pentagon row

Rock the Row at Pentagon Row 2016

Hot bands and cold beer return to Pentagon Row for the annual Rock the Row series. Each week, a different band takes the stage and a different craft brewery is featured in the VIP lounge. The VIP lounge will host Virginia craft brewers, plus a rotating restaurant partner. 7-9 p.m. Admission to the concerts is free, admission to the VIP lounge is $10 and all proceeds are donated to Stop Child Abuse Now of Northern Virginia. Pentagon Row: 1101 S Joyce St. Arlington, VA;

Summer 2016 Lineup
In the VIP Lounge
**Admission $10

Gonzo’s Nose, Union Craft Brewing

The Rockets, Devils Backbone

Special Saturday Night Performance
257th Army Band

Reagan Years, Mad Fox Brewing Company

3AM Tokyo, Coastal Brewing Co.

White Ford Bronco, South Street Brewing Co.

Crazy In Stereo, O’ Connor Brewing Co.

Nats Friday Night Sept 30  (77)

Budweiser Music Series at Nats Park 2016

Every Friday home game, the best place to pre-game is at the Budweiser Terrace inside the ballpark.  Enjoy cold Bud and Bud Light and hot tunes from the city’s best cover bands.  This week enjoy live music by Hand Painted Swinger. Music starts at 4:30 p.m. Nationals Park: 1500 S Capitol St. SE, DC

Summer Lineup 2016
** Tickets

Hand Painted Swinger

The Reflex

Jeff From Accounting

Sly 45

Lovely Rita

White Ford Bronco

Photo: Shervin Lainez
Photo: Shervin Lainez

“Scary” Talented Artist Emily King Hits DC

It’s been a year since the release of Emily King’s latest album, The Switch, and apparently the record was so dope, she’s running it back. A deluxe re-release is set to hit both physical and digital music shops today, featuring three new tracks and a few demos of existing songs.

Growing up in New York City, King draws inspiration from the faces of various individuals traversing the concrete jungle of the Northeast metropolis. Her music reflects these drastically different walks of life, as songs bounce from rapidly cheery to methodical and dramatic while spanning the entire scope of the R&B genre. All of these climactic turns are heavily prevalent in her second studio release.

Fans in the DMV have a chance to celebrate the release, as King is set to serenade the 9:30 Club on Saturday night. Before her descent into the nation’s capital, On Tap was able to speak with the Grammy-nominated artist about lost tracks, synth and horror flicks.

On Tap: You didn’t record a full-length album for nine years, from 2006 to 2015. How many unheard songs do you have scribbled in various notebooks?
Emily King:
I would say upwards of 100. It’s endless with the voice memos, because it’s so easy to record ideas. I often fall in love with demos, because it’s the first impression of the song. [With The Switch] ones in particular, I felt I enjoyed [them] start to finish so much that I thought, “Why not release them?”

OT: Will we ever hear those unheard tracks?
Unless I put them in my will, it’s probably not possible. I prefer people only hear what I think is good enough. There are certainly a lot of bad ideas you have to sift through before you get to the good ones.

OT: With that being said, are you working on new material now?
I’m actually really excited to work on a new album, and I’ve been working on demo after demo and am planning to record it differently. Usually I sculpt songs at home and send them to my producer, but this time I’d like to do it in a secluded studio or out in the woods somewhere before I flesh it out in a different place.

OT: So like a Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago sort of thing?
Yeah, I think it’s helpful to be isolated. I think artists pull a lot from nature and silence. The energy is different there. I grew up in New York and I know what it’s like to have to have people on top of you. It’s a total shift of energy when you go somewhere like the woods. It’s a shift of focus, plus I like camping and hiking.

OT: Do you often use your surroundings as inspiration?
I think the Village in New York City [sticks out] – being surrounded by so many walks of life and all the growing pains I’ve experienced walking around the streets of New York. Inspiration-wise, my parents are some of my biggest influences. I totally mimic everything they do, and I’ve learned how to tell a story while singing a song, rather than just singing. Michael Jackson is also a big influence.

OT: Since Prince’s passing, I’ve been listening to a ton of his music. Some of your quicker songs remind me of him as well.
Thanks for noticing. Growing up, I was more into Michael Jackson, but over the past few years I’ve become more aware of Prince. I’ve always known he was one of the greatest artist of our time, but to be honest, some of the synth sounds weren’t really my thing. I didn’t really like the sound palette of the 80s.

OT: If you could make a concept album, what would you do?
I just love scary movies. I love haunted houses. I love being scared in that way. Not all types of scared – more ghostly, grave types of scared, so it would probably be something along those lines. With vampires. There is something about a great groove that’s kind of scary, too.

OT: What horror movie have you been geeking out on lately?
I’ve been watching some recently. It Follows sticks out to me.

OT: Doesn’t that movie have a ton of synth music?
I’ve synthed myself to the point that I started liking it. When something is liked by everyone else, then I force myself to understand it.

OT: So, basically, fans can expect an all-synth album from you in the future?
Exactly. Look out Daft Punk, I’m comin’ for you. Or I’ll start directing horror films.

