Special Events, We Love Drinks, We Love Music

DC Toasts the Black Mixology Club

At this point you know how we feel about Dale DeGroff, Derek Brown, Garrett Peck, and the Museum of the American Cocktail.  You also know how we like fancy parties with good drinks. So I’ll be brief: all those people (and more) are organizing DC Toasts the Black Mixology Club, a benefit for the Museum, May 10 at the Howard Theatre. The Chuck Brown Band will perform.

The discount for early ticket sales has been extended through tonight. Regular tickets at the early access price are $65; VIP tickets with early admission are $90. For more information, check out the Washingtonian’s Best Bites Blog, this Kojo Nnamdi interview with some of the organizers, or the event’s about us page.

That is all.

Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Paul Banks @ The Howard Theatre — 11/9/12

Today, Paul Banks is simply Paul Banks. Yesterday, he was Julian Plenti.

It’s understandable if it sounds a bit confusing. Banks put out a first solo album under the pseudonym Julian Plenti while Interpol was on hiatus in 2009. Last month, he released a second solo album under his own name, embracing strategically and musically a new motto — simplify.

And simplification is the major difference between Paul Banks the solo act and his band Interpol. Banks solo enjoys more of the quiet moments, strumming to a more peaceful brand of post-punk than the more aggressive music found in Interpol’s albums. Sonically speaking, if Interpol wants to rush into awkward sex on the first date and harbor recriminations about it, Banks solo wants to romance and take it slow. And still maybe have some recriminations about what happens later.

The crowd of roughly 200 or so people at The Howard Theatre were there Friday night to listen respectfully to what Banks had to say as a solo artist. An early shout-out for “Interpol!” was shouted down by several others from across the room, “Paul Banks!” Banks offered up 15 songs from his two solo albums, the new ones from the latest album, Banks, sounding as sweet and melancholy as the songs from Julian Plenti Is Skyscraper. Opening with Julian Plenti’s “Fly As You Might” and “Skyscraper,” Banks and his three-piece backing band then seamlessly moved into material from the self-titled Banks.

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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.

Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Psychedelic Furs w/ Lemonheads and The Chevin @ The Howard Theatre — 10/22/12

Brothers Richard and Tim Butler have such a strong love of performance that it’s not hard to see why they keep touring the Psychedelic Furs despite the band’s last album dropping in 1991.

To be fair, the Psychedelic Furs went through an intensively creative period in the first half of the ’80s, putting out timeless post-punk gems like “Love My Way,” “Heaven” and of course “Pretty in Pink.” When the Furs tour, they hit those highlights as well as “Heartbreak Beat” and “Highwire Days” naturally. Richard Butler, theatric and emotive, sings with his whole body, literally walking the audience through the songs on occasion. Bass player Tim Butler, silent in shades, stands behind his famously emotive brother, looking like the muscle in the room suggesting, “Yeah, you better listen to what he said.”

And what Richard says, or sings rather, is a well-loved catalog of songs about heartache and cynicism all delivered softly, lyrically and passionately. The Furs have a new song, “Little Miss World,” which fits in smartly with their better-known older songs. My personal favorite “All of This and Nothing” gave us a sharp saxophone solo from Mars Williams, who brilliantly solves the challenge of being in a six member group by taking a break from the stage when he’s not needed there. But the band and singer come together very well and Butler’s message to an ex-lover, “you didn’t leave me anything that I can understand,” always hits me in the gut. The Furs still sound great live and they perform well, easily justifying their longevity.

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Music, The Daily Feed

Hot Ticket: Psychedelic Furs @ The Howard Theatre, 10/22/12

Photo courtesy of Man Alive!
Psychedelic Furs
courtesy of Man Alive!

The Psychedelic Furs have not put out a new album since 1991’s World Outside.

That has not stopped the English post-punk group from touring the United States non-stop since the year 2000. Indeed, they have been through the Washington, DC, metro area several times in the last year or so, playing The State Theater in Falls Church, Va., and the Fillmore in Silver Spring, Md. Now they make their first trip to the newly renovated Howard Theatre tonight, performing perennial favorites such as “Love My Way,” “Pretty in Pink” and “President Gas.”

Opening for the Furs are The Lemonheads, the Boston post-grunge rockers known for goofy drug songs. The pairing of The Lemonheads and the Psychedelic Furs may appear to have little rhyme and reason at first glance, but Lemonheads’ bass player Juliana Hatfield long has been an admirer of new wave-tinged 80s rock groups like the Furs and even sang a duet with lead singer Richard Butler in the past several years — so perhaps the genesis of the pairing occurred with her. Unfortunately, Hatfield dropped out of the tour after initially planning to participate.

Still, the Psychedelic Furs have a well-earned reputation for being one of the most engaging live bands ever to tour, which has helped them sustain the band quite easily in the past decade. Tickets are $30 plus fees. See you there!

