Music, The Features, We Love Music

Hot Ticket: Technophobia w/Void Vision, Curse @ Black Cat, 7/19/14

technophobia071914Our friends in dark-wave trio Technophobia have enlisted their friends on a number of remixes for their song “Bleeding Hands.” And so vocalist Denman C. Anderson and synthmasters Stephen and Katie Petix are throwing a cassette release party for these remixes this Saturday, July 19, on the backstage of the Black Cat.

The song receives new treatments from Pleasure Curses, Lenorable, Psykofly and Semita Serpens.

According to a Technophobia press release, “The original Bleeding Hands gives way to trip through a midnight discotheque from dance duo Pleasure Curses. Soon after, the void opens up for a space-birthed dirge courtesy of Lenorable, before the hammer comes down via Psykofly’s brutish drum and bass treatment. The last hope of light is finally vanquished due to Semita Serpen’s riveting ‘Industrial Cinema’ remix.”

Void Vision (Photo by Nikki Sneakers)

Void Vision (Photo by Nikki Sneakers)

In a show to celebrate the cassette release of the “Bleeding Hands” remixes (which you also can hear online at Soundcloud), Technophobia will host Philadelphia’s Void Vision in their first DC appearance along with Baltimore’s Curse.

I saw Void Vision in Philadelphia three years ago, and I can attest that artist Shari Vari is a frenetic bundle of new romantic/new wave/dark wave/industrial energy in a sonically sweet wrap. Given how much energy our own Technophobia put into a show, this performance is guaranteed to grab your attention.

Technophobia
w/ Void Vision, Curse
Black Cat
Saturday, July 19
Doors @9pm
$10
All ages

Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Tokyo Police Club @ Black Cat–5/13/14

Tokyo Police Club (Photo courtesy Sacks & Co.)

Tokyo Police Club (Photo courtesy Sacks & Co.)

I’ve been somewhat remiss in singing the praises of Tokyo Police Club.

The Ontario-based post-punk quartet played a show at the Black Cat on Tuesday, May 13, and an overly aggressive schedule on my part has thwarted my attempts to say a good word about a good show!

Well, allow me to correct that now. Although as the sold-out crowd at the Black Cat well knows, Tokyo Police Club do well enough without my praise. In March, the band released its fourth full-length album, Forcefield, and stopped in DC to promote it a month along in a tour that seems scheduled to go on for at least a few more weeks.

Forcefield demonstrates Tokyo Police Club’s terrific consistency, and a renewed focus on good dance numbers. The one exception to this might be the somewhat more methodical “Argentina, Pts. I, II, III,” a remembrance of lost love that sounds sunny and nostalgic but longer and more drawn out than other songs on the new album. By contrast, “Tunnel Vision,” a much more typical and danceable new song on the album, demonstrates the group’s emphasis on dance tunes with catchy hooks and memorable phrases–like the refrain, “I just want to make it through one more night.” It’s a perfect glam-pop moment that captures a 24-hour cycle in a 3-minute declaration of intent to keep on partying.

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Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Blouse and Dum Dum Girls @ Black Cat — 3/22/14

Dee Dee Penny of the Dum Dum Girls (Courtesy of Sub Pop Records)

Dee Dee Penny of the Dum Dum Girls (Courtesy of Sub Pop Records)

The Black Cat hosted two female-fronted bands well worth an evening of listening on a sold-out Saturday night.

Blouse, a synthpop trio from Portland, Ore., recently traded their keyboards for guitars on their second album, Imperium. They opened for the Dum Dum Girls, the increasingly popular quartet from Los Angeles celebrating a third full-length release with Too True. This music reporter was pretty happy with both bands overall thanks to the shades of 80s post-punk that shown through in the music of their two sets.

Given my predilections, you’ll have to excuse me — when I first heard Blouse, I absolutely was hooked by their first album, and it’s been difficult for me to fairly judge their second by the standard that it set. I took notes during the show only to find myself scribbling praise for the songs from the band’s first self-titled album from 2011.

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Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Ex Hex @ Black Cat — 3/5/14

exhexMary Timony’s new band is a breath of fresh air.

The three ladies of Ex Hex played a catchy and relaxed 10-song set of fuzzy glam-pop and even added a few songs in an encore in the first performance of their first major tour at the Black Cat Wednesday. They were extremely polished, their workmanship honed in other bands clearly on display, producing a concert experience quite unlike seeing many other new bands.

