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Photo: Catie Laffoon
Photo: Catie Laffoon

X Ambassadors Speak Truth, Change Sound on New Record

From the start, Adam Levin knew it was meant to be.

“It was a natural fit. I could just play the drums immediately.”

Levin found a place to exercise his passion with brothers Sam (vocals, sax) and Casey (keys) Harris when they formed X Ambassadors in 2009. Since then, the three-piece, alt-rock group has released a full-length album, VHS (2015), and toured with Muse, Imagine Dragons and Panic! at the Disco. As they continue climbing the ladder of fame and success, Levin says he and his bandmates try to appreciate the little things in life as much as possible. This mindset is central to their upcoming album, Joyful.

On June 7, X Ambassadors will play Wolf Trap’s Filene Center in Vienna, Virginia to promote Joyful and give listeners a taste of their new sound. The band has already released six singles to test the waters with fans who have been patiently waiting for another full-length album for three years now.

Although Levin says X Ambassadors is still the same band that created VHS, which featured hit singles “Renegades” and “Unsteady,” the band didn’t want to create a “VHS 2.0.”  Their latest singles, “Joyful” and “Don’t Stay,” reveal a transition into a bluesy, soulful sound that features layers unheard of in their previous style.

“As we grow as musicians and songwriters, our music is going to grow with us,” Levin says. “We embrace our soul influences and [Sam’s] voice with big choir vocals. There’s a lot more impressive vocal work on this record.”

X Ambassadors has been teasing Joyful’s release for quite some time, but has yet to announce a solid release date.

Levin says 2018 is a safe bet, and we’ll just have to take his word for it.

“It’s like a project that never ends because you write something new and it’s really cool and exciting, so it’s a constant shifting of songs,” he says. “We’re just trying to make it the best that we possibly can, and we want to take our time to put it out.”

When asked about the message of Joyful, Levin was reluctant at first, but eventually gave a few hints as to what listeners can expect from their new venture into a more soul and R&B sound.

“A lot of it is inspired by a friend of ours who’s going through addiction right now, and Sam’s been estranged from this person. I think a good amount of the record is speaking to that and Sam’s personal battle with it. It’s also about the message of taking a step to be joyful about the things that you do have.”

Levin says that much of X Ambassadors’ messaging comes from using their privilege as three straight white males to give a voice to marginalized people. Although many bands are afraid they might alienate listeners if they speak out politically, X Ambassadors decided long ago to provoke discussion and change with their music.

“People might disagree with our political viewpoints, but we don’t let that stop us from doing what we think is right,” he says.

Some examples of their recent political activity include performing a special show to benefit Planned Parenthood on International Women’s Day in 2017 and donating all proceeds they earned for six months after the release of their single “Hoping” to the American Civil Liberties Union beginning in March of last year.

“I think there are a lot of people right now who feel alienated and attacked, and we want to do what we can to represent them,” Levin says. “If that empowers them to keep fighting the good fight, then we’ve done our job.”

Since they began writing music together in 2009, the bond between Levin and the Harris brothers has flourished because of all the trials and tribulations they experienced together as rising musicians.

“There were so many times where this band felt like it wasn’t going to happen,” Levin says. “All of the different hurdles we’ve jumped have made us so much stronger.”

But to Levin, hurdles and failures are no more than signs to turn around and go the other way. This philosophy is part of what gives X Ambassadors the drive and dedication to put out the best music they possibly can for their fans.

“All of the things we’ve been through together and our ability to communicate is what it’s all about. The most important thing in any creative relationship is the ability to be candid and not afraid to say what you think, even if it might hurt some feelings.”

Along with their fearless, go-getter attitude, X Ambassadors embraces a “no bullsh-t” approach that they picked up from Imagine Dragons, who they credit for discovering them.

“One thing we learned from touring with Imagine Dragons is to be overly nice to everyone you meet because it pays to do that,” Levin says. “It’s not like we were
a–holes before that tour or anything, but we learned there’s no time for any of that rock star bullsh-t.”

With the upcoming release of Joyful and a national tour underway, X Ambassadors is steadily moving toward their dream of becoming the headliners of their own major tour and selling out arenas all over the States. But no matter how big they get, they want to continue giving their fans music that they can hold onto during hard times.

“We obviously want fans to love the music, but we also want them to feel represented or to find something that they can relate to,” Levin says. “A song can be written about one thing, but a person may hear it and they might not understand what it was originally written about, but it somehow relates to their life. That’s the beautiful thing about music and art, and that’s the message we want to bring with the record.”

See X Ambassadors open for Fitz and the Tantrums at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center on Thursday, June 7. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30-$55 and available for purchase at www.wolftrap.org. Learn more about the  band at www.xambassadors.com.

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

 

Atish

Music Picks: May 2018

SUNDAY, MAY 6

Bullet For My Valentine
Come rock out with Bullet For My Valentine and hopefully hear songs off of their latest album, Gravity, set to release on June 29. With influences like Metallica and Slayer, lead singer Matt Tuck wasn’t kidding when he said BFMV is a “hard rock band with metal influences.” I’m secretly praying they’ll play “Tears Don’t Fall” and “The Poison.” Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $27-$81. The Fillmore: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com

MONDAY, MAY 7

Panda Bear
Noah Lennox, a founding member of Animal Collective, has been making music as Panda Bear since his teenage years when people first noticed his penchant for drawing pandas on his mixtapes. His last record, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper (2015), is a down-tempo electronic record. In its synths and drums, and even the progressions, it’s reminiscent of 80s synth pop, but in its overall mood it feels more like experimental chill wave. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

TUESDAY, MAY 8

Braids
Braids hasn’t released new music since Companion EP in 2016, but they’re trying out new material on their latest tour. According to their Spotify playlist, Songs that are Inspiring LP4, their new record is taking influence from Joni Mitchell, Prince, Kendrick Lamar and Fleetwood Mac. I’m not sure how that mix will play out, but I’m sure it’ll sound close to “Joni” off of Companion, which shows ties to Joni Mitchell in the free-wheeling melody, but keeps the iconic Braids beats and production that sucks listeners in. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $12. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2745 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrd.com

WEDNESDAY, MAY 9

Kid Brother
With three guitarists, a bassist, a drummer and a keyboardist, this six-piece indie rock band really fills the room with their folk and blues-inspired sound. With just over a year of playing together under their belts, Kid Brother already has two quality albums out on bandcamp.com. Not only is their music complex and their lyrics riveting, but they’re also genuinely fun to listen to. Plus, they’re from Northern Virginia, so now you have even more incentive to come to this show. 21+ only. Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

THURSDAY, MAY 10

Moon Boots
Moon Boots is a Brooklyn-born and now Brooklyn-based DJ and producer, so it’s little wonder that I was first introduced to him by a Brooklynite. After school, where he may have studied engineering but more likely Daft Punk, he moved to Chicago, the birthplace of house, and those Chicago days really shine through in his music. He was there on the floor experiencing Frankie Knuckles and Derick Carter and it shows in his music, but perhaps even more so in his live shows. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

FRIDAY, MAY 11

Wye Oak
With their “most gripping and powerful set of songs to date,” Wye Oak created their biggest, boldest music yet on their fifth and latest studio album release, The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs. Jenn Wasner’s mystical vocals float over complex rhythms and melodies in constant comfort, even though the lyrical content is heavy. For 10 years, Wasner and her musical partner in crime Andy Stack have been working towards a truly great album, and they’ve finally accomplished their goal. Head out to their show tonight to experience their surreal sound in the flesh. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

