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Photo: Jim McGuire
Photo: Jim McGuire

Banjo Legend Béla Fleck Part of Terrific Trio

With 16 Grammy Awards to his name, Béla Fleck is not your average banjo player. He’s known throughout the world for redefining the instrument, and sits proudly in the American Banjo Hall of Fame alongside notable players like Jim Henson, Steve Martin and Pete Seeger.

“I first heard the banjo on the Beverly Hillbillies theme,” Fleck says about the bluegrass stylings of banjoist Earl Scruggs, who famously played the tune. “Something about the sound hooked me as a little kid, and then my grandfather unexpectedly got me one just before high school. I became obsessed and still am.”

In 1973, Fleck began at New York City’s High School of Music and Art where he studied the instrument seriously. It didn’t take him long to discover he’d play the banjo for the rest of his life.

“I took no steps to do anything else once I got into it, so there was no escape,” he continues. “No colleges were submitted to, I trained for no jobs. I just came out of high school and right into bands. I was fortunate that my mom was surprised and distracted with a new baby when I was a senior in high school, otherwise I never could have gotten away with it.”

His group Béla Fleck and the Flecktones have been touring for 30 years and have released a plethora of music, most famously, the landmark three-disc Little Worlds. Recently, Fleck also moved into the teaching side, inspiring future youngsters to pursue the instrument professionally.

“I’ve just returned to teaching after not doing it for many years. I just hosted my first banjo camp  The Blue Ridge Banjo Camp – and it went very well, with 100 students.”

On November 10, Fleck will join forces with bassist Edgar Meyer and tabla performer Zakir Hussain for a trio performance presented by Washington Performing Arts at GW’s Lisner Auditorium. While each member of the group is expected to play some solo pieces, Fleck notes there won’t be any individual sets as they’ll perform as a band.

“We are adding a wild card this time: an incredible bansuri player named Rakesh Churasia. The music will be sometimes beautiful and sometimes very exciting. There will be a strong groove, with Zakir’s incredible percussive abilities, and a lot of melody and warmth coming from Edgar’s bowed bass and the rich sounds of the flute. And I’ll be fitting my banjo in there somewhere in the middle.”

The trio has known each other for awhile and play together periodically.

“Rakesh is new to the group, but Edgar and I go way way back, and Zakir and Edgar and I go back 10 years or longer. We got together to create a triple concerto to celebrate the opening of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, home of the Nashville Symphony. After that, we loved playing together and toured quite a bit with the trio.”

They even found time to record The Melody of Rhythm: Triple Concerto & Music for Trio in 2009. The tour marks the first time they’ll reunite on stage since 2013.

“I would say that Edgar and Zakir have both impacted my music making immensely,” he says. “I can learn from everyone, and that always keeps me intrigued and on my toes.”

Once the tour ends in December, Fleck will start performing again with his wife, clawhammer banjoist Abigail Fleck, who recently gave birth to their second child in June. Together, the two won the 2016 Grammy for Best Folk album.

“I have lots of things brewing, too early to say much, except more touring with the Flecktones and Chick Corea. There is something very powerful about the experience of improvising in front of an audience. There are things that I can only pull off in front of a crowd. They are part of the collaboration.”

Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer and Zakir Hussain will play the Lisner Auditorium on Saturday, November 10 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40-$50. Learn more about the performance here, and about Fleck here.

Lisner Auditorium: 730 21st St. NW, DC; 202-994-6800; www.lisner.gwu.edu

Photo: Courtesy of St. Pete Holland
Photo: Courtesy of St. Pete Holland

New Single from an Artist to Watch: St. Pete Holland’s “Different Hymn”

Every now and then, dads are right.

Last March, mine told me to check out a new musician – a friend’s son – who had a song on Spotify. Yeah, yeah, sure okay, Dad. Since when did he know what Spotify was?

A month or so later, I needed a procrastination aid and finally got around to looking up, Who was it? [scrolls through emails] St. Pete Holland. By this point, the song Dad had referenced evolved into a seven-track EP entitled Seven Deadly Hymns, which included that first studio-finished single “Yours and Mine.”

