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Photo: www.4uprince.com
Photo: www.4uprince.com

Prince’s Musical Magnificence Lives on Through 4U

Honoring a genius like the late Prince requires a particularly artistic tenacity few artists can reach. The short list includes 4U, the official Prince estate approved symphonic orchestra who delighted Prince aficionados on September 15 at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Art’s Filene Center

In the grand wood-paneled amphitheater, 4U offered both familiar and unheralded renditions of Prince’s catalog. Hits as notable as “Little Red Corvette” and “When Doves Cry” even made guests in the upper tiers croon, as the 20-member orchestra reminded attendees why loving Prince is an uncontrollable sensation.

Songs not popularly played on radio stations during his glory days still sat well with listeners, as the audience tried their best to catch the melody and hum along; it was as though they were connecting with royalty despite the barriers between life and death.

Despite his absence, the voice of Prince was heard and his essence was felt. It was most obvious as jiving and clapping was seen throughout the grounds as if Prince had resurrected for once last performance to say I love you all.

4U’s full-scale production was curated by Questlove, and included imagery offering a glimpse into the world of Prince. Shown on stage were handwritten notes, classic black and white inspired short films and history-making concert performances all honoring the culprit of their collective joy.

The night created a rare occasion where past and present intersect, allowing the two to coexist, creating new memories for the future. Generations came together effortlessly, amplifying the significance and legend of Prince.

It was appropriately grand and continued past the encore of “Purple Rain,” when no one wanted to leave because the truth would set in shortly after; the idea that we have heard the last of the artist formerly known, but never forgotten as Prince.

For more information about Wolf Trap’s fall schedule, please visit their online calendar.

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts: 1645 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; 703-255-1868; www.wolftrap.org

Photo: Chris McKay
Photo: Chris McKay

MC50 Kicks Out Jams For Freedom

For 50 years, “Kick out the jams, motherf–kers” has been one of rock ’n’ roll’s most ecstatic, transcendent rallying cries. When it was first heard blasting out of the streets of Detroit, it went beyond music. MC5, or Motor City 5, the Detroit rock band that helped paved the way for punk, employed it as a cry to their fellow youth – for energy, for justice, for racial equality and yes, for some righteous, roaring jams.

Does MC5’s music still embody that call to action and exuberance? Can a band that aspired to spark revolutions both political and musical light those same fires today? Those questions lingered in the air as the crowd awaited the group to take the 9:30 Club stage on September 13.

For the latter question, the answer is, “Probably not.” People’s politics and goals change with time. In fact, the most political the group got was when lead guitarist and founding member “Brother” Wayne Kramer sermonized about the participatory nature of democracy, imploring the crowd to go vote before launching into the swinging, proto-punk “The American Ruse” from MC5’s second album Back in the USA. The band has little reason to try and instigate the same musical battles it waged across Midwestern concert halls at the onset of the 1970s because generally speaking, they won.

Kramer and the original MC5’s victory is seen most prominently in the very musicians who currently make up the band. Joining Brother Wayne for the MC50th, the all-star rock supergroup celebrating the Motor City 5’s fiftieth, included Soundgarden’s lead guitarist and human tidal wave of sound Kim Thayil, Faith No More’s Billy Gould on bass, Fugazi’s Brendan Canty on drums and, relative newcomer, Marcus Durant of Zen Guerillas out front as an eerily ideal stand-in for original vocalist Rob Tyner. All of these bands had longer, more successful and prominent careers than MC5’s originals, yet they all joined collectively to revive the music – that’s how deeply ingrained this band is to rock’s DNA.

At the 9:30 Club, these all-star musicians did not gather to fight yesterday’s political battles but to remind everyone in the room – from the graying hippies to the Washingtonians in their finest punk rock threads – how potent this music is. The supergroup ripped through MC5’s breakthrough album Kick Out The Jams, bringing everything from backyard boogie garage rock of “Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa” to the metallic boom of “Come Together.”

Kramer himself best tried to channel the spirit of 1968, leaping and dancing across the stage while unleashing his signature high octane, high register steam whistle solos. Gould and Canty conjured the crushing force of Detroit’s factory days in the rhythm section while Thayil, who usually summons sound waves like tsunamis in Soundgarden, stepped back into rollicking, prototypical rock guitar shedding.

The surprise of the night came as MC50 closed their run through of the famed album with “Starship,” the nine-minute-plus, space-meets-early-noise-rock closer that features a verse of poetry by the Afrofuturist jazz leader Sun Ra. As the song’s familiar verse-chorus-verse structure gave way to amorphous, borderline atonal, pulsating free fusion, the MC5’s spark shone through brightest.

You can hear echoes of “Starship” and “Kick Out the Jams” across the frontiers of rock today. In fact, it was appropriately reminiscent of the avant jazz stylings in some of the work of DC’s own Priests.

As Durant wailed on a miniature saxophone and Kramer wandered cosmically along thefretboard, the MC50th embodied the original message the MC5 pushed, one that punk embraced and spread to a whole generation: freedom. MC50 served a reminder for everyone in the crowd, anyone who would listen, that the central promise of American music – of the United States of America – is to create what you want.

It was a joyful, noisy reminder that American music, from avant-garde jazz and death metal to Lady Gaga and Usher, celebrates at its very core the idea of liberty we all cherish.

For more information about the MC5 and the MC50, check them out here

Photo: Joe Dilworth
Photo: Joe Dilworth

Algiers Breaks Barriers

“How do we relate that sense of division that’s brought upon us from top down, from people in power who seek every day to divide us and categorize us as human beings and prevent us from collectively coming together?”

Algiers bassist Ryan Mahan poses this question to me over the phone from his home in the UK. Now more than ever, I surely don’t know the answer. But through their genre-smashing catalog, Algiers might be close to finding it.

The four-piece outfit was a sociopolitical force before they were ever a band. Atlanta natives Mahan, vocalist Franklin James Fisher and guitarist Lee Tesche formed in 2007, eventually adding drummer Matt Tong – formerly of Bloc Party – to the fold in 2016.

Over the course of their 11-year career, the band has never been interested in what others call them. They’re more interested in using music as a unifying force, especially at a time when division is more common than ever in so many creative spaces.

