The Year in Concerts

I decided early on this year that I would try to see as many concerts as I possibly could. There was a wealth of great bands coming to DC that I really wanted to see, and I ended up going to 17 concerts in all. Here’s a quick (but still long) review of what I liked and didn’t like.
First up was the Verve Pipe at the Barns at Wolf Trap. I had never been to a show at the Barns, only their outdoor venue in the summer. The Barns was a cool place to see a show, and even though I didn’t know all that many songs, it was still a good performance to start the year.
I was surprisingly impressed with We Were Promised Jetpacks at Jammin Java. They ended up playing a show later in the year at the much larger 9:30 Club, so I felt pretty lucky to see them in a smaller venue.
The most fun show of the year had to be the Legwarmers at the State Theatre. I went with a group of friends for my birthday and we went full on 80s retro garb and just had a blast singing along to every hit.
Black Star was the first of several shows at the Anthem, a venue I still can’t quite get behind. The floor is way too big, and I’d rather go to the 9:30 Club, though I understand the desire to sell more tickets. Everyone was super into this one which made it fun.
I took Lisa to see The Accidentals at Jammin Java. They were great performers, even if the crowd was a little restrained. I’d go see them again for sure.
Probably the biggest surprise for me was going to see HAIM at the Anthem and being more entertained by the opening act, Lizzo. She and her dancers and DJ were on fire, it’s too bad there was too long of a gap between them and HAIM, it might have been my favorite show.
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats always put everything out there for their shows, but again, the Anthem just didn’t seem like the right spot for them to play.
We saw three fun bands at the Nottoway Nights concert series this year. Karikatura was a funky sound from a NY band. The Hot Lanes Big Band played just the kind of music you think they would. And Maybe April will probably be big on the country scene in a few years.
We took the kids to see Barenaked Ladies on the lawn at Wolf Trap. They’ve maybe lost a step lately, but still very entertaining. We’ll probably go see them with Hootie next summer.
Japandroids is my favorite band so it’s no surprise that their show at the tiny Rock and Roll Hotel was my favorite this year. I got there early and enjoyed Bacchae from right next to the stage. I chatted with a guy I recognized from the Pup show there the previous year. And then we got sweaty and loud and it was awesome. I even came away with one of David Prowse’s drumsticks!
Weezer and the Pixies and Sleigh Bells was at Jiffy Lube Live, a venue which I probably will only return to when absolutely necessary. Unfortunately a storm made me miss most of the Sleigh Bells set. The Pixies were pretty blah. But Weezer was so great.
Future Islands was another weird Anthem show. It was fun but I still maintain they should have played at 9:30.
The most frustrating show of all was AJJ/Kimya Dawson/Rozwell Kid at the Black Cat. It didn’t help that I was really tired, but after Rozwell Kid got me rocking, I felt like Kimya Dawson was out of place in this lineup, and since she was technically co-headlining, she played for a lot longer than I wanted, and I ended up leaving in the middle of AJJ’s set. Disappointing.
The year almost wrapped up where it began, back at the Barns for The Lone Bellow and Tiny Desk Contest winner Naia Izumi. Izumi is super talented and the Barns was a great place for his voice and guitar to resonate. The Lone Bellow are also fantastic performers who I would recommend anyone see even if you don’t know their music.
The year did close out with The Menzingers at the Black Cat. After getting to the show a little late, I squeezed up toward the front for some last sweaty, loud action. Super fun and energetic performers as well.
All in all, a good year of concerts. Even though next year won’t have as many concerts, I’m sure that music will continue to have a big place in my life.

My Last Concert

Yesterday, thanks to a presale code I received from the Michigan State email list, I bought two tickets to the U2 concert in East Lansing, MI next June. Combined with the Bruce Springsteen concert we’re going to tomorrow night up in Baltimore, I think that this is the last concert that will be a “must see” for me.
I didn’t go to too many concerts until I was in college, so I missed out on Bruce and U2 and others back in the 80s and 90s for the most part. But in the past ten years, I’ve been lucky enough to afford to be able to see concerts like those and Billy Joel (with Elton John), and even Bon Jovi and Def Leppard (making up for missing them in my youth). Looking around at some of the top concert tours going right now, I find little else I actually want to go see. The Eagles and Dave Matthews Band seem to be the highest draws that I might want to see, but they’re not must see material for me, definitely not for what tickets cost these days. The only “new” artist I’d be interested in seeing is Arcade Fire (not on tour), and the “old” artist would be Beastie Boys maybe (also not on tour).
What do you think? Is there a great concert out there that I “must see?”

