a show that I loved. I really love the Braverman family on Parenthood, and the show used my song “Hey Mama.” I thought that was really awesome. Recently, I’ve gotten into the show Stranger Things on Netflix. I would love to write a Phil Collins, 80s-type ballad for them.
OT: You are way more than a musician – you have a wine label! How did that happen?
MK: It started out as a little side project with some friends in Napa. We just wanted to make a nice red blend that fans could drink while jamming out to our music. Fast forward a few years and we’ve sold 7,000 cases of wine, and our product is sold in Whole Foods as well as some other stores across the country.
OT: Are you excited for the new addition to your family?
MK: YES! I am scared in the best way and I cannot wait for our little girl. My wife and I have gotten into a rhythm of making sure we see each other when I’m out on tour. She’ll join me for awhile, and then I’ll go home for a bit. We’re excited to add a little one to our family. I have become much more in tune with women’s issues since finding out we are having a girl, which is probably a good thing.
Wolf Trap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; 703-255-1800; www.wolftrap.org
Cameroon is probably the last location you’d think to go searching for one of the Nation’s Capital’s fastest-rising, open-format DJ/producers. However, when it comes to the story of DJ Bo, it’s all about taking a journey to the central African nation in the mid-90s to find a young man who loved to dance and was soon to come to America to discover an exciting new passion and future career. Some 15 years later, the man born Aloysius Tamasang in Bamenda, Cameroon is now a Gaithersburg, Maryland-based party rocker with five years under his belt and growing in renown.
The oldest of three brothers, DJ Bo relocated to America in 1999 because his parents wanted “a better life and better schools” for the then 11-year-old future DJ. Describing himself as “the life of the party” as a youngster, it was in high school and college where he was introduced to music production and DJing, respectively. “When I grew up, I didn’t know about hip-hop, scratching, or sampling,” Bo tells On Tap. Thus, when Bo discovered Houston-born, New York based classic rap legend DJ Premier, he became fond of all three aforementioned arts, and decided to learn the art of DJing. “Most African DJs don’t scratch records or anything, they mainly blend songs,” Bo continues. “So, I just taught myself scratching, and also how to DJ too.”
Getting active in the Metropolitan area was difficult. A slew of less-than-excellent early gigs led Bo to redouble his efforts, which led him to travel to Atlanta to develop his skills. And finally, he met with success. “I started DJing at clubs in Atlanta with a friend of mine who was a [more seasoned] DJ, and I definitely started to get comfortable.” Back in DC, from spinning for online radio shows to playing gigs at underground spots like the Velvet Lounge and large venues like the main room at downtown DC’s Penn Social (two spots he still claims as his favorites in the city), Bo not only grew confident as a DJ, but his tastes evolved far past rap, too.
“I’m not a fan of just spinning hip-hop. People don’t dance as much to hip-hop these days. I can’t read those crowds, because I always read a crowd [by judging] how much people are dancing. You know, dancing, [and] people making that ‘ooh’ face and yelling when you drop their favorite record. Hip-hop clubs don’t offer that a lot these days. I want to play music and have as much fun playing music as the people are dancing to it.” Underground-favored American house, percussion-heavy EDM, UK-popular dance, and a growing love of tracks from a plethora of African nations are routinely mixed alongside rap in Bo’s sets, creating a feeling where the DJ states, “I’m in there with the people, feeling what they feel, and really getting a crowd to move.”
Spinning three and four nights a week is fairly commonplace now for DJ Bo, and as a producer. Bearing such a busy schedule now allows for making remixes of tracks that can fit into his unique sets to be where his skills and talents lie at present. “I’m obsessed with fresh and progressive drumbeats, things that make you want to ‘turn up,’ but also really dance, too.”
When asked about what 2016 holds for DJ Bo, he answers with what could almost seem to be an expected answer. “I want to play outside the country and break out of my comfort zone,” he tells On Tap. From moving to America, embracing rap, and then embracing a world of unique and dancefloor-ready sounds, Bo’s always excelled at finding himself while also staying ahead of the curve. As a DJ, he’s a talented creative who’s able to push not just himself, but partiers too, along the quest for something great. However, what signifies him as someone important is that he’s also able to consistently deliver something more.
To learn more about DJ Bo, follow him on Twitter @BoKnowzBest.
Photos courtesy DJ Bo
The electronic dance music (EDM) scene is a culture in and of itself. On August 6 and 7, EDM’s Moonrise Festival hit Baltimore in all of its neon and kandi-coated glory.
Since 2013, Moonrise Festival has brought some of EDM’s biggest acts – like Avicii in its freshman year – to the Baltimore area, and this year’s festival had the best lineup yet. From New Jersey to South Carolina, people all over the country traveled to Maryland to attend. If the festival continues to grow at this steady rate, festival runners may need to seek a bigger host venue than Pimlico Race Course.
This year alone, mainstream dance artists Zedd and The Chainsmokers made their marks as event headliners. Plus rising stars like Marshmello came to play, and many fans sported giant Marshmello-themed heads on top of their own heads. EDM fans are diehard, and the artists appreciate their enthusiasm.
Atlanta-based DJ Bro Safari says seeing the crowd’s reaction is his favorite part of performing at EDM festivals, and he loves “being able to get a really great reaction out of the crowd by playing something that I’ve spent a lot of time putting together.”
Concertgoers had to dig into their pockets to scrounge up $125 to partake in the two-day rave experience. Although this may not necessarily sound cost-effective, it’s a fair bargain compared to those who invest in the more popular EDM festivals like Electric Zoo or “A-list” festivals like Coachella.
The festival’s theme ventured into outer space. Giant blowups of alien tentacles and the like towered above all. Similarly, each stage was designated an intergalactic name to match – Stellar, Lunar, Solar and Celestial among them.
Although dance music festivals of this variety have proved to be popular among European audiences for years, there’s now a rapidly growing market for them in the U.S. Many young people are flocking to festivals like Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra Music Festival in the States, which raises the question, “What is the draw?”
There is an unusual sense of community at EDM festivals. Moonrise attendees willingly conversed with the “strangers” that surrounded them at this year’s festival, almost as if they were long lost friends reuniting. Even as I sat with a friend observing a set at the Stellar stage, two friendly faces walked over to sit with us and joined our conversation.
For those who sported colorful kandi bracelets, individuals traded with fellow attendees – a long-held tradition at EDM festivals. Although my friend had lost our group for several hours, she returned to us in time, proudly showing off a new kandi she received from a trade with a fellow festival attendee.
During Excision‘s set, the first few rows of ravers collectively banged their heads and moved to the beat as a unified force. Likewise, mosh pits opened up at many a set, where several individuals ran through and bumped shoulders. From my general observations, the idea of PLUR – peace, love, unity and respect – is still alive and well within the EDM community.
There is much more to this scene than meets the eye. The festival itself is like a drug – the music takes over your body and the rave culture engulfs you, providing a natural high. During each set, my friends and I lost ourselves in the music. It’s an understatement to say that I am ready to create more memories at next year’s event.
Moonrise Festival intends to return next summer to Baltimore. If you missed out on this year’s event, stay tuned for details about Moonrise 2017. Based on this year’s lineup and experience, next year won’t disappoint. Learn more atwww.moonrisefestival.com.
Photo: Courtesy of Moonrise Festival
Check out photos from the the Go Go’s farewell tour at Warner Theatre on August 5, 2016. Photos: Kgabriellephoto.com