Preparing to be underwhelmed by another Romeo and Juliet ballad, I hit the play button on “Capulets.” I was not underwhelmed. In fact, I was kind of whelmed. A whistled intro led me into a perfect little not-love song.

Folksy but not folk and with a little bit of funk, St. Pete Holland is exactly what you want from a modern acoustic act out of Nashville. There is sweet naiveté in the lyrics and singalong beat, but clean progression, clever transformations and educated instrumental references make the earnestness more alluring than maudlin.

A combination of songwriting and guitar skills and a voice tinged with The Fray’s Isaac Slade and The Tallest Man on Earth won the act’s lead – who at the moment goes only by his musical moniker St. Pete/Pete Holland – Demolition Music’s 2017 Nashville Songwriters Competition.

It was also in Nashville where he met the other two core performers on the Seven Deadly Hymns EP, Jackson Bruck (Dukes of Hume) and Patrick Fuller (son of country rock’s Craig Fuller). “Nashville is incredible,” St. Pete says. “It’s porch-sitting. It’s open and vulnerable unlike anywhere else I’ve lived – NYC, Philly, London, L.A…”

St. Pete says he knows what he’s supposed to be doing is music, and soon enough, it’s going to be his main focus.

“When I was about 13, I started playing the guitar. I had stumbled on a Led Zeppelin remastered box set. I went crazy with it and thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I just wanted to be Jimmy Page.”

While his personal style has veered away from Zeppelin, the musician says to be a good songwriter you have to listen to what inspires you. By listening, and paying attention to the ideas that float by, he can sit down and build a song from the inside out to “come up with something that has a pulse when it’s done.”

“I wrote 100 songs in Nashville. Now it’s time to record.”

He has done a bit of recording recently – the latest single from St. Pete Holland, “Different Hymn,” dropped today.

St. Pete is currently based in Los Angeles, but frequently travels back east for musical collaboration (and because we all know that “best coast” thing is bullshit). Take a listen. Maybe we can get him to swing through the District.

For more information on St. Pete Holland and Seven Deadly Hymns, click here.

Photo: Dan Ball
Photo: Dan Ball

Unheralded Lucero Soldiers on through 9:30 Club

Lucero‘s upcoming concert at 9:30 Club will hopefully serve as a reminder of how hard longevity is for rock bands and why the accomplishment is worth celebrating. Returning to their “home away from home,” Lucero will feature new literary songs fashioned by solo singer and lyricist, Ben Nichols, who has written their heartbreaking hits since the band’s inception in 1998.

For 20 years, Lucero has toured under the radar, serenading listeners across the country. Even with 12 albums under their belt, Lucero sometimes sees blank expressions when their name is mentioned. Fortunately, this does not deter them from traveling year-round for an ever-growing following throughout the U.S., U.K. and Australia.

The band’s current lifespan was unexpected for the four-piece band.

“I didn’t think it would last, but I had this romanticized idea of starting a rock and roll band and piling in a van and traveling the country,” Nichols says. “I never planned on changing the world or becoming The Beatles. I just wanted to be one of those garage bands that get in a van and play punk rock shows.”

Despite playing for two decades, the band doesn’t lament mainstream notoriety, as Nichols humbly insists, “we are not a slick, professional-type band. We have shot ourselves in the foot numerous times, probably. Poor decision making here and there.”

“I think there are only certain music listeners that are going to appreciate what we do,” he continues. “It’s not for the general public, even though our crowds keep growing. It’s never going to be mainstream; we don’t want to be.”

Content with their status in the music industry, Lucero prides themselves on maintaining artistic integrity.

“We are a small business, a working band,” Nichols says. “We’re not rich and famous, but we get to do what we love doing, and we’re paying the bills [while] doing it. We ended up exactly where we wanted to be.”

Nichols’ life has traditionally provided much of the inspiration for the band’s often emotional music. However, the latest album Among the Ghosts features a generally fictional narrative drawn from books and old war letters.

“I wanted to become a better songwriter,” Nichols says. “It’s easy to write down a diary entry and have raw emotions spill out on the page, which works sometimes, but we’ve done a lot of that in the past.”

