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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

Image: Courtesy of Records Collecting Dust
Image: Courtesy of Records Collecting Dust

Records Collecting Dust Sheds Light on Artists From Forgotten Era

Part of the appeal to old metal and punk records is the DIY attitude those bands put into recording the music. Instead of sounding pitch perfect and fresh out of a studio, these tracks could have been blaring live from a nearby garage, and that appeal is part of the authentic edginess.

Jason Blackmore is an integral part of this scene on the West Coast. When searching for a new project to deep dive into a few years ago, he resisted the notion of starting another band from scratch, and instead looked toward the past for inspiration. Though he had zero experience in film making, he embarked on a journey to document pieces of an era that helped shape him into a man. The result was the well received Records Collecting Dust, a collection of interviews with greats from the 1980s hardcore punk scene from the West Coast.

For Part II, Blackmore shifted regional focus and ventured east, highlighting Boston, New York and DC. Tonight at Black Cat, the film will be shown in the District for the first time, and it features 28 interviews with legends of the genre such as Ian MacKaye of Fugazi.

Tonight’s screening will also feature a Q&A with Dave Smalley, Dante Ferrando and Mark Haggerty. Before the play button is pressed, we got a chance to speak with Blackmore about his passion for the project, his DIY filmmaking and whether another one is on the horizon.

On Tap: When did you decide you wanted to make this documentary? And why did you focus on this specific genre of music?
Jason Blackmore: I’ve played in bands since the 80s, and was looking for a different avenue to express myself through music and came up with the film. I figured being located in San Diego, with almost no budget, it was a good place to start. There are a lot of folks from the Southern California area in the punk rock scene. My primary focus was always the 80s hardcore scene.

Yeah, in the future I could see myself covering different genres of music. I’m 48, so the hard core punk rock scene is very significant to me because it was the soundtrack to my adolescence and a lot of things happen when you’re 13, 14, 15. The people I’m talking to changed my life, and it’s my tip of the cap and love letter to those people.

OT: How did you know who you wanted to speak with, and what were some of the first steps with getting in touch with everyone?
JB: With the first film, I already knew some of the people just because of my history in music, and me living in San Diego. At that point in time, I had casually met a lot of the people, and became acquaintances and friends with some of these guys. Naturally, by the time I got to this one, some of the people had seen the first film and were eager to get on board and do an interview for the film, because they were aware of it.

OT: What was the response when you reached out?
JB: Oh yeah, it was great, absolutely. Just bringing up the topic of music, they were more than happy to talk about it, just music. By the time I got to the new one, people were thanking me because people were beginning to forget about this era. I had people thank me for making the film and documenting a period of time being lost; it’s a time capsule sort of thing. Maybe in 30-40 years, some people will see this film and learn something from it.

OT: Do you ever get intimidated talking to these musicians you respect so much?
JB: Honestly, you know, I’m more excited. It’s a little selfish, because I get to sit in these guys’ living rooms and talk about music and records. Who wouldn’t be excited? But yeah, there was a little nervousness at first. I was very honored to speak with all the people I could, and the fact that they opened the doors and allowed me in, I was very honored.  

OT: How many hours of footage did you have to sort through, and how difficult was it to figure out how you would shape the narrative?
JB: The first film was my first film ever and I have no background or education in this kind of thing. If you want to do something, do it, figure it out and go. So the first film was a learning process, and I asked too many questions and had so much footage and it was very painful. I asked 12 questions for the first film and I could only use half of them. For this film I asked less, and interviewed less, so I learned.

OT: Were there any huge differences from making the first and second film?
JB: Not especially. A lot of the people in that age range are speak of the same influences. A lot of Rolling Stones and Beatles, and that kind of stuff. Those bands are talked about a lot, so there are some recurring themes, but I definitely learned how to be more focused and ask less. I interviewed 28 people for the new film, down from 38 in the first. I learned the hard way, because we could have made an eight-hour film for the first one, but who’s going to watch that?

OT: Why decide to make a bonafide documentary, why not a web series or something along those lines?
JB: There’s all these different approaches to it, and it’s probably my age, because instead of making this an online series it seemed more official and more genuine to make a full documentary film. When you make an album, you put a lot of soul and passion into it, and that’s how I felt about making this film. To me, that is more real than watching something on your phone for five minutes. That’s the reason I’m booking in theaters. It will be available online, but for me growing up in the 70s and 80s, you’d go to the theater and see a film and I like that.

