Dawes in New York: Laurel Canyon meets Central Park

Backstage, courtesy of First Aid Kit’s Instagram

Dawes has found a comfortable home in New York City’s Central Park, returning to SummerStage for the third time this past Monday. The energy of evening seemed to evolve in sync with the performances, as singer-songwriter Andy Shauf began with relaxed acoustic folk tunes which played well with the crowd just beginning to recover from a long day of heat exhaustion. As the night progressed the temperature slowly dropped, creating a more welcoming environment for the joyous dancing that accompanies any First Aid Kit performance.

First Aid Kit’s Johanna and Klara led the crowd through their beautifully woven harmonies and heartwarming ballads while surprising and exciting everyone with covers of Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”. In a fun bit of 6 degrees of separation, Taylor Goldsmith (of Dawes) joined First Aid Kit’s Johanna and Klara on their song, “King of the World”, which had been recorded with Dawes’ previous tour and SummerStage mate, Connor Oberst.

Dawes stormed the stage with the setting sun, breathing their special brand of classic California rock into the crowd’s collective lungs with the sonorous shrug “Things Happen”. With the roaring addition of Duane Betts (son of Dickie Betts of the Allman Brothers Band) to the live lineup, Dawes’ guitars have never sounded so perfectly fluid and full. The band continued bouncing (literally, Taylor joyously hops along the stage like Steven Stills on a pogo stick) through “Right On Time” before slowing down a touch for the beautifully wistful harmonies of “Somewhere Along The Way”. After talking briefly about the honor of playing Newport Folk Festival 50 years DE (post-Dylan Electric) Taylor broke the chain of new tracks as they ramped the energy back up for fan-favorite “Time Spent in Los Angeles”, with the now cooler air filled with the unified vocal cries of the crowd.

The band soloed and jammed through nearly every song, their musical connection and talent incredibly evident. After covering the Water Boys’ “Fisherman’s Blues”, they smoothly transitioned without pause into “I Can’t Think About It Now” filled with soulful strumming which evoked one older gentleman next to me to exclaim its familiarity with Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing”. Taylor gave his brother Griffin the spotlight for a while during “Most People”, the raw emotion of his empowered drumming reverberating throughout the park before rejoining the crowd-powered chorus. They kept the classics coming with “A Little Bit of Everything” and “When My Time Comes”, each feverishly supported by a bellowing audience.

Taylor had earlier mentioned the strict 10pm curfew, and as a result the band blew past any encore, buying them time for an extra song past even their initial plan, fitting in “From A Window Seat” before dedicating their final song, “All Your Favorite Bands” to “every single one of you guys who support us, and our friends Andy Shauf and First Aid Kit”. The evening came to a close after a cathartic congregational cry of the chorus:

 

I hope that life without a chaperone is what you thought it’d be

I hope your brother’s El Camino runs forever

I hope the world sees the same person that you always were to me

And may all your favorite bands stay together

 

With Dawes’ latest album and band addition, they sound more vibrant and expressive as ever. As one of my favorite bands, I really hope they stay together.

– Jordan Grobe

7/20: Neon Trees @ 930 with COIN, Fictionist

A Monday night is not the best night for a show, but then again, maybe it is. The crowd at the 930 Club seemed to be acting like it was a Saturday night. Perhaps it was the line up of energizing and talented bands ahead?

First up was Fictionist, hailing from, Provo, UTHA the same small town as Neon Trees. The band was comprised of five incredibly plain clothed musicians who looked like they were having the time of their life. The alternative rock group played high-energy songs, with each musician changing instruments and sharing the vocal duties. Being the opener for the opener, Fictionist was remarkably talented, good-natured, and simply down to have a good time. This video definitely sums up their playfulness, creativity, and musical talent!