And Ex Hex is sure to pick up some of that “new band buzz” in the coming month, as they are going to sneak in at least one performance at SXSW in Austin on March 12 (playing for Pitchfork at the French Legation Museum at 4pm). Meanwhile, they sold out the Black Cat’s backstage with an enthusiastic if diverse mix of alt-rockers, cuddling couples and bona-fide D.C. notables (yes, Ian MacKaye was there). It’s an impressive start out of the gate for a band that only played its first show back in October.

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Music, The Features, We Love Music

Q&A with Charlie Hilton of Blouse

Charlie Hilton (center) of Blouse talks to We Love DC (Photo courtesy Captured Tracks)

Charlie Hilton (center) of Blouse talks to We Love DC (Photo courtesy Captured Tracks)

Blouse come from Portland, Ore., to open for the Dum Dum Girls at the Black Cat on Saturday, March 22. (Remarkably, tickets are still on sale for this awesome lineup!) Last fall, Blouse released their second album, Imperium, and they easily could be headlining a tour of their own at this point! We Love DC caught up with vocalist Charlie Hilton to talk about the differences between the new album and the band’s synth-y first album, doing what you love and what the future holds.

Mickey McCarter: You guys are coming to DC in a couple of weeks, opening for the Dum Dum Girls, at the Black Cat. Have you been in DC before?

Charlie Hilton: We have! We actually played at the Black Cat once before. It was so cool. It was one of my favorite shows. That was on a tour we did with Bear in Heaven a couple of years ago. That was my first time in D.C., and it was so brief. I’m glad to be back.

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Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Mutual Benefit w/ Teen Mom @ Black Cat — 2/5/14

Jordon Lee (Photo: Whitney Lee)

Jordon Lee (Photo: Whitney Lee)

Wry and laidback, Jordon Lee brought a six-person line-up in Mutual Benefit to a sold out stage Wednesday to the Black Cat, where he promptly soothed and entranced the audience with wistful songs of letting go.

Lee himself said most of his songs are about “death, dying, ghouls, spooky stuff and hobgoblins.” And there is indeed a haunted ethereal sound to his folk music, thanks in great part to the violin and synthesizer contributions to their arrangements but also to Lee’s strong and steady singing voice, wonderfully full of loss.

Loss usually involves an inability to connect or communicate with the opposite sex. In the refrain in “Advanced Falconry,” for example, Lee sings, “And she talks softly/Sees through me/Says something/I can’t hear it/But I won’t forget/The way she flies.” Images of a bird (or woman) flying away or being stranded on a desert island serve as typical metaphors in Mutual Benefit’s songs.

The sorrowful and sweet violin from Jake Falby added a great deal of emotion to the songs. And Jordon Lee’s sister Whitney Lee was a lovely surprise on the synthesizer, which added a lot more complexity to the songs than I might have anticipated.

Indeed, the six-member band–two guitars, bass, drum, violin and synth–sounded even more expansive than its ingredients might suggest, even as they crowded onto the Cat’s small back stage. It will be exciting to see where Lee takes his sound after his debut album, Love’s Crushing Diamond, as he has demonstrated an understanding of how well this mix of instruments can work together.

DC fuzz pop trio Teen Mom opened for Mutual Benefit. None of the three men in the band are underage or mothers, despite their quirky name, but they were full of pleasant, sunny odes to self-awareness, perhaps? Their sound was pleasantly buoyant with not enough feedback to really be noisepop and not enough complexity to be psychedelic.

Band drummer Sean Dalby set the tempo and affably bantered between songs, which come from several EPs the band has issued over the past 14 months or so. (They appear to like to give these albums names that somehow personify them like “Mean Tom” and “Gilly.”) A lot of their songs seem nostalgically reflective: “Say Anything,” a song from the recent Gilly, dwells on changes in feelings or perhaps perceptions between two people. The catchy “I Wanna Go Out” celebrates the simple joy of getting out.

Mutual Benefit play two shows in New York City this weekend — tonight at Mercury Lounge and tomorrow at Rough Trade — to wrap up their tour. Catch their next performance for some innovative synth folk.

