local music dc

D.C. Gon’ Give It To Ya: How We’re Listening Local, Now

The bricks of Blagden Alley glinted under a Hunter’s Moon as pairs and small groups of people – many carrying six packs of beer and cider — began to filter toward the back door of Beyond Studios. They filled back-alley space with a buzz of energy atypical for a Sunday night in the middle of downtown DC — they were waiting. Upstairs in a lofted photography studio-turned-performance venue for the evening, three bands were finishing sound check. On the next floor up another group of local musicians were hard at work laying tracks in a recording studio.

The gig was a Sofar show — attendees didn’t know where they’d be going until that morning, or who they’d be seeing perform until arrival. Turns out, local rock and rollers Wanted Man headlined the evening’s three acts.
The setting couldn’t have been a more appropriate microcosm of the current state of music, performance and sonic artistry in the District – an internationally-recognized organization sponsoring killer local talent in a pop-up venue in an alley.
For all of the changes the DC music scene has undergone since its revered post-punk heyday, one of the greatest aspects we’ve got going for us in 2016 is the variety and breadth of music that spreads throughout our capital city and beyond. Looking at the increase in opportunities for DC listeners and artists to connect in the past year alone, it’s hard not to be excited, and a little impressed by how far we’ve come.

Enter through the back: A resurgence of new, small and alternative venues
This year has seen the much-lamented departure and/or imminent demise of some long-standing alternative performance spaces, notably the original Paperhaus, Above the Bayou, and Union Arts. Despite these losses, we’ve seen several individuals; businesses and smaller venues fill the gap, and then some. Beyond Studios, for example, has opened its back door in Blagden Alley more than once to let the music in (and out!) Songbyrd Music House and Record Café — which just celebrated its one-year anniversary — has quickly become the place to see and be seen. Mission-driven Blind Whino is reppin’ in SW, and Josh Cogan has merged sustainability and the arts with Sweet Magnolia Farms — a twinkle-lit backyard performance paradise. As DIY goes, the Scooby Doo Mansion stands strong in Mt. Pleasant; and, if you listen closely as you walk down the street, you’re likely to hear notes floating out of any number of basements and back alleys.

Peter Lillis, who is Songbyrd’s Media Director, part of the team at Babe City Records, and a musician in his own right says, “I think there’s a relationship between the rise of DC music and house show culture. People want to eat locally, but they also want their punk band to come from down the street. They identify with people in the community.” He sees the smaller venues playing a big role in the future of DC music. “People are gravitating toward rising above the DIY world, and are hungry to get to the next level.”

Label It Indie
Though that hunger for getting “to the next level” may well be alive, DC musicians are getting there with a little help from their friends. While Dischord Records dominated the local label market for years (and certainly still holds weight), several other small and independent outfits and projects have also cropped up. Native DC musician and sound engineer Peter Larken owns and operates Lighthouse Recording Studio out of Del Ray, VA; Young Rapids, Foozle and The Sea Life are among the acts the babes over at Babe City support; and Sean Peoples is back on the scene with limited-run cassettes and digital output via his new project Atlantic Rhythms.

Raul Zahir De Leon, of the “multi-disciplinary creative studio” Wilderness Bureau sums up the move (back) towards indie best:

“Our studio has always been really influenced by the city’s longstanding DIY ethic, and we’ve always strived to bring that energy and motivation to all of our work. Part of the impetus behind filming bands and artists was that we were really excited about being surrounded by so many people who were making amazing work, and we wanted to document and share that with as many people as possible.”

Festival Frenzy
For a relatively small town, we’ve got no shortage of big festivals. The Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival and Fort Reno Concert Series are classics. There’s also Landmark, which landed ambitiously in West Potomac Park on the Mall in September 2015. Though it didn’t reappear this fall, the All Things Go Fall Classic did, bringing acts like Empires of the Sun, Passion Pit and Sylvan Esso to Yards Park. SXSL was the White House’s attempt at giving Texas a run for its money, while this year’s Art All Night theme of “Made in DC” had local acts playing well into the wee hours. And of course, in that ever-present spirit of DIY, In It Together Fest returned for a third year running to “celebrate underground art music and activism”. Like many other local musicians, bassist John “Scoops” (of Wanted Man, Typefighter, Deadmen, Jauze, etc.) played several sets during the festival. For him, the biggest draw of InFest is coming together as an artistic community to “raise money and hopefully boost awareness for the nonprofits that are doing helpful things for people in the city.”

Did someone call Donna Summer? ’Cause we on the radio…
… and TV! This year the much-hyped Live at 9:30 thrust DC’s most storied music venue into the televised spotlight with a musical variety show filmed at the club. Episodes are available for streaming and are aired on local PBS affiliates MPT2 and Howard University’s WHUT, with an eye on eventually landing a cable spot. But video didn’t kill the radio (or podcast) star. In Takoma Park, low power FM community radio station WOWD 94.3 came on air this summer broadcasting local voices and music of all genres to northwest DC and Prince George’s County. Further expanding the local net-waves is Goat Rodeo, a DC-based podcasting collective and audio network. Two of the Rodeo’s shows, Revivalism and Between the Liner Notes, are musically-focused, and co-founder and COO Carlisle Sargent says to be on the lookout for a new variety show premiering soon which will feature exclusively DC bands. “It’s a really unique, surprisingly gritty, and worthwhile collection of musicians that seem to live around here, which I love.”