“We actually came up with the concept of Algiers before we ever had written a note of music,” Mahan says. “We were focused much more specifically on the social context of the music – how that relates to the actual sound that you’re trying to project and looking at music in spatial ways. That’s where the politics come from too, because there’s a politic to that in and of itself. We deal with issues like appropriation and colonialism within music itself, and exclusionary spaces where you maybe see a particular scene that has been built up.”

On any given Algiers song, you’ll hear hints of post-punk, gospel, new wave and more. There are a lot of bands who could have potentially influenced Algiers, but there are no other bands who sound – or think – like Algiers.

When Mahan dissects the conglomeration of sounds that make up his band’s music, he explains, “It might sound a little bit analytical as an approach. But it actually allows us to be quite free with our music and play with our music in very different ways.”

He continues, crediting the culture industry for creating this sense of genre “in its own twisted, distorted way.”

“It almost polices these boundaries and prevents the fluidity of music and us from grasping music in a much more holistic way. We’re obviously engaged with history and our own histories and the history of oppression. How do we relate that sonically?”

Mahan and company explore that question and more on the band’s most recent record, The Underside of Power, released last June. With members now living in the States and the UK, their sophomore effort was influenced by the disarray of politics in both places. Their songs directly deal with everything from police brutality to the 2016 election and the resurfacing of fascist ideals. They seamlessly reference and draw inspiration from the Black Panthers, Che Guevara and Albert Camus, to name a few.

The band does important work using music as their vehicle, and their voices to give rise to others’ voices in turn. Algiers appears on the bill for Black Cat’s 25th anniversary show this month, and the band is looking forward to performing in a city that remains an epicenter for creative resistance. Algiers’ strength lies in their ability to embody the energies of these spaces, no matter the location.

“It’s all about inserting yourself in these spaces, and that’s why playing this 25th anniversary show at the Black Cat is powerful for us,” Mahan says. “Dante [Ferrando, owner] and the people at the Black Cat see us within this scene. We’re playing alongside some of our heroes: Mary Timony in Ex Hex, Mike Watt, Gray Matter and Subhumans. This is all where we see ourselves, and maybe people from the outside – unless they’re fans – don’t really get that. I think that’s kind of a constant battle that we take on.”

And while the band will continue to tackle subjects that very much need light shed on them – Mahan says they’ve recently begun to work on new music – their final goal is to be a unifying force among likeminded people.

“As a band, we just want to connect with people. We really feel like there’s so many people who also feel that way. It’s not through a sense of naiveté. We’re very cynical in our approach, but through that cynicism there is – as we particularly try to reflect on our last album – a sense of light.”

Algiers plays the second night of the Black Cat’s 25th anniversary event on Saturday, September 15. Tickets are $25. Doors open at 7 p.m. For more information on Algiers, visit www.algierstheband.com.

Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; 202-667-4490; www.blackcatdc.com

Photo: Courtesy of Black Cat
Photo: Courtesy of Black Cat

The 25 Lives of Black Cat

Black Cat has sold out countless shows, with killer acts on regular rotation at the 14th Street music venue. Drawing big names like Radiohead, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Killers and more, the double-level DC mainstay hasn’t quit booking national tours and amplifying local bands since opening its doors in ’93.

But its biggest accomplishment since opening? Owner and founder Dante Ferrando laughs on a recent call with On Tap, offering a blunt reply.

“Managing to stay open for 25 years would be the first [accomplishment] to come to mind,” he says. “It is a tough business. There’s a lot of ups and downs. You have to constantly recreate little bits and pieces to make things work.”

Black Cat is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month with a two-night lineup on September 14 and 15 of some of the venue’s favorite bands to work with. Ferrando seems like he doesn’t want to favor any particular act, but mentions Mike Watt – who’s part of the Friday night lineup – as an example of a musician that means something to the Black Cat team.

“We had a ton of good [musicians] that we asked and a ton of good ones that we got,” Ferrando says of how he culled talent for the anniversary shows. “It’s very tough unless you really want to blow huge amounts of money to get people to change their plans. Everyone’s on tour and has different things that they’re doing.”

As the drummer for local post-hardcore band Gray Matter, opening a music venue might have seemed like an obvious interest for Ferrando – but he’s also a natural entrepreneur. He owned Dante’s, a 14th Street restaurant and emphatic supporter of DC’s music scene, before opening the Black Cat. He says 9:30 Club monopolized the punk and alt-rock scenes at the time, but Ferrando had his own vision.

In its original location on F Street from 1980 to 1996, 9:30 was a “good, tiny punk-rock dive” for a 200-person show, according to Ferrando. At the time, he saw a need for a DC venue that was more accommodating to both fans and bands performing there, like a dressing room and more space for the audience.

“We did something that was needed in the city at that point in time. It was something we needed to have.”

With some healthy competition, 9:30 Club has since moved and improved – and both venues were able to carve their own identities in the city.

“My route was definitely more of the smoky bar or traditional club, [and 9:30 Club has] more of a concert production vibe,” he says. “I think it ended up balancing nicely in the end.”

Ferrando describes their current spot as a Hail Mary; the Black Cat moved to the larger space, still on 14th Street, in 2001.

“If you came to the area now and tried to get a space this big, I would be terrified to know how much that would cost.”

In the 25 lives of Black Cat, Ferrando has witnessed some shifts in the music scene. He says their first five years were the height of indie rock, with a unified local and regional rise of independent record labels and bands feeding off each other’s energy and style.

“I like times like that. It’s great to just have a great band. But if you have four great bands that all know each other and are bouncing stuff back and forth because they’re seeing each other’s shows, those sort of environments are very exciting to me. I just haven’t seen that to quite the [same] degree recently. I always hoped for those little hotspots to pop up and there’s not much you can do to create them aside from waiting for when they start happening.”

He says the fan-musician dynamic has changed too.

“Something that I kind of miss: there used to be a time where if a band was pretty big, a member of that band [playing] with their new act would draw really well. Nowadays, nobody cares. They might like the band, but the direct relationship to the band isn’t as intense as it used to be.”

But the volume of bands and people coming out is still growing, because new listeners can learn about an up-and-coming band through a few Internet clicks. With more venues popping up, local bands play more often now than they did before – and the venues are doing really well, according to Ferrando.