8:45 pm: By now the venue had taken on the persona and energy of a venue waiting for the main act, despite only a 15 minute break between sets. Suddenly, the lights went dark, and “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson of all songs came on, and the entire crowd went straight into singing along to the music. Maybe this was COIN’s pre show song to get the crowd pumped? Regardless, it seemed to do the trick and the band bounded onto the stage to a pretty hefty amount of cheering. COIN, with about 1.3 million hits on its most popular song on Spotify, had a decent fan-base at the venue already. From Nashville, Tennessee, the band describes itself as a “product of the 90’s” that just wants “to make music that makes you feel good.” The band definitely encapsulated the energy of the 90s, with none of its songs giving up any energy, whatsoever. The band released its debut self titled album a little over a month ago, and already many in the audience knew the words. The band did a wonderful job of hyping the crowd up, and gave them a great performance. They also had a pretty nifty looking neon sign of their band name, just sayin’.

9:45 pm (ON THE DOT. You gotta give it to the 930 Club, they’re almost on a German level of precision, and that’s saying a lot when Americans are involved.)

Neon Trees came on to the stage, and needless to say, they rocked the house. Lead singer Tyler Glenn was by far the star of the show, with incredibly tight jeans and shameless golden doc Martens. Glenn was one of the most physical and high-energy performers I’ve seen, perhaps more than Kim Schifino of Matt and Kim. Dazzling the crowd with his dance move and unfettered energy, Glenn bounded across every part of the stage, stood on his toes MJ style, laid down more than once, and yes,did a bit of crowd surfing. Neon Trees’ live performance was a pleasant surprise to me, as they rocked out more than any one of their studio-recorded songs could ever size up to. The band had the advantage of having multiple hits which practically the entire venue sang from heart, and even the less popular songs many knew the lyrics to.

What impressed me most about the performance was how personable and interactive the band was with the crowd, particularly Glenn. Throughout the show, Glenn stopped to just talk to the crowd, reflect on songs and their meanings and just talk ingeneral. Before a song, he said, “tonight,we sing, we sweat, and we dance together, because we’re in this together.” Towards the end of the show, where a band would usually do an encore, Glenn simply said that the band decided to skip the bullshit and not do any encores, that is was more honest of a performance that way. I certainly enjoyed the change from the almost cookie cutter pattern of performances nowadays. He then remarked as he was sweating profusely, that when he has a mic in his hands, a lot of stuff comes out of his mouth, and that the bottom line is that everybody talks. Cue direct transition to Neon Trees’ most popular song, “Everybody Talks”(duh) and cue crowd going wild. But, surprisingly, that wasn’t the end of the show. Neon Trees closed out their show with a cover of the 1982 hit single, “Come On Eileen.” If I wasn’t convinced yet, I definitely was won over by this pleasant surprise. After the great cover, Glenn thanked everyone for coming and that “if any of it made any sense to you, thank you for listening.”

Here are some more shots of the night: 

All photography by Anour Esa

6/30: San Cisco, MOTHXR @ Black Cat

Photo Credit : San Cisco

MOTHXR

8:30 pm. The Black Cat was about half filled, and the opener for the night, Brooklyn-based MOTHXR, had quite a few fans already, with cheers and hoots filling the venue as soon as the band took the stage. Having never heard the band before, I was pleasantly surprised and refreshed with their sound. A five piece band, MOTHXR had no trouble cranking out at full volume with their tunes. They seemed to be a band that bridged all sorts of time periods, giving off a very 80s reminiscent vibe while often rocking out in the manner of a modern rock band. Their music is a refreshing mix of electronic and instrumental, almost chillstep with a rock twist to it. If I had to pick a genre that they fit into, I would have to go for the easy way out and call them Indie–which of course is not a genre in and of itself.

These guys seriously pleasantly perplexed my genre sorting sense. If you know DC native band, The Walking Sticks, you could say MOTHXR is their older, heavier cousin. Towards the end of their set, with the crowd more pumped up than one would expect for an opener, the band let their loud side out to close out with a bang, funneling their sound, instrumental and vocal, into a whirlwind of sound, complex, loud, and satisfying, and then closing on a quirky 5 note tune. If you haven’t heard of the band, I definitely recommend giving them a listen on their Soundcloud here!