High Art Gets Low
Finally, DC is famous for its plethora of high caliber museums, galleries, concert halls and performance spaces, from the Smithsonian to the Kennedy Center, the Phillips to the Kreeger. While those institutions play an important role in presenting and preserving culture, they do not traditionally cater to live (or local) and current art/music. But this is shifting. As larger cultural venues struggle to expand and retain new audiences, they too have gotten creative. For instance, Gourmet Symphony brings NSO-quality classical music tableside at local restaurants. Then there’s the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Luce Foundation Center for American Art, where a monthly music series, Luce Unplugged features all local acts and is free to attend. Hometown favorites Beauty Pill, Den-Mate, Paperhaus, BRNDA, Baby Bry Bry, Young Rapids, Fellow Creatures, Pree, Paint Branch and Near Northeast, to name a few, have all let loose among the gilded frames in the museum’s marbled main hall. And now that it has re-opened the East Building, the National Gallery of Art is taking a page out of Luce’s book with its new series: Evenings on the Edge. And what a page they picked — remember the time Grammy-nominated DC hip-hop artist Cristylez Bacon teamed up with cellist Wytold to kick off the series?

Clearly, the DC music scene is alive, evolving and thriving. Anyone who claims otherwise just isn’t listening.

Tigers Are Bad For Horses
Photo: Tigers Are Bad For Horses

Tigers Are Bad For Horses: Native DC Band Seeks to Redefine Musical Comfort Zone

Tigers Are Bad For Horses sounds like it could be the title of a hardcore metal band. The predatory nature of one of jungle’s mainstays against the docile, meandering attitude of a horse seems like a mismatch in the plains, and it would likely be unbearable to watch if one of each species crossed paths.

When Lyell Roeder, 25, and Mary Ellen Funke, 23, crossed paths however, it was a different story. In 2012, each was in a Georgetown University studio poking at music. Roeder was tinkering with a traditional rock sound, while Funke honed her folk vocals. But the latter was loud, and good, enough to catch the former’s attention.

“I was recording a rock album, and I heard her, so I asked her to record some background vocals,” Roeder says.

It was fun, I was in a folk project at the time and he was in a rock band, and it was fun to try different things and I was excited to do any musical project,” Funke says.

Since then, the band has released numerous singles and an LP, blending their talents into a new sound. Inklings of their original musical projects are present, but subtle. Tigers Are Bad For Horses creates a soothing electronic tune coupled with feathery vocals; perfect for a stroll on the Georgetown waterfront, and perfect for the changing interests of its creators.

“I think it’s different for both of us,” Roeder says. “Neither of us were making the music we were both interested in making. I think I maybe flirted with the production side, but not in a big enough way. So it got to the point where we wanted to start doing stuff that sounded more like Bon Iver… I invited her to make a song with me and it was cool, and then we sort of made one for real.”

Founded in DC, the band has played the majority of their performances in the DMV area including stops at U St. Music Hall, Gypsy Sally’s and Jammin’ Java. Though the group is currently in Los Angeles, the duo reminisces enthusiastically about how the somewhat hidden music scene helped shape them, both in positive and negative experiences. The duo is currently scheduled for a Sofar Sounds show in DC on December 1.

“It definitely started out at Georgetown when we were younger, but I remember my first experience with DC when I was in The Mellens and I was grateful we could go to college in a city where we could grow and expand musically,” Funke says. “The DC scene is mildly reflective of the Georgetown one, in that it’s small and supportive. When Tigers started we met so many people that were so grateful and they lifted us up. It’s growing every year, it’s changed.”

Like their initial genre differences, their introductions to music are also radically different. Funke, who is from Chicago but bounced around, didn’t dabble with the art form until boarding school. There she says everyone experienced “musical independence,” leading her to eventually sing in front of people for the first time at 18-years old, only after hijacking her former roommate’s guitar and learning “Dust in the Wind.”

For Roeder, who grew up outside of Boston, music was a quintessential artifact of his upbringing. With an interest in jazz, rock and pop culture, he claims to have created terrible songs that will never see the light of day.

This contrast allows both to bring personal experiences and touches to their songwriting, a process the duo is currently in the thick of in hopes to produce more singles in the new year. So far, Tigers has released only six official tracks due to time restrictions, but with the recent move to the West Coast, their focus and the allotted time for sitting down and scribbling lyrics has expanded.

“Not too many songs are held back,” Funke says referring to potential unreleased tracks. “We were slow in the beginning because I was still in school and it was hard to find time. Other than that, we write a lot of beginnings to songs and we’re very deliberate. We’re not the kind of band to sit on tracks.”

One reason for the meticulous Tigers’ release schedule is because of how truly collaborative Funke and Roeder remain throughout. Most songs start with an idea from one before undergoing a dynamic back and forth, which either expands on the original sound or changes it altogether.

“It’s sort of anything and everything,” Funke says. “There’s such a very big variance for each song. Some of them I write and bring to him, and vice versa. It depends. I’d say the one constant is we’ll get a bone structure and build it and then we’ll completely rip it up and delete large sections. It’s totally nonlinear.”