His Friday night anniversary show lineup includes Des Demonas, Subhumans, Ocampo Ocampo & Watt, Ted Leo, Dagger Moon, Scanners, Honey, and Felix & Sam. Des   Demonas guitarist Mark Cisneros calls the Black Cat an oasis in a changing district with new luxuries drawing people with wealth.

“The Black Cat is a home for everyone who’s still here playing music left in the scene,” Cisneros says. “It’s still a stronghold for the DC punk rock scene. It’s one of the best clubs in the world and it’s a real privilege to play there. We’re all thankful that Dante is still going with it and making a home for us.”

Ferrando’s band is set to play a couple of songs on Saturday night.

“It has nothing to do with Black Cat particularly,” he says of Gray Matter’s mini-reunion. “It’s just an opportunity for me to fly old friends in and do a show, which we haven’t done since the 20th anniversary. I’m particularly psyched about that.”

On Saturday, Ex Hex, Hurry Up featuring Kathy Foster and Westin Glass of The Thermals, Algiers, Hammered Hulls, Wanted Man, and Foul Swoops will share the stage with Ferrando.

“You get to catch some of the best local bands we’ve got and some really cool out-of-town bands too,” he says. “There’s a lot of people who’ve been coming here for a lot of years. It’s good to have just a fun party sometimes.”

Don’t miss the Black Cat’s 25th anniversary shows on Friday, September 14 and Saturday, September 15 on the venue’s mainstage. Doors at 7 p.m. both nights. Tickets are $25 per night. Learn more at www.blackcatdc.com.

Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; 202-667-4490; www.blackcatdc.com

Photo: Shawn Brackbill
Photo: Shawn Brackbill

Inside the Ever-Evolving Dream Pop World of Beach House

On the day we’re scheduled to chat, Victoria Legrand of Beach House is called to jury duty. Even masters of their craft with incredible work ethic are not immune to the tedious call of bureaucratic obligation.

When I interview Legrand a week later, the vocalist-keyboardist for the Baltimore-based dream pop duo speaks with enthusiasm and insight into everything we cover in our conversation. It was supposed to be a brief 15-minute call, but when I tell her that Beach House is my favorite band, she’s quick to continue our conversation and tells me to ask her anything I really want to know. For someone at the helm of one of the dreamiest bands in the world, she is refreshingly kind and down to earth.

With bandmate and guitarist Alex Scally at her side, the pair crafts ethereal, enigmatic songs with incredible consistency. Beach House is responsible for a colossal catalog, with seven albums and nearly 80 songs to date. Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars were released a mere two months apart in 2015, and the band’s B-Sides and Rarities compilation was announced barely two years later. Their seventh album, unpretentiously titled 7, arrived this May.

Legrand and Scally embarked on a world tour for 7 in July – with an upcoming stop at The Anthem planned for August 25 – and they’re allowing fans to select the top three songs they want to hear most at the show they’re attending. Much like the rest of the creative endeavors the pair’s pursued over the course of their 14-year career, it’s an ambitious concept. And with 77 songs to their name, the fan requests are no small feat – but it’s something they’ve been waiting to enact for some time.

“Alex came up with that idea three or four years ago – time flies,” Legrand says. “It’s something that he’d been toying with as a way to get to know our audiences more in every city. You’ll see the list of what songs are being requested over others, and it’s very fascinating. It’s a way for fans to interact with us, so it’s not just this one-sided relationship where it’s like, ‘Band plays onstage in front of audience! Take it!’ It was based off some very innocent ideas on how to make things a little bit more fun and interesting.”

The band’s meticulous approach to everything they do as musicians becomes more evident as Legrand and I discuss the imagery surrounding 7. For previous records like 2010’s Teen Dream, the band crafted a music video for each song. But with 7, they drew heavily from the black and white visuals in the style of op art – the use of black and white geometric shapes to create striking optical illusions – and the iconography of Andy Warhol’s Factory. Each song has its own op art video that marries audio to visual.

“The black and white really connected with the music and was an inspiration for the record,” she says. “I think that we wanted the op art to be something that people would identify with for 7, and it seems to be working.”

Musically and aesthetically, it definitely is. Their label, Seattle stalwart Sub Pop Records, released colored vinyl editions of 7 that sold out the same day the record came out. The album itself received rave reviews and has already clocked in high on many early album of the year lists. Legrand breaks down the cover of 7 for me – a dizzying array of op art, black and white clips, holographic elements, and a woman’s obscured face – all of which she provided creative direction for alongside Post Typography, a design house based in Baltimore.

“You have some psychedelia in there – this hallucinogenic aspect,” she says of the album cover. “There’s bits of chaos in there. Those are some of the themes off the record, especially on a song like ‘Dark Spring,’ which is embodying nature, change, chaos [and] darkness. And then you have glamour and destructiveness. There’s a lot of very cinematic themes throughout the record.”

Cinematic is a word that’s often ascribed to Beach House’s music and unsurprisingly, the band is a go-to for soundtracking movies and TV shows. Their work has appeared in movies such as The Future and the documentary Ivory Tower. You can hear their songs on shows like The OA, Skins, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Atlanta and New Girl, to name a few.

“I usually make the decision just purely based on the show – the storywriting and who I think the audience will be,” Legrand tells me. “I tend to love and gravitate toward shows for younger people because I really care about young people emotionally and psychologically. I have a great deal of empathy for people who are just trying to survive in the world. Any shows that are about that, I am always happy to let them use our music.”

Beyond their highly stylized album art and impressive soundtracking credits, Legrand says her band has their sights set on breaking into the world of composing.

“We’re literally just waiting for a person to hire us. I think we just really want someone to just say, ‘Hey Beach House, would you soundtrack my film?’ and we would do it.”

Don’t expect the band’s first foray into composing to be another record though. Legrand views entering that universe as a way to incubate ideas outside of the work she and Scally are used to producing and tap into currently uncharted  territory.

“Scoring and soundtracking use totally different parts of our writing process. There’s stuff we would make that probably wouldn’t sound at all like what any of our previous work sounded like. It would be using totally different aspects of our creative writing, which is something that we’re dying to do because we’d be able to develop more of our other unknown creative sides.”

Brimming with creative energy, I can’t help but wonder if Legrand is ever uninspired by the world around her or feels overwhelmed by the pressure to constantly create.

