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Photo by Cooper Fox

Twin Peaks Talks New Record, Touring with Friends and, of course, David Lynch

Chicago rock band Twin Peaks has been at the forefront of the city’s vibrant music scene since their formation in 2010 and first record Sunken in 2013. Now about a decade into their careers, the five-piece outfit has switched up their usual recording process for something totally new with their latest release, this year’s spectacular Lookout Low. They’ve hit the road in support, and we caught up with singer and guitarist Cadien Lake James while the band was on the road in Texas to chat recording the album, why this specific tour is so fun for them and the band’s namesake.

On Tap: What has it been like being on the road and playing this new material from Lookout Low? How have fans been reacting?
Cadien Lake James: I think people are pretty engaged with it. We’re lucky to have fans who are pretty supportive of whatever we do. This stuff is just very tight because we recorded the record live, so we are really locked in as a band performing it. It’s pretty natural to bring that on to the stage.

OT: What can fans who plan to catch one of your upcoming winter shows expect from this tour?
CLJ: It’s been a really fun tour because it’s all Chicago bands. We’re all friends and I think that really comes across [in the] show. We’ve got a lot of people hopping into other people’s sets. We’ve got the gals from OHMME singing on a lot of our set with us, and they sang on the new record. It’s kind of a family affair, and everyone’s in their element having a blast.

OT: I know your recording process was pretty different from what you guys have done in the past. Can you tell me a little bit more about working on this record?
CLJ: It was just a total flip of the script. We always recorded [in an] instrument by instrument, one step at a time kind of way. But [for] this record, we worked with producer Ethan Johns and we did it all live, including vocals in the room. It was just what was happening in the moment: a band of guys playing songs. It was challenging but it was really fun to do, and we got cool results.

OT: Did you face any new challenges because of it?
CLJ: Yeah, definitely. But we’re pretty good at communicating. Once we all decided [to record] this way, it was [about] getting on the same page about working our asses off so that we wouldn’t have too many problems when I got up [to the studio]. We were definitely intimidated before we went to do it. But once we got there, most songs were done in the first one to five takes.

OT: Now that you’re back on the road and out of recording mode, has your tour routine changed at all?
CLJ: I just know that I don’t want to be hungover at a show anymore. It’s a little more adult.

OT: I feel like being in your mid-20s, for me at least, is the kiss of death as far as hangovers being horrible. I still don’t know why that is.
CLJ: That seemed like a big turning point for me this year.

OT: Do you still get people asking you why you’re called Twin Peaks at this point in your career? Did you see the rumors about an apparent season four of director and cult icon David Lynch’s show of the same name and how do you feel about it?
CLJ: Yeah. I feel regret [laughs]. No, just kidding. People still ask about the name, for sure. It is what it is. But I love the show and I hope [David Lynch] does more. I think there’s always more to delve into the story there. Other than me liking the show, no one’s really delved into the name and otherwise, it really has nothing to do with us. We thought it was a cool name when we were 16.

OT: I’m a huge fan of the show, so when I first started listening to your music, the name was a big draw for me. I think you’ve gained fans that way, too.
CLJ: See, that’s good. Yeah. I think it goes both ways. Some people are like, “F–k those guys for doing that.” And some people are like, “Oh, that’s cool.”

OT: Maybe one day your paths will cross with David Lynch and you can tell him what a fan you are.
CLJ: Actually, Connor [Brodner, drummer] rode in an elevator with David Lynch.

OT: Was it brought up at all?
CLJ: Uh, no. Apparently, they didn’t talk [laughs].

Twin Peaks play the Black Cat on Wednesday, December 11 with fellow Chicagoans Lala Lala and OHMME. Tickets are $20 in advance, and doors open at 7:30 p.m. For more on the band and their new record Lookout Low, visit www.twinpeaksdudes.com.

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

GWAR with frontman Blothar front and center // Photo: courtesy of GWAR

GWAR Gets Weird for the Holidays

Do Christmas carols make your skin crawl? Would you rather watch a slasher movie than a touching Hallmark holiday rom-com? When your cat smacks an ornament off the family Christmas tree, do you look on at the feline’s rebellion in delight? 

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above, you may be a good candidate for attending the holiday-themed extension of GWAR’s Use Your Collusion tour at 9:30 Club on December 27. The collective of intergalactic shock rockers, known for spraying their audiences with fake blood, “murdering” puppets of politicos onstage, and generally not caring about offending anyone or anything, are clearly not concerned with tarnishing the holiday. 

That’s what makes them fun and has kept fans coming back since their beginnings in Richmond, Virginia in the early 80s. The group’s “lead howler” Blothar (real name: Michael Bishop), who took the reigns as frontman in 2014 after performing as bassist Beefcake the Mighty in the 80s and 90s, explains that Christmas GWAR-style is part of the band’s long-running history. 

“We’ve talked about maybe doing even more of [the holiday theme] this year because we used to do it all the time,” Bishop says. “One of my favorite ones was when we did basically a GWAR version of the Scrooge story A Christmas Carol, where our manager sort of experiences all of these things to try and convince him not to be a Scrooge.”

The variations on the holiday theme have changed over the years, so you’ll just have to show up to see exactly what’s in store this time around. Seasonally appropriate programming aside, GWAR always aims to get a rise out of those who engage with them. It’s easy to interpret the band’s ethos as one that exists for the sake of shock value alone, but Bishop is quick to note that there’s usually something deeper going on behind the band’s extreme antics. 

“From the very beginning of the band, GWAR talked about climate change,” Bishop explains of the band’s fictional origin story, and the mythology of the band that’s made it so appealing to fans. “That narrative was just getting going in the mid- to late 80s. That was a part of the beginning of GWAR. It was built into that narrative that we were awoken from our Antarctic slumber by a hole in the ozone layer. [This] was one of the early things that climate change scientists would talk about: the ozone layer getting thinner, that there was a hole in it over the Antarctic, and that hole kind of gave way to the idea of greenhouse gas. We were talking about that stuff really early on, and it’s still there.”