“[For example] Our song “Overflown” started as a beat I made five or six years ago,” Roeder says. “I thought it was kind of cool and it sort of became a totally different animal. I ripped out the whole beginning and I pushed it in multiple directions, and it sort of became what it is. I needed Mellen’s production and vocals.”

Another topic of conversation for both is whether to record a full length LP.

“There’s no plan, but we definitely want to,” Funke says. “We debate about this a lot, it’s really hard because the nature of indie music trends toward shorter attention spans. It’s hard to take a year and write a whole album and it’s hard to gauge what people’s interest will be.”

Regardless of what the future has in store for these ferocious musicians, whether an album or singles, Los Angeles or DC, the sound will continue to evolve and shapeshift, vacillating from the aggressiveness of a ferocious tiger and the free nature of a horse.
For more information about future shows and music, visit www.tigersarebadforhorses.com
Music Picks: November 2016

Music Picks: Local Edition November 2016

By Michael Coleman and Trent Johnson

Calm The Waters
Calm The Waters, a four-piece alternative rock band from Fairfax, formed in late 2014 and released their first album less than a year later. Since the release, they have been steadily building their fan base and honing their dynamic live performances around DC, Northern Virginia and Richmond. Calm the Waters’ music could be characterized as a blend of alternative rock, pop-punk, and emo sounds, coupled with somber and reflective lyricism. The group’s versatility makes them appealing and accessible to a wide swath of modern rock fans. Show at 8 p.m.  $10 advance, $13 at the door. Jammin Java: 227 Maple Ave. East, Vienna, VA; www.jamminjava.com

Eric Hutchison
Born in Washington DC, Eric Hutchinson grew up in Takoma Park, Maryland. The pop-soul singer now lives in New York City but is among the DMV area’s greatest musical exports of the past decade. Hutchinson’s polished upbeat tunes are relentlessly catchy, and the multi-instrumentalist can sing, play and perform with the best in the business. Over the past years, the 35 year-old musician changed management, stripped down his sound and embraced the mantle of producer, all the while spending months working on his fourth studio album, Easy Street. The accomplished record is a musical snapshot of perseverance and musical maturity brimming with superb melodies and contagious rhythms. His coming home show at the 9:30 Club should be something special. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $25. 9:30 Club: 915 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

DJ Lisa Frank
A major skill requirement for being a successful DJ is timing, when you’re going to come in on a certain sound and cut out another. The music has to flow from one track to another without skipping a beat, and there has to be a coherent direction your taking the audience. DC DJ Lisa Frank is adept at timing her ins and outs, as she routinely displays her firm grasp on music. With a focus on techno and house music, the sounds are sonic, and the waves are meant to be ridden by the audiences. Lisa Frank is definitely a DC DJ to watch. Show starts at 10:30 p.m. Tickets cost $30. Opening for Boys Noize. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

Moonshine Society
Though the name illustrates drunkards, the Moonshine Society is far from an unhinged group of alcoholics. The DC based group is an international sensation, bringing high energy tunes from genres including rock, blues and even old school R&B. The group has recorded with notable artists such as George Clinton, RZA and John Mayer. So if you’re looking to start your month off with a dose of lively, local tunes, check out the moonshine society, perhaps after a shot of moonshine. Band plays from 10:30 p.m. – 1:30 a.m. in The Hamilton Loft Bar. Free to attend. The Hamilton: 600 14th St. NW, DC; www.thehamiltondc.com

Red Sammy and Some Charming Trespassers
Adam Trice, a singer-songwriter from Maryland, performs under the name Red Sammy with a rotating cast of musicians ranging from a rock band to a four-piece string ensemble. Think Tom Waits meets Bob Dylan meets any number of accomplished country blues and folks acts. Red Sammy’s songs – poetic but rough-hewn – blend rock, folk, country and blues. Some Charming Trespassers is Trice’s latest ensemble which includes Sarah Kennedy (violin), John Decker (resonator), Julia Wen (Cello) and Becca Jane Edwards (background vocals). Show at 8:30 p.m. Tickets cost $8. Velvet Lounge: 915 U St. NW, DC; www.velvetloungedc.com

We Were Black Clouds
After a year of health issues, lawsuits, a record label collapse, and an addition to the live line-up, We Were Black Clouds (formerly just Black Clouds) is back in action with a comeback show scheduled for November 4 at the Rock & Roll Hotel. The DC-based all-instrumental hard rock band’s dark, brooding and complex sound is as nuanced and textured as it is powerful and energetic. Black Clouds first two albums, Everything Is Not Going To Be OK and Dreamcation drew influences from artists as diverse as Nine Inch Nails and Brian Eno. Band founder Justin Horenstein remains We Were Black Cloud’s driving creative force, and the addition of longtime friend and collaborator John Kneip for the live shows marks the band’s next evolutionary step. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $15. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhotel.com

Cargo & The Heavy Lifters
With groovy guitar licks and bursting soulful lyrics, Cargo & The Heavy Lifters provide an exemplary look at what American music sounds like. With covers and originals, the group focuses on the old school aspects of blues, rock and even country. The booming voice of Randy McCargo make this group a must see, as his dynamic voice is a rarity in the modern scope of music. From the sound to their attire, this band is wonderfully old school, and as their website exclaims “awesome.” Doors open at 5:30 p.m., show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $15-$20. Jammin Java: 227 Maple Ave. E, Vienna, VA; www.jamminjava.com