“I personally do burn out and go through great periods of what I call ‘nothingness’ where I am almost forgetting what I do,” she tells me. “I don’t say, ‘I’m a singer, I’m a musician.’ It’s almost like I don’t even identify as that. It’s more like, ‘I’m Victoria, I’m a human being.’ I do whatever, I’m fascinated by many things. Boredom – or whatever that is, the nothingness – is an extremely important part of the process of then being able to have new things start to creep in.”

It’s clear that Legrand has arrived at a place where she can embrace the nothingness. She tells me about the intense writing and recording and touring for their record Bloom about seven years ago, where she experienced her first bout of burnout brought on by “our own insanity, propelling us forward.” Since then, she’s learned to accept these feelings as part of the ebb and flow of existing in the world as a creative person.

“It’s very normal to feel all of the sudden that you’re not a creative person at all. I might not hear a melody or come up with lyrics or have a story in my mind. But I might be going down a rabbit hole of things that lead me, for example, to develop the ideas for the visual of 7. I was into art and just seeing things. I wasn’t into hearing or listening. I was more into looking. It’s important to accept oneself if you feel like you’re all of the sudden flattened. You’ll come up again – you just have to let that moment be.”

Beach House bring their electrifying new album 7 to The Anthem on Saturday, August 25. Papercuts open. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $38. For more on Beach House, visit www.beachhousebaltimore.com.

The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; 202-888-0200; www.theanthemdc.com

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

Ben Folds Breaks Boundaries Because He Can

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Jolie Loren Photography
Photo: Jolie Loren Photography

A Q&A with Zac Brown Band’s John Driskell Hopkins

For more than 20 years, John Driskell Hopkins has crafted country music hits garnering worldwide praise and respect. Popularly known for his role as one of the founding members of the Grammy Award winning Zac Brown Band, Hopkins has many tricks up his sleeve that may come as a surprise to the occasional country listener. While on the road during their seventh tour, which stops in DC at the Nationals Park, Hopkins opened up to On Tap about his new John Driskell Hopkins Band, burdens of balancing his life, and his deep roots in performing that led to his self-proclaimed and widely accepted title of entertainer.

On Tap: Hi John! How are things with the Down the Rabbit Hole Tour?
John Driskell Hopkins: So far so good. We’ve been playing a lot of baseball stadiums, which is really exciting. Have you gotten to see many shows at a baseball stadium? It’s really neat because you get to set up back in the outfield and the whole thing seems to be built just for this scenario, but it’s not. Especially the ones with open air. It’s like an amphitheater but beautiful. I just think they’re perfect for concerts.

OT: What’s the meaning behind Down the Rabbit Hole?
JDH: Well, I think it’s really an opportunity to dip into our past and take chances. And of course it may mean different things to different people, like the Alice in Wonderland connection for some folks, but we’re trying to explore our input and our musical nature. We really want to share what’s next for us.

OT: What’s your favorite baseball stadium for performing?
JDH: I think it’s Fenway Park. No offense to any other stadiums, but that’s one of the oldest. I mean Fenway and Wrigley have this incredible history and a lot of these newer parks, like SunTrust, which might be one of the newest parks in the country, is really cool too, but it hasn’t been around long enough to have that kind of nostalgia. All these great players have been through here for so many years. Plus, Boston is a really neat town. They are really receptive to the band and it’s been a great thing to be a part of.

OT: Congrats on the new Brighter Shades Studios.
JDH: Thank you! We’re on the cover of Mix Magazine for the Class of 2018 New Studios. It’s been a really great opportunity to get some cool things recorded up there.

OT: How long have you wanted your own studio?
JDH: I’ve had my own studio for twenty years but it’s been in different spots. They’ve been in warehouses, preexisting studios, guest rooms, three car garages. But this is a great spot because I know I won’t have to move around anymore and I can let it grow, develop and vibe over the next few years. It’s something I’ve really pursued outside of playing live.

OT: Have you hosted other artists there yet?
JDH: My drummer, Mike Rizzi, just finished recording his record up there, and we did some recording for Darrell Scott, who is a big friend of the Zac Brown Band and of mine.

I’m taking on projects that are personal to me, outside of the ones that I do. So if it’s something that someone else is a part of, then it has to be something that I am connected to personally. But otherwise, it is an opportunity for me to do more. I’ve done a Christmas album up there. I’m working on my original record now and I did all the stuff for the movie that we’re featured in as well. So it really is a great spot to work and be creative and host things that are dear to me, like the John Driskell Hopkins Band.

OT: What will the John Driskell Hopkins Band reveal that we don’t get from you in the Zac Brown Band?
JDH: I think the folks that follow me personally know what to expect already, but the Zac Brown fans need to understand what’s going on. They can expect a singer/songwriter that speaks from the heart and does more Americana than country. But also, I kinda grew up in a bunch of rock bands so this may be a little more aggressive than they might expect.

OT: Did you say you’ll be on the big screen this fall?
JDH: Yes, this movie called Adolescence is a really cool independent film directed by Ashley Avis. I was able to have a small part in it, but more exciting for me was being able to write a bunch of the songs that are featured in the movie.

OT: What’s the movie about?
JDH: It’s about a coming-of-age for a kid who comes from a broken home and he gets mixed up in some bad stuff and then finds his way back out. Then a relationship forms with a girl that he’s involved with during that time.

He’s not a typical adolescent, like most kids in a stable environment, so it’s kind of an interesting twist on the word. But it’s a cool picture and I think it is very well acted, very well written and I like being a part of stuff like that.

OT: What role did you play?
JDH: I was a biker, who also happened to be the lead singer of a band [laughs], which was easy for me to jump into. He’s actually the lead singer of a fictional band named the Bloody Wolves of Venice, which we will use to put out EPs for the movie.

OT: How did you get connected with the film?
JDH: Well, I have a theater degree from Florida State, so I’ve looked to get into movies and things since I graduated. Actually, just before joining Zac Brown Band, I was in a play called Lost Highway.

I’ve always loved acting, I grew up in musical theater in high school and was really involved on stage for a long time.

OT: What were some plays you remember having a role?
JDH: We had a crazy program. We probably did 10 shows a year, and two of them were always full-scale musicals. So I was in all kinds of stuff like Godspell, Pippin, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Odd Couple; I can’t even remember them all.