SATURDAY, MAY 12

Frankie Cosmos
Their three-part harmonies, eclectic yet catchy pop melodies and deep, playful lyrics are out of this world. Frankie Cosmos, originally the brain child of Greta Kline, transformed into a four-piece masterpiece and really came into its own sound. The New York Times, Rolling Stone and Pitchfork have already praised their sophisticated instrumentals and lofty vocals, so be on the lookout for great things from this group. And come see their live show at Black Cat while you’re at it. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

Odd Mojo

This free Velvet Lounge show follows on the Funk Parade on Saturday, May 12. But don’t let the free tickets fool you. This show is worth way more than that and because it’s free, you definitely shouldn’t miss it. Odd Mojo is an MC from Maryland. Her music and flow recall old school rappers, though her verses boast a contemporary awareness and positivity. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Free. Velvet Lounge: 915 U St. NW, DC; www.velvetloungedc.com

SUNDAY, MAY 13

Jorja Smith
The R&B singer-songwriter has been on the rise since her 2016 single “Blue Lights.” To give you an idea of where she’s gone from there, she collaborated with Drake on two tracks on More Life (2017) and wrote a track with Kendrick Lamar for the Black Panther soundtrack in 2018. Smith has also recently collaborated with Stormzy and Kali Uchis. She’s known for the jazz cadences to her singing, recalling at once Rihanna and Amy Winehouse, who England-native Smith claims as her biggest influence. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $25. Howard Theatre: 620 T St. NW, DC; www.thehowardtheatre.com

TUESDAY, MAY 15

The Artisanals
Picture 70s George Harrison – hair, mustache and incredible songwriting included. The Artisanals sound a lot like how you would picture Harrison, and they even take sonic inspiration from the rock ‘n’ roll icon himself. The Artisanals have a knack for crescendo in their American folk-rock music – building tension for over half of the song and releasing it to a euphoric combination of keys and the soft plucking of guitar strings. If you’re a 70s rock fan, you’ll love these guys. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10-$12. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

Fleet Foxes
The calming, ethereal and environmentally focused sounds from Fleet Foxes will take you away to another world of faeries and folklore, yet eerily similar to our own. Complex instrumentals, thoughtful lyrics and hypnotizing vocals will make you want to listen over and over again until you grasp all of the subtleties and hidden meanings beneath the surface. Experience this other-worldly sound for yourself live at The Anthem. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45-$75. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

WEDNESDAY, MAY 16

Mdou Moctar
From Niger, Mdou Moctar has become something of a star among Tuareg musician. Like Tinariwen, he is among the first Tuareg guitarists to adapt traditional Tuareg music to electronics. Among the crowded scene, he is known for his unique, genre-bending compositions and has become an underground success, playing sold out shows from small DIY clubs to Lincoln Center. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

THURSDAY, MAY 17

Jukebox the Ghost
If feel-good piano pop tunes are your jam, you’ll love DC natives Jukebox the Ghost. With the release of their 2018 album, Off To The Races, Jukebox the Ghost now has five albums worth of uplifting lyrics and Queen-inspired music. Their top track on Spotify, “Everybody’s Lonely,” has an obvious “Bohemian Rhapsody” vibe going on and I absolutely love it. And the band’s little ghost logo is adorable. What’s not to love? Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25-$60. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

SATURDAY, MAY 19

Quiet Slang
Beach Slang’s front man James Alex lets his vulnerable vocals soar in a new, softer project with Quiet Slang. Consequence of Sound writes that Alex put it this way: “Beach Slang is drunk, sweaty sins on a Saturday night. Quiet Slang is salvation on Sunday morning.” With only cello and piano resonating beneath him, Alex’s vocals standout as emotionally charged and meaningful. Depending on your taste, you might even like Quiet Slang better than the original. Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

TUESDAY, MAY 22

American Pleasure Club
Formerly known as Teen Suicide, American Pleasure Club, led by songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sam Ray, manages to blend music genres you’d think would go together as well as Chinese food and chocolate pudding. But somehow, they make a combination of American folk, Japanese ambient music, modern rap and 90s indie rock sound surprisingly amiable, laid back and moving. Check out Ray’s 2018 album, A Whole Fucking Lifetime of This, to see what I mean. Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets starting at $15. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2477 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

FRIDAY, MAY 25

Atish
The Atish experience is “deep, emotive, ecstatic.” The Bay Area DJ actually got his start as a software engineer for Facebook, but soon gave that up for producing. Somehow, it makes sense that he moved from the tech industry to DJing the Robot Heart Bus at Burning Man, first in 2011 and for three years following. Since then, he’s made a name for himself for his melodic deep house and his strict devotion to DJing rather than producing. He’s also known as a charismatic performer, engaging the crowd and donning at least a wig, if not a full costume, for performances. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $8. Flash: 645 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.flashdc.com

SUNDAY, MAY 27

This Is The Kit
Kate Sables has been making music under the alias This is the Kit since 2008. Her music is a kind of alternative folk with a band consisting of regular contributors and ever-changing ones. Their latest record was Moonshine Freeze (2017), some songs of which they got to perform at a NPR Tiny Desk concert in December. For alternative folk, don’t think they’re along the same lines as Bon Iver. Their music is something more raucous and fun. If Ezra Furman gives a somewhat ecstatic take on Americana, This Is The Kit gives a more ecstatic take on British folk, though with little punk influence. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

TUESDAY, MAY 29

Michael Rault
Montreal-based singer-songwriter and producer Michael Rault makes music that toes the line between inspiring and plainly derivative. It’s music much like that of another Canadian contemporary, Andy Shauf. It’s heavy on shakers and clean, lush, stringy production. There’s more of a Laurel Canyon influence, however, which really comes out in the guitar timbres and some of the song structures. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

TUESDAY, MAY 29 – WEDNESDAY, MAY 30

John Fogerty and ZZ Top
Two Rock & Roll Hall of Fame icons, John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival and ZZ Top, blues rock legends since the 1970s, are coming to Wolf Trap for two straight dates. Fogerty will be performing his songs from CCR, and from ZZ Top, you can look forward to tracks like “La Grange,” “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Gimme All Your Lovin’.” Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $45. Wolf Trap’s Filene Center: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org

WEDNESDAY, MAY 30

Japanese Breakfast
Japanese Breakfast has traveled through DC several times over the past few years. They started by opening for bands like Mitski and Porches at Rock & Roll Hotel on H Street. On their last DC excursion, they played a Tiny Desk Concert and headlined at Black Cat. Now they’re headlining 9:30 Club. Get your tickets before they sell out or you’ll have to wait until they play at The Anthem. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

SayWeCanFly
Braden Barrie, SayWeCanFly creator, singer and songwriter, began writing music in his bedroom in Ontario in 2009. Since then, his songs have streamed over 30 million times and he’s toured all over North America. Barrie brings out the 2009 emo kid in all of us with his angsty lyrics, smooth vocals and emotionally driven acoustic melodies. He reminds me of Christofer Drew Ingle (aka 2009 emo heartthrob Never Shout Never), but with darker sad boy vibes. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12-$25. Jammin Java: 227 Maple Ave. E, VA; www.jamminjava.com

FRIDAY, JUNE 1

Top Dawg Entertainment: The Championship Tour
The billing for this show should immediately speak for itself. Kendrick Lamar is, of course, leading the show and is easily reason enough to make it out, but other TDE highlights will be there, including SZA, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, SiR and Lance Skiiwalker. TDE has been at the front of not just hip hop but also, arguably, music whatsoever. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $39. Jiffy Lube Live: 7800 Cellar Door Rd. Bristow, VA; www.livenation.com

Photo: Alexandra Cabral
Photo: Alexandra Cabral

Twin Shadow Falls into Focus with New Album, Tour

Twin Shadow’s latest tour, which aims to bring attention to the release of their new album Caer, kicked off on March 23 and includes dates with Alt-J and Beck. The creative force behind the band, George Lewis Jr., says he looks forward to what will be something of an East Coast homecoming at their U Street Music Hall show this Friday.

