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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

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Cake Keeps Touring to Make Cake

Cake hasn’t released an album since 2011’s Showroom of Compassion, but the five-man group hasn’t exactly been sitting around twiddling their thumbs. Instead of spending time in the studio, they’ve made their way around the world touring – a lot.

“I think we like playing music,” lead vocalist John McCrea tells On Tap. “I’m definitely a better live performer than I was when I first started – not anything theatrical, not doing tricks, but actually playing my instrument and singing. What I don’t enjoy is traveling through space endlessly in buses and cars and airplanes. I think most people romanticize touring if they haven’t actually been traveling for two years straight.”

Despite the constant Mad Max, road warrior lifestyle, the band has found times for breaks. It’s during these moments that McCrea is able to break away and pen music. He’s not sure what will and won’t be on the band’s future releases. In the past seven years, he’s accumulated an enormous amount of songs on the shelf, waiting to be recorded when the band finds time.

“It takes a lot longer to record material because you’re doing it sort of in between the paying job,” McCrea says. “It’s like a weird hobby. I don’t know many people who can really record on the road, because you play until late at night and then you pass out, get up early and drive all day. It’s what we have now.”

McCrea has hundreds of incomplete songs, and potentially “hundreds and hundreds of fragments.” The ratio he uses in this interview is 1:9, as in for every song he takes to his fellow band member, one makes it to the next stage.

“I pretty much bring finished songs to the band. What they help me with is figuring out arrangements, baselines and guitar riffs. Sometimes I’ll add on stuff later.”

As a writer, he doesn’t fixate on the fragments, and instead chooses to leave them where they lie as newer, fresher ideas come to mind. In some cases, years pass before he regains the inspiration to revisit a particular “fragment.”

“It’s a feeling,” he says. “It’s intuitive when to revisit [a song]. I think it ends up sounding better if I just move on to another song. If I hit a wall, I think it sounds forced to pretend that the wall is not there. I know a short fiction writer who just couldn’t finish a story and left it there for five years. Then he came back to it and it was easy.”

Cake has a history of turning songs written by other musicians into hits as well. With the band’s unique style involving the fusion of spoken-word singing, rock and folk guitar riffs, and a generally laid-back attitude, the band’s covers of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” sound like independent works rather than rehashes.

“I think it’s more likely we do a country album [instead of a cover album], which would itself contain covers on it,” McCrea says. “I think that would be a lot of fun for us and the cool thing about playing other people’s material is that it’s a chance to inhabit someone’s thought process. I think that’s probably true of writing fiction. Like learning a song, it allows you to intuit someone else’s thinking, which is wild.”

With another tour on the horizon, there’s no telling when McCrea and his bandmates will huddle into a studio to record another album. Luckily, they’re still out there endlessly touring, and Cake is soon to inhabit the same space as Ben Folds.

“I think it’s probably the worst thing if you go to a concert or a festival and everyone is playing the same drum beat at the same time,” he says. “The human brain just sort of turns off when things sound too similar.”

Learn more about Cake at www.cakemusic.com.

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

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

Photo: Pierre Edwards
Photo: Pierre Edwards

A Day in the Life: Full Service Radio’s Jack Inslee

We could be corny and say he’s a jack of all trades, but indeed Jack Inslee is working hard to raise the bar in a variety of creative arenas in DC. After helping launch and then producing Heritage Radio out of New York City for several years, Inslee made his way to the District to team up with the masterminds behind the LINE Hotel to bring Full Service Radio to life. Inslee operates the live radio station out of the hotel’s lobby and brings guests and hosts from all cross sections of the city to a space where they can broadcast “the real DC” to the world. Inslee feels the station is starting to take on a life of its own, which is what he has hoped from the beginning. He likens himself to a traffic director, “trying to elevate what’s already happening in DC and what all the awesome hosts here do in their lives.”

When he’s not on-air at Full Service or traveling to promote DC’s creative community, Inslee can be found curating stages at Bonnaroo, DJing at Velvet Lounge, collaborating with local musicians, and hanging at Jimmy Valentine’s and Songbyrd, ever plotting new projects. And like the true DC convert he’s quickly become, he finds much-needed – though rarely gained – quiet time in the nooks and crannies of Rock Creek Park. We picked Inslee’s brain about Full Service Radio and his other ventures, and how he keeps a pulse on DC’s creative scene.