The band has roots in the DC area, perhaps accounting for the infusion of politics into their ethos and making how controversial they’re not afraid to be all the more entertaining. Late seminal figure and frontman of the band Dave Brockie, a.k.a. Oderus Urungus, hails from Northern Virginia and eventually settled in Richmond. 

GWAR’s presence in Richmond fits seamlessly into the city’s identity and vice versa, as many band members including Bishop call it home. The band even has its own bar in the state capitol, GWARbar, with some of its elaborate costumes incorporated into the décor and drinks aptly named with just the right amount of crass. And in DC’s Shaw neighborhood, GWAR was even the subject of a Drink Company pop-up bar last summer, appearing in full costume to take selfies with revelers on opening night. 

In person and on the phone, they’re disarmingly friendly for a band made legendary primarily through guts, gore and provocative rock ‘n’ roll. The band is also known to eviscerate, disembowel and otherwise kill elaborate, lifelike versions of famous people onstage. They’re equal opportunity stage murderers, having done this to the likes of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, just to name a few recent onstage “deaths.” Though this is nothing new to their live shows, Bishop notes that the audience’s attitude toward these theatrics has gone through notable changes in recent years.

“It’s weird to me because we’ve been doing this kind of stuff for a long time. I think that this is something that’s true across [the current] culture: only recently has the world been in a state where they would look at something like that and say, ‘Oh, you guys have a bias.’ That’s something that we never heard before. Now we do hear that people are upset about some of the things that we do.”

Even if you’re not a card-carrying fan of this band – the kind who never misses GWAR’s stop in your city – this show is a welcome respite from cutesy holiday feels if you’re into tipping the scales toward the gross, the shocking and the more metal side of things. 

“Come out, because like I said, we still manage to piss people off, we still have fun and we still do things that are outrageous – and we’re very happy and grateful to be doing it.”

Apparently getting sprayed with fake blood can be festive – it is red, after all. 

GWAR plays the 9:30 Club on Friday, December 27. Unearth and Savage Master open. Doors open at 8 p.m. and tickets are $25. For more on the band, visit www.gwar.net.

9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; 202-265-0930; www.930.com

Frontman Eugene Hütz (far left) and Gogol Bordello // Photo: Daniel Efram

A Salve for the Soul: Gypsy Punk’s Gogol Bordello Brings Communal Music to 9:30 Club

Anyone who has witnessed the unbridled exuberance of a Gogol Bordello show knows that the gypsy punk dance party is an experience unlike any in modern live music. 

If you’re in DC over the holidays, this is your chance to see the rowdy extravaganza. Gogol Bordello, led by joyously charismatic Ukrainian frontman Eugene Hütz and featuring several special guests, will rock the 9:30 Club on December 30 and 31.

“We’re bringing a celebration,” Hütz promised during a phone interview with On Tap from his home in lower Manhattan. “That’s our vibe. It’s a collaboration with our friends. We’re bringing our gypsy punk vibes. [Rapper] Marty Baller is bringing authentic hip-hop vibes. We’re also coming with friends from [dub/rock group] Dub Trio, whom we’ve shared several tours with in the past. We’re making a collaboration that people will remember. We have a lot of creative spirits. That’s how we grow.”

Now in its 21st year as a band, Gogol Bordello has always tried to stretch and grow in new musical directions – and 2020 is no different. Hütz, especially inspired by hip-hop in recent years, is dropping a solo album next March exploring that inspiration while remaining rooted in his eclectic, international style of music-making.

“The times bring new influences,” Hütz explained. “Your core remains the same, but I’m always curious about what’s new on the streets, in the clubs and at the festivals. Besides exploring new sounds within the band, the solo record is something that kind of bubbled up on its own. It’s my own take on urban music.”

Not surprisingly, Hütz – a longtime darling of New York City’s cutting-edge artistic set – has recruited some top-tier talent to help out on the solo record.

“It’s really cool collaborating with friends I’ve made along the way like Tim Armstrong of Rancid, Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Marty Baller,” he explained enthusiastically. “I find hip-hop music right now particularly inspiring. I’ve always been a fan, but I’ve come back to it. Hip-hop is very special to me.”

While hip-hop may hold a unique appeal for Hütz, his legendary band’s musical DNA is rooted in punk rock. Hütz said early in his career, he was mesmerized by Iggy Pop’s theatrics and showmanship, and he incorporated that physical aesthetic into his own show.

“Iggy is one of my mentors,” Hütz said, noting that he’s played on live bills with him several times. “If not for Iggy, the whole school of stage performance in rock ‘n’ roll would not be nearly as swashbuckling as it is. The whole idea of being very poetic but very athletic and physical at the same time – it takes a very singular kind of individual to be able to pull it off. Creating that synthesis and storytelling, and delivering it in an athletic and Dionysian way, is a special way of performing. Even as a kid, I took my initial start from Iggy. He’s amazing. He’s a hero.”

Closer to the nation’s capital, Hütz singled out DC punk pioneers Fugazi as another key influence.

“They had the cream-of-the-crop kind of radical art sound,” Hütz said. “When I heard them, I was like ‘Yeah! That’s my kind of music.’ I was bewitched by that. Also, I discovered Bad Brains [another legendary DC punk band] through Fugazi, and then go-go music.”

It’s no secret that Hütz’s home country has loomed large in the impeachment proceedings consuming Washington this fall. However, the loquacious artist – perhaps wisely – declined to weigh in, except to say that Gogol Bordello’s communal music is designed to be a salve for the soul. That might be just what politics-weary DC needs to usher in a new year.

“When we all get to dance around the fire together – metaphorically or not metaphorically speaking, because the show gets quite fiery – there is nothing else quite like it,” Hütz said with a laugh.

“My job is to bring joy, energy and fresh vibes into the air [and] help people recharge their energy to deal with the rest of the world. That’s what I get from art and music. Everybody around the world has their own shit to deal with, and day-to-day we need joy. Hopefully, we can create a situation where people can recharge for a couple of hours.”