OT: Is there a part three on the horizon?
JB: Yeah, Part III would be the Midwest, but this has been the past six years of my life and I definitely want to hang out with my wife and not make a film at the moment. It’s very time-consuming. We’ll see what happens.

Doors for the event open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets to the screening are available here. For more information about the film, check out the website.

Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; 202-667-4527; www.blackcatdc.com

Photo: Courtesy of Wentworth Galleries
Photo: Courtesy of Wentworth Galleries

KISS Guitarist Paul Stanley Shows Artistic Flair

Members of the KISS Army know singer and guitarist Paul Stanley designed the iconic logo that has represented the rock band since the early 70s before rising to prominence and selling more than 100 million records worldwide.

But what many might not realize is the legendary rocker behind such hits as “God of Thunder,” “Love Gun” and “Detroit Rock City” is just as comfortable with a paintbrush as he is with a Washburn guitar.

“I started painting about 18 years ago,” Stanley says. “It really started out as a stream of consciousness and a way to purge while I was going through a tumultuous time in my life. I never planned on showing any of my work. It was for myself.”

Inevitably, friends and family would pop over to his house and ask about the artwork, not realizing that the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was the master behind them.

“It was about 15 years ago when a gallery owner first asked me to exhibit, and I was pretty leery of it because I never had that in mind,” he says. “Curiosity got the best of me, and low and behold, people were taking some of my pieces home. I was surprised and thrilled.”

There was so much love for his artwork that Stanley decided to put it on display more regularly. This month, his work will be showcased at the Wentworth Gallery’s two DC area locations: Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda on September 14 and Tysons Galleria on September 15.

“These are works from my entire career. It’s interesting to see the journey, so to speak. I’ve always made the rule with painting – just like everything in my life – that there are no rules. I paint from the heart and the soul.”

His collection includes paintings, mixed media, limited edition prints and hand-painted acrylic sculptures at a wide range of price points.

“I’ve had no schooling and I’m really not interested in the intricacies of documenting what I see. I’m more interested in creating an impression and letting the viewer see what they do. The one thing that all my work has [in common] is an abundance of color. I believe the more color, the more you are designing who you are and how you see the world.”

The Starchild – Stanley’s KISS persona – understands that many of those interested in his art are fans of the band, and he expects a great deal of KISS Army members to attend. But he’s also attracting those in the art world and establishing himself as something of a critical darling.

“I would be foolish to claim that KISS fans won’t come, and I welcome that and want that,” he says. “Still, the larger pieces ultimately are being acquired by collectors and many know nothing about KISS or don’t like KISS. I’m thrilled to see a piece go from the gallery to someone’s wall.”

The top collectors of Stanley’s art will have a chance to join him for dinner after each gallery show.

Paul Stanley will be exhibiting his art at Wentworth Gallery in Westfield Montgomery Mall (7101 Democracy Blvd. Bethesda, MD) from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, September 14 and from 6-9 p.m. on Saturday, September 15 at Wentworth Gallery Tysons Galleria (1807 U. International Dr. McLean, VA).

Admission is free, but RSVPs are highly suggested due to the expected large turnout.

For more information and pricing inquiries, visit www.wentworthgallery.com. To learn more about Stanley’s art, visit www.paulstanley.com/artwork.

Photo: Aja Neal
Photo: Aja Neal

A Day in the Life: Jungle Fever’s Mane Squeeze & Mista Selecta

Avanti Fernandez and Tommy Smolka’s epic warehouse parties were just the beginning of a much bigger project. When a mutual friend introduced the likeminded DJs in 2013, the pair had instant chemistry. Fernandez (Mane Squeeze) and Smolka (Mista Selecta) quickly discovered that they shared numerous traits, including a penchant for drawing inspiration from musical genres heard around the world and an affinity for dancehall and trap music. Even their DJ monikers share the same initials. Not to mention, they’re both Geminis.