OT: What was it like creating songs for Adolescence?
JDH: Well, this was my first time ever writing something based on a script. Most of the time my songs are based on my experience, and I guess I borrowed from my experiences a bit for Adolescence.

I think this project really gave me an opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone. To go write based on a script, like having to put myself in the place of the character as I write, was kind of cool.

OT: Was it a struggle writing for this character?
JDH: Well, my character is a lot more aggressive than I am. I guess some of those feelings and emotions are still present in me but from an angst driven, rock and roll youth, so I was able to revisit those feelings by putting in lyrics that had to do with his character. It was kind of a merging of the two artistic endeavors and I would love to do more of that.

OT: Will we be seeing you in more films?
JDH: Hopefully, but I rarely have the time to spare for rehearsals and shooting.

OT: How are you balancing your time with everything now?
JDH: It’s my biggest obstacle. I have a wife and three daughters at home who I need very desperately to spend time with when I’m there. So during the summer we go to the pool a lot. We try to go to the lake or beach and just to do things together. When they’re in school and kept from 7 a.m. – 3 p.m., that’s when I get my studio work done.

As far as taking on new movie roles, it has to be very specific. It’s hard because I generally never go more than four days without needing to be somewhere. It’s not very common for me to have two weeks to be a part of a shoot. So that’s the obstacle, but fortunately these opportunities occasionally materialize in many ways and hopefully other opportunities will present themselves.

You can see John Driskell Hopkins with the Zac Brown Band on Friday, July 27 at the Nationals Park. Tickets start at $43, and are available here.

Nationals Park: 1500 S Capitol St. SE, DC; 202-675-6287; www.mlb.com/nationals/ballpark

Photo: Shervin Lainez
Photo: Shervin Lainez

Lindsey Stirling Shows She’s More Than A Violin Player

It’s not often someone known primarily for her masterful violin skills crosses over to the mainstream pop charts, but Lindsey Stirling is no ordinary star.

Highly skilled in dance, art and of course, her string instrument of choice, the 31-year-old innovative musician bolted to fame thanks to a series of choreographed violin performances on her personal YouTube channel a few years ago.

“The classical arts aren’t appreciated as they once were, so I think it’s exciting that I’m able to put my own twist on it,” Stirling says. “It’s a huge part of the arts that shouldn’t be forgotten and I bring to light classical elements with what I do, and brings to light the violin to people who maybe never thought they would love it.”

She found success with the release of her 2012 self-titled debut album and two other critically acclaimed works followed, including a popular holiday collection was released last year. She’s also won two Billboard Music Awards and finished second on last year’s Dancing With the Stars.

“There was this really cool moment when I was offered to play a show in Italy and my parents came with me and when we arrived, there were all these posters with my face on it, and it was the weirdest thing to realize these people in this small Italian town were looking forward to seeing me,” she says. “People were asking for autographs and giving me fan art and I just knew my life had changed.”

On July 24, Stirling will co-headline a show with Evanescence at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, both sets backed by a full orchestra.

“It’s something different from anything I have ever done on tour before, and that makes it really fun,” she says. “It’s been fun to reinvent the music and have it all orchestrated and it will be this cool fusion between live orchestra, rock elements and electronic elements all mixed together. That’s going to make it pretty magical.”

Stirling is excited to be coming back to the area, associating it with the first time she ever had Sweetgreen, her favorite restaurant, and is even more eager to be sharing this tour with Evanescence, as she considers herself a huge fan of Amy Lee and the band behind “Bring Me to Life.”

“I’m going to guest on Amy’s set and she will be on my set for a song as well,” Stirling says. “I have been a fan of hers for years and I wrote a song years ago with her in mind to sing it, but she wasn’t able to because she was on maternity leave, but I think it put me in the back of her mind that we should work together someday. She reached out a year ago and I played on their new album with the song ‘Hi-Lo’ and the reaction of the fans was just unbelievable.”

Touring throughout the summer at amphitheaters like Jiffy Lube Live has been a blast, she says, and she enjoys the “summer vibe” of people coming together as families and enjoying picnics and creating a more personal concert experience.

Although Stirling has been dancing and playing violin since she was little, her aspirations in college was towards a career in film.

“By the time I hit college, I was a little burnt out with music and didn’t know how I felt about the classical violin thing anymore, so I ended up studying film, which was another passion of mine,” she says. “I used to have editing software and was a real nerd about creating my own videos.”

She found the music and film worlds combined really seamlessly, which helped her become one of YouTube’s first breakout artists.

“One art really led the other and it allowed me to not only use my violin skills but also showcase it in a way that was really unique,” Stirling says.

Since then, she had a song on the soundtrack of Pete’s Dragon and also scored a song for a video game and hopes to get more involved with more scores in the years ahead.

Once her tour ends, Stirling will start writing some new music but is also going to pick up where she left off on a theatrical musical she started writing last year.

“I want to focus on that and maybe go to New York and really work on that for a while,” she says. “Until then, I am going to just enjoy this tour. I love putting on a show and anyone who comes out will have a fun time.”

Lindsey Stirling and Evanescence are set to play at Jiffy Lube Live on July 24. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $18.

Jiffy Lube Live: 7800 Cellar Door Dr. Bristow, VA; 703-754-6400; www.livenation.com/venues/14407/jiffy-lube-live

courtney-barnett

Music Picks: July 2018

FRIDAY, JULY 6

Pusha T
The first time I heard about Daytona, the new Pusha T record, was at work. Everyone was talking about the seven-song album – and even the guy who never tweets had to tweet about it. The record is entirely produced by Kanye West, which may rub you the wrong way; however, this side of the studio booth may be better place for him at this point, and he entirely leaves the verses to King Push. The record is a crisp 21 minutes long, but fire from start to finish. This is the album we’ve been waiting for since the 2015 teaser Darkest Before Dawn. Show at 9 p.m. Tickets are $30. Echostage: 2135 Queens Chapel Rd. NE, DC; www.echostage.com

Shy Glizzy
Southeast DC’s own Shy Glizzy is coming to the Fillmore to remind y’all that the Young Jefe still runs things. His summer single “Do You Understand?” featuring Gunna and Tory Lanez premiered last month, and it’s one of the smoother beats he’s taken to rapping over, similar to the track “Dope Boy Magic” from 2017 release Quiet Storm. He may be slowing down the tempo of his music, but he’s keeping high momentum with constant releases, and I’m anxiously waiting to see what’s next for him. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $30-$100. Fillmore Silver Spring: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com