On Tap: You’re relatively new to DC from NYC. What’s the transition been like?
Jack Inslee: It’s crazy. I’m almost approaching two years in the District and I say this all the time: I’ve become like a DC evangelist. I’ve basically fallen in love with the city. It continues to surprise me constantly. It’s definitely much smaller [than New York], but there’s more room to breathe and space to think. And I think that the things happening in this creative community here in DC are wildly overlooked and underrated. It’s a special place right now, and a special moment to be in this.

OT: You’ve been working on the much-anticipated – and now lauded – Full Service Radio since before the LINE opened last December. How is it growing and evolving?
JI: I have been overwhelmed by the positive response that the network has gotten in these early stages. We are lucky to have a wildly incredible roster of hosts and collaborators that we’re working with. I couldn’t be luckier than to be in the LINE Hotel too, which is such an exciting space and place in the city. The energy here is just incredible. That public interaction is everything. But frankly, I’m not happy yet. It still feels like preseason to me. I’m never really completely satisfied, but that’s kind of what keeps things moving forward. I’m trying to improve every day.

OT: Do you have people walk into the radio station off the street and ask what you’re doing?
JI: Oh yes, constantly – for better or worse. All the radio shows stream live into the [hotel] rooms as well as on the Internet, so sometimes we’ll have a guest come down just having listened to a live broadcast and they get to interact with the host and the guests. There’s this real-time response that’s really neat and exciting.

OT: How frequently do you bring new shows on board? Do you have a goal to reach a certain number per week?
JI: I get flooded with so many requests and I want to embrace that enthusiasm. I don’t want to turn people away. I want to be a person that says “Yes” and welcomes those people in, but we’re definitely at capacity. We launched with 33 shows a week and we still have all of those shows. Come fall, we’ll have a handful more that will come on. My ears are always open for new ideas. At the very least, I want to accept every pitch and idea that comes in.


Can’t Live Without
Cold brew coffee with a tiny splash of milk and simple syrup
A solid (even if messy) “to do” list
Tea Tree Therapy Toothpicks, mint-flavored
Memes, jokes, good tweets – anything that makes me genuinely laugh and smile throughout the day
Relaxing music for a stressful day, energetic music for a shamefully lazy day


OT: Outside of Full Service Radio, are you still DJing and making music?
JI: I definitely stay busy with travel, DJing and producing music. A really exciting project that I’m over the moon about is a new album I made with Odetta Hartman called Old Rockhounds Never Die, coming out August 10. Odetta is an Americana artist and I do experimental electronic production and manipulate her voice and all kinds of weird things. It’s like this f–ked up, futuristic cowboy/soul kind of thing. I’m also working with some other DC musicians, and always DJing around town here and there. And I travel around and interview people in other cities [including visits to the LINE in Austin and L.A.] as well to bring it back to Full Service Radio. [We’ll be] doing little pop-ups in those cities and then finding ways to bring DC stories to those cities to expand our reach.

OT: You are a big part of DC’s art and music communities, but you also have a history in food. How does it influence your life these days, especially being at the LINE?
JI: It’s definitely become a real passion of mine over the years, and I think DC is starting to become known as a food destination as well. [James Beard Award-winning Chef] Spike [Gjerde] brought in [legendary Chef] Alice Waters as a guest on his show, so the food programming on Full Service is actually fairly robust and exciting. It’s one of the few places where policy conversations make it into the mix. And I do generally really draw from good food. Maketto is the first [place] I really fell in love with when I moved here. It’s like okay, I can get some really spicy bone marrow broth and some designer street clothes on sale? Cool. Yeah, that’s where it’s at. I just think that space is like a beacon for the city.

OT: You’re clearly excited about the creative scene in DC, but what concerns you most?
JI: DC seems to be really concerned with DC all the time. Often times, it can end up feeling like a silo here where it’s just everybody talking to each other. I just wish people would get out more and reach out to people in other places more. That kind of goes against this whole community thing that makes DC super special, so it’s not to say abandon that. But to put it in blunt terms, there’s this weird inferiority complex or something. When people feel like they’ve hit the outer walls of DC, rather than just getting down about it, [people should] push past them. It’s something I’m always trying to fight against and help people with.

OT: Who are some of the people in DC you think we should keep an eye on?
JI: Sir E.U and Tony Kill. They just put out an album called African American Psycho, and I think they’re both geniuses and they have been doing exactly what I was just talking about. They were just in L.A. and they’re pushing past the boundaries of the city. They’re crazy experimental and waving their own flag and I can’t say enough good stuff about that album. To me, that’s the stuff that’s giving me inspiration and part of why I love this city so much.