Catch Hütz with the rest of Gogol Bordello and special guests on Monday, December 30 (doors at 7 p.m., tickets $35) or Tuesday, December 31 (doors at 9 p.m., tickets $75) at 9:30 Club. Learn more about the gypsy punk band at www.gogolbordello.com.

9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; 202-265-0930; www.930.com

Photo: courtesy of The National Theatre

Mandy Patinkin in Concert: Diaries

On the eve of his birthday, complete with a surprise birthday cake presented after his encore (with an enlightening reprise of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday”), Mandy Patinkin’s performance on November 29 was reflective and introspective, sparse and somber. 

At 67, Mandy Patinkin is not slowing down, evident by the 30-city Mandy Patinkin in Concert: Diaries tour celebrating Patinkin’s four decades as a multiple Tony-winning Broadway performer, and presenting the diversity of songs covered on the quartet of Diary albums, recorded and released during the last year.  

Produced by Thomas Bartlett, probably better known to many as a songwriter, producer, and musician for artists such as Sufjan Stevens, Yoko Ono, and The National (among many others), the covers of American standards, Broadway classics, and contemporary troubadours of the Diary albums are touchingly melancholic, evocative and rich in their understated simplicity.

At DC’s rose-colored National Theatre on Friday night, however, the depth and richness of the recordings were replaced by a sense of haunting, nostalgia, and a preoccupation with loss. Patinkin entered in all black, with his curly hair longish in back and slicked back from his expressive face and greying beard. The stage set was simple: a piano, a stool, a chair (all in black), a single dangling Edison-style bulb on an extended cord. 

Patinkin’s impressive vocal range, too, remained stubbornly baritone, though still expressive in his distinctive phrasing, his breathy run-on pacing (the delightful “Trouble in River City”) or lowered and growly in many of the more somber covers, making his occasional higher register that much more thrilling but missed.

 Accompanying Patinkin was Adam Ben-David on piano, a little more prosaic than Bartlett but also more playful, emphasizing the lightheartedness of Lyle Lovett’s “If I Had a Boat” or the impishness of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the most operatic of rock anthems, pared down to Patinkin’s single baritone voice rushing through the usual competing melodies. 

These lighter moments were occasional, as many of the covers, including Randy Newman’s doleful “Wandering Boy,” to the keening of Joshua Rayzner’s “Refugees/Songs of the Titanic,” and Rufus Wainwright’s apocalyptic “Going to a Town” (with a transposition of Wainwright’s “America” with “Jerusalem” in the refrain “I am so tired of …”) took the celebration of Patinkin’s storied career on a dark turn.

 The title of the tour “Diary” implies a vulnerability, as in Patti Smith’s recent speaking tour/concert about a year of loss and rebirth for her new book The Year of the Monkey, Alan Cumming’s bawdy, cheeky, and political cabaret Legal Immigrant, or the bare confessional of Conversations with Nick Cave, but Patinkin lets his choice of songs tell his story. 

There are glimmers of his affable storytelling during an extended anecdote about accidentally eating a THC-infused chocolate bar while on an extended road trip, or a first date with his wife, actress Kathryn Grody. But his most telling anecdote was the tragi-comic death of comedian Dick Shawn, who died onstage, prompting Patinkin to joke that he would like to go out the same way. 

Having just finished filming his final episodes of the Showtime Original Series Homeland, recording four albums with a new producer after the retirement of his longtime musical collaborator Paul Ford, and embarking on a tour in support of these new releases, Patinkin’s pace of artistic output as acclaimed actor, singer-songwriter, and concert performer is impressive and invigorating. The tour concludes in February 2020, as the final season of Homeland premieres, giving Patinkin time to kick up his feet for a bit, enjoy a chocolate bar, and dream up his next project.

For more on the work of Mandy Patinkin, visit www.mandypatinkin.org.

The National Theatre: 1321 Pennsylvania Ave NW, DC; (202) 628-6161; www.thenationaldc.com

Jennifer and Jessica Clavin of Bleached // Photo: Nicky Giraffe

Bleached Talk Touring, Sobriety and Being Kind to Your Inner Teenager

Sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin have a longstanding history with music. Growing up around the entertainment world in Los Angeles with a parent in the industry, they took to the craft at a young age and eventually went on to form punk band Mika Miko. After the dissolution of that group, the Clavin sisters came together once again to form Bleached, an honest but relatable, realistic but still sunny, band that’s been around since 2011.

While anyone in the music industry for as long as these sisters is bound to look for inspiration in different places, it truly came from the unexpected on their most recent album cycle – getting sober. As the sisters exited a hiatus and worked to improve themselves and their music, they found going through this change (and doing it together) was an empowering and vulnerable way to make music. On Tap chatted with Jennifer (vocals, guitar and synths) about this life changing process, life on the road and learning to have self-compassion ahead of their upcoming stop in DC.

On Tap: Your new album Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough has been out in the world since July. Now that you’re a few months into the album cycle, what’s it been like being on tour and hearing fan responses?
Jennifer Clavin: I think we’ve got three or four shows on the tour so far. The fan reactions are just so positive and uplifting. Sometimes there are these weird downtimes where you make the record and then you put it down, and you’re just kinda sitting with it before it comes out. And then [the record] came out and then…it’s not really until the live shows I think [we] can really tell [what the response is]. So far it’s been awesome.

OT: Has anything surprised you about the way that fans have responded to the album in general, or to certain songs?
JC: It’s funny because when we were first putting together the album, we didn’t know what songs to make the singles. Like there was a debate between us and our manager and the label. And so now I have proof that “Daydream” and “Somebody Dial Nine One One” are a lot of people’s favorites. And then likewise, I can tell everyone gets super excited for “Hard to Kill.”

OT: You’ve talked a lot about how your sobriety kind of affected your songwriting process and musicianship. Walk me through how that affected this album and why you guys decided to make this change in your life.
JC: Well, it wasn’t a planned decision. I woke up one morning and I was like, ‘I can’t live my life like this anymore.’ I just decided I needed to get sober and then when we started getting the record [together], it was just a very different type of experience than I’d had writing previous records. I feel like the biggest thing was just being present with everything: with every thought, with every feeling, with every reaction. When in the past I could literally check out if I wanted to with drugs or alcohol, which I would do. It was really cool to be more a part of the whole experience.