SAN CISCO

After MOTHXR left the stage, the crowd became denser and denser in anticipation of San Cisco, and just after 9:30, the band came out to screams of joy from many in the audience. The four-piece indie-pop group hailing from Fremantle, Australia seemed right at home on the stage, going straight into their set without hesitation. The band, much to the audience’s pleasure, played 3 or 4 songs from their 2012 self-titled album, San Cisco, before moving to songs from their 2015 album, Gracetown.

The band’s live performance harnessed their jovial spirit, making dancing more irresistible than when listening to their music normally. The band had no frills, no fancy lights, just plain San Cisco, and that was all they needed. Whether it is their iconic clean guitar riffs, lead singer Jordi Davidson’s energy filled and soothing lyrics and vocals, or drummer Scarlett Stevens’ groovy drumming and catchy vocals, San Cisco is an incredibly satisfying band to see live. When the band moved to newer songs, the band grooved to an even better level, with incredibly dance-friendly music. Soon after, the audience turned into a sea of bobbing heads and bouncing feet. The music and dancing go one hundred percent together, in addition to shameless singing along to the always-catchy lyrics.

Altogether, San Cisco’s music is not complicated or flashy, nor boring. It is music you can bob your head like an idiot to, dance in your kitchen to, and shamelessly sing along to in the shower. The band radiates youthfulness, energy, and carefree spirits. Many of its sounds remind me of catchy 50’s rock ‘n’ roll tunes which are literally engineered for dancing. With its newest album, San Cisco sets some incredibly catchy, sexy, groovy beats and lyrics. If you like San Cisco’s danceability and jovial nature, but perhaps had wanted a bit more groove and pop, their newest album is definitely perfect for you.

Their live performance at the Black Cat did not disappoint with a seamless mix of old and new, engaging with the audience and having a good time themselves. Lead singer Davidson came back on for the first song of the encore, just him and his guitar. Have no fear, he pulled the solo performance incredibly well, filling the venue with his iconic vocals and solid guitar riffs. The rest of the band came back on and closed out with…you know it, Fred Astaire; their most popular song (with good reason). Davidson, without naming the song, simply said, “if you don’t know the words, just dance.” Dance the crowd did, and sealed the night away. Wonderful performance by both bands, incredibly happy crowd, great venue, great show all in all.

Here are some more of the shots from the night!

Photo Credits: Anour Esa

5/29: Ivan & Alyosha @ U Street Music Hall: An Interview and a Show

Photo Credit Ivan & Alyosha

Opening for Ivan & Alyosha was Kris Orlowski, a singer/songwriter also hailing from Seattle. Kris immediately created an intimate performance, playing soft and beautiful melodies, harnessing his dynamic and powerful voice in a plethora of ways. Halfway into his set, he asked the already decent sized crowd to gather in the middle of the room and allow him to play unplugged in the middle of the circle. What should have felt a bit awkward and bit too close comfort felt natural and normal, with Kris playing his tunes to each part of the circle with a soft intensity. He liked talking to the crowd just as much as singing and playing guitar, having many laughs with the audience. Kris then finished up after a few more songs on the stage with what he called a “French exit” where he, without speaking a word, simply finished his last song, unplugged and left the stage. The crowd loved it, and he left to a great deal of applause.

A few minutes later, the five-piece rock combo that is Ivan & Alyosha stepped on stage, welcomed by a wave of ecstatic applause from the now full U Street Music Hall. The band went directly into it, only stopping to talk and greet the band after 2 songs. Everyone in the band was good-natured and smiling, ready to play some music for the eager crowd. The band started with the first two songs of the new record first playing “Something is Wrong” and then thundering into their ballad “Bury me Deep,” filling the small venue with their driving sound. The band was at home playing live music, and excelled in delivering an enthralling and captivating show, keeping the audience on the tips of their toes in excitement. What I noticed most about the band was that they were having a fantastic time, and had no qualms being human in front of the audience. Tim had more than a few conversations with the crowd, bassist Pete Wilson playfully throwing his beer glass at guitarist Tim Kim (no one was hurt). I think throughout the show, every single member of the band besides drummer Cole Mauro stood up on top of the same guitar amp, dancing around.