Learn more about Inslee and Full Service Radio at www.thelinehotel.com/full-service-radio.

The LINE Hotel: 1770 Euclid St. NW, DC; 202-588-0525; www.thelinehotel.com/dc

Photo: Elijah Jamal Balbed
Photo: Elijah Jamal Balbed

A Day in the Life: DC Drummer Isabelle De Leon

Encouraged by family, Isabelle De Leon has been playing music since she was four and the drums since she was seven. But hers is not a story of a child prodigy forced into a life of performance at any cost. De Leon has talent in spades, and she marches to the beat of her own drums. As an early teen, De Leon found a deep connection in writing music. She has since made it her mission to use the power of music to inspire and heal, and she does it in hundreds of different ways. On any given day, you can find her jetting from one gig to another, running jam sessions, teaching music lessons, serving as an ambassador to the DC music community and being the kickass lady drummer in a rock band.

At 27, De Leon has already played major venues including the Kennedy Center and DAR Constitution Hall, is the recipient of countless music scholarships and recognitions – including a stint as a Strathmore Artist in Residence – and still finds time to rock out with local synth-pop bands Prinze George and Paperwhite, and funk/soul band Lionize. Even with her many accomplishments, the local musician remains humble. On Tap caught up with De Leon to learn more about her  “constant learning journey” and how the musician incorporates her life experiences into the music she plays.

On Tap: You’ve played all over the country. What keeps you in DC?
Isabelle De Leon: I’m from Montgomery County, so not far. I’ve always loved the city, and it was always a dream of mine to move here and be more immersed in the scene. It’s great because the music scene is very active so there are a lot of opportunities to perform and meet other musicians. What’s cool about being here is that DC is a much smaller city but there’s still a lot happening, and I feel like I can be part of creating something here versus where it’s already oversaturated.

OT: You started out playing music at a young age with your family. How did your relationship with music develop as a child?  
IDL: It was always a family thing. My whole family played music. My dad was the one who taught us music when we were really young. He was teaching us all piano, guitar and bass. When I was seven, he brought home a drum set and taught me some basic things. At that point, he started asking each of us which instrument we wanted to take lessons for. I think he had a vision for what to steer us each toward. Our whole family played at church every weekend, and that was where we really learned about music theory, chord structures, arrangements and how to play in an ensemble – the nuances of improvising, taking cues and listening to each other. Those things are really valuable and hard to teach in a classroom.

OT: What drew you to the drums?
IDL: One of our favorite movies [growing up] was Selena, and it’s even more precious now because their story was very similar to ours. Their dad loved music and started them young, playing in this family band. I just remember that scene where he’s trying to get Suzette to play the drums and she’s adamantly protesting and she’s like, “Girls don’t play the drums.” And for some reason, I took that as, “Oh, I’m going to play the drums now and prove everybody wrong and show people that girls can play the drums.” So that was one of the reasons why I wanted to pursue it.

OT: It can be hard to make a career out of your passion. How did you make music both for you?
IDL: When I was really young, I didn’t know any other female drummers except [Santana’s] Cindy Blackman, who I idolized and still do. I realized that I was in a very unique position being a woman on a male-dominated instrument, and also being a woman minority in the music industry. I realized there was a power in that, in being able to inspire young girls to go out for things that people were telling them they couldn’t do. In a way, that’s really what my mission is. It’s one of the reasons why I feel like I can’t ever quit, necessarily. I yearn for that kind of figure I can look up to myself, and if I can be that for someone else who needs a role model, I would love to be that person for them.

OT: How does being a Filipino woman in this space affect what you do within the creative industry in DC?
IDL: Being a female drummer already sets me as a minority, and that’s something I’ve experienced my whole life. But one thing that I didn’t realize until I was much older was what my identity was and who I was. We grew up primarily around white people and because of that, I felt in a way more connected to American culture even though I know I don’t look “American.” But in Filipino circles, I didn’t feel like I fit in, in a way. That same kind of conflict came out when I started studying jazz music and participating in the DC music scene.