“We love DC, we always have great shows there,” he says. “We’re all east coast people – we’ve got a California boy in the band now – but [bandmate Wynne Bennett] and I both like to spend a lot of time on the east coast so we’re really excited about coming back there because it feels like home.”

As for the tour itself, a new era is approaching for Twin Shadow. The spotlight is set on the magnificent new music and serves as a showcase of Lewis Jr. and his band’s talent.

“This tour is really about just getting back to the music,” he says. “There’s not a big production behind the set. We just want to play music for people. The set up with the new band sounds amazing and it’s really just going to be that.”

A lot has changed for Lewis Jr. since he released his last record in 2015. He and his band were forced to stop performing after their tour bus crashed into a tractor-trailer near Denver. Thankfully, no involved parties suffered major injuries, but Lewis Jr. and his band took time to reflect and grow while off the road, both personally and politically. He speaks of the global themes that anchor this new record.

“This is the first time I really feel like people are actually looking at the world like ‘oh man, this might be it, this might be kind of the last round in humanity,’” Lewis Jr. says. “The idea of what being human [means] is changing because of computers and I think everything is being questioned. Everything is flipped on its head. And artists are making art at a time when that’s happening, and regardless of political themes, it’s hard to not make art that has a feeling of ‘oh this might be our downfall, this might be the end or this might be the beginning of a new version of who we are as human beings.’ It’s where the emotional bed of the record is.”

While dealing with the changing ways of the world, Lewis Jr. also weaves a thread between other works of his, adding to an impressive catalog that will now span four full-length records. “I would say [Caer] is more of a progression from Eclipse and it kind of goes back to some of the musical ideas on my first record, Forget,” he notes.

Caer also includes collaborations with HAIM, the vivacious alt-rock trio consisting of three sisters who released their sophomore album Something to Tell You late last year. Lewis Jr. says after he and the members of HAIM became good friends, they eventually guided him during his creation of Caer.

“I had originally sent Danielle from HAIM ‘Saturdays’ when I wrote it, because I wrote it thinking about them,” Lewis Jr. says. “They ended up going in and working on it and that was really exciting because I just think they’re the best.”

The title of the album comes from the Spanish verb caer, meaning “to fall.” While the Lewis Jr. moves forward into a new phase of his life, he’s certainly had many things both good and bad fall into place on this record, leading to his triumphant return to stage this month.

Twin Shadow play U Street Music Hall with Yuno on Friday April 27. Doors 7 p.m. Show 7 p.m. The new album “Caer” is also available this day. Tickets $30 here.  All ages.

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

Photo: www.facebook.com/porchfestdc/
Photo: www.facebook.com/porchfestdc/

East of the River for the First Time: Porchfest Music Festival Comes to Southeast

Porchfest Music Festival is coming to Southeast DC for the very first time.

Penn Branch resident and SE Porchfest volunteer organizer Ayanna Smith announced earlier this month that May 20 will mark the first Porchfest to be held east of the Anacostia river.

Porchfest consists of mini concerts held on front porches. This structure allows attendees to walk freely from house to house, listen to local talent and meet people from the neighborhood. In the past, local business improvement districts hosted Porchfest, including an event this April on Rhode Island Avenue. This time around, the event is entirely organized by volunteers.

“I chose to focus in the community where I have relationships,” Smith says. “Penn Branch and Hillcrest have beautiful stately homes with front yards and large porches, mixed with a rich history and tons of hidden talent. We have all of the elements of a perfect Porchfest.”

The very first Porchfest was organized by founder Lesley Greene and took place in Ithaca, NY. Greene came up with the idea while sitting out on her front porch playing music and chatting with a neighbor. The event has spread far beyond Ithaca and even DC, with yearly fests taking place in over 100 locations.

“It was one of the first warm days of the year, and my husband and I sat on our front steps, soaked up the sunshine, and played some ukulele tunes,” she says. “We realized that there were so many musicians living right in our neighborhood that we could practically have a music festival with just the people who live nearby. We gave it the name Porchfest that day.”

They’ve been gaining popularity ever since: past Porchfests have drawn crowds ranging from 3,500 to 5,000 people. Greene says the community setting opens the door for the wide variety of bands that play these festivals.

“It would be very difficult to have anything like the number of bands that perform at Porchfest if it were held at a concert venue,” she says. “We would not only need a lot of time, but a huge staff. Every band sets up for themselves, and because they are spread out over a relatively large area, many bands can play at the same time.”

Musician Rasha Jay will play the festival, and plans to perform songs from her first EP, Cicada, and possibly some new material.

“I grew up with a porch, and there is nothing more intimate than that setting,” she says. “I look forward to being close up with people and sharing my sound.”

Emily Woodhull and Jeff Blake, two members of EBW Music, cover songs that speak to them on a personal level.

“We play covers of songs that reflect who we are,” Blake says. This includes a repertoire of alternative rock and well-known hits like “Say it Ain’t So” by Weezer and “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show. Though they don’t have original songs ready just yet, they’re on the way.

“We are in the process of perfecting a few and they may very well be show ready in time for Porchfest,” he assures.

Smith says planning a Porchfest without the aid of a business improvement district is a real challenge, but still necessary and worth it.

“There’s a negative stigma associated with living east of the river in DC that is based partially on stereotypes,” she says. “In hosting the first SE Porchfest, I’m hoping to showcase the beauty of our community.”

She envisions taking Porchfest beyond single neighborhoods, and she’s taken steps to establish Porchfest DC as a tax-exempt organization with the goal of creating a citywide festival.

SE Porchfest currently boasts over 30 volunteers, who are working hard to secure sponsorship and additional performers at the SE edition of the fest. Organizers anticipate six to eight participating host homes, with two bands playing at each porch.

“I would love to see some go-go bands join the list,” Smith says. “I love drums, I appreciate that the city has its own genre of music. It’s the sound of DC.”

As Rasha Jay puts it, “DC is and has always been innovative and unapologetic, and the city is full of talent.”

Individuals interested in volunteering can complete the volunteer sign-up form. Musicians and bands who want to participate can email porchfestdc@gmail.com.

For updates, visit Porchfest DC’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Porchfest DC – Southeast Edition: Penn Branch, SE, DC; www.facebook.com/PorchFestDC

Photo: U.S. Girls
Photo: U.S. Girls

U.S. Girls Smash Patriarchy

Meg Remy’s deliberate silence early in the U.S. Girls set at Union Stage Sunday night let you know that though she was having fun; she wasn’t fucking around. Remy is U.S. Girls, who are currently touring their sixth record, In a Poem Unlimited. Center stage, silent and dressed in all black, Remy stared back at anyone making a sound.