The reach of the new LP is broader, meant to connect with different listeners.

“There’s a song, ‘To My Dearest Wife,’ [and] it’s kind of about a soldier being far from home and writing back home to his wife,” Nichols explains. “There’s an impending battle, and he doesn’t know what’s going to happen. He says [in the letter] kiss our baby girls.”

“There are things I can relate to in this song that aren’t about me,” he continues. “Obviously, I’m not a soldier. I’m not in a war anywhere, but being gone from home is tough. I have a two year-old baby daughter back home, and it’s a different kind of heartbreak being on tour now.”

For a time, Lucero was touring 200-250 shows a year, but has recently scaled back to an average of about 140 per year.

Though the style and years have changed Lucero, their tone has largely remained unchanged.

“I like old rock and roll songs,” Nichols says. “There’s nothing wrong with songs about girls, songs about having a good time. I do a little bit of that, but I like dark, sad songs too.”

To engage their following, Nichols constantly strives for consistent resonance between the band and fans.

“Writing these songs have really gotten me through some tough times,” Nichols says. “To hear from those who have been through tough times and hearing that our music helps [is] big. Hearing about soldiers in Afghanistan… and it helps get them through, those are very nice stories to hear.”

Even though Lucero has accomplished more than they originally set out to, the band still has more goals for the future.

“I would love to have Stevie Nicks’ voice on some of the stuff we’ve written,” Nichols says. “Especially with the Among the Ghost record, her voice would actually fit right in there perfectly. That would be a dream come true.”

Lucero will perform at 9:30 Club on October 14. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased at www.930.com.

Learn more about the band here and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @luceromusic.

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

Junglepussy

Music Picks: October 2018

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 3

Leon Bridges with Khruangbin
These two Texan musicians are bringing their acts to the East Coast early this month. Khruangbin sources their inspiration from their newest work Con Todo El Mundo from soul and funk music in the Middle East, which I wouldn’t have even considered to be a thing until I looked into this album. Leon Bridges will bring some classic R&B and soul with a country twang to The Anthem from his new album Good Thing. Though they may occupy dissimilar genres, the smooth soulfulness of their music ties them together really nicely and makes pairing them together on tour a fantastic idea. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $55. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 3 – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 6

Capitol Hill Jazz Foundation’s Hillfest
Hillfest, an all-day, free concert held in Garfield Park, will bring musicians together in an effort to translate performances into policy. The festival begins with a conference addressing policy concerns that directly affect musicians on a local and national level, followed by a day-long concert. Enjoy performances by bands such as Stefon Harris & Blackout, JOGO Project, Cheryl Pepsii Riley and many more. Learn more about music and marketing through the conferences that will take place on Wednesday and Thursday, and enjoy the various vendors showcasing their wares on Friday. Garfield Park: 2nd and F Streets in SE, DC; www.hillfest.org

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5

Lupe Fiasco
Chicago rap veteran Lupe Fiasco released his new album Drogas Wave in late September. The 24-track album features frequent collaborators like Nikki Jean, Crystal Torres and Simon Sayz, as well as new ones like Damian Marley. Though he’s always been a prominent voice in conscious rap, Fiasco’s work has taken on a new level of self-awareness – especially amid the various controversies and threats of retirement of the past few years. Hopefully, this new album gives fans of his old work something to be excited about again. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets $30. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com 

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 6

Black Masala CD Release Party
Celebrate the release of Trains and Moonlight Destinies from this dynamic live brass band based in DC. One of their many musical influences comes from India in the form of Bhangra music. Even their name refers to a term used to describe a mix of spices often used in Indian cuisine. Their eclectic tunes run the gamut from jazz and New Orleans funk to Balkan brass and free-spirited, Romani-tinged folk with punk-rock vibes. Hopefully, their new album demonstrates a bit of growth when it comes to their liberal use of the “g” slur. It’s 2018 and we need to do a bit better, no? Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15. Pearl Street Warehouse: 33 Pearl St. SW, DC; www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com