I guess sometimes it can be scary, right? Just having to be present for all of that and not having the option to check out. But I had to find other ways and use other tools, whether it be meditation, going outside, walking down the street and getting an iced tea or talking to friends. When we were doing the lyrics, I was just thinking about so much stuff from my past that I was trying to let go of. And so singing it over and over and over again, I was just like, ‘I feel insane.’

OT: Yeah. I think a lot about how I have songs that mean so much to me that I can’t listen to anymore because they just affect me emotionally. So I can’t imagine, as a musician – especially for you all, who have been making music for such a long time – having these almost constant reminders of certain parts of your life.
JC: Yeah, totally. It’s similar to that. I remember one time not-so-long-ago we were in Amsterdam playing a show and there was a song about my boyfriend at the time and then we ended up breaking up and I remember playing that [song that] night, crying and trying not to let anybody see that I was crying on stage. Even the process of having to say the lyrics over and over, it was like a form of letting go in a way. But this is one of my most favorite records we’ve ever written. So it’s showed me that doing this whole thing sober and being present actually produced the best record, in my opinion. 

OT: I’ve noticed an uptick in people, especially in creative circles, embracing sobriety. I recently read a book called Sober Curious about someone who was a journalist and then went on a similar journey. It’s just very interesting to see almost a prioritization of overall health, and actually being with your feelings. As somebody who’s gone through getting sober and making this change, why do you think people are starting to be more cognizant of their drinking habits?
JC: [People] have talked about how to do it [on] social media. There are people being super honest about their struggles and their journey – people that we and other people look up to. I feel like that probably is such a big part of it. I think before, you never really knew what other people were going through. You felt very alone in that journey if you were trying to get sober. Now, there’s just so much more support. I feel like that’s almost like the most important ingredient in sobriety is having that support and not just like isolating yourself.

OT: You and your sister have been in the music world for quite a while now, as Bleached and past projects. You also grew up in the music world. How has your relationship with music, personally and professionally, changed over time.
JC: That’s a really good question, because we’re actually on tour with these younger girls right now called The Paranoyds. They were all big fans of our first band, Mika Miko. Watching them is really taking me back to when I first started playing music, first started going on tour, [and was] trying to figure stuff out. It’s funny cause I didn’t have any confidence back then but they all seem, at least to me, very confident and sure of themselves. It’s just really cool to watch and be like, ‘Oh, I probably was, I was cool like them, too.’ But I just didn’t know it because I was so insecure. Now over time, I’ve been being more loving toward myself and having more compassion and just working on myself to where I can now play a song and just feel super proud. 

OT: I always think it’s interesting how, having been a former teenage girl, I have so much compassion for them. I didn’t have that same compassion for myself at the time I was that age, though. I recently started to reflect on how teenage me is still there, too, and I still need to be nice to her and to my current self.
JC: Exactly. That’s another thing, as we are playing these shows and seeing [teenage girls] there it has been bringing back that exciting feeling I feel you kind of lose along the way. Where everything’s so new and maybe it’s a little scary. It’s also just really exciting, you know? And it’s like, just where my brain is right now, too. 

Bleached plays U Street Music Hall on Tuesday, September 17. For more on their new record, visit hellobleached.com.

U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; 202-588-1889; www.ustreetmusichall.com

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Music Picks: August 2019

TUESDAY, AUGUST 6

21 Savage
Since his controversial arrest with ICE in early February, there has been a lot of uncertainty in 21 Savage’s music career. He’s had a lot of challenges coming back into the music industry; however, he used his experience to give back to his community. His sophomore album i am> i was, is a testament to that. Savage approached this album with more sentimental songs: “A Lot,” “Letter 2 My Momma” and “All My Friends” progressed his artistic expression. His duality of gangster rap and emotions exemplifies through this album, which allows his listeners to be completely captivated. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $55. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 7

Hibou
Peter Michel began his career at the early age of 17, touring with his band at night and finishing his studies during the day. Developing a love for classical music in early adolescence, he expanded his creativity by crossing over to the guitar and songwriting, which led him to form the band Hibou. The Seattle-based musician has released four studio albums leading him around the world, reaching audiences far and wide that ultimately put him in his position today. Michel’s vocals play on 80s indie pop, fueled by guitar melodies and flux arrangements. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets $12. Pie Shop: 1339 H St. NE, DC; www.pieshopdc.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 8

Copper Chief
Copper Chief brings a spunky twist to country music. Deep in Texas influence and even deeper in brotherhood, Chief has been gracing stages nationwide to give you a taste of country-infused rock ‘n’ roll. The group, made up of Mike Vallerie, Rio Tripiano, Justin Lusk and John Jammall II, has created more of a music family than an ensemble. The momentum of this band is promising, after winning at the 2019 Texas Regional Radio Music Awards and becoming USA Network’s fan favorite. Their boundary crossing sound is influenced by soul, psychedelic and blues. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $12. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

FRIDAY, AUGUST 9

Nalani & Sarina
Identical sisters Nalani & Sarina have utilized their musical inclinations to create a savvy approach to pop music. Their spunk brings new energy back to music and their pop-soul approach drives this kind of music forward. With such a free ambiance, they touch on subjects including individuality, subjectivity and inclusivity while empowering women. Each set is different, and they always play on improvisation, so it’s no telling what they have in store for their fans. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets $10. Velvet Lounge: 915 U St. NW, DC; www.velvetloungedc.com

SUNDAY, AUGUST 11

Nappy Roots
Nappy Roots is back to grace the stage after years of retirement. Rooted in southern Kentucky influences, the hip-hop group took the industry by storm. Intertwining folk and rap and bringing a new perspective to music. Collaborating with renowned artists like Anthony Hamilton, Greg Nice and more, their unique sound drew fans in and ultimately led them to sold more than 3 million albums. Nappy Roots managed to go out on their own and create a new wave of music. With the release of their tenth mixtape Sh!t’s Beautiful, they have built a 20-year career that continues to surprise the music world. Doors at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $25. City Winery: 1350 Okie St. NE, DC; www.citywinery.com