OT: What challenges have you faced breaking into the local jazz scene? 
IDL: Right now, I’m trying to get better at and play jazz, funk and soul music that’s oriented around really groovy drumming. There was an instance recently where it came to my attention that some people either roll their eyes at me when I come and play or they kind of judge me because according to them, I didn’t grow up in the “church” so I don’t really have a gospel background. That was hurtful because first of all, it’s not true. Also, music is supposed to be about camaraderie, sharing and connection. People who get hateful like that, or just bitter, defeat the purpose of what we do.

OT: You recently started a regular jam session at Pearl Street Warehouse. Is that a jazz series?
IDL: It’s called Southwest Soul Sessions. It’s not specifically jazz per se. I actually started the jam session with Elijah Jamal Balbed, who’s also an accomplished musician here, and our goal with the session was to bridge all of our music communities in DC. I’ve done a lot of work in the rock and pop scenes, and he’s very heavy in the jazz, R&B and go-go scenes. We realized that together, we would have a vast network of people and we really wanted to bring all of them together. The great thing about jam sessions is that you’re playing with people you may have never played with before and may never again. But in that moment, you’re just trying to create something that’s different and bring all of your influences to the table. We really wanted it to be like a dance party too, and Pearl Street Warehouse is perfect for that.

OT: You are very accomplished and constantly working on different projects. What keeps you focused and awake?
IDL: I’ve always known what my goals are. They’re pretty big, but I also have some that are more tangible like to be Beyoncé’s drummer. [Laughs] One thing that my mom taught me early on was to write down your priorities and goals and make lists of steps that you can take to get there. I make sure I check in with myself pretty regularly. My overall goals have been the same since I started to really pursue music, and I always keep that in the back of my mind. It’s really important to always remember your “Why?” It’s also important to take a break every once in awhile. There are days where I don’t do anything music-related.

OT: What do you enjoy doing on those days away from the music scene?
IDL: I really enjoy movies. I love being adventurous and trying new things, whether it’s an activity I’ve never done or something like bowling or just going on a walk in a park. I love cooking and catching up with friends. Relationships are really important to me, so I try to make sure I stay in touch with the people who are important and make time for them. I also really love shopping. I don’t mind spending money to beautify my room, because I’m creating music there and it needs to be a place of inspiration and a beautiful place that I can relax in and enjoy. My room is pretty decked out and full of plants.

Follow De Leon on Instagram at @isabelledeleon_ and on Facebook at @IsabelleDeLeonMusic. Learn more about her Southwest Soul Sessions with Balbed at www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com and sign up for drum lessons with her at www.7drumcity.com.

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

Ben Folds Breaks Boundaries Because He Can

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Kimberly Adamis
Photo: Kimberly Adamis

Lots of Heart On Ann Wilson’s Latest Album

Heart is one of the most popular rock bands of all time, with a catalog of hits like 70s and 80s radio staples “Alone,” “Crazy on You,” “Barracuda” and “These Dreams,” among many others. These classic rockers have sold more than 35 million records on the strength of Ann Wilson’s iconic voice and her sister Nancy’s exceptional guitar work.

While the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers are currently on hiatus, Ann Wilson is concentrating on her solo career this summer. She’s set to release a new album in mid-September and is now on tour with Jeff Beck and Paul Rodgers in what the trio is calling the Stars Align Tour.

“Touring for me is exciting as it ever was, and I still love it just as much as I ever have,” Wilson says. “This show is about the mastery of Jeff Beck, the incredible bluesy voice of Paul Rodgers and what I’m doing, so people can be rest assured they will go away humming.”

The tour makes a stop at Wolf Trap on August 20, though Rodgers will be MIA with only Wilson and Beck performing at the Filene Center.

“I’m not going to be harking back to the Heart stuff almost at all,” Wilson says of her upcoming set. “I only have one Heart song planned on the night. I’ll basically be covering the songs on my new record and doing songs that I have written over the last few years. It’s going to be really different but a lot of fun.”

Even though some fans may be disappointed that there’s not more Heart tunes being played, Wilson expects everyone to still enjoy her performance as most will be familiar with many of the songs. She feels it’s more important to support her new record than to draw from Heart’s discography.

“What I wanted with this [tour] is to be able to be shown as a singer. So far, we’ve done one show on this tour, but we got a fantastic response. I of course pay tribute to Heart by doing the one song, but I wanted to be brave and live on the edge and do new stuff.”

Wilson’s new release, Immortal, is named after the concept of the album, which is a tribute to some of the legendary musicians who are making the band in rock ‘n’ roll heaven even stronger.