The Rock-A-Sonics
This band sounds exactly as their title suggests as they bring a fusion of country roots with a sort of 1950s delivery. From their outfits to their instruments, including a standing bass, this group delivers the sort of sound one expects to come from the speakers of an old timey diner, as they wait for their rootbeer float. Though the group defines themselves as rockabilly, the group brings a melody and slower pace to their shows, allowing you to either shimmy side to side, or even do the twist on the dance floor. Start time is at 8:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15. Opening for Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys. IOTA Club & Cafe: 2832 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.iotaclubandcafe.com

Shining Blade Theory
Shining Blade Theory describe their music as “hip hop and funk with a dash of oomph.” It’s an apt characterization of this four-piece, DC-based band that puts smooth hip-hop flow and lyrical sensibility front-and-center while adding some impressive organic instrumentation that also veers into rock, jazz and soul. Parabellum, the front-man, is a natural rapper, dropping witty rhymes one minute and philosophical musings the next. Shining Blade Theory’s upbeat, propulsive sound is guaranteed to get you moving. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $10. Songbyrd: 2477 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com/

Tamika Love Jones
If you’ve ever had the pleasure to hear to Tamika Love Jones, then you know she possesses a soothing voice, capable of making all of the relatable love stories sound beautiful. A DC native, Jones turned to music to escape some harsh realities of her surroundings. According to the Capital Fringe website, her classmates spurred her to pursue musical endeavors at the age of 11. Now she’s released two albums, and has performed at The Kennedy Center, Carter Baron and Constitution Hall, to name a few. With a focus on soul and funk, her music has a certain liveliness attached, providing a fun listen. Part of Fringe Music in the Library, the event is from 4-5 p.m. Free to attend. Southeast Neighborhood Library: 403 7th St. SE, DC; www.capitalfringe.org

The Fuss
Founded in 2014, the Fuss is a nine piece part ska, part reggae band that has to crowd a little on the stage. The DC group features a number of unique sounding instruments including a trumpet, a trombone and a saxophone to name a few. The music is mellow and slow, but far from boring as the sounds meld together to form an enjoyable vibe. So if you’re in the mood for a band that is easy to sing along too, come see what the fuss is about. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $12 in advance; $14 at the door. Opening for Bad Cop Bad Cop and The Interrupters. The Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

Hangtown Two
Former Washington Post nightlife writer Eric Brace – the longtime frontman for acclaimed Americana band Last Train Home – left D.C. for Nashville years ago. But the talented singer-songwriter and collaborator Karl Straub, playing songs from their folk opera “Hangtown Dancehall,” along with tunes from their bands Last Train Home and The Graverobbers, make frequent returns to the DMV. Brace is a skilled tunesmith and ingratiating stage presence and he always seems to turn it up a notch for the hometown crowd. Last Train Home’s Christmas specials at IOTA Club & Cafe in Arlington are legendary. Show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15. Jammin Java: 227 Maple Ave. East, Vienna, VA;  www.jamminjava.com

Paperhaus – the melodic indie-rock band based in DC’s Petworth neighborhood – has built up a significant regional following since their self-titled debut album, receiving buzz from NPR, USA Today, Washington Post and even Rolling Stone. These days, Paperhaus’ sounds is equally informed by Fela Kuti, the more electronic side of contemporary rock Deerhunter and Radiohead, and the band whose song they take their namesake from, CAN. The group has taken big strides in terms of songwriting, performance and production, but there remains a natural “sweaty basement” tinge that keeps their sound fresh and vital. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $15. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhotel.com

The Janna Audey Band
Though her vocals are soft and easy to absorb, make no mistake Janna Audey can really sing. Couple her powerful velvety chords with a background piano and well timed strums of an acoustic guitar, this band will definitely mellow you out. The group sounds like something of an opener for Woodstock, emitting a sound that free spirited folks around the world would enjoy to saunter about a festival to. Depending on the song, Janna Audey will either whisper into the microphone with sentimental words about change or even the ever evolving “Human Race.” From 7-9 p.m. Free to attend. FireFlies: 1501 Mount Vernon Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.firefliesdelray.com

Soul Stew
Formed in 2015, Soul Stew is still relatively new to the DC music scene, but with the ages of members ranging from early 20s to “old enough to know better,” the group pieces together different experiences to form a smorgasbord of great, original soul music. While some local bands have a pension for blending various styles of music together, Soul Stew is happy to let you know that the only ingredient in their tunes is loads of soul. 8:30-11 p.m. Free to attend. Sehkraft Brewing: 925 N. Garfield St. Arlington, VA: www.sehkraftbrewing.com

Who says parenthood is all minivans and suburban birthday parties? Certainly not the women of Governess, one of DC’s most potent up-and-coming new rock bands. The punky, surf-pop trio (drummer-vocalist Erin McCarley, guitarist Kim Weeks and Kieca Mahoney on bass) met through their kids, who had become friends at a local preschool. Instead of singing about anarchy and sticking it to the man, the DIY upstarts’ debut album contains tracks titled “Severance,” “Daytime” and “Control Top” – you know, the things that are on many working (or maybe not working) mothers’ minds. The early results are impressive. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $12. Bathtub Republic: 251110th St. NE, DC; www.facebook.com/bathtubrepublic