Chuck Brown, DC Institution

I can now check off another unique DC institution from my list: I have now seen Chuck Brown, the Godfather of go-go, perform live in concert. Chuck Brown has been performing for decades around the DC music scene, doing his unique blend of funk and jazz and continuous drum beats. Yesterday, he was performing for free at the Reston Festival, and the wife and kids were out of town, so I decided to ride my bike up to go see him play. What a show! The wall of sound hits you from the first note and never lets up (I felt bad for the conga and drum players, who never got a break in the late afternoon heat). The crowd was predominately African-American, but everyone was into the groove and chanting along, “Wind me up, Chuck!” It really was a great show, and I admire the guy for performing at such a high level into his 70s. I can’t describe how glad I am that I was finally able to catch his show. Awesome.

I Miss The Comfort In Being Sad

Making its way around the intertubes is a funny “Thriller” video. For you kids, that was a big hit for Michael Jackson before he went all crazy. If I’m ever incarcerated, I want to go to the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the Philippines.

And here they are doing “Radio Gaga” by Queen. Not as awesome, but funny when they do the clap-clap part of the chorus.

On an only vaguely related (by music) note, I got Nirvana’s “In Utero” from LaLa a while back, after reading “Life is a Mixtape.” I’m not going to go by a shotgun like Kurt, but even if you couldn’t understand everything he sang, he wrote some pretty good songs. And as “Life is a Mixtape” suggested, I really do relate, at times, to the songs on this album. Worth revisiting if you’re all groweds up now and last listened to it in college.

Bring the Awesome

I saw that the True Colors tour is coming to our area in June, and I had to share the lineup with you:

Artists scheduled to appear: Cyndi Lauper, Erasure, Debbie Harry, The Dresden Dolls, The Gossip, and special guest Rufus Wainwright. Hosted by Margaret Cho.

I actually like some of what I’ve heard from The Dresden Dolls and The Gossip (“Standing in the Way of Control” was a good one), but sometimes lineups like this just crack me up. “Hosted by Margaret Cho?” How exactly does one host a concert?
Of course, this is coming from a guy who is far more likely to see a Ralph’s World or Dan Zanes show these days. But I did just download the new Arcade Fire from eMusic, along with some classic jazz from Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk (thanks BG). Well, those and Dan Zanes. And maybe Justin Roberts. But also Barenaked Ladies and Ray Charles! Anyone?

Funny How The Day Goes

This morning started off super crappy. For some reason, when taking the dog out for a walk this morning, I put my hat down on the trunk of the car, thinking to myself that I surely wouldn’t forget that it was there. You can guess what happened. I headed off to Safeway to buy lottery tickets, only to find the customer service desk deserted (in fairness, it was only 6:30am). It was around the time I was going to get back on the highway that I realized that I had left my hat on the trunk, so I retraced my route back home to find it lying in the road just around the corner from home.
I got on the highway about 15 minutes later than usual, and paid for it. If I get on at 6:30am, the HOV rules haven’t kicked in yet, so the traffic flows smoothly. At 6:45am, it starts to back up as people have to exit I-66 at the Beltway.
After sitting through the traffic, I decided to take a side trip for those lottery tickets ($350 million!). The first Safeway didn’t sell lottery tickets, only scratch-offs. So I stopped by the nearest 7-11, even though it wasn’t very near. Asked for the tickets, and tried to hand him my debit card. Cash only for lottery. Doh! Paid the $2 surcharge at the 7-11 ATM and proceeded to drive into work 30 minutes later than I should have gotten there, extremely pissed off.
The day has improved since though. Lisa found the Disney Crocs shoes for Ellie and her cousin for 10% off at, plus $10 off for using Google Checkout. Not bad.
Then I spent much of my lunch break finding all sorts of cool kids music that rocks. Lots of resources out there (and I’m posting them here mostly so I don’t forget all of them): The Lovely Miss Davis, Children’s Music That Rocks, Zooglobble, GoCityKids, Rock-n-Romp, Rock-n-Romp Baltimore, Jam-A-Rama, Baby Loves Disco (come to DC please!), and more performers than I can list here. I had fun listening to Justin Roberts (who is at Jammin Java on St. Patty’s Day and sounds kinda like James Taylor) and Steve “I used to be on Blue’s Clues, but now I rock out on kid’s music” Burns.
My mood is much better now.