“One of the criteria [for the album] was that all of the artists had passed on in the last few years,” she says. “The expressions these artists left in these songs are really great work, with great lyrics and great poetry. They need to be passed down in an oral tradition, sort of like cave drawings. They need to be left for generations to dig.”

With 10 tracks, Wilson pays homage to some of her favorite artists on songs that aren’t usually the first ones associated with the late musicians. For instance, her tribute to George Michael is with the song “A Different Corner” from his Wham! days, while she chose “Luna” to honor Tom Petty.

“I didn’t want to just go and cover a bunch of hits. My main theme was to honor the artists, so I went back through their bodies of work and found songs that really resonated with me, and it was really satisfying. I wanted to get really personal with the artists’ work.”

Of all the artists, she knew Chris Cornell the best, and honors him with the song “I Am the Highway.”

“I really love that song, and I wanted to bring it into a slightly softer acoustic mood without going all acoustic. I even play a flute solo in it. I just wanted the song to have a swing and be something people could feel ‘up’ about. The song itself is part of [Cornell’s] heart, and a wonderful song.”

Other tunes on the album include “A Thousand Kisses Deep” by Leonard Cohen, “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse and “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore. All three offer genres a little different than Wilson is usually associated with.

“I let the songs tell me what to do. The Cohen song is almost jazz and the Winehouse tune is almost gothic chamber music, so it’s definitely different for me. I welcome that and relish that. I’m always trying to push my boundaries out.”

Wilson is already thinking about what comes next after her tour ends. She’s formulating and developing an idea for an interactive storytelling tour and will continue writing when the mood hits her.

“I’m going to continue experimenting and moving ahead as long as I continue to enjoy it all,” she says. “I’m never going to become old and stale and do the same thing over and over. That’s not who I am.”

Catch Ann Wilson with Jeff Back at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center on Monday, August 20 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35-$75, and can be purchased at
www.wolftrap.org. Learn more about Wilson at www.annwilsonofheart.com.

Wolf Trap’s Filene Center: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; 703-255-1800; www.wolftrap.org

kina_grannis

Music Picks: August 2018

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 1

Kina Grannis and Imaginary Future
High school sweethearts turned singing and songwriting power couple Kina Grannis and Imaginary Future (Jesse Epstein) are bringing their soft acoustic sounds to the Birchmere stage this summer. I expect them to perform a decent amount of duets together (they have quite a few),  and a few covers of other popular songs you may know. Grannis, a YouTube success story, has found her own niche in the music industry after being signed to Interscope and becoming independent shortly after. In 2017 Grannis created KG records, a label supported entirely by her fans via Patreon. Her newest release  In the Waiting is the first album to debut on the label. If you’re a fan, especially one that donated to this project, I highly encourage you to come out and experience her new music in person. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $25. The Birchmere Music Hall: 3701 Mount Vernon Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.birchmere.com

Victory
After just one listen to her cover of Feeling Good, I can see that Victory Boyd has rightfully earned the comparisons to the great Nina Simone. Her unique blend of folk, soul, and  jazz makes for a refreshingly new take on all three genres. The Detroit-born singer/guitarist got her start busking in NYC after her family relocated to a nearby New Jersey suburb. After making waves on social media from a video of her singing recorded by a passerby, her music caught Jay-Z’s eye and she was signed to Roc Nation. Her newest album The Broken Instrument should serve as an inspiration to any musician that aspires to showcase their art on a larger platform. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15-$20. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

FRIDAY, AUGUST 3

Sons of Bill
The Sons of Bill mean their name in all seriousness. Aside from the bassist and the drummer, they really are the sons of Bill, a theology and Southern literature professor at the University of Virginia. Their father is also a musician and taught his three boys to sing and play guitar, and they like to talk about how they had to because they had no TV or radio otherwise growing up, but listen to their songs and you’ll hear that his lessons weren’t limited to chords only. Doors are at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $20. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

FRIDAY, AUGUST 3 –  SATURDAY, AUGUST 4

Tiny Cat Dark Music Festival 
Working Order Records and Black Cat are coming together to host Tiny Cat Dark Music Festival. What’s so great about this festival, besides the fact that it’s called a “Dark Music Festival” and features acts like Hante., Kontravoid, Crash Course in Science, and more is that 100 percent of the proceeds from tickets sold go to Greater DC Diaper Bank. The nonprofit accepts donations to help get families the supplies they need for their baby, as well as providing personal hygiene products to those in need. Go and rock out for a good cause. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets $20-$35. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 4