Yeek
Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter and producer Yeek brings back the nostalgia of artists like N.E.R.D and No Doubt while also creating a unique sound. His mix of hip-hop and punk rock allows the listener to be completely captivated and experience a new age of music. In 2017, he released his debut album Sebastian, turning heads and pushing his stardom forward. Yeek’s most recent releases analyzes his progression as an artist, yet still pays tribute to his old works. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 14

Common
Coated in poetry and slick in rhyme, Common has a career spanning over 30 years. He has challenged the ideal rap artist by preaching nothing but authentic life and social experiences – and his upcoming tour is no different. The Let Love tour is the result of the release of his memoir Let Love Have the Last Word, where he exclusively talks about his trials and tribulations as a black man growing up in Chicago. His vulnerability not only in his book as well his tour opens up a completely different side of Common his fans have never seen before. The melodic tone that renders your attention will leave you captivated and also as vulnerable as he is. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $32. Warner Theatre: 513 13th St. NW, DC; www.warnertheatredc.com

Purple Mountains

Resurfacing after almost a decade, David Berman shocked the public with his return of four new singles and a different band: Purple Mountains. It was surprising that after dismantling Silver Jews, Berman didn’t return right away for a solo career – but he’s back with a new sound that all his fans will enjoy. Stricken with loss and self-reflection, his music narrates the disintegration of friends, family and fans that were once dear to him. His sensitivity throughout “All My Happiness is Gone” may scare his fans due to the interpretations of addiction and suicide, but it examines his growth as an artist almost a decade later. His psychedelic approach to each song may seem overdramatized, but in a sense, that’s what makes it beautiful. There is no perfect song, which circles back to his reality. Show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $25. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 15

Catching Flies
This London-based DJ and producer has a way of quenching the thirst of all those who listen to him. Catching Flies reaches right into your soul to the deepest depths through his melodic, percussive beats. He uses all genres – hip-hop, R&B, neo-soul, pop and more – to create this unique experience. Earning a fan base of some of the greats including Giles Peterson, Annie Mac and Huw Stephens, he has built a musical platform that’s uniquely diverse and dynamic. His new album Silver Linings, released in early July, is naturally moving and emotionally structured. Show at 10 p.m. Tickets $10. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

The Jonas Brothers
After years of anticipation, The Jonas Brothers have returned – and they’re all grown up. After crushing millions of young teen hearts in 2013 when they announced their split, Nick, Joe and Kevin went their separate ways. But after years of longing, our prayers have been answered. Their comeback single “Sucker” brings a more seductive, edgy vibe to this heartthrob band. We all love the classics – “Burnin’ Up,” “LoveBug,” “Year 3000” – but Happiness Begins examines their progression as artists. The brothers have always been a force, but their individual artistry shines throughout this album. Additionally, it examines the diligence and work ethic they all acquired driving the boy band industry after years of separation. This tour is something we’ve all been waiting for, and The Jonas Brothers aren’t going to disappoint. Show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $115. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.capitalonearena.com

Tessa Violet
First known for her YouTube channel, Tessa Violet found stardom by gaining a million subscribers for her quirky videos and vlogs. She garnered national attention with her hit single “Crush,” released in June of last year. It surprised all of her fans and subscribers that her musical talents went beyond the kid-like videos she made for her channel, earning her respect in the music industry with this more mature take on pop music. She later released numerous singles that her fans seem to love, and now Violet is taking a break from YouTube and hitting the road on this tour to really embrace the lifestyle of pop music. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

TUESDAY, AUGUST 20

Tab Benoit
Born in the Bayou, Tab Benoit has crafted a career rooted in soul. The Louisiana native has used his guitar to paint a picture of the Delta Blues that lies deep within him. Benoit started playing the guitar at an early age, learning from blues legends Raful Neal and Tabby Thomas, and has since taken his skills to the next level. Benoit was destined to become the phenomenon that he is today, bringing the Bayou to the DMV for a can’t-miss performance. Show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $35. The Birchmere: 3701 Mount Vernon Ave. Alexandria VA; www.birchmere.com

FRIDAY, AUGUST 23

Brittany Howard
Brittany Howard is taking a break from her Grammy winning band Alabama Shakes and strutting out for her solo career. Her debut album Jaime brings a modern twist to this once country artist’s sound. Her album, set to debut in early September, brings a psychedelic funk, soul-defined and hip-hop accented sound that highlight her past. Howard goes into depth with sexuality, family tragedy, religious indifference and much more. She is finally stepping out on her own two feet and is definitely a solo artist to watch. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets $55. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

RL Grime
King of electronic trap production RL Grime has brought a vibrant twist to the dance music scene. Working with artists like Ty Dolla $ign, Kanye West, Miguel and more helped him revamp his sound into something completely unique. There is no holding back – Grime’s continuously released hit after hit. His deep and aggressive chord progressions won’t allow your feet to stop moving, and the artist’s high octaves and percussive bass are captivating. His fans have traveled far and wide to see what he’ll come up with next, so don’t miss him at Echostage this month. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $25. Echostage: 2135 Queens Chapel Rd. NE, DC; www.echostage.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 24

The Beach Boys
The boys are back. The Beach Boys are celebrating their 50th anniversary with a reunion tour. Music spanning multiple generations will bring people from all walks of life – creating an almost religious experience. Coming almost full circle, Mike Love and the boys have relished in the opportunity to come together again and this reunion is the perfect excuse. They’re also creating a new studio album, That’s Why God Made the Radio, that examines the fruition of their iconic sound over a 50-year period. All-American classics like “Surfin’ USA,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “California Girls” return to the main stage as The Beach Boys brings us back to this magical time of music. Doors at 1:30 p.m. Tickets start at $35. Filene Center at Wolf Trap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org