Music, The Features, We Love Music

Hot Ticket: Youth Code w/ Technophobia, Coming @ Black Cat, 1/26/14

youthcode-banner
Much of modern industrial music sounds like so much noise, but a subgenre of it known as “electronic body music” can be identified by danceably coherent melodies that almost recall happier, upbeat music. Enter Youth Code, a duo from Los Angeles, who have decided to pervert that paradigm by borrowing the brighter synths of EBM and marrying them to hardcore punk lyrics. The result is cold wave instrumentation that compels you to be light on your feet while simultaneously heavy vox beats you about the head.

Youth Code released their debut self-titled LP on Dais Records last year, drawing inspiration from early Wax Trax records and hardcore punk, something DC knows a lot about. Bandmates Ryan William George and Sara Taylor tackle synth and vocals with several different approaches, but the band is most arresting when she sings and he dirges, as demonstrated in their video for “Carried Mask.”

They strike me as being kind of like the Sleigh Bells of the industrial genre, in the way the indie pop group sought to blend genres and be loud. (I wouldn’t repeat that observation to any goth friends, however, if you care about saving face in front of them. :) )

One of the bands opening for Youth Code at the Black Cat this Sunday is DC’s own Technophobia, which recently released recordings of their songs “Bleeding Hands” and “A Coping Mechanism” to add to their first single, “Waltz Demise.”

With its driving beats from Katie and Stephen Petix and soaring vocals from Denman Anderson, “A Coping Mechanism” is truly one of the best songs from Technophobia, offering accessible dance music with soul-searching lyrics that avoid falling into routine despair or self-loathing. The darkwave outfit also does quite a bit to expand upon the appeal of what we consider the goth domain by intelligently applying more traditional pop formulations to their music, opening it sonically to a wider audience than you might anticipate.

You have a unique opportunity to check them both out this Sunday, Jan. 26, when they take over the backstage of the Black Cat. In addition to openers Technophobia, Youth Code are bringing L.A. trio Coming along with them to open as well.

Youth Code
w/ Coming, Technophobia
Black Cat
Sunday, Jan. 26
Doors @8pm
$12
All ages

Entertainment, Get Out & About, Life in the Capital, Music, We Love Music

We Love Music: A Q&A with St. Lucia

st-lucia
It was 2010 and music virtuoso, producer, remixer and collaborator, Jean-Philip Grobler was stuck. The rock project he currently belabored on felt forced, unnatural; he turned to the past, looking for inspiration from Peter Gabriel, Fleetwood Mac, Madonna – potentially DC’s very own Thievery Corporation, for a jolt of inspiration. At this moment of stuckness, the young South African found both the inspiration he was looking for and birthed the idea for a new project that would become St. Lucia.

St. Lucia’s sound is distinct with a solid grounding in the best music from the 80s and 90s, with a constant freshness and an eye towards the future. Think a harmonious, fun mix of Cindy Lauper, Lionel Richie, Rick Astley, John Secada, and All Saints. Throughout my first listen to their first record, When The Night, I was consistently noting rifts, sounds and harmonies that were clearly inspired from previous artists, although I was hard pressed to get specific to the artist or their track. Their sound draws on the past, but evolves it, making it their own.

St. Lucia will be at the BlackCat this Tuesday, and although the show is sold out, I highly recommend going the extra mile to snag a ticket because from my Q&A with Grobler it sounds like the band is going to BRING. IT.  Continue reading

Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Hugh Cornwell @ Black Cat –12/5/13

As some active music icons age, they often move away from the musical styles and lyrical causes that propelled them to public consciousness. They expand to new sounds or find new grounds, and they may bear little resemblance to their old selves.

While such an evolution may be understandable, it’s sometimes disappointing. While not everyone has to be Billy Bragg to maintain some degree of consistency in musical philosophy, it’s nice to see a sensible evolution in a musical career — rather than, say, searching for something new at age 50 to new discernible musical benefit.

Enter Hugh Cornwell, a punk icon who remains completely recognizable because he seems largely to be the same man he was at the beginning of his career but perhaps more mellow. He may be a case of a young punk rocker with a satiric bite but often soft sentimentalities, who becomes an older punk rocker with a no less satiric bite and more pronounced sentimentalities. In an appearance backstage at the Black Cat last Thursday, Dec. 5, Cornwell played a solid set drawn from this new album, Totem & Taboo, as well as a number of selections from his old band The Stranglers.