Stu Larsen & Natsuki Kurai
Australian folk guitarist and singer Stu Larsen and Japanese harmonica player Natsuki Kurai recently announced a world tour in support of their latest EP together, Stu Larsen & Natsuki Kurai II, which comes five years after their first together in 2013. The unlikely duo first connected nearly eight years ago when Larsen first adopted his vagabond lifestyle in 2010. They met in Tokyo, Larsen spoke no Japanese and Kurai spoke no English, but they connected over music. Doors are at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $15. Jammin Java: 227 Maple Ave. E Vienna, VA; www.jamminjava.com

Takenobu
This folk string duo features Nick Ogawa on cello and Kathryn Koch on violin, both of whom have wide ranging credits. Koch is a regular member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Ogawa tours with Kishi Bashi and composes for NPR’s “Invisibilia,” which probably explains the Takenobu style. They call their music folk, and thought there’s only two of them, their final sound is almost more like an orchestral take on folk, because of the live-looping they do. Doors are at 7 p.m. Entry is free with a suggested donation of $5. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

Wayne Wonder
Bliss Nightclub is throwing an outdoor music festival featuring a live performance from Wayne Wonder, the man who gave us the ever-iconic “No Letting Go” in 2003. In this song’s 15 year existence, there has never been a moment when I’ve heard this song at a party or in a club that the mood didn’t immediately change to summer vacation romance and whoever was next to you when it came on became the love of your life for the next three minutes. I don’t know if he performs often, so don’t miss this. Gates open at 2 p.m. Show at 4 p.m. Tickets $30. Bliss Nightclub: 2122 24th Pl. NE, DC; www.blissdc.com

Yung Bae
This one is a show which some people never imagined might happen. Yung Bae is an artist who like so many of his future funk contemporaries, e.g. Saint Pepsi, got his start on YouTube and it was unclear whether it would ever go beyond that, but also, like Saint Pepsi, Yung Bae has started to take his show on the road, and that he’s playing Flash shows the caliber of his purely-for-fun, purely-for-dancing beats. Doors are at 4 p.m. Tickets are $15. Flash: 645 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.flashdc.com

Zigtebra
At Slash Run, in addition to great burgers you can often find undersold touring band playing alongside some up and coming DC bands. This time it’s Zigtebra, a dream pop duo from Chicago with sound that’s like a somewhat spookier Postal Service. And playing with them is Stronger Sex, another duo, making experimental electronic. The show will also feature Lambda Celsius and visionary artist Katie Macyshyn. Slash Run: 201 Upshur St. NW, DC; www.slashrun.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 4 – SUNDAY, AUGUST 5

Summer Spirit Festival
The folks at Merriweather have brought together your favorite R&B, rap, hip-hop, and neo-soul artists to celebrate the summer. There’ something for everybody when you’ve got classics like Erykah Badu, Nas, The Roots and Backyard Band sharing a stage with newer artists like Lizzo, Daniel Caesar, Phony PPL and many more. It’s sure to be an unforgettable experience. Doors at 1 p.m. Tickets start at $108. Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; www.merriweathermusic.com

SUNDAY, AUGUST 5

Christian Loffler
If Christian Loffler couldn’t find the beat, you might find him a bummer. Unlike his German contemporaries coming out of Berlin, Loffler grew up in a remote part of the country and had to teach himself to make electronic music on his own, which he began to do as a sort of escape from and deep dive into his surroundings. Throughout his music you can hear a sort of melancholy, almost like if Bon Iver remade For Emma, only this time as dance music. Doors are at 4 p.m. Tickets start at $8. Flash: 645 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.flashdc.com

Juice WRLD
Riding off the high of his single “Lucid Dreams” hitting #3 on the Billboard charts, 19-year-old Chicago rapper Jared Higgins (a.k.a. Juice WRLD) will be coming to Echostage. Based on the success of his debut singles added to the ability to hold his own on the freestyle he dropped for HOT 97 back in mid-July, it’s clear that Juice WRLD is poised to make his mark in the rap world. His style lies somewhat in the vein of the sadboi rap that’s been circulating the airwaves as of late, but I’m looking forward to seeing what new elements he can bring to the genre. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $30-130. Echostage: 2135 Queens Chapel Rd. NE, DC; www.echostage.com