The Demise of the True Encore

I was listening to the All Songs Considered podcast of the Sleater-Kinney “before-we-go-on-indefinite-hiatus” tour show at the 9:30 Club, and Bob Boilen mentioned that it was the first time he remembered that when the house lights came up and the house music started playing, the audience just screamed louder, and Sleater-Kinney came back out for a second encore. How cool is that?
That got me to thinking, whatever happened to the encore? I’m not talking about your favorite band leaving the stage after they “finish” their set, and coming back to play a couple more songs. They plan those encores now. That’s why the house lights don’t come on. Take a look at their set list, it has the encore songs planned out in advance. (see this example of the setlist from the May 2006 Chicago Gaelic Park Saw Doctors show) Maybe it’s been done this way for a while, and I’m just now starting to notice, but it used to feel good when, as a fan, we cheered at the top of our lungs and got the band to come back out and play a few more songs. I think at a Garth Brooks concert, he even came back out twice, if I recall. These days, the audience will occasionally cheer, but more often just sit back on their hands and wait for the band to come back out for a few more songs. Then the house lights come up after the encore, and everyone files quietly out. How boring and un-rock-and-roll.
I don’t know what fans can do about it. I suppose that bands could actually forgo an encore if the fans didn’t really get into it, but that would probably just result in annoyed yuppies crying that they didn’t get their three extra songs they think they’re entitled to. Me? I just hope to be there when a band I like is forced back up onto the stage for a second, real encore for a change.


Damn, extra innings baseball games suck. Since the Yankees were on WGN, I actually got to watch them last night, as they blew the lead in the ninth and lost in the eleventh. So, a little tired this morning.
If you haven’t had the chance to catch “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” on SciFi yet, check it out tomorrow at 9pm. 11 ordinary people created comic book characters. One will be immortalized in a Stan Lee comic book. He’s putting them through all sorts of tests, and eliminating them one by one. My favorites are Fat Momma and Major Victory. It’s only going for 6 episodes, and tomorrow is episode 3. Definitely lots of fun to watch in the summer rerun doldrums.
Speaking of fun, check out Frets on Fire. It’s basically Guitar Hero for your computer, but you play with your keyboard. It’s done pretty well, but there needs to be a few more songs for it to be really cool. Supposedly you can plug in the Guitar Hero guitar with an adapter, and use it to play as well, which would be really cool.
The WSOP main event is down to the final table of 9 players now. You’d probably only recognize one of the names as a poker pro, but there is one guy named Rhett Butler who’s from the DC area, and with that name, you know I gotta root for him. Pauly rules, check out his coverage of the WSOP.

The Best Laid Plans

I was very efficient this morning. I grabbed an old portable CD player to bring in to work (iPods not allowed, Lord knows why). I also grabbed my rechargeable AA batteries with the charger to bring in. I couldn’t find the power adapter, otherwise I would have just used that.
Got in to work, plugged in the charger, started charging the batteries. A short time later, they’re all charged up, so I pop them into the CD player and try to turn it on. It starts to turn on, then poof! Turns off. Seems the batteries, which admittedly, have been sitting around for some time, are 1.2 volt batteries, while regular alkaline AAs are 1.5 volts. Most likely, the rechargeables have lost a bit of their effectiveness, and just don’t have enough juice to power the CD player. Thankfully, a co-worker had some spare AAs for me to borrow, so I’m hooking up some White Stripes right now.
But still, how annoying is that? So prepared, only to see my plans go down the tubes. Maybe I’ll see if I can find some other rechargeables that work (rechargeable alkalines are 1.5 volts, NiMH are 1.2v).