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Music, The Features, We Love Music

Hot Ticket: Hugh Cornwell @ Black Cat, 12/5/13

Hugh Cornwell (Photo by Kevin Nixon)

Hugh Cornwell (Photo by Kevin Nixon)

I’ve just listened to Hugh Cornwell’s new album, Totem & Taboo, released back in January, and it’s quite good! The former frontman of The Stranglers still has a good, strong voice that sounds like smooth leather, capable of both challenging with a bit of satire or soothing with a pleasing thought.

The title track of the album is a jaunty tune that explores differences in attitudes that two people can have about the same thing. “God Is a Woman,” as Cornwell said in interviews, is a song inspired by the fact that ancient religions worshipped a female goddess and extrapolates that concept into admiration of women all around. “Love Me Slender” is a fun bunch of rhymes with a wry nod to the Elvis Presley song, and “Gods Guns and Gays” celebrates freedom of speech.

Cornwell comes to the backstage of the Black Cat on Thursday with the promise to play lots of his solo material with the addition of a couple of songs from his days in The Stranglers. A check of recent set lists shows he favors the new album, of course, but also plays some classics like “No More Heroes,” “Golden Brown” and “Nice ‘N Sleazy.”

DC post-punkers Dot Dash open for Cornwell.

Hugh Cornwell
w/ Dot Dash
Black Cat
Thursday, Dec. 5
Doors @8pm
$15
All ages

Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Gary Numan @ Black Cat — 10/27/13

I quite like Gary Numan — the musician and the man.

His new album Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind) undeniably shows influences of his association with Nine Inch Nails — but to be fair, Nine Inch Nails have long been admiring Numan. So it perhaps is only fair that the two musical acts would commingle. Nine Inch Nails guitarist Robin Finck played on some of Splinter’s tracks and joined him live on several recent tour dates.

The influence clearly was felt in the show at the Black Cat on Sunday, Oct. 27. Numan was energetic and in good form with a strong band that handled their goth guitar pretty well. They were very tight on “Everything Comes Down to This,” a new song from Splinter, demonstrating impressive range. The song is at times sparse and ethereal and at other times full and frenetic. Numan’s voice was strong and his physical flourishes added a great deal to his performance.

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Music, The Features, We Love Music

Hot Ticket: Gary Numan @ Black Cat, 10/27/13

Gary-Numan-2

Gary Numan has come a long way since he hit number one on the UK charts with “Are Friends Electric” in 1979. He’s hit some highs and lows in that time, and he recently immigrated from England to Los Angeles.

It’s interesting how much music has changed during that time. At the start of his career, Numan received criticism for seeking success—15 years later glory-seeking was an actual characteristic of Britpop bands. In that time, Numan changed his sound quite a bit, traversing from synthpop auteur to gothic acoustic. In recent years, he’s come back around a bit, re-embraced his synth, and still sounds like he’s light-years ahead of the pack.

Numan has a new album, Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind), released Oct. 14, and he comes to the Black Cat Sunday to tour it. The new album continues a trend of gloomy self-examination but frankly he remains one of the most intriguing artists in any genre.

Numan last came to the Black Cat almost exactly three years ago, and sold-out a highly anticipated display for the 30th anniversary of his album, The Pleasure Principle, which featured his most globally famous song, “Cars.” His recent set lists suggest he hasn’t forgotten that world tour was pretty good for everyone, so this is a great opportunity to catch him explore songs old and new. Don’t miss out!

Gary Numan
w/ The Color Film
Black Cat
Sunday, Oct. 27
Doors @8pm
$25 advance/$30 doors
All ages

Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Technophobia @ Black Cat — 8/17/13

Denman Anderson of Technophobia (Photo courtesy of the band)

Denman Anderson of Technophobia (Photo courtesy of the band)

Dark wavers Technophobia held their first show at the Black Cat on Saturday night, playing a polished set of fully realized synthpop tunes that may be considered a new standard for orchestrating a debut.

The band played seven songs, only one of which has been posted publicly to date (“Waltz Demise”), but each of them reflected a high degree of sophistication in songcraft that the band could have released any of them as an initial splash. In an interview with We Love DC before the show, Stephen Petix said the band wanted to avoid working out the kinks in their performance on stage or on the road. By that measure, their premiere show was a smashing success.