Steve Bug
Steve Bug has been on the scene since 1991. That’s before I was even born, and yet his grooves have yet to grow tiresome. Born Stefan Brugesch in Germany, he’s become known over his career as the “Gentleman of Techno” for his professionalism, dependability and consistent sets. His body of work continues to strengthen with 2018’s Paradise Sold, a collaboration with Langenberg, another guru of the German deep house scene. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $10. Flash: 645 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.flashdc.com

SATURDAY, JULY 7

Airøspace
Airøspace, the Southeast DC raised MC, is one we’ve been waiting for– at least those of us spending too much time listening to lo-fi beat tapes, as the instrumental tapes tend to grow stale quite quickly though, but he gives them the breath they need. Not all his tracks are lo-fi, though. On his latest release Hitagi, Vol. 3.1, you can find tracks that cull together a range of influences from trap to OSTs. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $10. Velvet Lounge: 915 U St. NW, DC; www.velvetloungedc.com

Honey
DC rock trio Honey has a sound that’s much fuller than their lineup of guitar, drums and bass alone might lead you to think. I got to play with them once and what I realized is they are perfectly balanced; none of the voices are competing with one another. The chorus heavy guitar gives a real sense of depth, allowing the melodies in both the bass and vocals to stand out and the drums fill in the space between. From that show at Looking Glass Lounge to their EP release, they’ve come a long way in a short while. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $8. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

SUNDAY, JULY 8

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 20th Anniversary Tour
For fans of hip hop and neo-soul, Lauryn Hill is a household name, along with Erykah Badu and D’Angelo. Hill’s debut record The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill propelled her to international stardom in a way no one could have predicted. Twenty years later, Hill is touring the record most responsible for her enduring legacy once again. Her live shows have been said to lack the swagger you hear on the record, but hopefully the Hill from the studio will show up for this one. Doors at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $20. Jiffy Lube Live: 7800 Cellar Door Rd. Bristow, VA; www.livenation.com

Rodriguez Jr.
Rodriguez Jr. is the latest project from south of France native Olivier Mateu. Previously he’s made music with the Youngsters, but Rodriguez Jr. seems to be the best iteration of his production yet. He makes dance music informed by both vintage synthesizers and avant-garde western art music, from Satie to Stockhausen. The latter influences are not clear, given how danceable the music is. Maybe they’re related in an emotional sense, but I find Rodriguez Jr. as more of a cinema-informed electronic musician. Doors at 4 p.m. Tickets $8. Flash: 645 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.flashdc.com

MONDAY, JULY 9

The Octopus Project
The Octopus Project, if you couldn’t tell from the name, are an incredibly hipster group, as hipster as the Wes Anderson movies their music videos feel inspired by. That said, I’m excited for these psychedelic rockers to come through DC. From Austin, Texas, they describe themselves as indietronica for the number of synthesizers they use and their role in shaping the sound – though it’s a label which only becomes apparent after you hear it spoken. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $13. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC;
www.unionstage.com

WEDNESDAY JULY 11

Dent May
The “softest boy in Mississippi” is bringing “Across the Multiverse” to our neck of the woods this month on his tour supported by singer, guitarist Shannon Lay. This is his first release since making the move to Los Angeles, and for the label Carpark Records; he was previously signed to Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks label for his debut album in 2009. Across the Multiverse provides some chill, beachy summer vibes and May knows it. He even added some beer cozies and SPF 15 ChapStick to his merch offerings to emphasize the feeling, or perhaps as a nod to his own habit of applying lip balm every five minutes. Upon first listen to his newest album, this multi-instrumentalist, producer and self-described hotel bar lounge singer, gives me Elton John vibes with leading track “Hello Cruel World,” though his haircut and specs may have solidified that comparison a little more than I’d like to admit. Nevertheless, it’ll be a great show. 8 p.m. Tickets $12. Jammin Java: 227 Maple Ave. Vienna, VA; www.jamminjava.com

SATURDAY JULY 14

Now, Now
After a few years of self-discovery and a battle with writer’s block, KC Dalager and Brad Hale (a.k.a. Now, Now) are back with their most heartfelt and personal album yet. Saved is the follow up to the almost five-year radio silence after Threads, a record that earned them a coveted slot performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in 2012. I’m going to be completely transparent here and say I assumed this band had broken up before hearing of this show, but I’m glad to hear the duo’s new music. “SGL” and “Yours” are the standout tracks from the album, but “Know Me” depicts the evolution of the band’s sound, while hearkening back to the hollow production and airy vocals that made their first impression on me on the Neighbors EP. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

SUNDAY, JULY 15

Halsey
You know her, you love her and you probably hear her singing whenever you enter a store geared to people under 30 or turn on the radio. Halsey is coming to Wolf Trap on the North American leg of her worldwide tour for her 2017 release “hopeless fountain kingdom,” which reached #1 on the Billboard 200 this time last year. Jessie Reyez is joining her on a majority of the U.S. dates, which makes a lot of sense because they both have a similar rawness to their lyrics, and feature a comparable vocal tone, despite being categorized as pop music artists. I’m looking forward to seeing what other surprises Halsey has in store for us, too. 8 p.m. Tickets $40-$80. Filene Center at Wolf Trap: 1645 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org

Outer Spaces
Balitmore-based Outer Spaces may be the headliner here, but this show includes a couple different acts, including DC’s Bacchae and Los Angeles-based Goon. Look for the post-punk band about as wild the revelry their name, ahem Bacchae, suggests. Goon’s provides a more downtempo way to follow up, but their songs are lush, even if not so Dionysian. Outer Spaces are more straight forward indie pop, but don’t let that be a deterrence; they’re the reason to be there. 9 p.m. Tickets $12. Comet Ping Pong: 5037 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.cometpingpong.com

Wild Moccasins
Could you start a band with the person you love? Could you be in a relationship with them for a decade all while keeping the band together? Could you end that relationship amicably and remain bandmates that still co-write songs that may or may not be about each other and/or your potential new flames, and then go on tour together? Zahira Gutierrez and Cody Swann could, in fact that’s exactly the basis of their new release Look Together that debuted on June 29. Just the backstory alone made me give them a listen, but their glamorous, catchy, synth-filled pop kept me around. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $15. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