The pair joined forces as Jungle Fever, curating and hosting DJ parties around the city and performing together at a range of local venues including U Street Music Hall. They’ve picked up momentum in the past five years, making waves in the DC scene that have rippled toward New York and Philadelphia where they’re now building a base. This month, they’ll be spinning at Trillectro Music Festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion. On Tap sat down with the DJ duo before their September 22 show to talk teamwork, influences, plans for Trillectro and their favorite places in DC.

On Tap: How did you choose your name?
Avanti Fernandez: Jungle Fever is a party concept we created years back. The concept is tropical vibes exuding high, intense, animalistic and wild [energy].
Tommy Smolka: It’s a combination of world dance vibes incorporated into newer rap or trap. Everything we mix together as Jungle Fever makes it really like a jungle. We get all types of people at our parties, just like a jungle has all types of animals. I think it’s one of the most diverse parties out there, and that was a goal.

OT: How would you describe your individual styles as DJs?
AF: When I first started, a lot of DJs specialized in one sound. For me, it was more about not limiting myself. I consider my style to be eclectic and I try to be as eccentric as possible. I am Jamaican and Puerto Rican, and I try to pull from my cultural characteristics – whether it be in a set, at a party or in a mix.
TS: My name [also] comes from Jamaican culture. Dancehall and reggae were in very heavy rotation early on. That was a big connection we had. But, I’ve been DJing for 13 or 14 years now, so anything goes. I can play literally anything – any style.


Avanti’s Must-Haves
My dog Pepito
My boo Kelcie
Water
Sunlight
Rice and beans


OT: Who are your most major musical influences?
TS:  DJ Jazzy Jeff, Underdog, DJ Alize and
DJ Blaqstarr. I look up to M.I.A. a lot.
AF: Childish Gambino – how multifaceted he is as an artist and how he created his own path. I saw a lot of myself in that. DJ K-Swift from Baltimore was one of my greatest DJ inspirations, too. I remember going out to see her perform at The Paradox. I’d be mindblown there was a lady behind the decks. And I’d be like, “Yo, I wanna do that! I wanna be just like her.”

OT: What made you both decide to link up and DJ together?
TS: We were throwing the warehouse parties for like a year before we started Jungle Fever.
AF: I was throwing events not too far from here, at 411 New York Ave. in the warehouse. I heard Selecta was looking to DJ and I was like, “Yeah sure, bring him on through.” He came and ripped it. I was in love with his set. As soon as he dropped some reggae I was like, “Look at this boy! Who the f–k is this? What is going on?” So ever since, we vibed. [We] figured out that we were both looking for a way to express ourselves together.

OT: What’s your favorite part of working together?
TS: Since day one, it’s been easy for us to work together. We get along very well. We never planned to do this; things just came naturally.
AF: It was very organic. It’s great having somebody you can be open, honest and very transparent with, especially going through some of the obstacles we’ve gone through and dealt with together. He’s a great teammate, you know? That’s my boy.

OT: How have your styles evolved over the years you’ve been DJing together?
TS: We’ve been doing parties and stuff for six years, and I was DJing before that for eight years. I look at it as I would any other art form. You’re never going to stop evolving. You learn new techniques, you learn new sounds.
AF: It starts with learning about [DJing], emulating others, learning from others and taking what you learned. For me, it was taking what I’ve learned, building on it and developing my own style.

TS: It’s harder for me to talk about me. I’ve seen you evolve. I remember when you first started DJing. The first year or so, you were in your learning phase, but you were rockin’ though.
AF: I could see him growing and really branching into a new sound, like exploring and experimenting with new sounds. You know, things I would never hear Selecta play, now I’m like, “Whoa, this energy – it’s different!”

OT: How would you describe the DJ scene and overall music scene in DC?
AF: It’s monumental. I mean you feel it, you hear it, you see it. Every time you turn on your radio you hear GoldLink’s “Crew.” Artists are really putting on for the city and I think it’s nationwide, [even] worldwide. DC is seen as a new hub [for music]. Even travelling to New York, everyone is like, “What’s happening in DC? We love what you’re doing there. Can we bring that same energy here?”
TS: Yeah, the music scene is at an all-time high for sure. I still think we have some of the best DJs in the world. That’s why I really appreciate the people who hold us to a higher standard, because we’re some of the best. Every time we go to different cities, I really see that.