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Music, The Features, We Love Music

Hot Ticket: Technophobia @ Black Cat, 8/17/13

Stephen, Katie and Denman of Technophobia (Photo courtesy of the band)

Stephen, Katie and Denman of Technophobia (Photo courtesy of the band)

Stephen Petix is no stranger to being in bands. But his new band might be something pretty special indeed. Joining his wife Katie on synthesizers and long-time friend and collaborator Denman Anderson on vocals, Steve and his cohorts are set to launch Technophobia with a debut show at the Black Cat this Saturday, Aug. 17. We Love DC caught up with him to chat about the new band, spinning big DJ parties, and how his future might sound an awful lot like his past!

Mickey: How did your first song “Waltz Demise” come about? To me, it’s a refreshing sound for DC, which I always feel has been low on synthpop bands. [Download Waltz Demise for free.]

Stephen Petix: I appreciate that, and I agree that historically DC has not had much of a synth scene, but it seems that it is turning around a bit. “Waltz Demise,” while being the first song that we have released, is actually the 15th I have written for this project. We decided to record it first because we thought it was a good introduction to our sounds and a good overall representation of what Technophobia is all about. During the songwriting process, if a song is a struggle or does not seem to be cohesive with everyone’s input, then I re-work it or move on. Consequently we have scrapped many songs and only kept the ones we feel strongly about. Most bands go through this publicly, but I didn’t want to unveil this project to world until I felt it was ready. “Waltz Demise” came together very organically and without complication. Denman’s lyrics really hit the mark, and captured the feel and mood of the music.

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Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Cold Showers, Veronica Falls @ Black Cat — 3/6/13

So last week, I ventured to the Black Cat to catch Veronica Falls, a band that a lot of my indie-minded friends have praised at one point or another. They have released their second album, Waiting for Something to Happen, which offers up more of the bright speedy pop found on their debut album.

Songs like “Broken Toy,” “Waiting for Something to Happen” and “If You Still Want Me” — which were played to good effect in the middle to latter half of the set — all come urgently while showcasing sweet harmonies between Roxanne Clifford and James Hoare, who share vocal duties while playing their guitars. Those guitars got louder as the show progressed, as the band seemed to arrange their set list to build up the sound and the layers as the show progressed.

While it’s a given that Veronica Falls are labeled shoegaze by many critics, they don’t exactly play like shoegazers. The guitar players notably keep their heads up and their instruments are rather quite free of the fuzzy guitar feedback that serves as a hallmark of the classic shoegaze sound. Their playing is muscular yet jangly, however, defying easy classification.

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Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: 80s Parties Revisited

Not long after I wrote an update on various dance parties focusing on 80s music last year, several of them closed down — or at the very least went on hiatus. A personal favorite party, called Kids in America, is no longer keeping everything moving on a Friday night at Dahlak. And the long running 80s Dance Party hosted its last Michael Jackson Thriller danceoff at Chief Ike’s — for now.

The remaining parties have experienced enough changes that it’s time to come running… “back from the past,” to borrow a phrase from the Information Society. I’m going to tackle these parties in the order in which you can see them chronologically.

Party: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

The Scene: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is going surprisingly strong at Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar (1104 H St. NE) on every other Wednesday (or so). The first one of the year, two weeks ago, offered one of the largest crowds ever for a KKBB party that wasn’t a special event of some sort, suggesting the force is strong with this one. KKBB, named for a glammy goth song by UK band Specimen, specializes mostly in post-punk crowd-pleasers like the Psychedelic Furs, Modern English, Adam Ant, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and of course The Cure.

One half of the regular DJ team (The Machine) left last year, leaving Devolutionary to take over as the full-time DJ. Earlier this month, he was joined by the founding dj, DJ Kangal, who played really awesome stuff. Perhaps he’s going to guest regularly? This week, Devolutionary is joined by DJ Addambombb, a regular guest at KKBB and its parent party Spellbound. Hostess Lori Beth and the rest of the KKBB team are promising to make “a very special announcement” this week as well, so turn up to find out what it’s all about.

A personal favorite song I’m likely to hear: Did Kangal really play A-ha’s “The Swing of Things” last time? That’s why that guy needs to come back asap.

Your next chance to go: Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 9pm. KKBB happens every month on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month. Free admission.