Side note, Ian Svenonious’ solo act, Escape-ism, opened for U.S. Girls. I first heard about Svenonious and Escape-ism in talking with Eric Hilton of Thievery Corporation, (see here). Hilton was talking about bands he loves to see around town and Svenonious was the first thing to come to mind:

“Anything Ian Svenonious does, I love. I just saw Escape-ism at DC9, and I just thought it was brilliant. It’s very esoteric, like a lot of his things are, but it’s awesome.”

He was right. Escape-ism was odd, very 60s performance art, but great. Check out his DC special, “Exorcist Stairs.”


Remy called for this silence after the third or fourth song of the set, (or willed rather, because she didn’t say a thing), before she started singing “Rosebud.” The title is a reference to Citizen Kane, but I like to call it “Finch Song” because of the music video, which shows her partner, Slim Twig, setting free a booty-shaking finch.

Slim Twig and his band, The Cosmic Range, actually joined Remy for the tour, as well as being a background vocalist. The Cosmic Range is a free jazz group based in Toronto, but they were a perfect fit for Remy’s disco-inflected songs. They were also able to play “off-record,” (i.e. not according to the studio recording) to flex Remy’s experimental chops.

Their look lent itself to the more surreal U.S. Girls songs. Alongside Remy and her background singer’s chic black, they looked positively Lynch-ian. The saxophonist played a comically small curved sopranino sax and the keyboard player wore all red, red slacks and red button down, though no tie; he also tended to dance like he was slapping a horse.

The drummer and Slim Twig looked very much the part of “band members.” Slim even looked like he belonged in a group who takes their coffee intravenously. Either way they were sexy; Slim was the ‘sexy garbage’ to the drummer’s ‘sexy hipster.’

Remy’s silence was a recurring note throughout the night. She refused to allow songs to die à la Frankie Cosmos, which is to say slowly and with a whimper, and instead pushed for an end with free jazz flurries, followed by stillness. Again, The Cosmic Range hookup makes sense.

The songs are long and groove. Remy has routinely experimented with countless genres over the years for U.S. Girls.  For In a Poem Unlimited, she dived deep into disco and other early dance music. Lyrically and tonally they’re on another level. Her songs tend to channel the anger of wronged women.

For example, “The Pearly Gates” imagines a woman on her way to heaven who realizes the only way in is through Peter, and Peter is a fucking monster. The song asks if heaven is safe if it’s run by men, and if Remy’s stories were only intelligible to the studied listener, she left no room for ambiguity on her position when she paused the set another time; she played a sample of someone saying “I strongly encourage you not to tell women what to do.”

She let the sample run several times, nodding toward the audience, before moving to the next.

As the show went on, the performance became more unhinged. If the first several songs were christian baby making music, then the latter were more chimera-child making music. The groove moved to a sort of slink, and you almost felt as if the band had forgotten the audience. Remy, her background vocalist and the keyboardist were dancing around one another, and you felt they might tear each other’s clothes off. But if they were to fuck, the rest of the band would probably only stare glassy-eyed.

For the encore, only Remy came back onstage. She told the audience “there are no encores in life” and dropped the microphone. For more on U.S. Girls follow them on Twitter, and for more on Remy, check out her Instagram. Find In a Poem Unlimited wherever you get your music.

Photo: Colin Medley
Photo: Colin Medley

Dynamic Duo Partner Rocks DC

Lucy Niles and Josée Caron, better known as Partner, a Canadian rock duo with hilariously relatable lyrics and guitar chops for days, graced the DC9 stage Wednesday after making waves on the SXSW circuit in March. Ahead of their show, I sat down with the duo to talk inspiration behind their debut album, In Search of Lost Time, what it’s like working alongside a close friend, and how others can draw from their example to trust in their creative work.

Niles and Caron’s subject matter has an undeniable everyday appeal. With songs about making the most of weekdays off from a hectic work schedule on “Personal Weekend,” the paranoia that comes from being high in public on “Everybody Knows,” and the excitement of a new crush on “Play the Field,” listeners will find at least one relatable song on their first full-length album. The band says their inspiration for these songs comes from common threads amongst their lives.

 

Both on and off the stage, Niles and Caron have a palpable and cohesive energy that many duos spend entire careers honing. In addition to the two on guitar, an equally talented three-piece band joins them for live performances. While they were in college, Niles and Caron spent time in and out of different projects before they formed Partner in their post grad years.

“Everyone in the other bands moved away and it was kind of just me and Lucy. We were living together and it kind of was just exactly the right circumstances,” Caron says of the band’s eventual creation. “One day we were hanging out and there was this guitar beside me and I just started yelling words.”

“It was around when she was getting into weed, so we would just smoke and talk about childhood memories and stuff like that,” Niles adds.

Forming the band led to an eventual permutation of old friends, and with each tour and recording session, their relationship becomes deeper.

“It’s a really fast way to grow as people. I think our bond is stronger now,” Niles says.

Caron is quick to agree.

“We’ve been playing together pretty much since we met, casually at first, then we started touring together but not as seriously,” she says. “It just sort of built up, but we also live together so we’re together all the time anyway.”

While their sound is distinct and decidedly self-assured, Caron and Niles say they find their inspiration from a host of artists.

“It’s all over the place,” Niles says. “Sound wise, we’re influenced by Ween, obviously, because they’re pan-genre. We’re kind of more influenced by attitudes and energies or whatever.”

“[We’re even influenced by] people that aren’t known really at all,” Caron adds. “We love to discover.”

“Pretty much anybody that seems like they know exactly what they’re trying to say and… they sound like they’re free, that’s what inspires us,” Niles says.

The duo also draws inspiration from many non-musical places.

“We’re really obsessed with the Enneagram personality test,” Niles says.

“It’s kind of spiritual, so it’s like we’re on some kind of path,” Caron muses.

Niles agrees, adding, “We’re trying to improve ourselves and shit.”

Caron emphasizes that recently, reality TV is “for sure” a huge inspiration.

This attitude translated beautifully into Wednesday’s live show, where Caron impressively belted Lady Gaga’s “A Million Reasons” after telling the audience the recent Netflix documentary on Gaga’s life “changed everything” for her. They also covered Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m The Only One” and sang a new song that was inspired by a poem written by Caron’s boss. Both band mates smiled through the entirety of the song, as if no one in the world was ever going to have as much fun as they were in that momentexcept maybe for their audience.

One of the most refreshingly unexpected aspects of their album are the skits—seven in total—scattered throughout. Consisting mostly of recorded phone calls, the skits make perfect sense in a world of songs about the band’s everyday life. Perhaps the most hilarious are the ones including Caron’s supportive and funny dad. I asked her how she managed to get such great soundbites of her dad, and she tells me the band played a bit of a trick to get them.

“We knew we had to get him when he didn’t know he was being interviewed, and then we asked for his consent later,” she explains. “But it’s also my dad, and obviously from the record you can tell he really wants me to do this kind of thing.”

Niles adds that “We definitely would not have gone forward with it if he hadn’t been okay with it.”

The band knew they wanted skits to be a big part of the album, but the better parts of it came together later.

“We knew we wanted to have skits from the universe and stuff of our album,” Niles says. “We wanted people to feel like they were having a whole experience. We didn’t really have any ideas for a skit, and then we just smoked a bunch of hash.” 

Caron says the band “wanted to show our life and everyone who was involved in the record and everything getting made.”