Psychedelic Furs w/ The Lemonheads and The Chevin
Tonight! Monday, Oct. 22
doors 6pm; show 8pm
The Howard Theatre
All ages

Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: The Zombies @ The Howard Theatre — 8/9/12 (or “The Zombies, Yes; Apocalypse, No”)

Photo courtesy of Marga M.
Rod Argent
courtesy of Marga M.

When your admirers include Paul Weller, Dave Grohl and The Vaccines, you probably are doing something right.

And so The Zombies unquestionably got something right, capturing lightning in a bottle in their timeless classic “Time of the Season,” off their most famous album, Odessey and Oracle, in 1968 right as they disbanded. The album endured, however, and the band eventually returned to stay with the new century in a lineup that is touring on a new album with a stop at The Howard Theater in DC last Thursday.

The new lineup consists of the core hitmakers Rod Argent on keyboards and Colin Blunstone on lead vocals. The duo were augmented by capable veteran musicians Jim Rodford on bass (well known for his work with The Kinks), his son Steve Rodford on drums, and Tom Toomey on guitar.

In concert, The Zombies of course jammed through a powered up version of their best-known hit “Time of the Season,” which spotlighted Argent’s talent on the keyboards as he took them on a symphonic roller coaster ride in the middle of the song. The band later closed with their other best-known song, “She’s Not There,” a quickly paced rocker’s lament of misplaced love.

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Entertainment, Music, Night Life, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Millie Jackson @ Howard Theatre, 8/3/12.

all photos by Jason Coile

There couldn’t have been a better venue than the Howard Theatre to experience a Millie Jackson show, circa 2012. The renewed and revitalized room, shiny and clean, big and bright with lights and giant screens, was abuzz last Friday evening as the mostly middle-aged patrons took their tables and finished their drinks and meals. When the curtain came up to reveal a ten-piece band, I know I was relieved, since the opener had sung solo to a music track. And when Millie made her entrance as the band went into “Breakin’ Up Somebody Else’s Home” I was also relieved, as I could tell she was fierce and ready for her first DC show in many years.

Millie Jackson is a 68-year-old R&B legend, whose biggest hits were in the 70s, but who never really disappeared, releasing recordings herself when no one else would. She is known as a comedienne as well as a singer – her albums and shows are filled with hilarious monologues about gender wars and politics, as on 1979’s Live and Uncensored, that round out her expressive vocals. Friday night’s show was no exception. Her banter and rapport with the audience was pointed and personal, by turns dirty and sharp. She has figured out how to undergird her comedy and great singing with an occasional seriousness which lends a layer of integrity to the whole shebang.

And it’s her smokey singing that still shows an incredible range.   Her set falls into four kinds of songs: her original 70s hits (“If Loving You is Wrong”, “Hurts So Good”, “Put Something Down on It”), latter day songs culled from her 90s output and 2001’s Not for Church Folk (“The Lies that We Live”, “Leave Me Alone”, “I Wish It Would Rain Down”), and a truly interesting choice of cover songs (Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”, and her opener “Breakin’ Up Somebody Else’s Home”). And then there’s the comedic ones (“Phuck You Symphony”, “Old Bitches Got it Goin On”)

Just based on her encore alone, where the crowd got up from their seats and rushed the stage as she came back on, barefoot, and closed with the torchy and climactic “I Wish It Would Rain Down”, it’s hard not to feel a performer like this, who breathlessly throws such a generous show, needs to be seen by more people. She told me in our interview that it’s getting harder and harder to book shows, since it’s hard to find openers, and her contemporaries have slowed down or stopped. It would be great for her to expand her audience somehow. The whole night, I kept thinking how wonderful it would be for a younger performer, either a hip-hop star or an R&B star, to just hire her as an opener, and take Millie around the country to perform for their younger demographic, so more people can see what this original can still do.

Music, The Daily Feed

Hot Ticket: The Zombies @ The Howard Theatre, 8/9/12

The Zombies in the 1960s (Photo courtesy The Zombies)

Cruising the radio dial on any road trip or drive around the Beltway is going to yield a classic rock station and inevitably great familiar songs like, “Time of the Season.” You might pause and think, wow, that song always sounds better than I give it credit for. Who’s it by? Oh, yes, The Zombies. They had another big hit didn’t they? “She’s Not There?” Right, right. Good stuff.

Well, The Zombies were big in the 1960s and got together again a few times over the following decades finally to reform in 2004 as an ongoing concern. They put out a new album, Breathe Out, Breathe In, in 2011 and they are touring again now, landing at The Howard Theatre this Thursday. What better time this season to catch up with the UK trendsetters?

The Zombies are best remembered for their collaborations in baroque pop, a subgenre of rock championed by The Beatles. Yesterday’s baroque pop paved the way for today’s chamber pop — consisting of bands that use orchestral instrumentation to produce modern rock songs. Acts ranging from Belle and Sebastian to Florence + The Machine have benefited from the groundwork laid by The Zombies.

Tickets to this all-ages show are available online for $39.50 plus fees or at the door for $45. Newly reformed 60s baroque pop brethren The Left Banke opens. Doors open at 6pm; showtime is 8pm.