SATURDAY, AUGUST 24 – SUNDAY, AUGUST 25

Tame Impala
There is no one quite like Tame Impala in the industry today. The psychedelic pop stars have created a sound that is unmatched, as the Australian natives have brought the 60s into modern music. With the emergence of color, root of pop-rock and accents of soul, they challenge the typical take on pop music. Stepping onto the scene in 2010, Kevin Parker and his band released their debut album Innerspeaker, which gained worldwide praise for creating an entirely different entity in pop music. They went on to release multi-platinum studio albums that garnered national attention, leading to sold-out stadium shows across the globe. Their influence on the sonic universe will take you on an experience that’s out of this world. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $55. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 29

Kindo

Rooted in contemporary jazz with accents of rock and pop, Kindo is an unlikely success story. Since releasing their debut EP almost a decade ago, they’ve sold 30,000 records worldwide and have 2.5 million Spotify plays and 3 million views on YouTube. But that is just the beginning to their success. From their humble beginnings in Buffalo, New York, they created their unique sound via the influences of Radiohead, Robert Glasper and Justin Timberlake. With R&B and Latin accents conjoined with sophisticated lyrics, they keep their fans moving. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

SATURDAY, AUGUST 31

Danielle Nicole Band

Grammy nominated for best contemporary blues album, Danielle Nicole has taken the blues industry by storm. Once the lead singer of Trampled Under Foot, Nicole has since stepped out on her own and is becoming the blues musician she has always wanted to be. Catering to a younger crowd, she wants the authenticity of music to inspire the next generation. With the strum of her guitar, the brass of the bass and the underline of the drums, she has created something soothing to the ear. She has slowly but surely created a name for herself, and this tour is just a testament to her growth as an artist. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $15. Pearl Street Warehouse: 33 Pearl St. SW, DC; www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com

Oshun
This dynamic duo crosses boundaries of soul and Afrofuturism. They blend the acoustic sounds of guitar and the bass of heavy drums with inspired lyrics to create the beautiful sound that has reached international audiences. Since their debut mixtape in 2015, ASASE YAA, they have created a following that has amassed all over social media and continues to push their career today. Gaining national attention, they’re quickly becoming one of the most prominent soulful groups of our generation. As full-time college students at NYU, they managed to travel all across the world. Now, they have come into their own through their artistry as powerhouses in today’s music industry. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 31 – SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 1

Labor Day Weekend Music Festival
Lincoln Theatres is rounding out the summer with its Labor Day Weekend Music Festival. Come enjoy a free two-night festival filled with some of the greatest artists to grace our nation’s capital. Musicians, bands, producers and more will grace the stage to give local music lovers a diverse show. So come out to Lincoln Theatre to listen to the soundtrack of DC’s 2019 summer. Show starts at 7 p.m. Free. Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; www.thelincolndc.com

Photo: Andi Elloway

Tuxedo Puts the Fun in Funk

Mayer Hawthorne is an Aquarius. Jake One is a Taurus.

Both are goal-oriented, fixed signs, and when revolutionary and independent Aquarians are coupled with pragmatic and creative Taureans, it spells out a match for success written by the cosmos.

While Hawthorne says their references to astrology are inspired by musicians they love who have done the same, there’s something uncanny about the way their sun signs work together. If you’re not one to put trust in astrology, the individual accomplishments Hawthorne and One bring to their funk-pop project Tuxedo are more impressive than any sort of astrological fate.

Both have been hard at work on their own for over 10 years. Hawthorne makes mellifluous, Motown-inspired sounds and One lends his production chops to artists like Drake, De La Soul and Rick Ross, even mixing a few songs for Hawthorne himself. Much like their solo work, the way the pair approaches music is varied – but only to the point where the two can balance out each other’s habits.

“Our big thing is that I’m really good at starting stuff and letting it go, [and] Mayer’s really good at finishing and not letting it go at all,” One explains as Hawthorne laughs.

“I’m the perfectionist,” Hawthorne admits. “I have a hard time just throwing shit onto the canvas, and Jake is really good at that.”

What started out as a passion project between kindred musical spirits has become a runaway, if unexpected, success. The duo’s secret weapon? Not taking themselves too seriously. They have their solo careers for that and can fully exercise their creative visions without as much tension as one may expect to face when forming a group.

“What really made Tuxedo successful was that we didn’t put any pressure on it at all,” One explains. “When I get together with Mayer, it’s like summer camp or something – no pressure. And that’s what makes it special, really. We reaffirmed my belief that you’ve just got to do what you want.”

Hawthorne agrees, reiterating that the focal point has never been to make hit records or a certain amount of money from the duo’s music.

“Part of the reason that Tuxedo is so great is because we have the freedom to be so silly with it sometimes and try crazy things because there’s not as much pressure for it to be successful financially,” he continues.

In keeping with the collaborative spirit that’s woven throughout the project, their most recent record, this July’s Tuxedo III, is heavy on features from a wide variety of artists. Some are household names (MF DOOM) while others are energetic up-and-comers (Gabriel Garzón-Montano). They all have one thing in common though: they’re friends of Hawthorne and One, and that was important to the duo when deciding who to collaborate with.

“The only rule was that anybody that we put on the album had to be somebody who was really a homie of ours,” Hawthorne elaborates. “We did songs with more well-known artists and they didn’t make the album. The people who are really our homies, that we are actually friends with, those just naturally worked better and that was what we ended up using.”

The artists keep this same energy at their live shows, which both agree is Tuxedo in its purest form. The aforementioned ability to play up the best of each other’s strengths alongside what One describes as their “joyous sound” makes for one hell of a dance party.

“The live show is kind of what makes it all worth it – just being able to see people’s reactions to what you worked on and spent time on,” One says of Tuxedo’s upcoming stop at the 9:30 Club this month. “We did a U Street Music Hall show last time we were in DC, [and] we didn’t know if anybody liked us. But we sold out and everybody went crazy and we were like, ‘Yeah, we’re doing the right thing.’ It gives you a kick in the butt in the right direction.”