Niles adds, “We definitely didn’t realize how the skits would be received. But then we came out with the skits, and a lot of people said that they loved them and a lot of people are like ‘we love your album, but we hate the skits’ so it’s like completely 50/50.”

While their subject matter and energy is carefree and playful, the powerful and positive example they set as talented women telling the stories of their everyday lives is not lost on the duo. I asked them for advice they would give to any young creatives who are afraid to put themselves out there.

“I don’t wanna say there’s nothing to be afraid of, but you deserve to be allowed to take up space if you want to. In that way, you don’t have to feel like you’re not allowed,” Niles says.

“I think that when you make something that you love, you can feel safe in your creation, and can look for that feeling of being supported by your art,” Caron says. “That will give you the strength and the momentum to  put yourself out there in whatever place makes sense for you. It’s really about finding your voice.”

For more information about Partner, click here

Photo: Soleil Konkel
Photo: Soleil Konkel

One Half DC, One Half NC, Full-On Hair Metal: Meet Bat Fangs

You never know who you’ll run into when you travel. You might think it strange to schedule an interview with a band that’s at least partly from the District during the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. But during our visit down south last month, we were able to secure an interview with fast-rising duo Bat Fangs.

Betsy Wright, one-third of DC-based rock band Ex Hex, and North Carolinian drummer Laura King released their self-titled album – a nod to the raucous hair metal of the 1980s – in February. Wright, who plays bass in Ex Hex, has put down the four-stringed instrument for its six-stringed cousin to produce speedy riffs, and King has found a serious niche rocking her drum set to the legendary genre of yesteryear.

Before their Luce Unplugged show on April 26 – part of a monthly concert series hosted by the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM)’s Luce Foundation Center for American Arts – we wanted to give locals a chance to learn a little bit more about these retro-inspired rockers.

On Tap: How long have you two known each other, and did you share a musical connection before forming Bat Fangs?
Laura King: We met because our bands were playing together.
Betsy Wright: Our bands played shows together in 2015, and we met a few times. I was trying to start playing music with a drummer, and I just thought of her because she’s really good. We hit it off as friends and when I contacted her, she was super enthusiastic, so I just went down to North Carolina and we jammed. We just kept going
back and forth.
LK: I said “Yes” because I love Ex Hex and my previous band had just broken up, so I was in a bit of a rut as far as not knowing what I was going to do. I didn’t know she played guitar at first, but as soon as I heard her demos, I was like, “Wow, she shreds.”

OT: How long had you been “cranking acid-soaked, 80s hard rock for the living and the dead,” and when did you decide that you wanted to make a record in that genre?
BW: I wrote a bunch of the songs before we started playing, and that was what was coming out of my brain.
LK: Then we got together and both realized our love for 80s hair metal and glam. We rode that wave for awhile, and that’s how it ended up.
BW: That’s the music that I grew up on, and that’s the place I was at. Plus, I never stopped liking that music. Going back and listening, I started learning all kinds of guitar solos with that 80s metal sound. I just went through a phase.

OT: How different are your roles in Bat Fangs in comparison to previous projects?
BW: I never played bass before I was in Ex Hex, so that was actually the big learning curve. I always played guitar, so I was like, “I guess I can play bass.” But then I was like, “Oh sh-t,” because bass is a lot different. It took me awhile to figure out the feel. I ended up playing really evenly and very simply to be in line with the kick drum. However, when I’m at home and when I write songs, I play guitar.
LK: I think that this band has brought out the drumming I’m supposed to do. I played drums in lots of other bands, and some of them have been more hardcore or more punk. Some were really quiet, but I think this kind of sound has brought out the best of my ability. It worked out really well, and that’s what makes it so seamless.

OT: There’s a not-so-subtle use of zombie imagery in your album art that’s reminiscent of iconography used by bands like Black Sabbath and Metallica. Why did you decide to use that influence?
BW: We were talking about album covers, and we were trying to get people to do it, and no one would. So, I decided to draw it myself, and my favorite record cover from all the ones I kept looking at was Masters of Reality by Black Sabbath, which is just black with purple letters – it looks awesome. I just decided I was going to do something like that, so I drew it out and enlarged it. Laura put in Photoshop and added the colors; we made it together.

OT: What slasher flicks and other media in the genre did you draw from to create that atmosphere in your music?
LK: We watched some slasher movies.
BW: I read Dracula last year again, and I love Frankenstein – it’s like my favorite book ever. I always listen to the audio books of it around October. It’s weird because a few of our songs are like that, but there are some that are not like that at all.
LK: It was right around Halloween when we got together, and we put out a song around then, but [that was] way before our album.  

OT: How does living in different states impact how you both hear and write music? Is it seamless to combine those views when writing songs?
BW: It’s been really natural. Things came together really fast because we don’t have to explain stuff to each other, and we just kind of play. We mess around with different beats and arrangements, but it’s kind of easy. I’ll have riffs or lyrics to a song, and then we get together and work on it.
LK: We work together for days straight when we’re together, and jam for like six hours with lots of breaks. It’s fun.
BW: Sometimes, we’ll do freestyle jams and some cool riffs will come out of that, too.

OT: How many songs did you two throw out while putting together your album?
BW: We didn’t play together for that long, so we kind of recorded and boom, boom, boom. Plus, we don’t have that many songs on the record, so there aren’t too many, but we did throw out a few. They just didn’t fit.
LK: They didn’t feel right. We might revisit them.
BW: Plus, we’re always working on new stuff.

OT: When starting something new after a long stint in other acts, is there an inevitable sense of relearning a process of working with another person? Is that a refreshing experience?
BW: Yes, we’re still in the honeymoon phase. We get along really well, and it’s been fun because it’s new.
LK: Bands can be tough to be in; in my last band, my guitar player wouldn’t look at me for three months and I was like, “I can’t do this.” We’re really tight now, and we’re in another band together. But yeah, Bat Fangs is fun.

Catch Bat Fangs’ Luce Unplugged show on April 26 at 5:30 p.m.; show is free to attend. If you can’t make their SAAM show, catch them at 9:30 Club on June 5. Learn more about the band at www.batfangs.bandcamp.com.

SAAM’s Luce Foundation Center for American Art: 8th and F Streets in NW, DC; 202-633-5435; www.americanart.si.edu/visit/saam/luce

Photo: Holly Andres
Photo: Holly Andres

The Decemberists Experiment Sonically on I’ll Be Your Girl

The Decemberists are often both revered and pigeonholed as the founders of the modern folk movement – they’ve been playing accordions and wearing suspenders onstage since before it was cool (and commonplace to see) – and plenty a remark has been made about frontman Colin Meloy’s propensity to weave actual folklore into his narrative songwriting.

As bassist Nate Query astutely noted in a recent interview with On Tap, “I think early on, we were defined by the ways we were different from most bands – by having accordion and upright bass and folk instruments and songs with four-syllable words and stuff.”

But if you’ve ever seen the band live or spent a good chunk of time digging into their discography, you know that their skill, talent and creativity extends across any genre-lization. With eight full studio albums, several EPs, and a handful of collaborations and side projects under their belts, The Decemberists have proved that they are a musical force to be reckoned with – with some theatrics thrown in for fun.

The band released their latest album, I’ll Be Your Girl, this March and have embarked on the Your Girl/Your Ghost 2018 World Tour to support it. Many critics are hailing the album as a radical departure from the band’s traditional style and sound, aka the long ballads, operatics and epic poetry-type rock music we’ve become accustomed to receiving over the years.