The Presets with Blood Red Shoes
Australian electronic duo The Presets and English alt-rockers Blood Red Shoes take the stage this month at U Hall. Rolling Stone Song of the Year winners The Presets released Hi Viz a few months back after going years without releasing any big projects. Blood Red Shoes took a similar hiatus right before starting to record their new album Get Tragic, which is set to debut in January. According to a recent Clash interview, their leading single “Mexican Dress” is about the lengths people will go to for attention. “Whether it’s online or in real life, small hits of validation and the feeling of having all eyes on you have become our generation’s biggest drug problem,” says guitarist and vocalist Laura- Mary Carter. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $25. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

MONDAY, OCTOBER 8

J Cole, Young Thug, Jaden Smith and EarthGang
There’s so much to be excited about for this tour – for one, you get to see J. Cole. Did you know his album 2014 Forest Hills Drive went platinum with no features? I’m so thankful for Cole’s KOD era so that meme can finally be laid to rest. Also, Young Thug posted bond for the felony charges he stacked up in Georgia, so we can expect to see him on this tour date. Plus, he has a new song “On the Rvn” in the works with the legendary Elton John, 6lack and tourmate Jaden Smith that should be coming out any day now. Smith and EarthGang round out this very comprehensive lineup that represents various facets of the rap world and conveniently places them all together on one stage just for you. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $29.50. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.capitalonearena.com

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 9

Nine Inch Nails with The Jesus and Mary Chain
In honor of their ninth album Bad Witch, NIN is joining fellow white noise lovers The Jesus and Mary Chain on The Cold and Black and Infinite Tour in October. Scottish alternative pioneers JMC released Damage and Joy in 2017 – their most recent music prior to that was from 2002, so it’s been more than a decade since any fan has seen them play new music on tour. It’ll be an experience to see these two bands touring together again since it’s been almost 30 years since they’ve shared a bill. Doors at 6 p.m. Tickets $95-$175. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC;
www.theanthemdc.com

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 11

Mija
The mysterious producer is coming to Ten Tigers and bringing her unique sound with her. Some of her musical influences include Björk as well as Chopin, Imogen Heap and Nicolas Jaar. The Just Enough EP, which only features two songs, debuted earlier this summer. With these tracks, Mija delves deeper into the concept of her own genre-bending production that she somehow still manages to fill with sensitivity, introspection and raw emotion. She also has a collaboration with Heelys, which accurately reflects her reluctance to stick to only one medium of expression. Any artist that’s making music while simultaneously designing (and probably wearing) Heelys out here in these streets is someone that is clearly riding their own wave, and I definitely respect that. Doors at 10:30 p.m. Tickets $20. Ten Tigers Parlour: 3818 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.tentigersdc.com

MONDAY, OCTOBER 15

Mikaela Davis
Singer, songwriter and classically trained harpist Mikaela Davis dropped her debut album Delivery this July, but it’s definitely not the angels-coming-down-from-heaven harp playing that you’d think. Davis uses her harp as one would use a guitar, and her music takes elements from psychedelic rock, chamber pop and folk. For good examples, check out her songs “Get Gone” and “Other Lover,” and be sure to check out her show when she comes to DC, too. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $13-$15. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.com

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 18

Junglepussy
Junglepussy continues to flourish as she steps further into the greatness she claimed for herself on 2015’s Pregnant With Success. Since then, this queen of affirmation, health and self-awareness has catapulted to new heights not only with musical cameos (shout-out to Insecure) but onscreen ones too. The good sis has an IMDb page now and has appeared in shows like Mostly 4 Millennials, the SXSW movie Support the Girls and HBO’s Random Acts of Flyness. If you missed her in any of these roles, you owe it to yourself to check out her live show when she comes to DC to give us a taste of her newest album JP3. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $20. Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2477 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

Little Dragon
Little Dragon is a Swedish electronic band, or at least that’s how they’re often described. To me, Yukimi Nagano’s vocals and the intelligent musical compositions of her bandmates catapult them into their own realm. The haunting soulfulness in Nagano’s voice makes them able to work with people like Big Boi, Anderson .Paak, Mac Miller (RIP), De La Soul and more. They have a newer song with Faith Evans called “Peace of Mind” up on their website that you should check out if you want to see what I’m talking about. In any case, this is a can’t-miss show especially since it’ll be at an intimate venue like Rock & Roll. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $35. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC;  www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20