Photo Credit Ivan & Alyosha

The band was having a great time, and so was the crowd. Tim remarked halfway through that while the band thought a show in Cambridge was their best of the tour, that DC might be better yet—which got the crowd even more excited. Halfway through the set, Mauro’s snare drum broke, which Tim announced to the entire crowd, laughing as he went and ssad they would have to change the set a bit, not worried at all. Following this, just Ryan and Tim stayed on stage, and played the last song of their new album, “Don’t Lose Your Love,” a slow, but romantic song that captivated the audience. After this, the rest of the band came back on–including Mauro with a new snare drum—and jammed out through a few different songs from the old album and the new. Perhaps the most anticipated song of the show, “Running for Cover” was played towards the end of the set, and surely blew the crowd away. The song retained its beautiful harmonies and gentle lyrics, but with it came a third dimension to the song that could only be experienced live, the bass rumbling, guitars thrumming and drums crashing, giving “Running for Cover” an epic performance. Other songs that were fantastically performed were “Let Me Go East,” “Modern Man” and “It’s All Just Pretend.” The rest of the set was also pretty amazing, and really spoke to the true sound of Ivan & Alyosha as a rock band.

Ivan & Alyosha’s performance at U Street Music Hall revealed the band’s true skill in live performance, high energy, and enthusiasm for playing music. The band came right out after the show, manning their own merchandise table and mingling with the crowd.

I was able to talk to founding members Tim Wilson and Ryan Carbury before the show and asked them a few questions. Check it out below!

Photo Credit Ivan & Alyosha

Could you guys briefly introduce yourselves and talk about your musical background as well as what you play in the band?

[Tim] I’m Tim Wilson, lead singer. I mean I’ve been playing music my whole life pretty much, I remember singing in choirs and stuff growing up and I discovered—I mean I’ve always loved pop music, and I discovered new kids on the block when in kindergarten when I got the watch, my aunt gave me the watch for my birthday, and like Michael Jackson, and Elvis, Stevie Wonder, and all that stuff. Anyways, just grew up listening to it and singing in school.

[Ryan] I’m Ryan Carbury, and I started the band with Tim 7 years ago…I think its 9 now maybe. I play Guitar and Keys.

Awesome, so to jump to the album, it just came out earlier this month. Listening to it, its markedly different than All The Times We Had, so could you just speak to the change in sound between the two full-length albums?

[Tim] I don’t know, it did sound like more of an indie record, but I don’t necessarily think we were doing that on purpose, I think like post production wise maybe in the mix it got a little dumbed down a bit, where we kind of recorded a hi-fi record and the guy who mixed it—and he did a great job—but he mixed it a bit more low fi, mid fi we like to call it. But with Pretend I think we tried to make more of a pop, or more of a rock and roll record production wise and have it be a bit more of an alternative record with a bit more drive. So definitely I think we’re not doing anything super different that what we’ve always done, the band has a sound and a feel, but I think we wanted to take it to the next level of almost where we kind of think we should be, you know sonically.

[Ryan] I mean you kind of nailed it on the head. I think its just more representative of what we do live, where All the Times didn’t really represent what we did live and I think we made the same records—maybe we pushed it a little more on this one but I think we kind of made the same record but was translated folksier, was mixed that way.

[Tim] Yeah, I mean, you never know, right? I feel like we used to talk more about like ‘oh we want it to sound like this, we want it to sound like that but—

[Ryan] —well and when we’re referencing stuff to kind of what we’re into and what we want it to sound similar to, I feel like it’s the same things on both records.

[Tim] But for whatever reason, maybe the type of songs they were, they just…ended up that way.

I have difficulty describing your sound. How would you guys describe your sound if someone asked you to put it in a few words?

[Tim] I think there’s a lot of varied influence in the band, but at the end of the day, I think again maybe with this record in particular, we were kind of like—somebody could maybe describe like, reaching, you know? Kind of for that next level in a sense, and I feel like again that’s kind of where we’ve always felt we belonged maybe? People talk about the song, “Modern Man,” and say it sounds like an octane baby b side or something, which is a huge compliment, but its like yes, that’s kind of what we were going for!