Certainly, many of the tracks incorporate synths and techtronics, evoking a sort of 1980s video game-style, “analog” alternate reality, and producer John Congleton encouraged pushing toward the less expected choices. But it’s not as if The Decemberists of “The Upside Down” came through a wormhole to create I’ll Be Your Girl. Instead, the album simply crochets together multiple elements the band has used in the past and brings some of the less exaggerated ones to the forefront. After all, even in the most synth-heavy track, Meloy is still singing about a “cutting stone.”

“This record probably is full of some surprises for people, but really, even with this record where we branched out a little bit sonically, I don’t think we did anything we hadn’t already done,” Query says.

And yet, he adds, there is a definite art to staying both interesting and interested in making music together when you’ve been doing it as long as The Decemberists have been.

“When you’re mixing a new record, sometimes you end up building in certain challenges and parameters just to sort of make it interesting. Sometimes, you just pick up a different instrument because if it sounds different to you, [then] you’re going to get fresh ideas or sometimes, you just need to mix things up to keep it going. And I think [on] this record in particular, we tried to do a lot of that and really not be afraid to follow a weird idea down the rabbit hole.”

What is perhaps a more notable divergence from The Decemberists’ norm is the album’s obvious reflection of the zeitgeist. Rather than conjuring whimsical tales of old and allegorical references (though you’ll still find plenty of darlings and rivers and thistle in there), Colin Meloy and the band have been very vocal about how current events and the sociopolitical landscape in America influenced the making of this album.

In fact, Meloy recently described the sensation of moving from despair to humor in an interview with The Atlantic: “We’re having a very shared experience. It’s almost galvanizing, people coming out of the woodwork and saying, ‘Sh-t is f–ked up.’ There’s something therapeutic in looking at the apocalypse and laughing.”

“Everything is Awful,” for example, sounds ironically like The Lego Movie movie song “Everything is Awesome,” but with an obvious dark twist. In “Starwatcher,” an odd and ominous military-style percussion takes hold. And finally, “We All Die Young” has a trippy “Yellow Submarine” sensation with the added discomfort of having the voices of actual children on the track. And even Carson Ellis’s album artwork and accompanying short animations aren’t shy about being provocative – among other images, we see a cartoon version of Donald Trump with devil horns.

So while I’ll Be Your Girl may not be the radical sonic upheaval some have claimed, it does reiterate that The Decemberists are no amateurs. They are a skilled and experienced band influenced by both an awareness of the world around them, the lives that they lead alongside their musical ones and how all of those things are intertwined.

Query, for instance, was phoning from his son’s school where he was volunteering for the day. And while excited for the Your Girl/Your Ghost tour to bring “new stuff onstage, new things on [his] pedal board, new basses and ramping it back up after some down time this winter,” he says the band is equally excited for the opportunity to travel the country to visit spots like Red Rocks, Wrigley Field, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture – a chance to see the people and places that really are America.

Don’t miss The Decemberists at The Anthem on April 21. Tennis will open. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and tickets start at $45. Learn more about the band at www.decemberists.com.

The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; 202-265-0930; www.anthemdc.com

Photo: Kate Bellm
Photo: Kate Bellm

Kate Nash Looks Inward, Moves Forward

Conventional wisdom will tell you that looking back is generally not something you do when attempting to enter a new chapter in life. But for British singer-songwriter Kate Nash, the opposite proves to be true. The indie pop artist took to her teenage diaries for inspiration while working on her new album Yesterday Was Forever, released on March 30.

“I had a point where I didn’t really know if I was going to be able to continue with music as a career,” Nash says. “I was back and forth from LA to London and going through a lot of archival stuff, and I just pored through all my diaries and had been reflecting on them so much because it was the 10-year anniversary of Made of Bricks.”

Made of Bricks is Nash’s breakout album, hitting the pop scene with a force both sweet and powerful back in 2007, and ultimately catapulting to No. 1 on the UK charts. Last year, she embarked on an anniversary tour in the UK to commemorate this well-loved album dealing with themes of girlhood, crushes and finding a distinct sense of self – all ideas Nash seems to be revisiting with a new perspective on Yesterday Was Forever. Aside from finding inspiration in her own diaries, Nash has also been reexamining what it means to be a teenage girl in 2018, and how that definition has changed for the better over the years.

“I think the teenage girl has totally reclaimed being a teenage girl, and it’s something that you can’t just take advantage of and diss as much as you used to be able to,” she says. “It used to be like, ‘Oh silly little teenage girl writing in her diary,’ and I would be really insulted by that. But now, I think we’ve moved past that and teenage girls have fought for themselves to be heard and taken seriously, and I think that’s f–king amazing. [This album] is a celebration of that. I’m going back to my pop roots a little bit and just trying to be as raw and honest as I can – as I always feel like I try to be.”

The rest of this year sees Nash on an expansive U.S. tour for her new album, including a stop at 9:30 Club on April 30. With new music and a beloved catalog in tow, she says she’s working not only to craft a setlist that her fans will love, but also to cultivate a joyful and inspirational experience for everyone in the audience.

“There are four records to squeeze in now, so that’s kind of challenging. You want to give people new stuff, but then I feel like people come to shows because they also want to hear stuff they know already. It’s finding the right balance […] and finding something that makes sense, and creating this kind of journey onstage. But I think that my aim every time is to just have the funnest time ever. I want people to leave my shows feeling really pumped up and like they can do anything, almost as if they’ve been to one of those conventions where they’re like, ‘You can do this!’”

Nash says she’s excited to reconnect with her growing fanbase while on tour this spring, and quips that she’d like to “see if there’s any wrestling fans coming down.”

She’s referring to her role as Rhonda “Britannica” Richardson on Netflix’s critically acclaimed original series Glow, centered on the bold and colorful world of the syndicated women’s professional wrestling circuit in 1980s LA. Nash and her castmates wrapped filming for season two in January, and she says that her role in the series has felt like a dream job. It’s easy to feel her passion for both the project and her fellow actors when speaking with her.

“This season, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe this is my life now.’ [It’s] just 15 insane, funny, smart, inspiring, supportive women, and we’re learning how to f–king wrestle. We’re doing crazy things with our bodies, and the whole thing is set in the 80s, which is insane. I f–king love the show and all the women on the show, and I’m so grateful to be part of it.”

To have a career spanning over a decade in any creative industry is a feat, let alone to branch out to others with continued success and candor like Nash. When asked where her confidence and success come from, she again looks inward.

“I think the main thing is to always believe in yourself. It’s so hard to just sit and be comfortable with who you are, and that’s something you should always work toward because no one else is going to do that for you. Let yourself be you – that’s really unique. I think that people are always trying to prove that they’re not themselves. We have to just be ourselves, and that’s f–king cool.”

So be yourself, trust who you’ve always been, and if you want to catch a show where the inspiration is as great as the music, head to the 9:30 Club on Monday, April 30. Tickets to Kate Nash’s show are $25. Learn more about her at www.katenash.com.