Catch Emily King’s performance on Saturday, July 9. Doors open at 7 p.m., and tickets are $25.

9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW DC; 202-265-0930;

Photo: Shervin Lainez

Photo: Courtesy of Wolf Trap
Photo: Courtesy of Wolf Trap

Bob Dylan Captures That Old Feeling at Wolf Trap

How do you keep moving forward? It is a question that plagues every artist, no matter what stage they’re at in their respective careers. If you’re Bob Dylan, the most celebrated songwriter of the rock era and an international icon, the answer is an interesting one. You move backwards, and in Dylan’s case, that involves going all the way back.

Back to what? The golden age of American songwriting – the time when countless song peddlers of Tin Pan Alley alongside figures like the Gershwins, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin enraptured pre-Cold War cities with stories of romance, nostalgia and the finer things in life. Their works fill The Great American Songbook, and Bob Dylan drew from this canon for his last two studio albums, and for his performances at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center this week.

On this stop of the “Never Ending Tour,” vocal standards made famous by singers like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole were peppered into a set that spanned Dylan’s career, yet focused on his last three albums: Fallen Angels, Shadows in the Night and Tempest. Songs that were originally composed for the Broadway stage or a New York nightclub might seem out of place amongst Dylan’s reflective, acerbic poeticism, yet fit quite snuggly with them.

Where more traditional arrangements of standards like “All or Nothing at All” or “That Old Feeling” usually reflect the songwriter’s cosmopolitan aspirations, Dylan and his band filtered the 1940s songs into a sound that meets somewhere between downtown and the Dust Bowl in the vast American musical landscape. In fact, there’s a certain jazz quality that underlined many of the songs Dylan and his band performed on Tuesday night. Steamboat swing shone through in “Duquesne Whistle,” swamp blues simmered in “Early Roman Kings,” and Donnie Herron’s pedal and lap steel guitars added a kind of classic yet refined 1940s sound to the 2016 arrangements of both originals and standards.

Like Rod Stewart’s The Great American Songbook Collection albums showed, the gravelly voice of an elder rock statesman lends itself surprisingly well to songs usually recorded by virile, romantic young singers like Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby. In Dylan’s case, his gravel and disposition truly carried the nostalgia of these songs like few other performers could. When he croaked, “There’ll be no new romance for me, it’s foolish to start” from “That Old Feeling,” the words came with a weight and wisdom that conjured all the ache and pain that the song has meant to thousands of lovers – old and young – over the decades.

Those who go seeking the Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan at his more recent shows will be disappointed – but they’d also have been disappointed by his live performances for the last 50 some years. Dylan hung up his “voice of the counterculture” hat as soon as the hipsters of the Village thrust it on his head. In fact, the only “original era” song he played was a steady rolling version of “Blowing in The Wind” in the encore. Surely in this age of ultimate political and social unrest, the great Bob Dylan would be moved to speak?

Well, that’s missing the point of Dylan today. He stands less for counterculture and more for ultimate culture: for craft, quality and excellence. Even though watching him perform is a bit like watching Shakespeare – it takes a few minutes to begin to understand his aged warble – his performance at Wolf Trap represented the power of persistence: the persistence of Bob Dylan, rock’s poet laureate, his own songs and the captivating power of The Great American Songbook. Dylan has spent the last five plus decades writing his own great American songbook – he deserves to sit down and enjoy another one from time to time.

Photo: Courtesy of Wolf Trap


This Month in Music: July 2016

Bob Dylan
Widely held as one of the greatest songwriters of all time, and one of the most influential, Bob Dylan just keeps going, so much so that his shows are referred to as the “Never Ending Tour.” Despite longevity, Dylan’s best days aren’t behind him, as his new music remains critically-acclaimed. A copy of his latest album, Fallen Angels, is included with a ticket. With Mavis Staples. 7:30 p.m. show. $45-$100. Wolf Trap Filene Center: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA;

Austin duo Greyhounds describes their sound as “Hall and Oates meet ZZ Top.” It’s an apt description of the group’s first three albums for Memphis-based Ardent records. Comprised only of guitarist Andrew Trube and singer-keyboardist Anthony Farrell, Greyhounds’ sound is much bigger than the sum of its parts. Texas blues rock hero Gary Clark Jr. – also of Austin – recently tweeted “Greyhounds are crushing it – as usual” during one of their live performances in Los Angeles. With Bobby Thompson. 8 p.m. show. $10-$12. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC;

Zella Day
Zella Day hails from a small town in the beautiful high-desert mountains north of Phoenix, Ariz., where her parents owned the only coffeehouse in town. Day’s pretty, ethereal songs certainly reflect her organic upbringing. Since, she’s moved to Los Angeles and added modern, electric beats and instrumentation to her folk songs, creating an intriguing hybrid of styles. The fetching chanteuse made a splash at this year’s Coachella festival and her single “Jameson,” about a lover’s fight with alcoholism, generated colossal critical buzz. 7 p.m. show. $20. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC;