Tommy’s Must-Haves
Weed
Women
Chicken
My dogs
Coca-Cola


OT: What are some of your most memorable experiences while DJing?
AF: I think we have the same one because we always talk about it.
TS & AF (in unison): Afropunk.
AF: It was that weekend! Trillectro on Saturday and Afropunk on Sunday.
TS: That was in 2014. That’s probably our best shared experience, besides all the Jungle Fever parties. Every Jungle Fever party is like my favorite party, and your warehouse parties.
AF: Oh yeah!
TS: The parties she used to throw that I DJed at were like the craziest, literally. We’ll never get to do anything like that again.
AF: It definitely was an era.

OT: What do you guys like to do when you’re not DJing?
AF: Travel. That’s kind of broad, but I’d rather just work, stack my money and travel. I like learning about myself and different cultures and broadening my horizons. I just got back from New Orleans, which was pretty cool. I’ve been back and forth between cities [like] New York. I was in Costa Rica this June. Whenever I can, I try to get out of here [and] live a little.
TS: I like to watch movies, and I have another creative side that most people don’t know. I do photography, video and graphic design.
AF: That’s the beauty of it. A lot of the work, we do ourselves behind the scenes like the graphics, the photos and the videos.

OT: What are some of your favorite spots around DC?
AS: For food I like Silvestre Chicken. I’m actually a pescatarian so I go there for the charbroiled shrimp. I also like Oohh’s & Aahh’s, Po Boy Jim [Bar and Grill] and Wiseguy [Pizza].
TF: Wiseguy is number one, and DCity Smokehouse.
AS: For concert venues, I like 9:30 Club, Flash and U Street Music Hall.
TF: Flash, 9:30 and Velvet are my three favorites.

OT: How are you preparing for Trillectro?
TS: We’re getting our special guest in order, and theatrics.
AF: We want to outdo ourselves from the last times we performed.


Jungle Fever Must-Haves
Weed
Good sound system
Positive environment
Open-minded people
Energy (the more people, the more energy)


OT: Who are you guys most excited to see perform this year?
AS: SZA for sure. She’s definitely the first female headliner. All the ladies that are rocking: Rico Nasty, The Internet, Sheck Wes and Carnage.
TF: I’m definitely excited for The Internet, Playboi Carti and Snoh Aalegra.

OT: What’s coming up for you two?
AF: We’re going to take this party on the road. We’re excited to have Jungle Fever in New York.
TS: Yeah. Jungle Fever is expanding. It’s going to be a regular in New York now, because we have a 50-50 base here and in New York and Philly. We’re going to keep expanding it. Other than that, definitely a lot of music, I know I’m about to put out a lot.

Catch Jungle Fever spinning at Trillectro on Saturday, September 22 at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Doors at noon, tickets start at $60. For updates on Jungle Fever, follow Mista Selecta and Mane Squeeze on Instagram at @mistaselecta and @manesqueeze.

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

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: Emily Chow
Photo: Emily Chow

DC’s Bad Moves Talks Power Pop Ballads & Collaborative Process for New Record

By day, the foursome behind DC-based power pop band Bad Moves span career paths – from labor union organizer to NPR music editor. But by night, bassist Emma Cleveland, drummer Daoud Tyler-Ameen, and guitarists David Combs and Katie Park are focused on their budding music career.

Still beatific from their successful SXSW showcase this spring, the band has been keeping busy with their upcoming LP Tell No One. The record comes out on September 21 via Don Giovanni Records in conjunction with a release party at the Black Cat.

“A lot of the songs on the album deal with themes of having secrets that you keep inside, and the repercussions of either keeping secrets or coming out with them,” Cleveland says.

The band alludes to a few family secrets of their own on Tell No One while still maintaining a degree of mystery. Secrets of sexuality and criminality are woven into the limericks set to the band’s peppy, kinetic beats. Yet the truth is, the album is not about divulging secrets.

Instead, Tyler-Ameen says it’s about “exploring the things that are traditionally considered taboo [that you later realize] are markers of identity, yet you feel when you’re younger you’re not allowed to fully own.”