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Entertainment, Interviews, Music, People, The District, The Features, We Love Music

Q&A with Ugly Purple Sweater

Ugly Purple Sweater

Ugly Purple Sweater is a indie-pop-folk group based in DC. Founded by Sam McCormally (vocals, guitar, & more)  and Rachel Lord (vocals, banjo, melodica, & more) in 2008, the band now includes Will McKindley-Ward on electric guitar, Rishi Chakrabarty on bass, and Mike Tasevoli on drums. Ugly Purple Sweater mixes mesmerizing guitar and banjo (and a bunch of other instruments) with beautiful soaring vocal melodies and dulcet harmonies. Their songs often blend darkness with light, minor keys and longing juxtaposed with a bright beat and jubilant vocals. Singer Sam Cormally’s clarion voice has a purity and depth at times reminiscent of Rufus Wainwright. Check out the video for their song “DC USA“, the title track from their brand new EP. Ugly Purple Sweater celebrates the release of said EP, DC USA at Black Cat this Saturday, January 12th, along with Kingsley Flood and Kindlewood!

This week We Love DC’s Alexia Kauffman had a chance to ask Sam McCormally some questions, and here’s what he had to say.

Alexia: How did you first start playing music?

Sam: I personally started playing and writing music when I was really little. I remember when I was about 8 starting to write songs, but having literally no idea how the music I heard on the radio was made. I had a little cassette tape boombox (remember that?) with a microphone, and I would set it up on top of my bureau and record myself singing and strumming guitar. I had a fantasy that I would slip the tape into my friend’s older sister’s tape player so she’d think it was the radio, and that way I could tell what she really thought of it.

Ugly Purple Sweater started 2008, when I surreptitiously intercepted an invitation for one of my other bands to play at a Barack Obama fundraiser. I had been writing some songs and posting them on MySpace (remember that?), and I thought it’d be fun to try them out. Rachel sat in on a couple of songs with me, and those were by far the most popular, so we started playing together all the time.

Alexia: What song or artist or album first made you fall in love with rock music?

Sam: Will (who plays electric guitar in the band) says his first rock and roll love was Jimi Hendrix. I wish I were as cool as that. My first exposure to pop music (and I’m using the “big tent” meaning of the phrase) were my dad’s Simon and Garfunkel tapes. But the first record I ever got excited about all by myself was TLC’s Crazy Sexy Cool. I loved that album so much that I actually recited, in front of my entire 4th glad class, the rap in the middle of “Waterfalls.” I still kinda like that song, but needless to say it was not a canonical performance. Continue reading

Music, The Daily Feed

Hot Ticket: Hurricane Sandy Nixes Shows, 10/29/12

Photo courtesy of TalAtlas
Sandy’s on the way
courtesy of TalAtlas

As the National Weather Service warned Sunday that Hurricane Sandy would likely bring powerful winds and strong rains to DC, major concert venues postponed their scheduled shows for Monday evening.

The 9:30 Club informed fans on its Twitter feed that Monday night’s Grouplove concert would be postponed until further notice. The Black Cat took to Twitter to say that its scheduled concert for Bear in Heaven was completely cancelled.

On its webpage, The Howard Theatre announced that early and late shows of flamenco queen Buika were postponed Monday night to a future date to be announced.

The Rock and Roll Hotel remained silent about its plans early Monday morning, but Shiny Toy Guns announced that the band and MNDR were unlikely to appear on Monday night.

On its Facebook page, Shiny Toy Guns said, “[W]ashington DC show is most likely going to now be on Sunday night, Nov. 4th. [W]e just received this information now. our tour bus is moving quickly through the night to the city of Baltimore, where we will be standing by while Sandy makes landfall in Atlantic City and turns north. So B-more will be our home for a few days while we pray our NYC show isn’t moved around. Baltimore party time!!!!”

The postponement or cancellation of major shows in Washington, DC, came as little surprise after the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced it would run no trains or buses on Monday due to Hurricane Sandy.

While waiting for confirmation of the rescheduling of Shiny Toy Guns, read our interview with the band’s founder and keyboardist Jeremy Dawson.