Guided by Voices
Playing for more than 30 years, Guided by Voices has held one constant – frontman and songwriter Robert Pollard. The Dayton, Ohio indie rock band has released 24 albums, from lo-fi independent releases to major label ones. Now, Pollard is back with a new lineup and album. With Nap Eyes. 7 p.m. doors. $35. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC;

Budweiser’s Bud & Burgers Music Party
Sitting around a record player with family members, you often hear arguments from the different generations about whose music was truly the most wonderful. Mom and Dad relish the big hair and bouncy tunes from the 80s, while you cling to your flannels and faded Nirvana T-shirts and hum 90s jams. With Budweiser’s Bud & Burgers party, music from the 80s, 90s and 2000s will battle it out for attendees. Musical acts include acts The Reflex, As If, Lloyd Dobler Effect, White Ford Bronco, DJ Chris Styles and DJ Pat Premier. Gates open at 11:30 a.m., show from 12-5 p.m. $20-$25. Nationals Park:1500 S. Capitol St. SE, DC;  

David Bazan
David Bazan is best known as the frontman and creative force behind acclaimed indie rockers Pedro the Lion. Bazan set that long-running project aside nearly a decade ago but, as a solo artist, the Seattle native continues to craft deep, dark and often beautiful rock songs that ponder some of life’s big questions through deeply introspective lyrics and swirling sounds. Bazan’s stage show is razor sharp from relentless touring, which promises a dynamic performance at the Black Cat this month. With Laura Gibson, Dave Hill and Church Night. 8 p.m. doors. $20. The Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC;

Emily King
Born and raised in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Emily King’s music often features soft vocals coupled with peaceful strums of a guitar. Whether you’re able to scurry down to 9:30 and see this soulful vocalist live, or if you’re in need of a gentle tune on the Metro during your commute, you could do far worse than listening to this upcoming NYC native. She even has pop star Sam Smith’s approval: “Unreal talent. In complete awe of this girl.” With PJ Morton. 7 p.m. doors. $25. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC;

Shenandoah Run
Shenandoah Run, a nine-piece folk band, often provides twangy tributes to traditional and contemporary folk music with a jolt, but this concert features a hearty dose of sentimental value. A portion of the proceeds go to Montgomery County Partners for Animal Wellness, a partner of the Montgomery County Animal Services & Adoption Center, and the goal is to benefit the animals residing in the shelter. So when you’re out on the floor two-stepping to these banjos, enjoy the added good feels of doing so for a cause. 8 p.m. show. $30-$40. AMP by Strathmore: 11810 Grand Park Ave. North Bethesda, MD;

Steely Dan
Known for their groundbreaking 1970s albums, Steely Dan took a hiatus from 1981 to 1993. Since then, they’ve been touring and recording, and now they come to our area on their “The Dan Who Knew Too Much Tour 2016.” Also appearing is legendary soul/pop musician Steve Winwood. 7 p.m. show. Tickets start at $32. Jiffy Lube Live:7800 Cellar Door Dr. Bristow, VA;

Wesley Stace
Wesley Stace has used the stage name John Wesley Harding on his previous albums. He took the name from the Bob Dylan album of the same name, which was named after an outlaw named John Wesley Hardin (Dylan added the “g” by accident). Confusing? Yes, but all you need to know is you should go check out this British-born folk/pop singer-songwriter. With Luke Mitchem. 7:30 p.m. show. $20. Jammin’ Java:227 Maple Ave. E. Vienna, VA;

Ray Wylie Hubbard
As one of the original purveyors of the “outlaw” movement that defined Texas country singer-songwriters in the 1970s, Ray Wylie Hubbard is perhaps best known for writing “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother” – a song made famous by Jerry Jeff Walker. More than 40 years later, Hubbard remains a potent musical force. His 2015 release,The Ruffian’s Misfortune, delivered some gritty, hard-rocking country and blues numbers, punctuated by odes to muscle cars and female rockers like Joan Jett and Chrissie Hynde. The album also made several critics’ year-end lists of best releases of 2015. 9:30 p.m. $22-$35. Hill Country BBQ: 410 7th St. NW, DC;  

Vans Warped Tour
The longest-running music festival in America – billed as “punk rock summer camp on wheels” –stops at Merriweather Post Pavilion this month to showcase dozens of energetic young rock bands, as well as the occasional hip-hop artist. Among the big draws this year are Falling in Reverse, Four Year Strong, Less Than Jake, New Found Glory, Reel Big Fish, Set It Off, Sum 41, We the Kings and Yellowcard. It’s hard to believe it’s been 19 years since this perennial summer tour first launched, and it’s always fun to see which of the young up-and-comers will use the festival as a springboard to greater national recognition. 11 a.m. doors. $41.50-$51.50. Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD;