Tell No One is expected to resonate with all, as did their self-titled EP.

“I don’t know if we necessarily started the band thinking in particular about a demographic,” Combs says. “I don’t know if that’s a word we even used with each other.”

Instead, Bad Moves relies on chance when creating music that sits well with their broad audience – the chance that their personal experiences, or the feelings evoked from those experiences, will be commonly shared.

The bandmates have relied on each other to craft their sound over the past three years, drawing on 90s pop punk and rock sounds that resonate with most older millennials. Combs says he and Park were the main collaborators on Tell No One, and then brought in the rest of the band to “shape it more in our own collective image.” Bad Moves has no lead singer, so the four musicians each share equal vocal responsibility in the band.

“Our intention is to take the focus away from one particular identity as being the central face of the band,” Combs says.

Picking a band name – on a car ride to a recording session at American University – was one of the only items on their ever-growing to-do list that didn’t require too much thought.

“One name I remember pushing for – and now feel relief that we didn’t go with – was Bad Wiz,” Cleveland says. “That would have been bad.”

Combs chimes in, “We also had Wet Hands. It’s hard to know what kind of name will suit your needs early on.”

The process of forming their sound, on the other hand, was a different story. Cleveland says the band made a lengthy playlist of power pop – around 180 songs – that inspired their eclectic sound. The first track on the playlist, which coincidently had the most impact, is “Looking For Magic” by the Dwight Twilley Band.

“You can tell from the lyrics that there’s a sort of desperation,” Combs says of the 1977 classic. “There’s this thing that eludes to magic. There’s a sadness to that sentiment, but the energy of that song is really lifting, inspiring and powerful. It’s a song that’s not ignoring that the world is a hard place to be in, but it’s also something I can put on that will push me through – and that’s what we want our music to do.”

Don’t miss Bad Moves at Black Cat for their record release party on Friday, September 21. The Obsessives and Ultra Beauty will open. Doors are at 7:30, tickets are $10.

Learn more about the band at www.badmoves.bandcamp.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

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Music Picks: September 2018

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 6

Foxing
One of the most impressive emo bands of the past 10 years joins some of the genre’s most exciting new voices on tour. Foxing celebrated the release of their third (and best) record, Nearer My God, last month. The album garnered critical acclaim and solidified the band as some of the most talented musicians in the post punk game. Joined by Kississippi (whose first full length album Sunset Blush is a hot contender for one of my favorite albums of 2018) and Ratboys, this show is the grown-up emo kid’s dream.  Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $15. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 7

HOLYCHILD
This duo of GWU grads are returning to their old stomping grounds to usher in the newest era of their sound, which vocalist Liz Nistico describes as a change of pace from the cheerleader-esque “brat pop” of their 2015 LP. The same fun, electronic-based heart is there, but with more emotional lyricism and introspection, as Nistico shifts to more self-analytical content where she explores her ideas about love, her relationship with her father, and adjusting to becoming more prominent in the music industry and on social media. Check out the show to get a taste of this new material before their new album (which is still under wraps) drops. Show starts at 11 p.m. Tickets start at $13. 21-plus. Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2477 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

Lil Baby & YK Osiris
Since his release from prison in 2017, Lil Baby has been on the fast track to success. After some big-name collaborations from artists like Drake, Young Thug and Lil Uzi Vert, he’s embarking on his “Harder Than Ever Tour” aptly named after his debut LP that dropped in May. Eighteen-year-old YK Osiris will also be joining him on this tour. The recent Def Jam signee made his claim to fame from the buzz from his single “Valentine,” which caused record labels take notice of the young rapper/vocalist, especially after the single was remixed by Lil Uzi Vert. Be sure to check out these two up-and-coming stars when they come to the Fillmore. Show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $27.50. Fillmore Silver Spring: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com

U.S. Girls
Righteous anger about the chaotic world we live in has never sounded so good. U.S. Girl’s Meg Remy gifted the world with her massive, sparkling and timely record In a Poem Unlimited and takes it to the city that needs it most this month. Remy meditates on themes of misplaced power, violence against women and righteous revenge that makes you think as much as they make you want to dance. Join the catharsis at Miracle Theatre, with Remy as your regal guide. Doors at 7:30. Tickets are $15. The Miracle Theatre: 535 8th St. SE, DC; www.themiracletheatre.com