WEDNESDAY, JULY 18

Jake Clemons
Saxophone player Jake Clemons comes to DC not too long after finishing up a tour with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. That’s right, Jake Clemons is none other than the nephew of the Big Man, Clarence Clemons, and he’s been performing in his stead since 2012, even playing his “Jungleland” solo. But the younger Clemons has his own music as well and released a solo record in 2017 titled Fear & Love. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets $20. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

Slum Village
If you’re surprised about this show, don’t worry, I was too. I had no idea Slum Village was still slumming. The group, now comprised of Young RJ and T3 are touring their 2018 release The Lost Scrolls, which contains previously unreleased “relics” from the twenty-year-old classic Fantastic Vol. 2. Of course, Young RJ was not part of the crew back then; however, T3 was, and Young RJ was mentored by Slum Village original J Dilla. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $22. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

TUESDAY, JULY 19

Mourn
Three things come across in Mourn’s music videos: they’re very young, they’re very punk and they’re unabashedly Spanish. The quartet comes from Barcelona. In fact, they recently released a song “Barcelona City Tour,” one of the three singles released in anticipation of their latest record, Sorpresa Familia. From the music videos to the singles, you can tell the quartet finally has a bit of cash flow, and with that you can feel they’ve really come into their own. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $12. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

SATURDAY JULY 21

Deafheaven
This California-based sometimes duo, other times full band, makes a beautiful marriage of metal and shoegaze. The band has been camped out in Oakland recording their highly anticipated fourth studio album, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. Their live shows are known for being so intense, they’ve inspired fans to leap onstage and lick frontman George Clarke’s shoes, so if that’s something you might be into here’s your chance to make it happen. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets $20. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

SUNDAY JULY 22

DC101 Kerfuffle: Fall Out Boy, Rise Against, Awolnation, AJR, Robert DeLong, Mt. Joy, L.I.F.T.
DC101’s annual Kerfuffle returns with another stacked lineup. With legends like Fall Out Boy (who recently joined us here in DC to celebrate the Caps during the playoffs) and Rise Against, to the next great voices in alt-rock like AJR and Mt. Joy, there’s something for all music lovers at this all-day affair. Doors at 12:30 p.m., show begins 1:30 p.m. Tickets $55-$95. Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; www.merriweathermusic.com

MONDAY, JULY 23

Del Florida
Del Florida, so far as I can tell, has almost little or nothing to do with Florida, and that’s ok. The half-neo soul, half-dream pop act was formed in Liverpool, and is now based in DC. The group is carried by the powerful pipes of lead vocalist Leela Dawson and the funky rhythm guitar. DC based Bottled Up will open for the group. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $10. Velvet Lounge: 915 U St. NW, DC; www.velvetloungedc.com

TUESDAY JULY 24

Courtney Barnett
While one of her most biting lyrics may be “put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you,” we’re sure you won’t be disappointed by Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett live. She returns in support of her incredible sophomore album Tell Me How You Really Feel. While her collaborative album Lotta Sea Lice with fellow folk rocker Kurt Vile brought her to the District in 2017, we’re excited to see Barnett’s solo guitar slaying and acerbic lyrics when she headlines The Anthem solo. Joined by Julien Baker and Vagabon, don’t miss out on this night of incredible talent. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets $40-$60. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

WEDNESDAY JULY 25

Echo & the Bunnymen and Violent Femmes
Two iconic 80s acts join forces on the same bill for one retro night. What better way to cure your mid-week blues than by trekking to The Anthem on a Wednesday to sing along to classics like “The Killing Moon” and “Blister in the Sun”? Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets $55-$75. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

THURSDAY JULY 26

Shannon & the Clams
Cal Arts student turned bass guitarist Shannon Shaw and her band are bringing their 60s inspired psychedelic pop to DC for the release of their fifth album Onion, supported by Big Huge and Australian experimental pop band Gauche. Of the title track and album name, Shaw says, “I had this epiphany that was likening an onion to being human and how you’re nothing without layers of experience. Each time you have an experience it creates another layer in the onion […] Each song on this album is about problem-solving and having realizations about yourself.” 7 p.m. Tickets $15. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

FRIDAY, JULY 27

Frass Green
The bio for Frass Green on Spotify simply reads “joe tyler matt antonio,” which is about as opaque as their music or their artwork. But this lo-fi dream pop act is DC based and quite young. Joe Antoshak is the lead songwriter and began the project in his garage, the quality of which still seems to come through in the music. Be sure to check out their garage rockabilly tunes as they climb the ladder of DC venues. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $13. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

Glue Factory
What I like about the lead single off DC band Glue Factory’s debut record S/T is the contrast between what’s being said and what you’re hearing. First there’s the post-punk verse, which feels good, even if it feels familiar, but then it goes into a similarly familiar chorus. It’s more melodic and more pop, but still has the feel-it-in-your-bones punk element. At the same they’re singing about having “maggots in your eyes.” I never thought I would be lulled into singing those words. The show also features Positive No and Warm Sun. Doors at 10 p.m. Tickets $12. Comet Ping Pong: 5037 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.cometpingpong.com

SATURDAY JULY 28

David Byrne
If you missed the Talking Heads frontman at his sold-out show at The Anthem in May, fear not! The icon is back and not to be missed. I was wildly lucky to catch him on the first run, and it was nothing short of magical. Byrne achieved setlist nirvana, with a healthy combination of solo songs, Talking Heads classics and more from his ever-growing catalogue. If you’re still not convinced, every ticket purchased online for David Byrne includes a CD of the new album American Utopia. You’ll receive instructions via email on how to redeem your album shortly after ticket purchase. Plus, he’s supported by Benjamin Clementine, who just happens to have the voice of an angel. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets $60-$130. Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; www.merriweathermusic.com