Curtis McMurtry
Curtis McMurtry’s father, James, is one of America’s finest songwriters, and it seems the younger McMurtry paid close attention growing up. His debut solo album,Respectable Enemy, chronicles the lives of unapologetically bitter people still haunted by the ghosts of lovers and former friends. From the doomed narrator of “Foxhole” to the resigned nostalgia of “Eleanor’s House,” McMurtry’s songs aim to break your heart. The young singer-songwriter earned a degree in ethnomusicology from Sarah Lawrence College, and the classical training shows in his uncommon craftsmanship. 8 p.m. show. $12. IOTA Club & Cafe: 2832 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA;

Sunday Funday with Honor by August and Air Traffic Controller
In recent years, the term “Sunday Funday” has become part of the vernacular among Americans who prefer to keep their weekend party going until the end. Local musical favorites Honor by August and Boston’s Air Traffic Controller will provide the soundtrack to the good times on the third Sunday of this month. Michael Pearsall, Honor by August’s lead vocalist and guitarist, knows how to work the stage. Plus, the band has packed the 9:30 Club and shared stages with Bon Jovi and Third Eye Blind. Air Traffic Controller’s eclectic song catalog and category-defying organic, electronic sound earned them a spot on NPR’s “hotlist” at last year’s SXSW in Austin. 6:30 p.m. show. $20-$30. Jammin’ Java: 227 Maple Ave. E. Vienna, VA;

Azealia Banks
Twitter’s queen of confrontation is about to set the Black Cat stage ablaze with furious rhymes and beautiful melodies. Regardless of your opinion on her social media presence, Banks’ penchant for creating dope music is undeniable, with award nominations from BET, Billboard and BBC. Even though she hasn’t produced an album since 2014’s Broke with Expensive Taste, the Manhattan native has tallied up a number of singles and features since. If her live shows are half as explosive as her Twitter feed, then this is a must-see. 7:30 p.m. doors. $30. The Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC;

EmiSunshine (born Emilie Sunshine Hamilton) is a country singer from Tennessee whose videos have gone viral, and she’s only 11 years old. Whether singing her “old time music” on NBC’s Today show, at the Grand Ole Opry or taking the stage at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, she is fearless, confident and firm in her musical direction. 7:30 p.m. show. $15. Jammin’ Java: 227 Maple Ave. E. Vienna, VA;

The Bacon Brothers
You know one of the brothers, at least. Kevin Bacon of film, TV and the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game. But you may not know that he’s a musician too, and has been playing with his brother Michael as The Bacon Brothers since 1995. Their blend of folk, rock, soul and country continues to impress and make people realize Kevin isn’t just a movie star. Also appearing Saturday and Sunday; tickets are currently available for Friday and Sunday. 7:30 p.m. show. $45. The Birchmere: 3701 Mt. Vernon Ave. Alexandria, VA;

Lera Lynn
Americana singer Lera Lynn got a jump start on her career when she was tapped to be involved in the second season of HBO’s hit show True Detective. She appeared as a barroom singer and contributed original songs to the show’s soundtrack, which she wrote with T Bone Burnett and Rosanne Cash. Her newest album is this year’s Resistor. With Andrew Combs. 8 p.m. $15-$35. The Hamilton: 600 14th St. NW, DC;

Trixie Whitley
The late postmodern bluesman Chris Whitley was a genre-bending troubadour, and his daughter, Trixie, has apparently inherited the knack. A former house music DJ, Whitley’s musical stylings vary, reflecting electronica, R&B, folk and the chaos of punk rock. Flaunting a strong and emotional alto singing voice, Whitley has worked with iconic producer Daniel Lanois and shared stages with Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Emmylou Harris. If you like the sound of Grace Potter, Susan Tedeschi or even Adele, check out Whitley’s set this month at Rock & Roll Hotel. 8 p.m. show. $15. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC;  

Sufjan Stevens
Getting praise from Pitchfork is sometimes a difficult task for an upcoming artist, but for Sufjan Stevens, it was par for the course as he continues to stack up accolades on his proverbial mantle. With soothing vocals and an almost timid pace, Stevens produces thoughtful lyrics on subjects like love, family and death. With heavy subject matter, it’s paramount that his music maintain an ounce of joy, and this indie artist straddles this line as well as any. With Thao & The Get Down Stay Down. 8 p.m. show. $35-$65. Wolf Trap Filene Center: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA;

B.J. the Chicago Kid
A slew of high-profile hip-hop collaborators – Big K.R.I.T., Chance the Rapper and Grammy Award winner Kendrick Lamar among them – helped put B.J. the Chicago Kid on the musical map. But the young artist is a soul singer at heart. He released his major label debut – the modern yet deeply soulful In My Mind – on Motown earlier this year, and in May he contributed to the label’s new Marvin Gaye tribute album. B.J. the Chicago Kid comes from a long line of soul singers who honed their craft in a church choir, but his hip-hop sensibility gives the music a streetwise swagger. With Elhae and Tish Hyman. 7 p.m. show. $20. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC;