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 9

Jon B
Jon B is coming to Birchmere this month to bless us with his smooth R&B sounds. Upon first listen you’d never guess that the “They Don’t Know” singer was born in suburban Rhode Island. He gained inspiration for his sultry R&B sound from listening to records in his grandparents’ record store and carved out his own niche by working alongside artists like 2Pac and Babyface in the late 90s. If you’re in the mood for a little 90s R&B nostalgia, don’t miss this show. Doors at 7:30p.m. Tickets are $45. The Birchmere: 3701 Mount Vernon Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.birchmere.com

Still Corners
Chillwave will never die and anyone who tells you otherwise just isn’t paying attention. Still Corners are proof of this. They’ve been crafting airy, dreamy songs since the early 2000s and haven’t stopped. The duo is touring around their release of the album Slow Air last month, and there’s no better way to round out your summer than vibing with the band and their smooth sounds at the intimate DC9 space. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $13. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11

Yuno
Do you ever see an opening band that totally blows you out of the water and makes you wonder how the hell they’re not headlining shows across the country? That’s how I felt after seeing Yuno open for Twin Shadow earlier this summer. The newly minted Sub Pop signee released a six-song EP full of white hot bangers that make the perfect soundtrack to your early fall vibes. Combining elements of pop, indie rock and R&B, Yuno’s universal appeal is going to catapult him into the mainstream any day now. Just try getting “No Going Back” out of your head. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12 – THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13

Drake with Migos
Drake has had a whirlwind year. It seems that neither a scalding diss track, nor the blowback from allegation of hiding his son from the public and appearing in blackface can keep this man from charting on the Billboard Top 100 with a cute summer bop. He and Migos are gracing the Capital One Arena with their presence this month for the Aubrey & The Three Amigos tour. It sounds like the title of a spaghetti western, but it’s unlikely they’ll follow through on that theme and come out donning cowboy boots and twirling lassos. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $65. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.capitalonearena.com

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14

Tigers Jaw
Tigers Jaw is touring around the 10th anniversary of their self-titled album, and I am officially old. While I saw the band touring for their album Spin last year, I’m still keen on the idea of reliving my most emo years screaming the words to “The Sun” and “Plane vs. Tank vs. Submarine.” Take it from me, kids: you never really outgrow your emo phase. Embrace it. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

Robyn Riot
No one at Robyn Riot will judge you for dancing on your own. DC area DJs MAJR and Jeff Prior are joined by Chicago native Greg Haus to bring you all of the Swedish pop queen Robyn’s greatest hits, all night long. The inimitable artist recently returned after almost a decade on hiatus with the sparkling single “Missing U” and the promise of a new album on the horizon. While we all pray to the goddesses of pop for Robyn to plan a tour with a stop in DC, this dance party can tide us over and celebrate her iconic career. Doors at 10 p.m. Tickets start at $10. 18-plus to enter. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19

Childish Gambino & Rae Sremmurd
This concert is already legendary, and it hasn’t even happened yet. The multitalented Childish Gambino is joining forces with hip hop phenoms Rae Sremmurd for his “This Is America” tour. I’m hoping he busts out some of the choreography from the video, but I guess the only way to know for sure is by going to the show. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $49.50. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.capitalonearena.com

Whitney Rose
Rewind to January 2017. Whitney Rose was primed to release her first recording of the year, South Texas Suite, a countrypolitan valentine to her hometown of Austin, Texas. Days before the EP hit the streets and Rose kicked off a four-month worldwide tour, the burgeoning songwriting force packed her boots for Nashville, where she entered BlackBird Studio A to reconvene with the Mavericks’ Raul Malo. In one short week, Rose, Malo and co-producer Niko Bolas crafted her acclaimed latest effort, Rule 62. Rose is a unique and inimitable writer and performer, and has been highly lauded for her work, with nearly 400 shows in the past two years leading to international notoriety. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $10. 21-plus. Writeup provided by venue. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 20

Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams
Multi-instrumentalist-singer-songwriter Larry Campbell and singer-guitarist Teresa Williams’ acclaimed eponymous 2015 debut, released after seven years of playing in Levon Helm’s band – and frequent guesting with Phil Lesh, Little Feat, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, brought to the stage the crackling creative energy of a decades-long offstage union. A whirlwind of touring and promo followed, and when the dust cleared, the duo was ready to do it all again. Which brings us to Contraband Love (released in 2017) a riskier slice of Americana. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $20. 21-plus. Writeup provided by venue. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 22

Owl City
I’d like to make myself believe that I knew I’d have the opportunity to see Owl City perform live during adulthood. My younger self would say to me “You would not believe your eyes…” I still hold a large amount of resentment in my heart for the DJ that came to my homecoming during my sophomore year of high school and played this song as the literal last song of the night. It made absolutely no sense, but my friends and I looked at each other in utter confusion and kept dancing anyway. The moral of this story is that “Fireflies” still slaps and always will. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

Rooney
Did you know that Anne Hathaway’s love interest from The Princess Diaries is in a band in real life? If you didn’t, you should get to know Rooney. Blessing Mia Thermopolis with her first foot-popping kiss isn’t the only thing Robert Schwartzman has done, as he’s also the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist in the band, an actor and a filmmaker. You could say the last bit runs in the family, since he is related to the Coppola family. Rooney formed during his high school years in L.A., and they have made some really feel good tunes in their almost 20 years as a band, such as 2007’s “When Did Your Heart Go Missing?” The Cosmic Interlude tour is all about Schwartzman finding the balance in his many passions. His film The Unicorn debuted this year at SXSW, and much of the new content Rooney is set to release this year comprises the movie’s soundtrack. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

Trillectro 2018
This star-studded festival is sure to be the highlight of this month’s musical performances. Artists like SZA, 2 Chainz, Young Thug, Rico Nasty, The Internet and many more are gathering in Columbia for this occasion, as well as a lot of local favorites like Jungle Fever, Girlaaa and Innanet Jamez. I would say more, but just know that if you miss this you’ll be missing out for sure. Doors at 12 p.m. Tickets are $79-$199. Merriweather Post Pavillion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; www.trillectro.com

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23

Graham Coxon
While he’s widely known as the guitarist for britpop greats Blur, Graham Coxon has accomplished a lot as a solo musician. In addition to four albums, Coxon recently lent his talent to the soundtrack of the Netflix original series The End of the F***ing World. He now embarks on his first ever solo tour in the U.S., and the intimate dates are not to be missed by Blur fans, Britpop enthusiasts or fans of original soundtracking. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $29.50. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

The Growlers
The pioneers of all things cheery and sad return to DC on the heels of their most recent release Casual Acquaintances. The band is known for curating an impressive cast of like-minded musicians and encouraging fans to dress up in surreal and spooky costumes at their West Coast beach goth festivals. Now, DC is being treated to a stop on the wild ride that is the band’s self-described “psychedelic carnival.” We have no idea what to expect, but we’ve got our best beach goth costumes ready and we’ll see you on the dance floor for a night of surprises. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 24

Hana Vu
“Bedroom pop” has become an overused buzzword thrown onto any artist with dreamy, DIY tendencies. More than a sound, bedroom pop is a feeling: wistful, wanting, staring at your ceiling while lamenting whatever’s on your mind. Hana Vu is the textbook definition of this, and her rich but mournful voice that sounds much older than her 17 years make for a perfect addition to her confessional lyrics. Artists like Vu give hope for music as an inclusive and all-consuming outlet for whatever weighs heavy on you. It’s impossible not to find your own feelings in these songs. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $10. Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2477 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

Jay Rock
Jay Rock has been releasing some heat as of late. We still haven’t forgotten about the greatness that is “King’s Dead” from Black Panther, but he’s got some new songs for us to enjoy on his latest release. The new album features amazing solo tracks as well as collaborations from many TDE label mates and the rare J. Cole feature. Catch him at the Fillmore this month performing tracks from Redemption. Show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20-$75. Fillmore Silver Spring: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com

Lenny Kravitz
Lenny Kravitz is making his way to The Anthem for his Raise Vibration tour, which shares a name with the new album he’s set to drop this month on September 7. His DC stop is one of only eight dates for this leg of his world tour, so it’s definitely not one you should miss. Plus, each ticket purchase for the album comes with a free physical copy of the album. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $75-$125. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24 – WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25