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

Cecily

Music Picks: April 2018

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4

Ana Moura
With stunning vocals, Ana Moura has been a fixture in the Portuguese music scene since 2003, including collaborations with Prince and The Rolling Stones. It’s no wonder legends have picked up on her undeniable talent because whether the lyrics are delivered in English or Portuguese, the aptitude of Moura’s singing ability is truly stunning. In the backdrop are wondrous strings and a steady rhythm section all built to amplify this talented singer-songwriter’s music prowess. Show at 8 p.m. $50-$60. The Barns at Wolf Trap: 1635 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA;
www.wolftrap.org

Ought
Hailing from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Ought is set to give DC some solid jamming music. Featuring songs that care little for your shrinking attention span, the band often features subtle rock tracks lasting anywhere from four to seven minutes on average. They’ll toss some quick hitters in every now and then, but the often slow developing songs are intoxicating as they draw you in and string you out, providing an emotional slowburn. Doors at 7:30 p.m. $15-$17. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

THURSDAY, APRIL 5 – SUNDAY, APRIL 8

Damaged City Fest
Celebrate hardcore punk from all over the world in DC’s sixth annual Damaged City Fest. This year’s featured bands are Limp Wrist, Turnstile, Radioactivity, The Flex & Arms Race from the UK, RIXE from France, Blazing Eye from California and a rare appearance by New York’s Brown Sugar. Check out the rest of the lineup on Damaged City Fest’s website to plan out your weekend full of thrashing and rocking out. Friday doors open at 6 p.m. Friday aftershow at 11:30 p.m. Saturday doors open at 3 p.m. Saturday aftershow at 11:30 p.m. Sunday doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $15. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

FRIDAY, APRIL 6

Cub Sport
Sonically, Cub Sport isn’t too much different than fellow Australians Tame Impala. Though the vocal notes aren’t as high, and the music is a little more on the subtle side, Cub Sport also operates firmly with the intention to make easy-listening pop music. With soothing lyrics and a strong use of diverse synths, Cub Sport provides a sensual sound to listeners worldwide. Though pop music can sometimes make you feel empty inside, this group definitely strives for meaningful sentiment, so give them a listen. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m. $13-$15. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

SATURDAY, APRIL 7

The Weather Station
As leader of The Weather Station, Toronto songwriter Tamara Lindeman brings artistic generosity and joy to her latest self-titled and self-produced album, The Weather Station. Even though she says she wanted to make a rock ‘n’ roll record, the result was closer to a sonic experimentation that touches on feminist politics through detailed prose-poem narratives. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. Jammin Java: 227 Maple Ave. E. Vienna, VA; www.jamminjava.com

SUNDAY, APRIL 8

Mountain Heart
Mountain Heart is the band that has been fearlessly revolutionizing the way acoustic music can be presented and played. The band’s name has been synonymous with cutting-edge excellence in acoustic music circles since the group’s creation. Widely known throughout the music industry for continually redefining the boundaries of acoustic music, the band has gained legions of loyal fans both as a result of their superlative musicianship and just as notably, their incendiary live performances. Show at 7:30 p.m. $18-$20. Write-up provided by venue. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

Run River North
From whimsical silliness to acoustic melodrama, Run River North is what you’d call a pretty dynamic band. That doesn’t mean they have a character-defining sound, it just means that their range is noticeable. A lot of indie acts have a tendency to hammer away at your eardrums with similar sounds, whereas Run River North has more of a flow to their work, kind of like a river, which I realize is corny, but hey, I’m going to roll with it. Union Stage continues getting diverse bands, huh? Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m. $15-$25. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

MONDAY, APRIL 9

Current Swell
With their 2017 release, When to Talk and When to Listen, Current Swell is making waves in the indie rock scene. This Canadian band has gained steady popularity since its inception in 2005, and now they’re touring their best album yet to bring a nice variety of moods and tempos to their fans everywhere. Current Swell is making a stop at Jammin Java, so make sure to buy your tickets now before they sell out. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15. Jammin Java: 227 Maple Ave. E. Vienna, VA; www.jamminjava.com

MONDAY, APRIL 9 – SUNDAY, APRIL 15

SHIFT 2018
SHIFT, a festival of American Orchestras, returns to The Kennedy Center this spring. With performances by Fort Worth Symphony, Albany Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra and more, this weeklong event celebrates the extraordinary artistry of orchestral musicians. SHIFT also confronts common misconceptions about orchestras and proves why orchestras are so important to artistic expression and development. Various dates and times. Tickets are $25 for each show. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11

Amoramora
With more than 100 shows in 70 different cities in 2017, up-and-coming Amoramora is more than ready to play an awesome show at Gypsy Sally’s. Their jazz fusion, psychedelic bluegrass sound is so groovy, you’ll want to jump out of your seat and dance along. 21+ only. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets $10 advance, $12 day of. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

Pale Waves
Formed in Manchester in 2014, Pale Waves is quintessential to the indie-pop scene in the UK. Just take it from a person who tried to see them at SXSW, but was instead relegated to stand in a blocked off street in order to peak into the club they were performing at. No, I wouldn’t say that is the best way to see them, because standing on the street in the cold is somehow worse than actually sweating in a crowded venue. Anyways, when you hear the words “indie pop” I’m sure some kind of music you’ve heard from the genre plays in your head, so imagine that, only better. Also, I have a ton of respect for any band that opts for a literally blank black canvas as single art. Minimalism is the way to go in today’s society, no? Show at 7 p.m. $15. U St. Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

FRIDAY, APRIL 13

Perpetual Groove
Hailing from Athens, Georgia, Perpetual Groove has cultivated a long list of touring experience and a dedicated fan base since forming in 1997. Perpetual Groove pairs fan-described anthemic arena rock with an intense, retina-burning light show to bring down the house with an all-encompassing performance. After a two-year hiatus, Perpetual Groove is back and ready to rock. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

Pimps of Joytime
Anyone familiar with the Pimps of Joytime live experience knows the feeling: it’s that moment when a deep bluesy groove morphs into a full-on EDM dance beat, or the sensation when the wide-eyed audience collectively elevates in sync with the band’s tangible energy. Just as Brooklyn has changed since the Pimps started, so has the band’s sound. But as Williamsburg gentrifies, the Pimps of Joytime’s diverse evolution keeps the neighborhood’s spirit alive. That spirit goes into the Pimps’ pot, over a soulful roux of rhythm and groove. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 9 p.m. $15-$20. Write-up provided by venue. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

Titus Andronicus
With their March 2 release of A Productive Cough, Titus Andronicus sets aside heavy punk anthems of the past to focus more on soul-bearing songwriting by creating a conversational space between artist and listener. Singer-songwriter Patrick Stickles says he’s looking forward to communicating more effectively with his audience now that he’s not so busy yelling at them. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

SATURDAY, APRIL 14

Dead Horses
At the young age of 15, Dead Horses frontwoman Sarah Vos and her family lost everything when they were expelled from the rural Wisconsin church where her father served as a pastor. From that experience, Vos created Dead Horses’ 2016 album, My Mother the Moon, which blends traditional and indie folk while examining the journey of self-discovery. Named as one of 10 new country artists you need to know by Rolling Stone, this is one show you don’t want to miss. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12-$14. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2477 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

Maya Jane Coles
DJ Maya Jane Coles has collected millions of hits on YouTube, Spotify and Soundcloud for her house dub music that she mixes, produces and creates herself, which isn’t as common as you’d think. Her talent has taken her to performances in more than 40 countries, and has brought her multiple awards and features in major publications like Rolling Stone. Make it out to U Street tonight for some great beats and an incredibly fun show. 18+ only. Doors open at 10 p.m. Tickets are $20 advance, $25 at the door. No photo/video allowed. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