[Ryan] It’s backhanded because it didn’t make it on the A side.

[Tim] but at the same time we recorded a song called “In The Ground,” which is like a total folk song…there’s folk songs there’s rock songs, there’s ballads, honestly its kind of the same to us, but I think we write pop songs and we try to translate that in kind of a rock band way live.

[Ryan] I think whenever we are asked what kind of band the band is, I think we just say we’re a rock band that tries to write good pop songs and has harmonies. That’s basically the answer.

How would you describe the driving force for this album?

[Tim] I guess the title that we landed on, Its All Just Pretend, was kind of the theme all along and we didn’t know it, but whether we’re talking about relationship in “Tears In Your Eyes” or “Let Me Go East” which is like a story of a crazy woman and a guy who just wants some companionship and she keeps on running off. Or “All This Wandering Around” where your just trying to figure your thing out and try to make some sense of this crazy life. I think at the end of the day, yeah, its all just pretend was kind of the theme we landed on and the title, and the song is amazing and I just think we’re all trying to figure it out, but none of us really have our stuff together, as much as we’d like to think we do. In just a broader sense there’s a lot of freedom in acknowledging how little we know and how awesome we’re not.

Do you guys have any kind of pre-show tradition?

[Ryan] We say, 1…2…3 the garden.

[Tim] Yeah.

[Ryan] Put our hands together. In reference to Madison square garden, as a goal.

[Tim] Yeah, we say the garden because—I don’t know, I feel like its still a goal, I would say—I think we live in a strange world where we’re like an indie band by default and its hard to really make sense of whats really going on in the music industry—but I do think Madison Square Garden is not the craziest of goals, I feel like we could be there someday. Anyways, we say the garden, 123 the—le jardin.

What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you guys as a band?

[Ryan] Well it’s not a crazy fun positive thing, but…all our stuff got stolen in Atlanta a few years ago. Like van and trailer, and that was one of the more crazy things that’s happened in my life, just because it’s a big loss.

[Tim] We’re still dealing with the fallout from that. Yeah, that’s probably the worst thing that ever happened.

Ouch. Whats something more positive?

[Ryan] I mean the best thing; I think just generally just playing with awesome artists that we get to open up for or whatever and getting to know them, become friends. And that’s kind of a fun bonus of the tour that you don’t see all the time.

What has your favorite venue been, whats the favorite show you’ve played?

[Tim] Cambridge, Massachusetts was great. T.T The Bear’s Place. Good little venue, just a great crowd, probably the best of the tour since Seattle.

[Ryan] You wanna know the worst?

Yes.

[Ryan] Just kidding. I’m not gonna tell you. No comment.

Without dropping any names, what happened to make it the worst?

[Tim] Talk-y. Just chatty-y.

[Ryan] Oh yeah super bar chatty. We had fun. They didn’t.

What’s your dynamic as a band?

[Ryan] I would say, we don’t know how to do anything else, because we’ve just kind of been musicians all our lives and I think the goal is providing for family. We’re grateful that we get to play music as a means for a job.

[Tim] Yeah, sometimes people are like ‘oh man but you’re doing what you love man’ and that is true. But. It’s a lot of hard work, and if it was just about the music, that’s not….enough. Artistically, you know? We play a show, but like sometimes its–I want people to stick around, say hello, sometimes were almost more comfortable doing that and we want to meet people too. Cool you like our band, but connecting with people is cool too. And the fact of the matter is that you have to make money to be able to do it. In the indie world it’s kind of a strange balance where it’s just hard to make too much. You almost have to make too much to make it work. It’s hard to get there. But we’re super thankful that we get to do it, that we get to be a band, but we also have to do it to send some dough home, basically!

Sweet, thanks so much guys.