Brandi Carlile & Old Crow Medicine Show with Dawes
This triple bill at Wolf Trap might just be the Americana show of the summer. Carlile is a singer-songwriter of the first order who can shift from emotive and plaintive to exuberant and hard-rocking in the space of a single song. Old Crow Medicine Show’s most famous tune is the undeniably catchy “Wagon Wheel,” but they have a deep catalogue of inspired, organic roots music. Dawes has emerged as a worthy successor to the Laurel Canyon-inspired sound created by Jackson Browne, Graham Parsons, Townes Van Zandt and others in 1970s-era Southern California. 6:30 p.m. show. $45-$75. Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD;

Joseph Arthur
Hailing from Akron, Ohio, Joseph Arthur has released more than 13 albums and EPs – and also works as an artist and designer. Arthur is praised by fans and fellow musicians alike, having been discovered by Peter Gabriel in the mid-90s and signed to his Real World label. He also has side projects Fistful of Mercy with Dhani Harrison and Ben Harper, and RNDM with Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament. Check out brand new songs from his most recent album, The Family, at Jammin’ Java. 6:30 p.m. show. $18. Jammin’ Java:227 Maple Ave. E. Vienna, VA;

Huey Lewis & The News
Huey Lewis started out as an engineering student at Cornell University, and if he had stayed, things would’ve turned out very differently. Cornell’s loss became our gain, as Lewis churned out the hits in the 80s. Songs like “I Want a New Drug” and “If This Is It” were MTV and radio staples, and Lewis refuses to stop. With Jamie Kent. 8 p.m. show. $25-$50. Wolf Trap Filene Center: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA;

With an album just released, this one-of-a-kind tour is not one to miss. A supergroup featuring Neko Case (known for her solo albums and also her work with New Pornographers), k.d. lang (four-time Grammy winner) and Laura Veirs (indie folk star), this project began with a simple email from lang to the others saying “I think we should make a record together.” With Andy Shauf. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. doors. $59-$79. The Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC;

Brooklyn-based Quilt released their third album, Plaza, last year and the band’s neo-psychedelic sound continues to gain major acclaim in the national press. It’s sometimes difficult to tell whether the band is intentionally retro or simply churning out creative new interpretations of classic sounds that evoke The Doors, The Mamas & the Papas and Jefferson Airplane. The instrumentation is tight and lead singer Anna Fox Rochinski’s smooth, sultry voice – complimented by sometimes soaring harmonies from her bandmates – commands your attention. With Big Thief. $15. 8 p.m. show.Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC;

Swans is an experimental rock band that came out of New York City’s “no wave” movement in the early 1980s and lasted until 1997, when they disbanded. In 2010, the underground legends reunited and continue to make their unique brand of noisy, avant-garde music. Led by singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Michael Gira, Swans are known for experimental instrumentation and repetitive song structures. The group counts The Stooges, Brian Eno and early Pink Floyd as influences. Gira has described the band’s name as synonymous with its music:  “Swans are majestic, beautiful looking creatures…with really ugly temperaments.” With Okkyung Lee. 7 p.m. doors. $35. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC;

It’s rare for a band to go nearly 30 years and still fly under the commercial radar. Bloodkin has not only survived, but thrived in their adopted hometown – the musical mecca of Athens, Ga. Southern rock infuses Bloodkin’s sound, but their ragged, guitar-driven tunes also owe a debt to blues and, occasionally, even punk rock. With Koa. 9 p.m. show. $12-$14. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC;  

Femi Kuti & The Positive Force
The son of legendary Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, Femi Kuti carries on his great father’s legacy. Starting at the age of 15 in his father’s band, Femi has been carving his own path ever since. He’s toured with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction, and even opened his own club called The Shrine in his native Lagos, Nigeria. With DJ Dlaspora. 8 p.m. doors. $35. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC;

Rich Robinson
Since the seemingly permanent breakup of The Black Crowes, guitarist Rich Robinson has emerged as an accomplished solo artist with four studio records to his name. The iconic, muscular style that Robinson displayed with the Crowes still shows up from time-to-time, but his solo work is often quieter, with more of a folk and even gospel feel. Rich Robinson can’t match the vocal prowess of his brother, Chris, who established himself as one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time during his tenure with the Crowes. But, he’s a competent singer-songwriter whose instrumental prowess more than makes up for his workmanlike singing. With Bonnie Bishop. 8 p.m. show. $18-$28. The Hamilton: 600 14th St. NW, DC;

Photos: Tronster Hartley and courtesy of Baby Alcatraz’s Twitter account
Photos: Tronster Hartley and courtesy of Baby Alcatraz’s Twitter account

DJ Baby Alcatraz Keeps Vinyl and Soul Alive in the Nation’s Capital

When talking to DC area favorite DJ Baby Alcatraz, you immediately feel a breath of fresh air that seems like it’s sweeping the neon and glow sticks out of the room. Then you realize that’s just wind from feet on the dance floor caught up in the off-the-beaten-path rhythms of a smooth soul tune. Songs 50+ years old yet still able to get bodies on the dance floor – that’s where this DJ’s story begins.

In an era where computers play electronic bleeps, bloops and drops, seeing Baby Alcatraz’s name on a local lineup ensures that you’re probably going to hear something entirely different, and see a rare 45-rpm vinyl record – or 10 – along the way. A classic era throwback in a new age, she’s certainly worthy of our ears, feet and time.