SUNDAY, APRIL 15

U.S. Girls
This year marks the 10th anniversary of U.S. Girls and founder Meg Remy’s first four-track recordings of self-produced and spontaneous expressions of instant emotion. After a decade of honing her craft, Remy still hasn’t lost that raw emotion that permeates her first few recordings. U.S. Girls is a display of unmistakable feminine energy from the experience of an American woman. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $13-$15. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

MONDAY, APRIL 16

Nap Eyes
With a twang reminiscent of Bob Dylan, the laid back rock of Nap Eyes is enough to mellow you out, but not enough to put you asleep. Featuring simple licks and classic rock and roll sound, the lyrics take you on a star-crazed journey through the universe before bringing you back down to earth with universal topics such as depression, insomnia and bad-for-you habits. Sound too heavy? Well, it is, but on the other hand the songs are highly digestible and rather enjoyable. Don’t believe us, well, wake up from your nap and see for yourself. Doors at 7:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. $12. DC9 Nightclub: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

TUESDAY, APRIL 17

Eric B. & Rakim
Relive the late 80s and early 90s at The Fillmore with Eric B & Rakim, a legendary hip-hop duo hailing from Long Island. Of Erik B & Rakim, AllMusic wrote “during rap’s so-called golden age in the late ‘80s, Eric B. & Rakim were almost universally recognized as the premier DJ/MC team in all of hip-hop.” In 2016 they announced their reunion for a 2017 tour after a 23-year hiatus, and they’re touring again this spring with 17 dates in the states. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $45. The Fillmore: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18

RZA
If you know anything about RZA, you know about his affinity for retro Chinese martial arts films. From his samples as lead producer and founder of the Wu-Tang Clan and his directing of The Man With the Iron Fists, the rapper, producer, director, etc. always keeps popping out homages to this classic genre. Now, you’ll get to see him tinker with his adoration live, as he rescores the classic The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. The special screening will be filled with instrumentals, beats and effects staight from RZA’s vast collection of sounds. It’s rare we get access to an artist actively toying with his muse, so don’t miss this chance to see one of the most creative music pioneers. Doors at 6 p.m., show at 7 p.m. $36-$45. Warner Theatre: 513 13th St. NW, DC; www.warnertheatredc.com

FRIDAY, APRIL 20

Black Star
You should know who Black Star is. In fact if you don’t, maybe this show isn’t for you, because this duo’s contributions to political hip-hop are literally second to none. Made up of rap stalwarts Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def), the NYC legends are two guys that have historically aged like fine wine. Though their status in the popular culture may be slightly forgotten by the genre’s neophytes, people who are willing to dig into any sort of rap history will discover a colorful discography chalk full of profound lyrics built to change society for the better. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. $45-$75. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

Wild Ones
The neatest aspect of Wild Ones might be the simple fact that their entire sound is DIY. The Portland, Oregon product has been together for seven years and combines a uniquely soothing voice, provided by Danielle Sullivan, with a pace that mimics soothing R&B music, but sonically uses synths to provide a little more energy. Don’t be swayed by the group’s carefree appearance, as the subtext of their lyrics often touches on the perils of romance or the difficulty of being involved in the constantly evolving music business. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. $12-$14. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2477 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

SATURDAY, APRIL 21

Slushii
L.A. DJ and dubstep artist Slushii is bringing his futuristic bass and trap sound to Echostage. With an album release in 2017 and a trajectory of success that only seems to keep rising, Slushii is perfecting his craft of beat creation to bring out the bass god in us all. Collaborations in the past year with fellow dubstep artist Marshmello have really brought out Slushii’s musical prowess. 18+ only. Doors open 9 p.m. Tickets are $25-$30. Echostage: 2135 Queens Chapel Rd. NE, DC; www.echostage.com

SUNDAY, APRIL 22

Fatai
This one is soulful. Fatai, an Australian vocalist, has some seriously powerful windpipes as she repeatedly delves deep to produce breathtaking music built on the foundation of her enchanting singing. Because of her location, seeing this artist in North America can prove difficult, and according to her website, she has routinely sold out her stateside appearances. If you’re in the mood for sultry music with gravity and strength, consider seeing Fatai in Vienna. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m. $13-$15. Jammin Java: 227 Maple Ave. E. Vienna, VA; www.jamminjava.com

TUESDAY, APRIL 24

Cecily
The DMV’s own Cecily is live at the Anacostia Arts Center fresh off of her latest single release “Pisces,” which sees the talented musician deftly navigate her jazz, soul and R&B influences, creating a medley of sounds. Whether she’s collaborating with a local emcee or standing center stage with the sass of a bonafide super star, Cecily is certainly a local talent you want to catch before she steadily rises through the music scene. Nothing beats an intimate setting with her unique blend of passion and performance. Doors at 7 p.m. Free to attend. Anacostia Arts Center: 1231 Good Hope Rd. SE, DC; www.anacostiaartscenter.com

Preoccupations
These guys are moody. I don’t mean that in necessarily a bad way, but they certainly wear their hearts on their sleeves, if you get my drift. From song titles like “Disarray,” “Anxiety” and “Doubt,” there isn’t much subtlety to their message. This doesn’t stop the songs donning these serious monikers from carrying vignettes of joy, but it does make you listen more carefully for words of wisdom or even relatable scenarios. In a way, the band makes efforts to transfer these feelings into tangible audio, and they do a pretty good job mimicking “Anxiety.” Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. $15-$18. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25

The Heavy Pets
This funky rock ‘n’ roll band from South Florida was dubbed “a living, breathing force of nature” by Relix Magazine for their expert song crafting and their powerhouse live performances. As regulars on the national touring circuit for over a decade, The Heavy Pets is a group of well-trained and seasoned musicians who weave elements of indie, funk and reggae into a tapestry of sound that’s all their own. 21+ only. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10. Pearl Street Warehouse: 33 Pearl St. SW, DC; www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com

THURSDAY, APRIL 26

Hawthorne Heights
Feel like reliving your emo days? Come out to the Rock & Roll Hotel to see a performance by Hawthorne Heights, the premiere emo rock band of the 2000s. Bad Frequencies, their first full-length album release since 2013, is set to drop on April 27, so if you’re lucky, they might preview some of their new songs on stage tonight. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

FRIDAY, APRIL 27

Twin Shadow
When I first heard “Five Seconds To Your Heart,” I thought it was a song from a bygone era (*coughs the 80s) I just missed when jumping around those Spotify curated “TOP 80s SONGS” playlists. Instead, it came from Dominican Republic born, Brooklyn bred George Lewis Jr., otherwise known as Twin Shadow. With synths and other electric sounds, the music channels this yesteryear genre, however, Lewis Jr. is able to make the sound his own, and very contemporary, often collaborating with other artists who are interested in pop music from the same era, like HAIM. So even though the drum beats and melodies sound as if they burst from a time machine, know this shadow is firmly a product from an artist of today. Show at 7 p.m. $30. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

SUNDAY, APRIL 29

Minus The Bear
To celebrate 10 years of writing and performing their unique music, Minus The Bear is traveling coast to coast on their Planet of Ice Anniversary Tour. With a sound that could only be described as uniquely patched together, Minus The Bear has carved out their place in the music industry by collecting different components from New York proto-punk, progressive rock, hip-hop and IDM, thus avoiding any type of classification whatsoever. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 advance, $30 at the door. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com