Elikeh, founded by Massama Dogo, is one of the most unique groups in the DMV, as the band uses Togolese rhythms as the foundation of their Afro-pop sound. This leads to unusual changes of pace, and enjoyable dance opportunities for patrons. The group still has a very American sound, but the subtle differences help it stand out when compared to other area bands, and Dogo’s style of singing is nearly inimitable. The band also features a number of instruments outside the spectrum of a four piece group, including saxophone, various drums and the organ. Doors open at 7 p.m., show at 9 p.m. Tickets are $13 in advance, $15 day of the show. Opening for The Hip Abduction. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

Founded in 1972, Mudlark is DC’s resident off and on again band, as the group has continually produced rock and blues music for the past three decades, despite the occasional hiatus. When they are together, the speedy pace is undeniably enjoyable, including bright guitar riffs, and gravelly vocals. So even though they’ve enjoyed a few breaks along the way, Mudlark is still kicking and producing fantastic tunes for the blues fans in the area. 9 p.m. – 1 a.m. Free to attend. Two Nineteen Restaurant: 219 King St. Alexandria, VA; www.219restaurant.com

American Television

Hailing from the broad “DC area,” American Television is a classic punk band. Featuring a breakneck pace, heavy base line and speedy melodic lyrics, the band is essentially a representation of their namesake, as they are rapidly moving like an indecisive person flipping through the hundreds of channels. Another aspect of prototypical punk the band is faithful to, is the length of songs. Tracks rarely eclipse the three minute mark, making this show perfect for those with short attention spans seeking to jump around. Doors open at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Opening for The Living Legend. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H Street, NE, DC; www.rockandrollhotel.com

Exit Vehicles
A four piece group hailing from DC, Exit Vehicles delivers their music in a very deliberate manner, almost easing into the songs. These slow build ups establish a certain anticipation for the eventual vocals, and oh does the patience pay off as singer Brian Easley captures attention with a deep indie sound. To go along with the music, the group focuses on topics such as space, technology and the combination of those and the government in NASA. The group doesn’t play often, so try to not miss this opportunity, because they’re exquisitely fascinating. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $10. The Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

The 19th Street Band
When perusing through music shows to possibly catch in the DMV, you’ll notice there are numerous types of genres to choose from, including some with foreign inspirations. The 19th Street Band is an example of a band with influences from across the pond. With rock and roll, plus a fiddle, the group is fun and exuberant. According to the website, the group is always striving to be itself, and the audiences can’t help but enjoy it. Show starts at 9 p.m. Free to attend. Samuel Beckett’s Irish Pub: The Village at Shirlington, 2800 S Randolph St. #110, Arlington, VA; www.samuelbecketts.com

The Walkaways
Using catchy country hooks, The Walkaways are one of DC’s must see country acts. Although defined as “alt-country” because of the use of pop, blues and rock, the group is still grounded in their country roots and have garnered props from The Washington Post, The Washingtonian and the Washington City Paper. Coming off their recent album Romance and Medicine, according to their website, The Walkaways are excited to be home “at the forefront of their local roots-rock scene.” 9 p.m. – midnight. Free to attend. Sehkraft Brewing: 925 N Garfield St. Arlington, VA; www.sehkraftbrewing.com

Bobby Thompson and Revelator Hill
When looking for a local guitarists with the chops to play riff after riff, without the fallback of lyrics, you can’t do much better than Bobby Thompson. The DC local flows from bridge to chorus with ease, rapidly moving his fingers upon a six string. However, he also has a soulful voice, and his subtlety, almost talking style compliments the melodic beauty of the guitar, which is what sets him apart from a number of other soul bands in the area. Plus, he loves the area, often touring around Virginia, and even recorded a live album at the IOTA Club in 2015. Show starts at 8:30 p.m. Tickets cost $12. IOTA Club & Cafe: 2832 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.iotaclubandcafe.com

Warm Sun
With psychedelic guitar riffs and thoughtful lyrics, Warm Sun is a band that will brighten your day with mellow rock tunes. The four piece group hails from DC, and sounds like a vintage group from the 70s, with a modern twist. The band also uses pop and indie sensibilities, as their music contains catchy hooks and simple rhythmic cadences. Warm Sun can give it to you slow, or they can give it you fast, and continually offer up excellent songs that can be enjoyed anywhere by anyone. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $12. Opening for The Life and Times. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dcnine.com

DJ Mathias
A DC DJ, Mathias has established his mixes with an eclectic use of genres ranging from rap to UK garage. If you can’t pull away from the job in time to grab a plane or bus home for Thanksgiving, perhaps a dance party will help, as Mathias is set to light the 9:30 Club ablaze, figuratively of course, at the club’s Twerksgiving via pulsating music meant to get everyone in the joint moving in advance of stuffing their gullets with turkey, cranberry sauce and other delicious treats. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $12. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