Hawthorne wholeheartedly concurs about the District.

“DC has actually always been a really good indicator for us. The DC crowd [is] so knowledgeable, so if they are really into what we’re doing, that means we’re doing the right thing.”

Tuxedo brings the fun and the funk to 9:30 Club on Sunday, August 4. Tickets are $25, and doors open at 7 p.m. For more on the duo, visit www.tuxedofunk.com.

9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; 202-035-0930; www.930.com

Photo: Chad Moore

Yeasayer Bring Episodic “Erotic Reruns” to 9:30 Club

A quick Google search on the band Yeasayer will show they fall under the genre of “experimental rock.” The Brooklyn-based trio consisting of Chris Keating, Ira Wolf Tuton and Anand Wilder have long been revered for their clever lyrics, electronic influence and inventive aesthetic.

But on their fifth studio album Erotic Reruns, released in June, the band looked to new sources for inspiration, drawing from the urgent and guitar-heavy sounds of seminal bands from the 60s and 70s. We caught up with Keating ahead of their stop in the District on July 12 to talk new music, the ideal setlist and why 9:30 Club is an important venue to them.

On Tap: Your new record Erotic Reruns has more guitar and rock influences than some of your past work. What inspired that sound to really come through here?
Chris Keating: I think we were looking to make something very immediate. I wanted the songs to be under three minutes and reference some of the 60s and 70s music I liked: some Bowie stuff [and] The Velvet Underground. We tried to make it guitar-based and not as electronic as some of our past albums.

OT: The shorter songs leave the album at just under 30 minutes (29:05 to be exact), which seemed like maybe a different approach to a full-length album.
CK: In theme with the title, Erotic Reruns, we wanted it to feel like a half-hour TV episode. People these days have a tendency to overload and pack an unlimited amount of material onto a streaming album. One of my favorite albums that came out in the last few years was the Pusha T album [Daytona] that was only seven songs long. I really appreciated that because I listened to it a few times and I was like, “Oh, a lot of other albums have like 21 songs on them.” We wrote about 20 songs and just decided it was a cool concept to come in under half an hour.

OT: The brevity almost makes you enjoy an album as a whole even more. Almost every album that I love has a couple of songs where I think, “I don’t really know why this is here.”
CK: It’s very rare that you can just listen to an album all the way through. And I think partly that is because we have this short attention span culture when it comes to music. It’s also partially because we want to curate our own singles, but it’s cool when an album can be played the whole way through. We tried to make it work that way.

OT: How did you decide what to include while avoiding filler or an overly long album kind of vibe?
CK: To be honest, I’m not really sure. At a certain point, you start listening through and you’re like, “Eh, I don’t know about this one” or “Yeah, let’s do that one” or “Let’s put out another seven-song record in a year.” When you start listening to them and you think [about] what works together in a group, some things stand out as outliers. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s really sort of an aesthetic decision.

OT: Yeasayer already has a rather large back catalog of music before you even factor in the new album. How do you curate the setlist you have now, and balance the old and new?
CK: We basically play the entire new album because it’s short enough. Then, we still have another 45 minutes of stuff from older records to play for [a total of] an hour and 15 minutes. You’re playing a new song, an old song, a new song, an old song. It usually works out pretty well if we time it right.

OT: It must feel good to incorporate a little bit of both. I would imagine as an artist who just made this new material, you’d really want to share it but not forget about older material or audience favorites.
CK: Oh, definitely. I hate it. I mean, just like everyone else, I hate it. I hate going to see a band when I know they’re only playing new stuff. We are very much of the mindset of, if a song was popular 10 years ago, you just keep it in the rotation. Maybe you shuffle some in and out. I guess there’s some level of artistic integrity to abandoning your back catalog, but I always thought it was a little frustrating.

OT: Speaking of live shows, you recorded your live album Good Evening Washington D.C. at 9:30 Club in 2013. Why did you decide to record it there, and what are you looking forward to being back there on your upcoming tour?
CK: Anand [Wilder] and myself both grew up in Baltimore. When we were in high school, the 9:30 Club was a really big deal. Whenever a friend was able to drive, we were going there to see bands like Pavement and Kool Keith, or The Roots and Weezer. It seemed like we were there once every few months. It was always just a special place. I didn’t realize how great it was until we started traveling the country and playing other clubs. DC is so lucky to have something like that there. I think it’s probably the best c lub of that size in the country, if not the world. It’s always a stop everybody looks forward to. It’s the kind of place where I’ll see a lot of family members and friends. I’ll look out in the crowd and see teachers from high school, which is really cool. Some random person will stop me at the dressing room door and be like, “Hey, we went to school together” or I might run into someone I haven’t seen in 20 years.

Yeasayer return to 9:30 Club on Friday, July 12. Tickets are $30, and doors open at 8 p.m. For more on the band and their new album Erotic Reruns, visit www.yeasayer.band.

9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; 202-265-0930; www.930.com

Photo: Greg Pallante

Meet The Exploratory Mercy Union

The first chord explodes like a glitter bomb, igniting a stream of surging guitar, driving drums and anthem-style lyrics that shine like the sun on the Jersey Shore.

This is the sound of “Young Dionysians,” the song that kicks off The Quarry, the debut album by New Jersey rock quartet Mercy Union.

“Dionysians” trumpets part of the band’s sound, firmly rooted in the heartland rock meets punk – a kind of Tom Petty mixed with Jimmy Eat World vibe – sound that’s been kicking around North and Central Jersey for the past two decades. But this fist-pumping, body-and-soul liberating rock and roll sound is only a piece of Mercy Union’s repertoire. Truthfully, the group does not want listeners to enter with any preconceived notions; that was part of how the members decided on their name.

“We didn’t want the name to give away any style of music,” says Jared Hart, Mercy Union’s front man and principal songwriter. “That’s what we started with, with trying to find things so that when people heard it they wouldn’t jump and go: ‘That’s a hardcore band’ or ‘That’s an indie band.’”