Mae
Call me a nerd for this, but I literally did a project about Mae and the concept albums they released back when I was in high school. Oddly enough, it was for a class where we made our own websites from scratch to learn HTML, and my little artist page and bio that I wrote about them turned out really nice if I do say so myself. Maybe it was the precursor that led me to my true destiny of writing tons of mini-artist bios about upcoming concerts for a local magazine. Personal anecdotes aside, I have a tremendous amount of reverence for one of the bands that formed my emotional landscape as a youth, cemented my love of concept albums and earned me an A in my web design class. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $22-$40. Jammin Java: 227 Maple Ave. E Vienna, VA; www.jamminjava.com

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 21

J Balvin
At the time this was written, Colombia’s own J Balvin was the second most streamed artist on Spotify – worldwide. The artist has been working tirelessly to bridge the language barrier of popular music in the American mainstream, and whatever he’s doing is finally paying off. With the recent success of his Cardi B and Beyoncé collabs, and the constant stream of bangers he puts out, I’d say his goal is well within reach. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $39. EagleBank Arena: 4500 Patriot Cir. Fairfax, VA; www.eaglebankarena.com

Lily Allen
LDN-born Lily Allen is back with her new album No Shame. The last I’d heard from her was about her culturally appropriative video for her single “Hard Out Here,” and since then, I’ve not been able to see her music the same way though I had been a huge fan of hers since 2007. Upon realizing she would be coming to DC, I looked to see what she had been up to. In the four years since Sheezus, it seems the pop star has experienced much growth. Not only has she apologized for the insensitive video, but she wrote a memoir detailing her experiences with motherhood, addiction and the perils experienced since rising to fame at such a young age. In her new album, her maturity is apparent – the cheeky honesty that’s been a hallmark of her music from the beginning now comes forth with a lot more vulnerability and wisdom. Her evolution as an artist makes me proud to be a fan again. Show at 7 p.m. Tickets $35-$40. The Fillmore: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 23 – THURSDAY, OCTOBER 25

NSO Pops Presents Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back with Live Orchestra
The number one reason to go see this show is to have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of having an orchestra play you the Star Wars theme (and the other songs from the soundtrack that are arguably much less iconic) note for note while the movie plays in real time. The number two reason is that if you go see this, you will be able to brag to your friends about how cool it was – and no one would be able to top it unless, you know, they were in the original film or something. Tuesday’s show begins at 7 p.m. but the other two shows start at 8 p.m. Tickets $34-$149. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 24 – THURSDAY, OCTOBER 25

Beach Fossils and Wavves
For some reason, I really like surf-inspired rock that’s heavy on the angst and emotion. It makes me feel like I’m lying on the beach next to my surfboard contemplating my life choices (mind you, I’ve never even so much as looked at a surfboard up close in real life). Beach Fossils and Wavves will be joining forces with opener Kevin Krauter, whose music offers a nice change of pace to balance everything out. Wavves will be headlining on Wednesday and Beach Fossils on Thursday. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $25. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 25

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
I’m going to keep it 100 here and say that what marginal knowledge I have of Nick Cave comes from eavesdropping on the excited chatter of my editor. Quite a few members of our editorial staff really go up for this man and are super excited for him to come all the way from Australia to our little corner of DC. From what a brief jaunt through some Google pages has taught me, this post-punk poster boy and his crew are a very on-brand choice to really amp up the Halloween vibes. Catch them at The Anthem this fall. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets $60-$100. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 28

Kllo
Australian duo Kllo is a staple on many “chill” type playlists populating Spotify. The light, airy R&B-inspired vocals of Chloe Kaul and the skillful production of her cousin Simon Lam make for an ambient blend of music that is danceable yet incredibly calming. Come see what all the fuss is about when they travel to DC this month on the U.S. leg of their tour. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

Photo: Doug Van Sant
Photo: Doug Van Sant

Homegrown Festival All Things Go Highlights DC Music Scene

Zack Friendly has been committed to advancing DC’s music scene for more than a decade. Determined to share his taste and talent for spotting artists on the verge of making it big, he did what everyone within his niche did in the mid-2000s: ran a blog. What started out as an online side project would eventually become the All Things Go Fall Classic, a fast-growing music festival in the District.