John Kadlecik and the DC Cats
In the pantheon on jam band musicians, John Kadlecik’s resume is impeccable. A co-founder of the critically-acclaimed Dark Star Orchestra, renowned for their note-for-note covers of Grateful Dead sets, Kadlecik has jammed with a who’s who of the genre – Mike Gordon, Sam Bush, John Popper, Bill Kreutzmann, and the living godfather of jam, the Dead’s own Bob Weir. Kadlecik’s shows are freewheeling, sonically complex affairs. The multi-instrumentalist was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa but has long called the nation’s capital home. Show at 8. Tickets cost $30. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

Rare Essence
Rare Essence – the city’s most enduring Go-Go band – is the sound of native Washington, DC. Going on four decades now, Rare Essence has built a devoted fan base that spans multiple generations. The funky, furiously rhythmic outfit remains the city’s most popular and enduring Go-Go band. Formed by four students at a Southeast Washington Catholic school during the mid-70s, the band stayed on track and out of trouble thanks to several no-nonsense moms. The band also happened to be mentored by the late Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown. Based on a recent appearance at DC’s Funk Parade, Rare Essence hasn’t lost a step. Doors at 6 p.m.  Tickets cost $20. Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club: 7719 Wisconsin Ave. Bethesda, MD; www.bethesdabluesjazz.com

Hailing from Vienna, RDGLDGRN (pronounced Red Gold Green) is a poster boy band for the indiegogo genre. With rap, pop and gogo influences, the band’s music is upbeat and positive, and features a little bit for everybody. After gaining acclaim for their debut single “I Love Lamp” in 2011, the group released their self titled, sort of, LP, Red Gold Green, which subsequently features fellow Virginia native Dave Grohl on the drums for most of the tracks. Since, they’ve released a EP in 2015 and a single, “Karnival” this year. With all these smaller projects steadily adding up, it seems like RDGLDRGN has big plans for the future, and is worth seeing before loading up on Turkey the following day. Show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $20. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

Rachel Anne Morgan
Claiming Baltimore and DC, Rachel Anne Morgan has become a fixture in the DMV music scene through various ventures spanning from several rock bands and solo performances. The singer/songwriter also dabbles in acting and dancing, so there’s essentially no art-stone unturned by the talented local. Her music is aided by her versatility, as she often shifts between genres in order to put on a fully fledged show. While her song writing focus is primarily on the Baltimore based group Hop’t, that won’t stop Morgan from putting on yet another worthwhile show in DC. From 10:30 p.m. – 1:30 a.m. In The Hamilton Loft Bar. Free to attend. The Hamilton: 600 14th St. NW, DC; www.thehamiltondc.com

With a clear European flair, Scythian brings “immigrant rock” with tremendous energy. Even though the loud noises bring you in, the deft storytelling will keep your feet planted in front of the stage, only moving to dance. They even have a tremendous amount of cache in the industry, picking up praise from Ed Helms’ The Bluegrass Situation and Nashville Music City. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $20-$25. The Hamilton: 600 14th St. NW, DC; www.thehamiltondc.com

Soul Call Paul
Photo: Soul Call Paul

Spinning Retro with Soul Call Paul

For DC vinyl record and classic rhythm and blues aficionado Soul Call Paul, aka Paul Vivari, the allure of playing the music he does is as much about spinning a classic from Otis Redding or Booker T and the MGs or little known Motown b-side, as it is about just hearing the sound of a record on a sound system.

“It’s a sound thing for me. Vinyl’s always sounded warmer; there are higher highs and lower lows. The bass is punishing, the drums are louder, the records were made to be played out,” Paul says. “I’ve never really DJ’d with CDs or anything like that. It always made sense to DJ with vinyl.”
When he’s behind the decks, he uses his sound in a very specific way, style and has a nightly expectation. “I like deeper cuts, you know, the ‘tough stuff.’ Motown songs by Geno Parks, Etta James’ cover of [Sonny and Cher’s] I Got You Babe, or drum-heavy early 60s ‘exotica’ records, things like that.” Regarding his retro-fitted progressive tastes, Paul realizes that “when [he plays] a DJ night, people are already confused that I’m not playing Top 40, but once they get into the mindset of hearing rare and oftentimes unreleased vinyl records, they end up dancing and having a good time.”

If you’re looking for a modern analogy for what Vivari plays, it’s not-to-be-found in the likes of the Uptown Funk tandem of Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson.

“I like what Brooklyn’s Daptone Records is doing. Artists like Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley are amazing, and the equipment they use to make those records is actual gear from the 60s, so, that’s great. However, is it as good as the records that were actually made in the 60s? Not necessarily. But, for people who may want to discover some of the artists and records I’m playing, they provide an excellent outlet to do so.”

Intimate settings serve Paul’s niche-marketed DJ sounds well, hence U Street corridor space Velvet Lounge is immediately named as his favorite place to spin. He believes it to be “one of the last spots on U Street that I can still go to. I’ve DJ’ed there for almost 10 years.” Noting a strong sonic similarity to many Top 40 pop songs, he says, [t]here’s like, 40 others bars in the radius [of Velvet Lounge] that are playing variations of the same stuff. However, Velvet’s just big enough that when you get a couple of people in there really moving, they feed off of each other, and a party gets started every time.”