Analog appreciation goes back a long way with Alactraz, known as Alyssa Bell when she’s not performing.

“I’ve always felt surrounded by music,” she tells On Tap. “[We] always, always had music on when I was growing up, and my Walkman was my most prized possession. I had backup batteries for my backup batteries to keep that thing going 24/7. Getting a stereo with high-speed cassette dubbing is still one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.”

Alcatraz’s sets involve spinning 45-rpm vinyl record singles of rhythm and blues songs that were often released prior to 1970. Given that the typical DC partier of late places their date of birth sometime after 1990, her skill set presents an intriguing dichotomy. Alcatraz notes that “to have people dancing to those records when there’s much more familiar music being played at surrounding venues still inspires me.”

Alcatraz realizes that all-vinyl gigs are “not for everyone.” She’s had people leave her sets “because they didn’t hear exactly [what they wanted to hear].” To aid in branding who she is as a DJ and what she does behind the decks, she even has a “No requests” sign because people unfamiliar with all-vinyl DJing don’t always realize that she can only play the records she has with her on any given evening.

Sticking to her guns has allowed Alcatraz to join alongside a crew of vinylphiles including Ian “Name Names” Svenonius, Sean “Mad Squirrel” Hissey, Tariq “Pharaoh Haqq” and “Soul Call Paul” Vivari, who are all doing their best to keep classic era vibes locally relevant in the modern era. As well, her skills and talent have afforded her the chance to play gigs at venues as diverse as U Street’s Velvet Lounge and Brookland’s Dew Drop Inn to the Capital Fringe Festival and the Kennedy Center Atrium.

“I’m also still so happy that people know that I do this odd thing and still invite me to do just that at their venue, with zero input or suggestion that I do anything differently.”

In full, Baby Alcatraz has carved a unique niche in a difficult market to do so, and is thankful for the opportunity.

Catch her at Velvet Lounge’s All-Vinyl Dance Party on July 8 or Shout Bamalama at Haydee’s Restaurant in Mount Pleasant on July 23.

Follow DJ Baby Alcatraz on Twitter: @BabyAlcatraz

Photos: Tronster Hartley and courtesy of Baby Alcatraz’s Twitter account

Photo: Courtesy of Honda Civic Tour: Future Now
Photo: Courtesy of Honda Civic Tour: Future Now

Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas Come to Verizon Center

Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas probably couldn’t have imagined their new tour when they met at a Disney Channel screen test almost a decade ago. They were just kids then, and Lovato didn’t even get the part on the Jonas Brothers show that she was auditioning for. But in a recent phone interview, the two explained that their relationship really took off a few months later, when they filmed the Disney movie Camp Rock together.

“We became friends really on the set of Camp Rock,” Jonas said. “Demi and I are a month apart in age, and we were doing school together on set while filming and really connected pretty quickly. And then over the years, […] it [is] a great friendship with, I think, lots of differences in our personalities, which actually even helped us just be that much closer, but also on a creative and artistic level.”

“Throughout the years, we’ve been super close,” Lovato added, “and he’s one of the most loyal and true friends that I have in my life.”

After Camp Rock and more acting and singing with his brothers in their band, The Jonas Brothers, Jonas eventually set out on his own, releasing an album showing his newer, more mature side in 2014. Lovato also carved her own path, transitioning to more adult acting roles and a more mature sound in her music after a well-publicized stint in rehab. The transitions weren’t always easy.

“It was challenging at the beginning, for me at least,” Jonas said, “and still is, to a certain degree. I think there was an association with people’s first introduction to me, as opposed to them taking the music and my image for what it is now, in its current representation. So it took some time.”

“For me, the transition was a little bit easier,” Lovato said, “because I didn’t have to do anything to break out of the Disney mold. It’s a lot easier when you just go to rehab. So, I kind of grew up really fast in the public eye in that way, and so when it was time to release my music, I think people looked at me differently.”

In addition to their friendship, Lovato and Jonas have created their own record label – Safehouse Records – which they use to release their albums. They also both contribute time and resources to many different charities and volunteer efforts. It’s an important part of what they do, Lovato said.

“I wanted to continue the message of using my platform for more things than just singing about heartbreak,” she said. “That’s what music is for: getting you through [hard] times, but also using it to inspire people.”

Catch Lovato and Jonas on their Honda Civic Tour: Future Now at the Verizon Center on July 26. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $29.95, and are available at

Verizon Center: 601 F St. NW, DC; 202-628-3200;

Photo: Courtesy of Honda Civic Tour: Future Now

Photo: Jay Blakesberg
Photo: Jay Blakesberg

Yonder Mountain String Band Comes to Merryland Music Fest

The original members of Yonder Mountain String Band had no intention of picking such a traditional bluegrass name for the band back in 1998. Though the moniker has stuck for 18 years, the group feels no pressure to live up to the old-fashioned imagery derived from the words, as they draw inspiration from a plethora of sounds.