Lunar Vacation
This indie quartet is so young and yet has a style that’s so throwback that you might think they’re someone else’s brainchild. And if you only were to see the band’s pictures you might have had enough at that point, but once you hear their music, it’s hard to turn away from something so unabashedly gorgeous. It’s like 90s throwback indie rock with the production values of dream pop bands Wild Nothing or Real Estate. Doors are at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $10. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 9

Rae Sremmurd, Wiz Khalifa
Wiz Khalifa recently caught some flak for his hyper-masculine take on why straight men shouldn’t eat bananas (hint: they’re too phallic for his liking), but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t support my faves Rae Sremmurd who have never not given us a bop since their 2014 radio debut “No Flex Zone.”  The co-headliners will be supported by O.T. Genasis and Lil Skies. Doors at 6 p.m. Tickets $28-$183. Jiffy Lube Live: 7800 Cellar Door Dr. Bristow, VA; www.bristowamphitheater.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 11

Alice Bag
Comet Ping Pong is another one of those venues around town that’s doesn’t receive enough attention as a music venue. Not only are the pizzas and drinks good, but you can also find some good music. This time it’s Alice Bag, formerly of the Bags and an LA-punk scene legend by this point. The Bags broke up in the 80s, but she’s been Alice Bag ever since and her latest music lacks none of the fury she first earned a name for. Alongside her will be local bands Homosuperior and Faunas. Doors are at 10 p.m. Tickets start at $15. Comet Ping Pong: 5037 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.cometpingpong.com

Shakira
After postponing a majority of her tour in order to heal her strained vocal chords, Shakira is back in the U.S. for her El Dorado tour, named for her Latin Grammy winning (and Anglo Grammy nominated) 2017 album. Her newest single “Clandestino,” featuring frequent collaborator and fellow Colombian artist Maluma, is a smooth and summery reggaeton-tinged take on secret love. Shakira is a versatile artist who has an incredible resume. She’s acted in soap operas (and voice acted in Zootopia), served as a judge on the Voice, and had hit singles with both Rihanna and Beyonce on top of her own solo tracks, many of which she had a hand in writing. Plus, you just KNOW she has to do “Hips Don’t Lie,”  which you and I both know would be so fun to see and dance to live. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $86-$450. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.capitalonearena.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 11- SUNDAY, AUGUST 12

Moonrise Fest
Even though it’s out in Baltimore, it would be remiss of us to skip over one of the largest east-coast tours to come to this area every summer. Showcasing some of the best EDM, DnB, hip-hop and house acts, Moonrise “touches all corners of the dance floor”. The festival also features art installations and vendors, not to mention performances from Diplo, DJ Snake, Marshmello, Cashmere Cat, Vince Staples, Phantogram, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, and Gunna to name only a few. 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. both days. Tickets $99-$274.50. Pimlico Race Course: 5201 Park Heights Ave. Baltimore, MD; www.moonrisefestival.com

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 15 – THURSDAY, AUGUST 18

Rock and Roll Hotel 12th Anniversary
To honor more than a decade of existing as a performance space in the renowned H Street Corridor, the DC area venue is bringing together an eclectic mix of artists to perform. Nothing, nowhere. , Bat Fangs, The Messthetics, The Love Language, and Sparta will be performing all ages sets on separate nights at Rock and Roll Hotel to celebrate. Tickets $15-$20. See website for full list of times. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 16

Casual War
I’m trying to find where the “casual” part of Casual War comes in. In the what they publish about themselves they seem nonchalant, judging from not heavily curated Instagram, or the title of their EP, Demo, but the music’s a different story. Led by a frontwoman with a voice reminiscent of Nightwish and Evanescence, their take on indie rock can be dark and heavy. Doors are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. Velvet Lounge: 915 U St. NW, DC; www.velvetloungedc.com

Cup
I have to say, this is one of the shows I’m most excited about this month. Cup’s music is a garage punk, very reminiscent of 80s punk music, but with a more angular and experimental approach. The Queens-based band will play alongside DC’s own Bottled Up who continue to rise through DC’s music venues and Ontario-based three piece rock outfit, Bike Thiefs. Doors are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $10. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

FRIDAY, AUGUST 17

Trombone Shorty and Galactic
I don’t know how much there is to be said about Trombone Shorty that The Anthem didn’t already say by featuring him as one of their first acts. But he’s not the only artist to be featured this night, not even the only one from New Orleans. New Orleans funk jam band Galactic as well as the Preservation Hall jazz band will perform as well, and no doubt there will be some set overlap. It should be a night of nonstop ecstatic music and outrageous musicianship. John Williams has nothing on this brass. Doors are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $30. Wolf Trap’s Filene Center: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org

