Last Wednesday, I had the great pleasure of escaping class to make my way over to the heartland of DC music and hipsterness: U St. DC 9, located about a block and a half south of the 9:30 Club, is an intimate and lovely venue with real character, making it perfect for the performances planned for that evening. Ivan & Alyosha (being the fantastic band that they are) sold out their evening show rather expediently, with demand more than high enough to establish an earlier performance beginning at 6pm, which ALSO sold out. If you’re familiar with either Ivan & Alyosha or The Lone Bellow, it isn’t hard to believe that the demand for these performers would be so high; I predict great things for both groups, with The Lone Bellow having the possibility, in my mind, of clinching a Grammy nomination or three for their first album, which is self-titled.
For the sake of continuity, I’ll begin with my thoughts on The Lone Bellow, who kicked off the show. I’d first heard of them a few months back on NPR, and after seeing their Tiny Desk Concert (a fantastic series of acoustic performances, available Here), which may have been the best I’d seen thus far, due to the raw power and emotion conveyed through the flawless harmonies and refrains that are in fact bellowed out. I say flawless, because despite the naturally slight variations of each vocal quiver and pitch in their live performances, they combine together as a simple reminder of the force and soul which is given to each word, with pure humanity and humility dripping from every lyric. In the past month alone I’ve been to four concerts, each with their own radically differing genres and purposes; The Lone Bellow however, elicited more of an emotional response and soulful journey than any performance I’ve ever seen, moving me in ways I hadn’t experienced before, especially on the wondrously beautiful and romantic hymn “Tree to Grow”, which I may just reserve a place for in my wedding, years down the road. I’ve recorded the vast majority of their performance, and have uploaded a few videos Here. The band is most similar in form and sound to the Civil Wars (who remain, to my knowledge, on hiatus), but they vary in some very key and delightful ways, such as their use of a full drumset and electric guitar. The band consists of primarily of Zach Williams (lead vocals, guitar, and chief lyricist), Kanene Pipkin (mandolin and vocals, occasionally lead), and Brian Elmquist (guitar and vocals), but is currently touring with Brian Griffin on drums, and Jason Pipkin (yes, the beautiful female lead is married, sorry folks) on the upright bass and the banjo. The band formed in Brooklyn in 2011, and began working with producer Charlie Peacock (Civil Wars, Brett Dennen, etc.). After searching for the right label, distribution company, and time, they finally released “The Lone Bellow” on January 22nd of this year. The album was the 64th most sold album in all of the United States by the Billboard 200, and it sold and placed at the following: No. 14 Alternative album, No. 12 Folk album, No. 10 Independent album, No. 20 Rock album and No. 58 Current album. If you haven’t gotten it already, you’re seriously behind and missing out on brilliant, beautiful, and transformative music.
And now, on to Ivan & Alyosha. These pros have been around a bit longer than The Lone Bellow, having formed in 2007, in the west coasts music capitol: Seattle, Washington. Originally consisting of Tim Wilson (guitar and lead vocals) and Ryan Carbary (guitar and vocals), they were later joined by Tim’s brother Pete (bass and vocals), and Tim Kim (guitar and vocals), while touring with a rotating drummer from their wide basin of friends and collaborators. NPR’s coverage of their 2010 SXSW performances gave them just the launching pad they needed, gaining huge traction among fans of Indie-Folk, Indie-Pop, and Indie-Rock. If I could only say one thing about their music, I would have to say that it is smooth. The songs are rhythmic, mellow, and catchy, sounding off with a gentle airiness which is both refreshing, and somehow classic. I can’t really think of another band to compare them to, with the fluidity of their harmonies mixing perfectly with their memorable and catching hooks and riffs. It’s a fantastic album, and their live performance of it held an aura of freedom and enjoyment that was almost summery, a relaxing and soothing feeling for a college student stressing over finals and the stochasticity with which the weather and warmth seems to be coming and going. Plus, I had the great pleasure of meeting that band after the show; Tim and Pete were some of the kindest people I’ve met and our fingers are crossed that we can collaborate with them the next time they’re back in DC. With the release of their first full length album “All The Times We Had” in February, they’ve been playing sold-out shows left and right, with the album ranking in at number six on Billboard’s “Heatseekers” Albums chart, and 38 on their “Independent” albums chart. Again, if you haven’t already, go out and purchase this album. It’ll ease your stresses, define your summer, and is even great music for traveling/roadtripping. It’s positive, it’s warm, and it’s damn good, what else do you need?
Go buy these albums!