“The name is traditional, but the sound has evolved into something else,” guitarist Adam Aijala says. “We had played together for about two-and-a-half months before we became a real band, and we thought we would be traditional. But all of our different influences have come out in the songs.”

Aijala and his bandmates all contribute to vocals in addition to playing their respective string instruments on songs that often feature slow, methodical melodies with the expected strums of mandolin and banjo. These songs are balanced by faster “jamgrass” tunes where you can hear the band’s rock ‘n’ roll influences, and tap into the subgenres they’re discovering within bluegrass.
The group is currently traveling around the country on the back of their 2015 releaseBlack Sheep, performing at venues big and small. Despite the variance in crowd size on a nightly basis, the number is less important than the vibe from the show.

“If the crowd [is] into it, the size doesn’t matter to me,” Aijala says. “If I can see their faces, and they’re all psyched, that’s good enough for me. We play seriously, but we want to have fun. If someone makes a mistake in front of 10,000 people, we laugh it off. A gig’s a gig. I don’t like when artists say, ‘We have a big gig coming up, and it’s important.’ They’re all important.”

One perk of living in a moving vehicle with your bandmates for long stretches is the opportunity to work on new tracks in a fixed setting. Because of the various influences – ranging from Grateful Dead to 80s hair metal – that have shaped and molded the members of the band, Aijala, Ben Kaufmann, Dave Johnston, Allie Kral and Jake Jolliff, the songs can evolve as more opinions contribute to the process.

“Going into creating a new song with a free mind, you get a lot more accomplished if you’re open-minded than if you’re strict and more rigid,” Aijala says. “There is the argument with ‘too many cooks in the kitchen,’ but if everybody has some input, it can be helpful.”

The group has already begun playing new songs on their tour, and Aijala is hoping for an early 2017 release. Until then, fans will have to enjoy the sounds of Yonder Mountain’s ever-evolving set list, which has famously never been repeated.

“I know a lot of people who don’t listen to bluegrass, but listen to us,” Aijala says. “We play music and perform music, so people can come and live in the moment. We don’t have an agenda other than for people to have a good time.”

The touring, loosely bluegrass band is part of the multifaceted Merryland Music Fest at Merriweather Post Pavilion this month, with acts like Shakey Graves and Stephen “Ragga” Marley joining the fray. Catch Yonder Mountain String Band on July 9 during the first day of the festival. Tickets start at $75.
Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; 410-715-5550;

Photo: Jay Blakesberg

Photo: Courtesy of Young Rapids
Photo: Courtesy of Young Rapids

Everything’s Perfect with Young Rapids

DC’s Young Rapids have been categorized as everything from indie to art rock to dream pop. And despite having just finished recording their third full-length album, they still seem to be finding themselves musically, which is perhaps what continues to keep listeners along for the ride.

The group tracked what would become the nine-song album Everything’s Perfect, out later this year, while isolating themselves in a friend’s house in the George Washington National Forest for days at a time.

“We would just play music for 18 hours a day, and in doing so, I think we actually made a pretty cohesive record, but we didn’t set out to do that,” says guitarist Alex Braden (who also adds that it’s their best record yet). “The funny thing is that the record actually sounds more urban – more like we live in a city than the previous two records, but it was written mainly in the woods.”

Abandoning the idea of making a record based on a predetermined concept – the method that arguably produced faults in their sophomore album, Pretty Ugly – the band seems confident that something much stronger emerged.

“I do remember there were plenty of arguments about ‘What does Young Rapids sound like?’ Like, ‘Is this a Young Rapids song or is it not?’ And I think once we gave up on that, things [came together],” says vocalist Dan Gleason.

The biggest challenge in making Everything’s Perfect, and for the band in general, is determining who is actually going to play which instrument on any given track.

Drummer/bassist Joe Bentley notes, “It’s sort of an interesting source of frustration that’s kind of unique to this band. A lot of the time the song is there, but then it’s like, ‘Who’s going to play what?’”

These guys are smart. It’s fun to watch them bicker and pick at each other. They’ve been playing, experimenting and growing into legitimately talented musicians who want to do it all, and have been carving a musical space together in the District for nearly six years.

“In a city dominated by business and politics, for musicians to stay here and thrive here, they have to enjoy the struggle,” Gleason says. “I think the people who stay here stay here for a reason, and maybe it’s because they like that push and pull.”

With the rest of us, they lament the loss of house venues and artist lofts, spaces like Paperhaus and Union Arts.

And while they agree that artist-to-artist support is strong, there are crucial elements missing on the scene. Braden believes DC is in need of more objective artistic tastemakers, people who offer “truly thoughtful critiques,” while drummer Colin Kelly notes a lack of cross-genre collaboration keeping music from really exploding in the District the way it did in the early 90s.

“I think bands need to break out of their genre zone, as far as the other bands that they gig with. Stop thinking in terms of ‘Well, we’re this kind of band so we can’t play with that kind of band that’s doing this other kind of rock ‘n’ roll or whatever,’” Kelly says.