SUNDAY JULY 29

Lightmare
From their first show at Looking Glass Lounge (with the aforementioned Honey), Lightmare has had a quick ascendancy on the DC scene. The six-person, soul-punk arrangement will ask if you’ve ever been in love and if you wonder where the wild things are, and then prompt you to look for their debut record soon thereafter. The show also features the Prabir Trio and Wooden/Apple/Heart. The Richmond based trio writes psych-rock rooted in the Beatles “drenched in enough Tequila to make it slouch,” while Wooden/Apple/Heart is another DC band with an innovative take on folk. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $10. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

Warped Tour
I feel old as hell writing about the absolute last Warped Tour in history. I never got to experience the magic of Warped when I was a teenager and then it would’ve mattered more to me, but if this particular music scene was ever important to you, you should come out for this bittersweet last hurrah. Close the book on your teen angst the right way with bands like Simple Plan, 30H!3, The Maine, Mayday Parade, Four Year Strong and August Burns Red with many, many more. Doors at 11 a.m. Tickets $39-$55. Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; www.merriweathermusic.com

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 1

Rico Nasty
One of the most exciting new rappers to rise out of the DMV is none other than Rico Nasty. She’s a versatile artist with a killer fashion sense and several aliases who pioneered her own sound called Sugar Trap, which is sweet as pie and tough as nails at the same time. She takes inspiration for her music from many genres, citing Slipknot as one of her influences, and using piano samplings that eerily resemble Vanessa Carlton’s iconic “1000 miles” in one of her older tracks “Brandon.” Her show at the Fillmore is one of the first few on her “Nasty” tour, and this album marks her first release after signing with Atlantic last month. This is a can’t miss show, so come out and see her live because I already know it’s gonna be “Poppin.” Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $20-$50. Fillmore Silver Spring: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com

THURSDAY AUGUST 2

Father John Misty
For those not familiar with his career, Josh Tillman went from unassuming Fleet Foxes drummer to sweet and understated solo artist before exiting whatever weird cocoon he had to live in to become his alter ego Father John Misty. Say what you will about his general attitude and reputation for making headlines throughout the blogosphere for his caustic comments – the man can write a damn good song. His most recent album God’s Favorite Customer sees him breaking character and getting a bit more personal. We’re still not entirely sure what to expect from this show, other than the excitement of knowing anything’s possible with this enigmatic and abrasive artist. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets $45-$55. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

Photo: Brandon Shields
Photo: Brandon Shields

What’s NUEX?

Let’s be honest, has anyone with even the slightest desire for rock star status not responded to a Craigslist ad at least once? I definitely ended up in someone’s basement once trying to do vocals over shoegaze while wondering if I’d make it home alive to feed my dog. Okay, that incident aside, I’ve heard many Craigslist musician meetup stories that were way more successful than mine.

Take hometown DC duo NUEX, for example. Something told singer-songwriter Camille Michelle Gray to respond to an ad seeking a vocalist posted by drummer-producer Teddy Aitkins. Fortunately for them both (and for us), neither was an axe murderer and it was pretty evident from day one that there was musical chemistry between them.

NUEX (pronounced “new”) is a play on the French word “nue”, which means naked. It’s a fitting name for the sonic duo that emerged from that fated Craigslist meetup more than four years ago. Working hard to pull tight, original tracks from their small in-house operation, NUEX’s sound is often both new and raw, emotion stripped bare and laid out for us to hear.

“Something that I want people listening to this music – or any music – to know is that when you’re listening to a song, especially the ones that are as emotional as ours, they’re like listening to someone’s soul or their diary,” Gray said. “So while you are jamming, don’t forget that each song has a little throbbing piece of our soul.”

And Gray does certainly have some soul vibes, but she also brings something fresh to the table. Her vocals are reminiscent of an old-school lounge singer with all the deep sadness, but she’s also got a hell of a lot more spunk. She isn’t going to lay on a piano and cry; she’s going to light up like a laser beam and tell you what’s up.

Aitkins, who is responsible for the otherworldly beats that drop below Gray’s smoky vocals, suggests the laser effect is intentional.

“We both have a big influence in space and stars and things being ethereal,” he said.

The two concur that the biggest influence on their work is recognizing and attempting to channel “the interconnectedness of everything.” The resulting sound is sultry (and sometimes sassy) robotica.

NUEX has hit all of the stops for “up-and-comers” in DC. Since 2014, they have played with Sofar Sounds and Luce Unplugged at the National Portrait Gallery, and were selected by Brightest Young Things to represent the city at SXSW 2017’s DC soundstage.

In May, the duo released their long-anticipated, five-track EP Affectus. The record has given them the boost they said was needed to keep moving forward, but now they’ve got the bug and are impatient for more. Indeed, Gray and Aitkins are refreshingly honest about not just the magic, but also the frustrations that come along with trying to “make it” musically – and trying to touch people creatively.

Balancing careers, families and gigs, it was difficult, they said, to play shows for three years and not have a physical body of work to point people to. It also made taking themselves seriously a challenge. They describe the EP release as a “relief.”

“For me, I feel like there’s always more room to grow,” Aitkins said. “I always feel like I could do better. Our sound is always evolving. So yeah, I think we’ve grown, but overall there’s still a lot of stuff that people have not heard that we’ve created.”

Gray adds that the EP was “definitely a catapult,” making the pair more driven and ready to get some of their newer work out for the public to experience.

“And that’s just selfishly,” Gray said. “I really want people to see what else we’re made of. The five songs on the EP are great, and we chose them on purpose because of what they meant to us and they’re strong. But as Teddy has already said, we’re so excited to have the door open and you guys walk through our little [world].”

And we should soon get a chance to peek a bit further into that world. During our interview, Gray and Aitkins teased two new videos for the singles “Eyes” and “Billie”. Working with cinematographers and producers Abe Vilchez-Moran and Kunitaro Ohi, Gray and Aitkins have been “floored” by how two other artists’ visions could make their own work come alive in a way they hadn’t conceived.

For “Eyes” especially, they said, having “everything to do with [the song], but not being physically a part of the video” was an awakening experience.

“The video made it so much more emotional than it ever was,” Aitkins said. “Watching it gave me a whole new respect for the song.”

Learn more about NUEX at www.wearenuex.com and keep your eyes peeled for new video releases. And in the meantime, catch the duo doing that sultry thing they do at Jammin Java on Monday, July 16 when they open for Mobley. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10-$20.

Jammin Java: 227 Maple Ave. E, Vienna, VA; 703-255-1566; www.jamminjava.com