Ivan & Alyosha Album Review: It’s All Just Pretend

Photo Credit: Ivan & Alyosha

If their first album was already a mix between a west coast and southern feel, Ivan & Alyosha’s newest album, Its All Just Pretend, synthesized those themes in a more expressed, driven and full manner. The album retains the band’s lyrically uplifting nature and musically soothing and flowing nature, but delivers it in perhaps a more expressed, confident, and uplifting manner. Lead singer Tim Wilson’s soulful and yearning voice is harnessed in a clearer, more up front manner, commanding the attention of the listener from the first song of the album. The rest of band plays with increased vigor, even during slower songs such as “Tears in Your Eyes” and “Drifting Away,” delivering a more cohesive and substantive record. The album definitively speaks to the growth that the band has undergone, being I&A’s now second full-length album. While the album does have an air of reminiscing and reflection, it seems to have a positive drive to it, emitting a mature, hopeful sound to it.

The album begins with “Something is Wrong,” a steady tune, that synthesizes Wilson’s sustaining vocals with a driving accompaniment of bass, guitar, and drums. The song then melts quietly and slowly into one of the most driving songs of the album, “Bury Me Deep” delivering pounding drums and bass and concise and catchy vocals. The band then grooves straight into “All This Wandering Around” which retains the energy of “Bury Me Deep” with Wilson belting out vocals throughout the song, in perfect pace with the rest of band. The title track of the album, “It’s All Just Pretend” takes on a more reminiscent, somber tone, with soft guitar and percussion and Wilson’s deliberate and calm vocals in the beginning, intertwined and accented by electric guitar riffs and steady drums. The song speaks of bittersweet reflection and contemplation, ending with the guitar anthem fading away in the background.  

Skip ahead a few tracks an “Oh This Love” will have you swaying and dancing its beat, energy, and persistent lyrics, bordering between a sad and happy love song. A few tracks later, “Modern Man” injects high powered energy into the album with distorted guitar, driving drums, and filtered vocals. The song emanates a driven and independent response to some of the slower songs from the album, showcasing yet another feature of Wilson’s singing repertoire. “Let Me Go East” brings the listener back into the world of rock’n’roll, sounding like a 21st century revamping of some of Chuck Berry’s and Jerry Lee Lewis’s tunes from the 50’s, with (some) elements of 90s punk bands like Social Distortion. The song drips with opportunity and youth, speaking to its title to let (whomever) go east. The album closes out with the soft and sweet “Don’t Lose Your Love,” a contemplative, charming, and reflective song that despite its wistful sound, ends the album on a slow, but hopeful note. 

Seattle’s Ivan & Alyosha brought out yet another astounding and wonderful full length album that gave the listener plenty to hear and a nice pallet to ponder their own thoughts on. The album can be interpreted many different ways, with its sound driven and full, but many times deliberate and reflective. The album solidifies the band’s west coast/southern fusion in a delightfully complex and robust manner. This album is perfect for any summer day, providing something not only to move one’s body to, but one’s mind as well. 

The band is on its summer tour for this album right now, and will be making a stop in DC this Friday, May 29th to perform at U Street Music Hall. Don’t miss it! If you’re interested, you can buy tickets here.

5/11: Matt and Kim @ 930

Photo by Matt and Kim

The 930 Club was packed beyond belief with people and anticipation. When Matt and Kim came on stage, a roar like no other came over the entire crowd, balcony and pit alike. The Brooklyn hailing duo was beaming and ready for a crazy show. Not 1 minute into their set, Kim, notorious for being one of the most energetic, pumped up performers in pop today, jumped on top of the bass drum of her drum set and started dancing and hitting her sticks against the frame of the drum. 

Matt and Kim went right into it, playing with a blazing energy and stage presence, dancing, asking the audience to dance and give it “100 percent” tonight. The duo was beyond pumped to be playing two sold out shows in a row at the 930 club, which they referred to as “world famous.” The band connected and fed off the audience in a way I have not seen before, and with raging success. I came in expecting to see an indie-pop duo play some music and possibly dance a bit, and was instead hit in the face with one of the most energetic, pumped up dance parties I’ve been to. Mid-way through the set, Kim stood back on the bass drum (she did this probably 20 times throughout the show) announcing to the crowd “fuck a sing-a-long, I need to see some mother-fucking crowd surfers here tonight!” And as if on-queue, the crowd surfing began and did not end until the very last song of the show.