Entertainment, Interviews, Music, Night Life, We Love Music

Q&A with Millie Jackson

photo courtesy of Weird Wreckuds

Readers here might not know much about her, but Millie Jackson was a giant in the R&B world in the 70s – a skilled, smokey-voiced singer as famous for her raunchy on-stage monologues as she was for her lush, beautifully produced albums for Spring Records, most of which were recorded in storied Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama. While 1973’s “It Hurts So Good” was one of her biggest hit songs, appearing on the soundtrack to the blaxploitation hit Cleopatra Jones,  her breakthrough album Caught Up was a rule-breaker –  a soul concept-album with a cohesive gender-war narrative threaded through the covers and self-penned originals.    That and two of her other albums from that period went gold; Feelin’ Bitchy and Get it Out’cha System.  While these came out years before the beginnings of hip-hop, the genre eventually drew on Jackson for influence, as her spoken-word style and fierce, don’t-fuck-with-me energy laid the groundwork for decades worth of female rappers.

Her show Friday night at the Howard Theater is her first ever at the venue, since it had already been shuttered during her heyday.  It should be a good one, since the 68-year-old legend still knows how to throw down in her live set.  She tours with a large band, sings her old-school hits, as well as more recent songs (she never really stopped recording until 2001), and is always ready to break it down with stories or advice in her monologues, which draw her songs out into extended jams, and make her shows as comedic as they are soulful.

I spoke with Ms. Jackson on the phone the other day.  She can be as funny in an interview as she is serious, telling me about the state of R&B music, and laughing at contemporary production technique.  She just recently ended a 13 year run as drive-time host on a Dallas soul station, so messing around with her interviewer is second nature…

Jonathan Druy: Have you spent a lot of time in DC at all?

Millie Jackson: My horn players are from DC.  And Bill Washington used to bring me into Constitution Hall all the time. I played the Warner.  I think I played, what club used to be under the Warner?  Encore?  I can’t believe I remember that.  The name of the club! I had my strawberries today!

JD: How often have you been touring lately?

MJ: Usually I do some weekends with a Summer Soul/Blues Tour, but this year I did four weeks with them, so I’ve worked more this year already than I did all of last year. Continue reading

Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Howard Jones @ The Howard Theatre — 7/5/12 (or “Howard at The Howard”)

Photo courtesy of zannaland
courtesy of zannaland

Once upon a time, Howard Jones rolled through the DC metro area and played some of his familiar hits.

It was Oct. 3, 2007, actually. He performed at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., and it was frankly not the greatest show I ever had seen. The famously camera-shy Englishman played acoustic piano, strumming keys to lyrics he had written some 20 years previously, only to stop frequently and poke fun at his own songwriting abilities and the occasional curious rhyme. He had become Howard Jones, The Lounge Act. All in all, it was a bit of a disheartening experience.

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Music, The Daily Feed

Hot Ticket: Howard Jones @ The Howard Theatre, 7/5/12

Photo courtesy of zannaland
courtesy of zannaland

Howard Jones, English maestro of catchy synthpop songs, found a home on the American charts in the 1980s, particularly with this hit “No One Is to Blame” in 1985. He is perhaps still best recognized for his first two albums, Human’s Lib and Dream into Action, which showcases Jones’ distinctive and friendly voice. Jones remastered those first two albums and toured on them in 2010 in England. With the warm reaction to the performance, which sees Jones return to a full electronic set, he took the tour on the road in the last few years and lands at The Howard Theatre today.

Jones was one of a certain kind of male singer-songwriter to come out of his generation, reflecting on love, life and loss in a manner similar to adult contemporary masters like Phil Collins and Robert Palmer. But unlike his peers, Jones served as the poet-philosopher for the New Wave crowd particularly, driving eclectic dancehall kids to embrace an occasionally more mature lyric. Jones’ return to the synthesizer is bound to provoke memories of how effortlessly he embodies both carefree dance and thoughtful reflection in his tunes.

Tickets to this all-ages show are available online for $30 plus fees or $35 at the door. Doors open at 6pm; showtime is 8pm.

Life in the Capital, The Daily Feed, The District, Ward 2, Ward 6

New statue arrives atop Howard Theatre

New Sculpture arrives on Howard Theatre

photo by Sean Hennessey

The DPR mobile stage is up on T Street just south of Florida, and the rebuilt Howard Theatre is ready for people, but the last details are still coming together ahead of this morning’s dedication an opening. The ceremony, open to the public, begins at 11:30am, but at 8:30 this morning there was still a crane parked in front of the Howard Theatre. The  precious cargo being hoisted atop the famous façade is Brower Hatcher’s Jazz Man, an eight-foot metal-and-glass sculpture of a trumpet player.  In his hands, a trumpet crafted by DC artisan Sean Hennessey.

The Beaux Arts inspired Howard Theatre kicks off a week long extravaganza at 11:30am today with a dedication ceremony and public tour, with live music. Read our feature on the re-opening of this beautiful classic, and then head on over to check it out.

Howard Theatre
620 T Street NW
Washington DC
Metro: Green/Yellow Line at Shaw