This year’s festival will be held at Union Market on October 6-7, with an all-female lineup the first day. All Things Go is focused on highlighting as much female talent as possible to help combat the myth that female festival headliners are economically lesser than their male counterparts, and the statistic that only 14 percent of headliners are women, according to a 2017 Pitchfork study.

Headliners Maggie Rogers and Lizzy Plapinger, formerly of the band MS MR but currently performing as LPX, collaborated with the festival’s founders to help curate the performer lineup. Artists like Ravyn Lenae, OSHUN, Billie Eilish and Jessie Reyez are a few of the kickass women they’ll share the stage with, but the female-powered partnerships don’t end there.

Rogers and Plapinger – along with other women in the music lineup and prominent women in the DC food and distilling communities – will speak on free-with-RSVP Women X Music and Women X Entrepreneurship panels at the new Eaton Hotel on October 5 to kickstart the festival weekend. The event is also partnering with the Women’s March to register festivalgoers to vote in their Power to the Polls initiative.

Friendly and his fellow founders (Will Suter, Adrian Maseda and Stephen Vallimarescu) chose Union Market as this year’s festival host, a spot brimming with local food vendors, brewers, artists and other DC-based businesses highlighting the District’s cultural contributions. The NoMa locale has morphed from a large wholesale area to a bustling metropolis of cuisine and distilling, with a “block party” vibe that Friendly is particularly excited about.

His blog-turned-festival got its start in 2006, when he and Maseda were searching for a way to share their musical preferences with the world.

“It was when music blogs were the source of new music, rather than Spotify or Tidal,” Friendly says.

As streaming services proliferated, they pivoted to stay relevant. Rather than sharing music directly, they began curating playlists, using the platforms to promote their discoveries. From 2009 to 2010, Friendly took one step closer to launching the festival by setting up a series of live music components with the help of publicists, labels, managers and agents. They hosted shows at venues like U Street Music Hall, 9:30 Club and SXSW, as well as other pop-ups around DC.

The inevitable transition from smaller events to a larger-scale festival was a “natural progression.” The group launched the first All Things Go in 2014 to spotlight emerging artists from the DMV and beyond. It’s extremely important to the founders to provide a homegrown spirit to the festival.

“We grew up going to music festivals, like the DC101 Chili Cook-Off and HFStival,” Friendly says. “[We’re] trying to bring some of what Lollapalooza brings to Chicago or Austin City Limits brings to Austin. We wanted to highlight DC. It’s a real destination for music.”

Friendly adds that the DC music scene has been alive and well for a long time, citing the city’s contributions to the punk scene and the birthplace of go-go music. With that in mind, the All Things Go founders always pay close attention to musicians cutting their teeth in the area. Among this year’s local acts are FootsXColes, Cautious Clay – a Brooklyn transplant who moved here to attend George Washington University – and the now New York-based OSHUN.

But highlighting DC as a music destination goes beyond drawing in famous performers for the festival. As All Things Go continues to grow with innovation and inclusion, Friendly knows there will always be room for improvement.

“We always joke that the first year we made 100 mistakes, and we fixed 90 of them and created 20. There’s just a constant back-and-forth. What’s been great for us is trying to find our way to get it perfect. We’re not there yet, but I just love seeing these fans buy tickets on the first day who I recognize and who were there [from] day one. Slowly seeing the audience build organically and [hearing] people say ‘Hey, I don’t know who [this artist] is, but I trust you guys.’  That feeling is why we do this.”

Don’t miss the 2018 All Things Go Fall Classic from Saturday, October 6 to Sunday, October 7 at Union Market. Tickets start at $65 and can be purchased at www.allthingsgofallclassic.com.