The band’s upcoming show at DC9 on July 13 will certainly break those barriers. In addition to playing alongside members of The Flaming Lips, the band will be joined by classical pianist Mary-Victoria Voutsas and a mini-ensemble of her students, who will accompany Young Rapids on “a few of the synthier numbers.”

“We’re not getting any simpler,” Braden says.

So what makes them keep at it? For Bentley, it’s an opportunity to communicate without words.

“[To have] four people who can sit in the same room and not ever say a word and just communicate with sounds – I think that’s what keeps us all doing it. I think we would be doing it even if no one was paying attention, anyway.”

Braden disagrees.

“I’m not sure I would do it if there was nobody around to hear it. If I’m going to devote time to polishing something and finishing it and perfecting it as best I can, I don’t want that to stay with just me. It’s like if a tree falls in a forest, you know?”

The disparate energies of Young Rapids both meld and clash. Listening to their records isn’t satisfying, but it makes you want to see them perform, to be in that room, to be a part of that musical conversation and hear the tree fall.

Catch Young Rapids at DC9 on July 13 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10-$12.

DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; 202-483-5000;

Photo: Courtesy of Young Rapids


Top Picks at The Hamilton in July

Head down to The Hamilton this July and enjoy the uniquely designed, state-of-the-art venue where the musician and audience come together for a truly one-of-a-kind experience of entertainment and dining. Check out The Hamilton’s top picks for the month. 

1. Naomi Shelton and Kevin Jackson on Saturday, July 9
Catch Naomi Shelton, a veteran gospel/soul singer who only recently got her big break and signed to Sharon Jones’ Daptone Records. Though the music is most unapologetically gospel, most of the lyrics on the record would fall under what could be called “message songs.” That is, music containing uplifting spiritual messages, reminiscent of the more inspirational moments of The Staple Singers or Curtis Mayfield. However, the relationship between gospel and soul music does not need to be discussed again here. It is as plainly and naturally inherent in these grooves as it is in the singer’s every word and motion. There is no one alive today that has a voice or spirit more capable of lifting an audience than Naomi Shelton.

Also, don’t miss Kevin Jackson, a Baltimore-based R&B/soul singer who is lively and energetic. A guitarist, bassist and producer, Kevin Jackson from has recorded and performed with artists Sheila E., Jennifer Holliday, Maysa, Oli Silk, Chico Debarge and international talent Kenny Wesley. Jackson’s mix of acoustic renditions, rock, contemporary Christian, jazz and soulful R&B offers something for every taste. On stage, it’s easy to see this is where he is most comfortable. Performing is truly where Jackson comes to life through his music and band. $15-$35. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.Purchase tickets here.

2. Dailey & Vincent on Saturday, July 16
Dubbed by CMT as the “Rockstars of Bluegrass,” the Dailey & Vincent duo has been hailed throughout the music industry as one of the most exciting, reputable and elite bluegrass bands in America, having won numerous awards for their uniquely contagious and riveting music, including three Grammy Award nominations for the 2014 “Bluegrass Album of the Year;” 14 International Bluegrass Music Awards as three-time “Entertainer of the Year,” three-time “Vocal Group of the Year” and “Album of the Year;” and four Dove Awards with three “Bluegrass Album of the Year” and one “Bluegrass Song of the Year.” This show is presented in partnership with WAMU as a part of the Hamilton’s monthly concert series. $22.50-$39.50. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.Purchase tickets here.
3. CJ Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band on Wednesday, July 20
Catch son of the legendary king of zydeco, the late Clifton Chenier, as he plays with his dad’s original band. C.J. Chenier, a Creole born and raised in an indigenous American culture with its distinct language, cuisine and music, delivers a soulful vocal and accordion. Chenier, a Grammy-nominated, world-renowned musician and recording artist, has performed alongside many internationally recognized artists including his Grammy-awarded father, Clifton Chenier, Paul Simon, Joe Sample and Ray Parker, Jr., The Gin Blossoms, and John Mayall. He has appeared on The Jon Stewart Show, CNN and was featured on VH1 and in Entertainment Weekly. Enjoy the upbeat and danceable New Orleans music. $15-$20. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Purchase tickets here.
4. Rich Robinson on Saturday, July 30
Catch the former guitarist of The Black Crowes touring as a solo project, and what a treat! Robinson has pushed himself further than ever in his new music and it still fits into the arc that spans all of the music he’s made, on his own and with the Crowes. “I’ve always been happy with every record I’ve ever made,” he reflects. “With the band and on my own, I’ve always made the best records we could at the time. I’ve never looked back and thought, ‘I wish I could have done this differently.’ That’s not how I think. From when I was 19 and we made  Shake Your Money Maker to now, I’ve never tried to make the same record twice. We were always pushing and pushing, always forward. We were free, but it’s been great to get away from always thinking, ‘I’m writing for this band. I’m writing for someone else’s voice.’” Enjoy his Southern Jam Band style. $18-$28. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Purchase tickets here.Hamilton:  600 14th St. NW, DC; 202-787-1000;

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