This show was unlike most shows I have been to in that the duo did not rely on their musical talent to guide the show (although they are undoubtedly musically talented). The two youthful and passionate musicians used their energy and hype to create an incredibly intense show with Matt remarking towards the end that the crowd went past 100 percent and made it to 150. The duo was far from perfect, and it didn’t seem to bother them or anyone in the venue. Matt had 2 fingers taped together which he had broken in an earlier show. He assured everyone he could still do everything he needed to make it a legendary show, adding that “being perfect is fucking boring.” If the show’s musical performance wasn’t perfect, the show’s physical performance and energy made far up for it until the very end. Throughout the show, they would play little intermissions where they would play short renditions of “Up in Here,” “Just a Friend,” and more. Many many many hundreds of balloons were thrown into the audience, only adding to the massive dance party aesthetic. 

Towards the end of the show, Matt said that “We know its hot in here…but we’re about to make it much hotter,” unveiling a parachute which was draped across the first 50 feet of the pit overtop of the audience, and then promptly asked those underneath to go absolutely crazy. After this, Matt asked everyone in the pit to scrunch together, raise their hands up flat, and make a dance floor of sorts for Kim to stand on. Miraculously, the “handfloor” worked, with Kim dancing literally on top of the crowd, and making it back to the stage unharmed. (I dont know if she could even be harmed, I swear she’s made of steel). The band rocked the house with performances of songs off their newest album, New Glow, and of course, the song that perhaps started it all for them, “Daylight.” 

This show was indeed legendary; Matt and Kim are not a show to miss out on. They lead and pump up a crowd like no other band in the indie-pop scene, and give you every single bang for your buck. 

5/6: HOLYCHILD @ 930 Club

When HOLYCHILD took the stage, the 930 club was almost filled, all in anticipation for Passion Pit, and clapped avidly when HOLYCHILD, led by vocalist Liz Nistico and producer and multi-instrumentalist Louie Diller, came on stage. The band’s instruments sported lots of flair and streamers and 3 members were sporting a Hawaiian shirt. Without a bassist or guitarist, HOLYCHILD indeed was different than most bands. 

Their sound, defined by them as ‘Brat Pop’, was an upbeat mix between catchy vocals and driving percussion over synthesizers and keyboards, that had many people in the audience dancing and cheering to the music as soon as the set started. There is no doubt that many had not experienced a band as interesting or different as HOLYCHILD in previous shows they’d been to. Nistico danced with absolute energy across the stage in harmony with her singing, never resting in one place too long. Multiple times, Nistico went into the crowd, singing from various locations of the 930 club, including the floor of the pit and on top of the bar.

The band as a whole delivered an incredibly energetic performance, full of life and youth, engaging with the audience relatively well. After giving an incredibly energizing opening set, HOLYCHILD bowed together before taking their leave of the stage, grinning from ear to ear. The young and lively band thrived at the 930 club, feeding off the energy of the crowd while generating its own as well. 

I had a chance to interview Louie and Liz after the show, you can listen here. 

5/7: STU LARSEN AND NATSUKI KURAI @ U STREET MUSIC HALL

In a half filled, dimly lit U Street Music Hall, Australian Stu Larsen andIMG_6223 Japanese Natsuki Kurai came on stage to a small but cheery crowd. Stu has been on the road for the last 5 years, having driven some 8,000 miles in the last 3 weeks of touring with Natsuki. He met Natsuki at a concert in Japan, and now they’ve toured across the United States together. The tour started in Japan on April 12th, and ended in Atlanta on May 10th. With Stu on the guitar and vocals, and Natsuki playing harmonica, the two played an incredible set together. Their sound flowed throughout the room, blending between Stu’s earthy and captivating voice, and Natsuki’s explosive and cascading harmonica riffs. The performance felt incredibly intimate throughout the set, with Stu asking the audience to sing the chorus of a few songs, and at one point bringing the opener, Matt Sanders and a few friends on stage to sing a song together.