Union Market: 1309 5th St. NE, DC; 888-512-7469; www.allthingsgofallclassic.com

Photo: Shervin Lainez
Photo: Shervin Lainez

St. Lucia Brings New Record To Life On Stage

Some bands have the ability to sound great on a record but struggle to bring that same quality of sound onstage. Others are the opposite, captivating in real time but less inspiring later on. Since the release of St. Lucia’s first EP in 2012 to their new record Hyperion, they’ve proven time and time again that they’ve hit the happiest of sonic mediums.

Jean-Philip Grobler (the group’s founder, frontman and primary songwriter) and company make the perfect music to soundtrack an early fall road trip with earworms like “Dancing on Glass” and “Elevate.” They also consistently sell out iconic music halls, including their last run at 9:30 Club. In fact, they sold out two New York City shows at Pier 17 ahead of Hyperion’s release. Grobler is adamant their live show has helped them realize the full spectrum of their music, set them apart from peers and has garnered them a loyal fan base through the years.

“I loved making the album,” he explains. “It’s a grueling process, but it’s necessary. Through that process, I fully rediscover who I am as a person and an artist each time. The record really comes to life onstage, through people seeing and hearing the songs performed live. Sometimes [listening to a record] is too much for people to absorb. It’s like hearing just the audio of a movie and thinking, ‘What exactly is going on?’ and then seeing the movie and hearing the audio, which makes way more sense.”

St. Lucia is preparing to bring even more energy on this tour, which kicked off at the aforementioned sold out Pier 17 dates. Grobler and his bandmates will be back at the 9:30 Club on November 5 and 6.

“I feel like out of all of our records, [Hyperion] is tailor-made to be played live because it was constructed as a ‘band in a room’ kind of record, even though there’s also a higher production value there,” he says.

“We have the craziest production lights and rigs we’ve ever taken on tour, and we have this custom video content.”

Aside from the bells and whistles, their live show is part of their identity at this point.

“We believe in playing music as a band, but we also believe in bringing a show so that people get more than maybe what they would expect from the size venues that we’re playing.”

While their lush, breezy sound will have you dancing in your car on a daily commute as much as in front of the stage in concert, don’t write them off because of their pop-leaning sound – especially in this contemplative full-length effort. The band is more than meets the eye, or the first listen.

“I feel like in music and art in general, it more celebrates what’s f–ked up and negative,” Grobler says. “People, for some reason, believe your art more if you’re a dark person. I’m making this music that’s very positive and uplifting, but I think it’s important that all art has balance – that it explores the dark and light sides of the human condition. Having Indy made me think a lot more about that. To me, it comes across on the record and it feels like it’s a deeper exploration of both ideas.”

Indy is, of course, Grobler’s son with his wife and St. Lucia bandmate Patti Beranek. She was pregnant during the writing and recording stages of Hyperion, and that life-altering experience for both naturally gravitated into the sound of the album. Global chaos and impending first-time fatherhood led him to meditate on what kind of good and bad things in the world would greet Indy when he finally arrived.

“I would definitely call myself an optimistic person. I’m quite romantic and I think the world is beautiful. But I also see how it’s f–ked up in a lot of ways. A lot of the album is just dealing with being that kind of person in this world. We have this very positive vibe to our music. From the outside, I think for people who listen to darker music, it can be difficult for them to make that jump. But I think if they did, they would find something good in it.”

The reciprocal relationship music creates between artist and listener lies at the heart of everything St. Lucia creates. As excited as he is to inspire listeners through a record and in person, Grobler thrives off the energy and excitement fans new and old provide with each new album.

“When you start touring [and] you see people singing along to the words, that’s such a moving thing. There were so many moments of self doubt in making all these records. I think it’s natural for an artist to experience that. You go through this really grueling pilgrimage and process of making a record and then you release it, and you’re f–king terrified of what people might think. But then to just see how it moves people – and we haven’t seen it yet with this record – I’m really, really looking forward to that.”

Move and be moved with St. Lucia at the 9:30 Club on Monday, November 5 and Tuesday, November 6. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $32.50. Learn more about the show at www.930.com, and about the band at www.stlucianewyork.com.

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

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.