Vacationer
After a four-year hiatus, (I’m doing my best not to say vacation), Vacationer returned in 2018 with his latest record Mindset. The album artwork very much fits the spirit of the music. It pictures the silhouette of a head in profile which get smaller and smaller in concentric circles, or heads rather. It could be read as a topographical map and a matryoshka doll X-ray. It’s dreamy much like Vacationer’s synth and sample heavy tracks. Doors are at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 18

Crushnpain
This show was another unexpected find. Velvet Lounge is known for having great DJs, but often they play downstairs unannounced, but Crushnpain is getting the full billing this time. He’s a DC-based DJ, who from the sound of his shuffling drum and bass and his more deep house sounding tracks, I might have thought to find him at Flash, only he has no Resident Advisor page. But that only means you’ll be ahead of the curve. See him at Velvet Lounge because shortly he’ll get picked up elsewhere. Doors are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. Velvet Lounge: 915 U St. NW, DC; www.velvetloungedc.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 23

In The Whale / Company Calls
Colorado-based duo In The Whale is celebrating 7 years of making their high energy blend of garage rock by going on a massive U.S. tour until mid-October. During their time as a band the pair have graced stages at Lollapalooza, Riot Fest, AfroPunk, and Warped Tour (RIP). Their supporting act Company Calls hails from DC, was formed in ‘08, and shares its name with a Death Cab for Cutie song. Fun Fact: Someone from my old church youth group’s eldest sister is a member of the band, too. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $10. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 23 – SUNDAY, AUGUST 26

Cyrus Chestnut
I’m sure you’ve heard jazz before, and maybe you think once you’ve heard, you’ve heard enough, but seeing it live is another thing, especially seeing someone of Cyrus Chestnut’s caliber. Georgetown’s a trip to get to, but Blues Alley is worth it. It’s in an actual alley and when you find yourself in the line out the door, you’ll realize you’re somewhere special. Plus, the po’boys are fantastic. Bring some good company, have some good food and watch Chestnut shred in the Oscar Peterson school. Shows are at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tickets start at $30. Blues Alley: 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.bluesalley.com

TUESDAY, AUGUST 28

New Order
The incredibly iconic post punk outfit, born like a phoenix out of the ashes of Joy Division, embarks on a short tour this summer and DC is lucky enough to be a stop. See the band responsible for producing numerous 80s bops and influencing a pantheon of younger artists in the flesh at The Anthem. 8 p.m. show.Tickets start at $55. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthem.com

Slaughter, Beach Dog
Modern Baseball came on the scene in 2012 and shortly established themselves as one of the most dominant pop punk bands on the scene. But this is not them, this is the solo project Modern Baseball guitarist and vocalist, Jake Ewald. Ewald released his second record under the name in 2017. It’s less pop and less punk, and a little more straight forward gorgeous indie songwriting, somewhat like a tamed AJJ. Doors are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $13. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

THURSDAY, AUGUST 30

Lucki
Chicago-native Lucki was on the vanguard of today’s alterna-trap/mumble rap sound back when he was going by Lucki Eck$ in 2013. Since then, he’s collaborated with artists like FKA twigs, Chance The Rapper, King Krule and Danny Brown. After a series of setbacks and taking a hiatus from making music in 2018, Lucki is back posting new music on SoundCloud and working on new projects, the latest of which is a series of singles and his DAYS B4 II EP.  Though he’s only 21, I can tell he’s an artist that’s confident in his sound and style, and committed to re-distinguishing himself in the genre that many would argue he had a hand in making popular. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15-$50. Union Stage:  740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

Ty Dolla $ign, Lil Uzi Vert, G-Eazy
I’m going to be honest here and say that I was confused when I saw this lineup and was under the impression that G-Eazy was the headliner on this tour. According to Rolling Stone though, these three are co-headlining, which I can accept (even though we all know it should be Lil Uzi or even Ty Dolla $ign off the strength of his features alone). YBN Nahmir, P-Lo and DJ Murda Beatz will also perform at this show, which is sure to be a nonstop party from start to finish. Doors at 6:30 p.m.. Tickets $33-$160. Jiffy Lube Live:  7800 Cellar Door Dr. Bristow, VA; www.bristowamphitheater.com