Regarding his work, Vivari, as always, is intrigued by the art of getting people to dance, yet still to the point in his delivery.

“Dancing’s dancing,” he says. “It’s sort of what it’s always been, and some things never change. As much as people like a sure mainstream and current pop thing, sometimes they really want to enjoy something different.”
Follow Soul Call Paul on Twitter @soulcallpaul

DC’s Pulsating Dance Parties

DC is a city known for working hard, but when it’s time to unwind, we know how to cut loose. Some of the District’s most long-lasting and beloved local haunts are part of the music scene, both here and nationally — even Gilmore Girls knew the 9:30 Club was worth its weight in punk cred. So where can you go to get your groove on after a long week? We’ve got a round-up of DC’s finest, most eclectic and best dance parties to help you let your hair down late into the night.
For a Retro Good Time

Feeling nostalgic for days gone by? Public Bar in Dupont now offers Throwback Thursdays, decades themed parties on the rooftop.  And if you’re stuck in the 80s, keep an eye on 80s Dance Party DC on Facebook – although not on a regularly scheduled night, they offer epic themed holiday parties and surprise gigs.  COLORS DC: R&B Only is exactly what the name says: a regular dance night at Howard Theater with its fair share of classic R&B. The vibe is high energy and fun, but don’t expect the party to start before 11 p.m. . If you can make it, you might be rewarded with a surprise appearance; Mýa recently performed for the partygoers.

For a Night of Soul

Soul is a favorite on the dance scene in DC, with a lot of local spots offering new and classic soul on a regular basis. Head to Bloomingdale’s Showtime for guest DJs and sets from owner SoulCall Paul, with some boogie thrown in for good measure. Haydee’s in Mount Pleasant has a bit of everything, but their TNT DJ nights feature some of the best soul, reggae and funk for late night partying. Monthly Fatback at Liv in the U Street Corridor is another destination for a great night of fun soul tunes.

For a Latin Party

If samba or salsa is more your beat, we’ve got a few places you can get your dancing itch scratched. Cafe Citron in Dupont Circle has a bit of everything, including classes and dance nights for fans of Bachata, Kizomba and Cuban tunes among others. U Street’s basement hangout Tropicalia is a popular spot for Latin, soul and Afropop. The most unexpected, perhaps, is Lucky Strike Bowling at Gallery Place, where Sundays are salsa night. Warm up with a few games of bowling for your evening of late night dancing.

For a Bit of Everything

Most venues in DC don’t stick tightly to one genre or another, although a lot of them have a specialty or two. If you’re looking for a venue with a lot to offer throughout the year, we’ve got those, too. The Black Cat on 14th St. NW is a perfect example — what don’t they do? It’s a dancing smorgasbord, with regular DJ nights, local punk bands and themed parties for everything from decades to holidays. If you like it, chances are the Black Cat has it. If being on the cutting edge is of interest, Liberation Dance Party at DC9 can help you get the skinny on the next big thing. This regular party has been held for over 12 years, highlighting up-and-coming local bands. Velvet Lounge in U Street has a dive vibe complete with cheap drinks and a bathroom decked out in band stickers, but you’ll find everything from niche themed nights to emerging bands at their late night dance parties. Newcomer Songbyrd Cafe & Music House is an Adams Morgan hot spot for DJ nights and live shows. Although some have a cover (and VIP ticket option), others are free.

For Anything Else
Looking for something more niche, off the beaten path, or otherwise out there? Here you go! Traveling dance party MIXTAPE (a monthly queer party with indie and pop) is always on the move, so keep an eye on their Twitter @MIXTAPEdc. Another moving party goes in the opposite direction: Silent Dance Society is often at the Embassy Row Hotel in Dupont Circle, but they host events around the city. Bring your headphones and rock out in the most polite get down in the city, where non-participants can’t hear a sound. If secretive is more your speed, Cafe Saint Ex on 14th St. NW has a basement made for dancing the night away, and Flash has a secret photo booth entrance to their dance space. Mount Pleasant’s Marx Cafe has a monthly “Belgian beer-fueled post-punk DJ night” that has been spinning post-punk, krautrock, Britpop and other niche tunes for a decade. And last but not least, for the early risers, Daybreaker is an early morning dance party that runs from 6-9 a.m.. Why run or do yoga when you can get your morning workout in with dance?

The Grateful Ball featuring Travelin’ McCourys and Jeff Austin Band

The Travelin’ McCourys and the Jeff Austin Band aren’t bands that stand still and they entertained a full audience at The Grateful Ball live at The Hamilton. Photos: Mark Raker


Yonder Mountain String Band at 9:30 Club

Fans at 9:30 Club enjoyed a night with Yonder Mountain String Band, a band that has redefined bluegrass music, expanding the traditional acoustic genre beyond its previously established boundaries by steadily pushing the envelope. Photos: Mark Raker

All Things Go Fall Classic Festival

All Things Go Fall Classic Festival

Guests at All Things Go Fall Classic Festival enjoyed a hand-picked selection of world class music and food experiences. Photos: KGabrielle Photos

All Things Go
Photo: Courtesy of All Things Go

All Things Go: The Return of the Fall Classic Festival

Music festival season may be coming to a close, but All Things Go’s Fall Classic is about to hit the District. The third annual festival will take place tomorrow at Yards Park, featuring Empire of the Sun, Passion Pit, Christine and the Queens, and more.