This mentality is also helpful when most of your band consists of members from some of the most prolific bands from the Jersey punk scene in the past 10 years. Mercy Union is, by popular parlance, a supergroup: Hart is the founder of The Scandals, guitarist Rocky Catanese hails from Let Me Run and drummer Benny Horowitz also anchors the kit for The Gaslight Anthem, the biggest rock group to blossom from the garden state in the new millennium. These are much-beloved bands in their circles of the music world, with dedicated fanbases enamored with those groups’ distinct, personal sounds.

The sounds of Mercy Union do not sever ties with all that history.

“I wanted everyone listening to it to have as much of an open mind I had when I was writing it,” Hart says. “Keeping the labels off of it and all the past stuff – it’s there, those will be our influences, but I didn’t want it to be the skeleton of the whole thing.”

“[We wanted] something catchy, [with] energy but also restraint in the smart ways. I kind of wanted to capture the energy of all our punk bands in the past and use our new knowledge in songwriting and life experience in general, smash it all together and see what we came up with.”

That last ingredient in the sound reflects all four musicians’ drive to explore beyond their previously well-traveled roads and to have space to “get weird.”

The band’s brand of weird may not be apparent on first listen; the group does not play in a crazy tempo, the guitars are not tuned to some alien setting and Hart sings as he does, with bellowing thrust but also choir-boy soaring.

“I think weird is just taking risks,” Hart says. “Changing time signatures, changing song structures in ways that you’re not comfortable with and more just challenging who you are as a musician and taking a leap and not worrying about it.”

“Layovers,” another track on The Quarry, exemplifies this ethos. The six-minute, acoustic roadhouse ballad of remembrance and regret directly contrasts with the group’s tight rock anthems like “Dionysians” or “Chips and Vic,” but contrast is the point.

Hart points to mixtapes in the hip-hop world – he was mainlining Chance the Rapper’s multi-Grammy winning mixtape Coloring Book while he was writing the first batch of Mercy Union songs – as a primary influence in shaping the band’s sound.

“The idea of a mixtape kind of blew me away,” he says. “Different songs that didn’t necessarily feel like they fit on a record, but when put into context as a whole, they do. That was a big part of where the songs on The Quarry went to and how we bounced around in genres.”

Looking at other tracks in Mercy Union’s live set, “A Lot From Me” drifts calmly along with an almost reggae vibe; “Silver Dollars” is classic Tom Petty, gritty and grooving rock and roll; while “Accessory” and “Baggy” mix 70s soft rock with a harder and more ambient modern approach.

Hart says the band’s name was intended to reflect the members’ strong feelings of unity tied to the vulnerability of starting this new project that would stretch them as musicians. It also reflects the group’s sound; a united body of gentle but energetic and empowering songs. There’s a couplet in “Chips and Vics,” the band’s debut single, another swelling anthem, that sums up what the band offers: “Can I be all that you need? / Can you see, maybe, if you can stand to stand by me?”

Mercy Union opens for Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers with Control Top at Rock & Roll Hotel on Tuesday, April 23. Visit here for more information on the show. For more information on Mercy Union, check the band out on Facebook and Twitter.

Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; 202-388-7625; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

Photo: Oscar Merrida

Oh He Dead, DC’s Next Big Indie Soul Band

No one really died. When Oh He Dead singers Cynthia “C.J.” Johnson and Andrew Valenti first formed the band in 2014, Johnson wrote a ballad about a boy she’d fallen in love with. In the song, she walks in on him cheating, pulls out a gun and shoots him.

“About a week later, we had practice,” Valenti says. “It dawned on me to ask, ‘Whatever happened to that guy in that song that you wrote?’ She responded, ‘Oh, he dead!’ We all died laughing.”

After collecting themselves, the then duo decided to immortalize the phrase, resolving to begin their journey into the music business together. Their first big break came at the Kingman Island Bluegrass & Folk Festival in 2016, and it was all the confirmation they needed to keep going.

“I think it was a very pivotal show in our trajectory where we looked at each other afterward and felt like, ‘Okay, we can do something with this,’” Valenti says.

Oh He Dead will be playing this year’s Kingman Island Festival on May 4, but fans may be surprised by what they hear. The once strictly country folk band has transformed into what is perhaps best described as indie soul. Their new sound is much groovier, with an R&B base.

“Someone in the crowd [recently] told me that people were grinding at one of our shows and I just started laughing,” Valenti says. “I never thought I would be in a band where people would be grinding to our music.”

They cite the addition of new band members as the primary cause of their evolution. Guitarist Alex Salser brings his jazz background to the group while bassist John Daise offers an R&B influence.

“I think everyone has a unique skill and knows what their role is,” Salser says. “It’s been really special to utilize each other’s different talents. It doesn’t feel like anyone’s fighting for the spotlight like in a lot of other bands I’ve played for.”

One thing that hasn’t changed is Johnson’s strikingly smoky, textured voice that lingers long after she’s stopped singing. It’s no surprise to learn who she idolizes and emulates most as a vocalist.

“My inspiration was definitely Fleetwood Mac,” Johnson says of her influences during her formative years. “I listened to them a lot in high school. I love Stevie. Her voice is just something, that raspy voice. I was like, ‘I want to be like Stevie!’”

Though difficult to categorize, Oh He Dead’s unique sound has earned them a growing fanbase in the DC area.

“I think the reception we’ve gotten from our crowd [in DC] has been super encouraging,” Valenti says. “We played Union Stage last week. There were over 300 people in the crowd, and I don’t think any of us have had that kind response with original music.”

Oh He Dead seems to have finally hit their stride, finetuning their sound and discovering their own audience. The band is currently working on their debut album, which they plan to release this year. As far as their hopes for the future, Johnson puts it best.

“I want to win a f–kig Grammy!”

Learn more about Oh He Dead at www.ohhedead.com, follow them @ohhedead, and catch them at Kingman Island Bluegrass & Folk Festival on Saturday, May 4. Tickets start at $35.

Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival: 575 Oklahoma Ave. NE, DC 205-799-9189; www.kingmanislandbluegrass.info