Diana Ross
The legendary Motown diva is coming to Bethesda’s Strathmore theatre for two nights. Come see the only woman to ever have number one singles as a solo artist, as well as part of a duo, trio and ensemble as she performs some of her most timeless classics like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “You Can’t Hurry Love” and more. Show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $69. The Music Center at Strathmore: 5301 Tuckerman Ln. North Bethesda, MD; www.strathmore.org

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25

Fickle Friends
This upbeat, indie-pop quintet has some fun new material on their new album You Are Someone Else that debuted this past spring. Their brand of beachy synth-pop is slightly reminiscent of something that would’ve hit big in the 80s, paired with decidedly modern production, courtesy of the same person that worked on music for The 1975, Arctic Monkeys and Two Door Cinema Club. The English band made waves with their single “Swim” and scored a contract back in 2015. Join them at DC9 this month for what’s sure to be a fun performance. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $13-$15. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26

SALES
I love SALES. I’m not just talking about when I go to the store and get discounts, though I love that too. SALES the band is an Orlando based guitar-pop outfit that stole this writer’s heart with their self-titled EP released in 2014. Since then, they’ve released their debut LP in 2016 and their most recent album Forever & Ever dropped this past July. They make ambient, stripped down pop melodies with light, airy vocals. Their Spotify description says it best: SALES is “all the pop, no industry bullshit,” and if you’re into that you should go see them live at Rock & Roll Hotel this month. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $17-$19. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER  28

Blood Orange
Dev Hynes, the UK based artist and producer better known as Blood Orange, released his reflective third album just a few weeks ago. Negro Swan boasts an impressive 16 tracks, featuring artists like Diddy, A$AP Rocky, Janet Mock and more. More impressive than any collaborator is Hynes’s chops as a producer that truly let his political and timely lyrics shine. Don’t miss the virtuoso bring his music new and old to DC. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $35. Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; www.thelincolndc.com

Future Islands
If in 2014 you were living under a rock and somehow missed Future Islands’ front man Samuel T. Herring’s oddly spellbinding performance of “Seasons (Waiting on You),” go look it up. Even if you’ve seen it, go look it up again. Be mesmerized. Take notes so you can dance like him at this show. Herring’s dance moves are just one of the reasons we’re looking forward to this Baltimore-based trio taking the stage at The Anthem. Their most recent release, The Far Field, was one of 2017’s best albums – chock full of bangers from start to finish, not to mention a collab with none other than Blondie’s Debbie Harry. Don’t miss the Baltimore band in action. Doors are at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $41. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29

Belly
If I had to pick a favorite genre, it would be dream pop. The pioneers of that sound are making their way to DC and I am so excited to pay homage to Belly for carving out a space for the genre in the music world. Tanya Donelly and company returned this spring with their first album in nearly 25 years, Dove, that reminded fans why they’re the best at what they do. Come for the 90s hits, stay for the new jams – it’s sure to be a dreamy, psychedelic night. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

Krantz
After leaving his home state of Iowa, traveling the world, touring with a band called The Effects, Jeffrey Danger eventually landed in Nashville. He hit the studio between tapings of MTV’s music competition American Supergroup (where he eventually became a finalist). Following the release of his self-produced solo album, He joined forces with Erik Theiling, Tee Tallent and Adrian Flores, who he met on the Broadway circuit. Together they bring a psychedelic/pop/rock edge equipped with provocative lyrics. Krantz embraces frantic ecstasy and a meaningful look within. The new record takes on several personalities, drawing influences from pop to reggae. Doors at 7 p.m. Free. 21-plus. Writeup provided by venue. Pearl Street Warehouse: 33 Pearl St. SW, DC; www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com

SHAED
DC’s very own are celebrating the release of their Melt EP at Rock & Roll Hotel. The trio is basically unstoppable and are surely poised for alt-pop stardom. Before they skyrocket into the music world and make their hometown proud, come spend your Saturday celebrating with them. Confession: I’ve seen SHAED three times and it’s a guaranteed feel good dance party each show. Catch me for round four front and center cheering them on. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.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