“People like to go to fun outdoor events where they can eat good food, see new music [and] maybe see artists they already like,” festival co-founder Will Suter says. “We really want it to be something that the DC community gets behind. They feel like they don’t have to drive 45 minutes or an hour away.”

From its beginnings in 2014, the festival has grown at a steady pace – so much so that the festival had to relocate from Union Market to the spacious Yards Park, a venue unavailable until about six months ago.

“From a growth and technical perspective, we were definitely bursting at the seams last year [at Union Market],” Suter says. “We wanted to provide people with a larger, more spacious venue for the event this year.”

The talented minds behind the electro-pop festival have brought up-and-comers to the DC area just before their transcendence into superstardom, including Tove Lo and Kygo, to go along with widely-known acts. This year’s headliners are no exception.

“Empire of the Sun was a dream artist for us, [and] Passion Pit as well,” Suter explains. “And [beyond] that, we added in some really cool developing artists like Christine and the Queens. We definitely pride ourselves on not only having established artists, but having developing and emerging talent as well.”

A decade ago, DC locals Suter, Zach Friendly, Adrian Maseda and Stephen Vallimarescu launched All Things Go as a music blog, with the mission to discover emerging talent like Walk the Moon and Nikyee Heaton. Over time, the founders realized their blog was meant for something bigger, and the group decided to transform their passion project into a full-fledged music festival based in their hometown.

“It’s a very important music community and music scene to us,” Suter shares. “Growing up, [we went] to the Black Cat and 9:30 Club, [and] supported local artists. That’s why we chose to do it in DC. It was kind of a no brainer – DC feels like home to us.”

More than 12,000 people are expected to attend this year’s festival. Along with music, there will be live art, a photo booth and other fun attractions. Plus, the yummy food lineup is to die for, including local favorites Shake Shack and Buredo. As a bonus, food inspired by the festival acts will be served, including TaKorean’s “Empire of the Ssam” taco and Timber Pizza’s “Squash Venesso” pizza, dedicated to Slyvan Esso.

“We love food, we love music and we love our city,” Friendly says. “It’s exciting to bring all of our passions to the forefront during one event that DC continues to support so loyally.”

Doors open at 11:30 a.m., and the main event starts at 12 p.m. Both general admission and VIP tickets are still available for purchase, starting at $75.

The Yards Park: 355 Water St. SE, DC; www.allthingsgofallclassic.com

Photo: Courtesy of All Things Go

Harry Hotter
Photo: Courtesy of Harry Dixon

Harry Hotter on Freedom, Fatherhood and Funky Beats

“I love being a father of a five-year-old and I love being a DJ, so can I be a father-slash-DJ?”

DJ Harry Hotter’s first answer during a recent interview with On Tap should give readers an idea of the good-natured sense of humor held by this long-time DC area-based disc jockey. Born Harry Dixon, he’s an area native. He’s also a Howard University graduate, former Second Story Books employee and currently, a full-time DJ. With a pair of turntables, he’s achieved professional success by turning any “open-format [i.e., “multi-genre”] set into a journey that weaves 90s and 2000s hip-hop flavored pop, house, dancehall and even rock into a seamless stream of sonic excitement. Hotter’s story of how he started his career, like many of his tales, are left-of-center, but still strike right at the heart of his dedication to his craft.

“[Local veteran DJ] Analyze and I decided that we wanted to be DJs at the same time,” he says. “He stole his parents’ turntable from their stereo, and I would bring my own turntable along. And one year, he got a mixer for Christmas. Then we both started buying records together to share our collections.”

As the years passed, Hotter’s talent became apparent, and it was a chance meeting while he was a doorman at Dupont Circle’s Gazuza nightclub that propelled him to both mega-club and local renown.

“I was DJing rave and hip-hop parties while I was in college, and DJ Dirty Hands needed a DJ to play with him at [then NE DC-based club] Dream. So, I took the night off from doing the door, and played disco breaks and classic rap records. Marc Barnes [Dream’s owner] liked me, and everything else came from there.”

Of late, Hotter’s schedule has been a bit more open-ended, as he’s sampling a broader taste of the diverse and progressive vibe of DC nightlife at present. He’s finding significant inspiration behind the decks at Velvet Lounge, a small dive bar tucked deep in the U Street Corridor.
“These early-20s kids want to hear a little bit of everything,” he says.

Also, he speaks highly of his DJ sets at a party called “The Feel Good” at [Golden Triangle’s] Rosebar, where he notes people “love everything from Missy Elliott’s ‘Work It’ to more experimental stuff and timeless soul classics like Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to Give It Up.’”
Regarding the how and why of his musical process, Hotter opines, “I’m a raver, hip-hop kid and a punk rocker who used to see music like peas, mashed potatoes and carrots on a plate.”

Explaining himself, he continues, “I never let genres touch. Now, I like to imagine what can go with what, and keep my selections super interesting. From corporate gigs to weddings to nightclubs, it’s all about playing the right song at the right time to keep everyone dancing.”
Follow Harry Hotter on Twitter @hotterthisyear.

Photo: Courtesy of Harry Dixon