Interviews, Music, We Love Music

Q&A with J. Tom Hnatow

 

I first became acquainted with the soulful, sweet pedal steel guitar styling of J. Tom Hnatow pretty recently, whilst listening to, loving and obsessing over the last These United States record, released earlier this year. As I like to say- I may be late, but at least I made it to the party. Hnatow is skillful on the pedal steel, playing with nuance, subtlety and heart, but can also totally rock it out, and plays many other instruments as well. He was with TUS for seven years (starting out in DC), five albums, and about a thousand shows, living mostly on the road. He has recently left the band, moved from North Carolina to Lexington, Kentucky, and is now on tour playing guitar with The Mynabirds (another band with DC roots- front-woman Laura Burhenn lived many years in DC.) Amidst his busy tour schedule he took some time to chat with me on the phone about music, icons of the pedal steel world, leaving These United States, and more. You can see Tom play with The Mynabirds this Friday, October 26th at Black Cat!

 

Alexia: So how did you first start playing music?

Tom: I was forced to take piano lessons when I was a kid, like 8 years, and I hated it! Absolutely despised it, and, I think my Mom said something like “When you turn fifteen you can quit.” So I was like “Ok, cool, I’m out!” And then I sort of stumbled into playing guitar and thought that was pretty cool, and kind of went from there.

Alexia: And how did you get into pedal steel?

Tom: How did I get into pedal steel? I think I stumbled into it, because I played banjo and I played lap steel for a long time, and realized that what I was doing on the lap steel, there were a lot of things where I was trying to imitate a pedal steel, so I thought “Oh, this’ll be really easy! How hard could it be? I can play slide guitar!” And I learned rapidly that was not the case! I’m just sort of stumbling my way through it.

Alexia: Um, for stumbling you’re doing a pretty damn good job! (laughs)

Tom: (laughs) It’s smoke and mirrors! It’s an illusion.

Alexia: Was there any artist or album that first made you fall in love with rock & roll?

Tom: Yeah. Well, I didn’t listen to rock & roll as a kid much. I wasn’t that into it, and it wasn’t that my parents banned it, but we just weren’t allowed to watch MTV, and I just really was not exposed to rock & roll. My Dad’s like a real jazz guy. So, for some inexplicable reason, and I still don’t know why he did this, when I graduated from junior high school he bought me the Led Zeppelin box set. And I don’t think I’d ever heard a note of Led Zeppelin, other than, you know, of course “Stairway to Heaven”, and I was just floored by the fact that this music existed! So I was like “I’m going to play guitar,” so of course my first band was like Led Zeppelin riffs played even stupider. (laughs)

Alexia: Are there any people in the pedal steel world who are inspirational or icons to you?

Tom: Yeah- there’s a guy named Ralph Mooney, Waylon Jennings’ long-term sidekick, and he is just absolutely one of my favorites. And Ben Keith , I think he’s the only steel player who played on any Neil Young records, and I just love his playing. It’s just like so simple and beautiful and perfect. You know, any Neil Young song you hear the steel and it’s just like, it just couldn’t exist otherwise. Continue reading

Entertainment, Night Life, The Features, We Love Music

Hot Tickets: Music worth checking out this weekend!

Tonight you can satisfy your musical cravings whether you prefer a dance night or a live show.
Black Cat starts a new dance night tonight on the backstage- Catalyst, “a party for people who like great music.” The night will be hosted by a rotating cast of awesome local DJs. Tonight’s kicks off with DJ Steve EP, and is $5.
Also at Black Cat tonight on the mainstage is The 9 songwriter series. Tonight’s edition features some great talent including Sam McCormally of Ugly Purple Sweater, Ryan McLaughlin of Typefighter, Victoria Vox, and Christylez Bacon. $10/9pm
Meanwhile, Comet Ping Pong has an awesome lineup of local and international bands tonight that will make you want to dance. Starting off the night are one of my favorite DC bands, Coup Sauvage & the Snips.  Their super-sassy neo-soul-punk realness is super-entertaining, not to miss. DC’s Drop Electric is also on the bill, and headlining the night are Berlin’s  Thieves Like Us, bringing their delicious blend of nostalgic disco-dream-pop. (If you like M83 or Miami Horror, check them out!) $10/10pm/All-ages.
Saturday night Chicago’s JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound bring their post-punk/soul extravaganza to U Street’s Tropicalia. Also bringing the grooves is DJ Baby Alcatraz. This is an early show! $10/7pm doors, music starts at 8pm!
Sunday, if you feel like a change of pace, or a touch of culture, why not head over to the National Cathedral? The Cathedral Choral Society will be performing their “Glory of France” concert, featuring the Durufle Requiem & Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3. Beautiful music in a gorgeous setting. 4pm, tickets from $20.