IIMG_6183IMG_6198f Stu wasn’t enchanting enough on his own, Natsuki blew it away for everyone in the crowd. Stu and Natsuki were perhaps at their best when they played “This Train” a song from Stu’s 2011 album, Ryeford. Amidst Stu’s vocals and driving guitar, Natsuki went crazy with the harmonica playing mind bending riffs. Most of all, the show felt natural and intimate. Perhaps it was the nature of the venue, but I think it was mostly from the warm atmosphere created by Stu and Natsuki. The duo played music from all of Larsen’s albums, mostly playing from his most recent album, Vagabond, which was released in 2014. The show was all in all a wonderful, heartwarming experience, like a conversation with old friends and new.

I had a chance to interview Stu before the show, and talk to him about his musical journey and his travels. You can listen to the recording here.

Photos by Anour Esa

4/30: The Wombats @ 930 Club

 

“Hello Washington, my sweet babies.”

These were the first words uttered by The Wombats lead vocalist, Matthew “Murph” Murphy at the 930 Club here in DC. These weren’t his last, as the band hailing from Liverpool played 90 minutes of joy-filled, energetic music, full of youthful lyrics sung by Murph and the majority of the audience.

The Wombats had an energy and persona on stage that could only come from playing for more than 12 years together as a band. Each member of the trio laughed, joked, and smiled their way through their set, feeding off one another’s energy. Bassist Tord Overland perhaps gave the most energetic performance, dancing bombastically across seemingly every part of the stage that night, and once even falling over during their number “Greek Tragedy,” as drummer Dan Haggis described: “ass over tit.” But Overland got back up and the band played on, albeit a bit giggly. Throughout the entire performance, the band led a hilarious chant of “Grossman,” their nickname for their tour manager, Simon Fuller, highlighting the hallmark playful nature of The Wombats. (We’re simply going to assume that Wombats are playful marsupials based on how friendly Murph, Dan, and Tord were.)

When we spoke to Murph in our interview prior to the show, he said he was thrilled to be on another US and Canada tour, this tour so far having “been the best US tour we’ve done,” with an increased North American following and The Wombats’ first sold out show in DC. The show at 930 was definitely a testament to this, as nearly everyone sang along to each song, reacting with shouts of joy to each song in the set. The Wombat’s opened with their first release from their newest album, “Your Body Is A Weapon,” following it up with the older “Jump Into The Fog” and an energetic drum transition into one of their originals, “Moving to New York.” The band played songs from every one of their albums, including numerous ones from their recently released Glitterbug. Though the album was released only 17 days prior to the show, the audience had no difficulty in picking out each song and singing and dancing along. While the most recent album had more electronic elements, the live performance of both new and older songs blew the crowd away with an incredible driving energy that never died down, even during their slowest numbers. The band’s performance of their whimsical classic, “Little Miss Pipedream” was even better than the original album version, with Dan playing the keyboard, bass drum, and harmonica, at one point simultaneously, and had the crowd swaying and chanting along to the peculiar lyrics, giving the crowd a bit of a rest from the mostly upbeat set. The band closed out their encore with their hit single from their first album, “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” igniting the crowd in a wild and ecstatic fervor, every single person dancing and jumping up and down to the music.

The Wombats delivered a truly memorable performance on Thursday night’s show at the 930 club, giving every part of the audience what they wanted, delivering each song with a festive and gleeful stroke, and enjoying themselves heavily as they went.

 

 

Yours Truly,

Anour Esa & Julie Hansen

 

Photo Credit: Meghan Montgomery and Anour Esa

The Magic Whip: An Even More “Universal” Blur

Nostalgic Britpop fans have long been tormented by rumors of an unlikely Oasis reunion. It seems as though every few months either Liam or Noel tweets something that gets picked up by someone like Mirror as a sign of a pending revival for the band that cocained and temper-tantrumed their way out of existence in 2009. The other half of the so called “Battle of Britpop,” Blur, however, has given these nostalgic fans a big reason to rejoice with the April 27th release of The Magic Whip. Read the rest of this entry

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