Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Firefly Music Festival Pt. 1 (Dover, DE–6/19/14)

2014 Firefly crowd (Photo courtesy Firefly Music Festival)

2014 Firefly crowd (Photo courtesy Firefly Music Festival)

The third-annual Firefly Music Festival drew an estimated 80,000 people to an expanded four-day concert experience in nearby Dover, Del., June 19-22, boasting more than 125 artists over seven stages.

Although I arrived at the first day of the festival for a bit, let me stop and recount some of the figures from the festival distributed on the second day, when Del. Gov Jack Markell and Firefly Music Festival Director Greg Bostrom spoke about the scope of the festival.

The festival brought an estimated $12 million into Delaware with visitors from all 50 states (and the District of Columbia) as well as 17 countries. Two percent of overall ticket sales came from DC (not too shabby) while neighboring Maryland and Virginia accounted for 15 and 8 percent of sales respectively. (By contrast, Delawareans also accounted for 15 percent.) Firefly grew significantly from last year, when the three-day festival drew about 65,000 attendees.

With that dry economic report out of the way, was the festival any good? Is it worth traveling a little more than 100 miles each way from DC to attend?

Definitely, yes.

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Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: U.S. Royalty @ P.O.V. Live, the W Hotel — 3/6/14

U.S. Royalty (Photo by Guy Aroch)

U.S. Royalty (Photo by Guy Aroch)

The W Hotel hosted U.S. Royalty for a vinyl release party for the band’s second album, Blue Sunshine, Thursday as part of its P.O.V. Live series in its rooftop lounge. People packed the venue to listen to a free show and drink a new beer from DC Brau, aged in Buffalo Trace barrels.

Fans of the D.C.-based band were in high spirits, and there were many singalongs and impromptu danceaways when the band took to the stage for a healthy set. Blue Sunshine was initially released in January, so it seems like a lot of folks had time to learn the words to recite along with singer John Thornley and company.

Prior to the concert, the band sat down with an interview conducted by Svetlana Legetic of Brightest Young Things. For U.S. Royalty, it proved to be a good opportunity to launch a charm offensive, where they spoke plainly about their love of D.C. and their desire to land a record contract with a major label.

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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

The Winning Ticket: Neutral Milk Hotel @ Merriweather Post Pavilion, 7/25/14

NeutralMilkHotelFAs a way to say thanks to our loyal readers, We Love DC will be giving away a pair of tickets to a 9:30 Club concert to one lucky reader periodically. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to find out what tickets we’re giving away, and leave a comment for your chance to be the lucky winner!

Today, we are giving away a pair of tickets to see Neutral Milk Hotel at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., on Friday, July 25, 2014. You can win tickets today before they go on sale to the public tomorrow!

Once upon a time, Jeff Mangum wrote some songs and put together a band, which he ended up whimsically calling Neutral Milk Hotel. They put out a few albums of well-received fuzz pop in the ’90s, and then they went away. But people never forgot those albums–On Avery Island and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea–and eventually Mangum came back, reunited his band and went on tour. The tour was very well received! And so Mangum announced touring would continue for now. And everyone lived happily ever after.

For your chance to win these tickets, simply leave a comment on this post using a valid email address between 9am and 4pm today. Feel free to leave any comment, but perhaps share your favorite song by Neutral Milk Hotel! One entry per email address, please. Tickets for this show are also available through Ticketfly starting Friday, Feb. 7.

For the rules of this giveaway…

Comments will be closed at 4pm and a winner will be randomly selected. The winner will be notified by email. The winner must respond to our email within 24 hours or they will forfeit their tickets and we will pick another winner.

Tickets will be available to the winner at the Guest List window at Merriweather Post Pavilion one hour before doors open on the night of the concert. The tickets must be claimed with a valid ID. The winner must be old enough to attend the specific concert or must have a parent’s permission to enter if he/she is under 18 years old.

Neutral Milk Hotel
w/ Circulatory System
Merriweather Post Pavilion
Friday, July 25
doors @6:30pm
All ages

The Features, We Love Music

The Winning Ticket: A Q&A With Dawes

The “next big thing” is thrown around a lot in music culture. What you hear about less often is the next great thing, the next band that’ll knock your socks off not just because all the cool kids love them but because they are just that good. If there is a musical god out there doling out success to those most deserving, Dawes, a rock and roll quartet from Los Angeles who will be appearing at the Rock & Roll Hotel on Wednesday, will be just one such band. Their 2009 debut, “North Hills,” was praised by critics as wide-ranging as Rolling Stone and the Wall Street Journal (!); Daytrotter’s Sean Moeller calls lyricist Taylor Goldsmith “as magnificent of a songwriter as there is currently creating.” Goldsmith has a knack for crafting beautiful lyrics that make order out of the chaos of our lives, and the men sharing the stage with him — his brother, drummer Griffin Goldsmith; Wylie Gelber on bass; and Alex Casnoff on keyboards — excel at setting those lyrics to music. On stage, the result is an improbable blend of melodic folk and high-energy rock and roll.

And they need that energy to get through a tour schedule that seems endless. In the last year and a half, the band has appeared at such festivals as South By Southwest, Newport Folk Festival, Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza, and opened for artists including (deep breath here): Josh Ritter, Corey Chisel and the Wandering Sons, Edward Sharpe, Langhorne Slim, She and Him, Jason Boesel, Deer Tick and Delta Spirit. Dawes has hit the road hard in support of “North Hills,” and the legwork has paid off. The tour that brings them back to D.C. for their fourth show in the area in a year is their first as headliners.

As a special thanks to We Love DC readers, we’re giving away a pair of tickets to Wednesday’s show. See the bottom of this post for rules of the giveaway.

I talked with Taylor Goldsmith about the band’s rising star, musical influences and future plans:

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