I am now going to unabashedly gush about Metric, who played a sold-out show at Ram’s Head Live in Baltimore Friday night.
The combination of the sweet, breathy vocals of Emily Haines along with the rock guitar of James Shaw and the dependable rhythm section of bassist Joshua Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key make for an irresistible concert performance. The band always has been a favorite of mine since I first heard the single “Combat Baby,” and their first album, “Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?” In that song and many others on their first few albums, the band relied on catchy melodies and wordplay to create fun, thoughtful songs.
But in their last two albums, Metric have stepped it up a quite a bit. The fourth album, Fantasies, and the fifth, Synthetica, which came out about a year ago, marked a quantum leap in exhibiting their capabilities in songwriting and crafting infectious dance music. The strengths of the band members and the power of the Synthetica album were on full display Friday as they opened with “Artificial Nocturne,” which starts out in a sweet and fragile vocal and sparse instrumentation before blowing up into a full-blown disco thumper — a favorite Metric tactic. It’s an entrancing, intoxicating song that is readymade to be a concert opener, luring you in and then opening you up to more intricate sounds as the song moves along.
Phoenix headlined the festival (Photo courtesy Sweetlife Festival)
The Sweetlife Festival very much fulfilled the promise implied by its name Saturday, May 11, delivering la dolce vita in a well organized celebration of music and food at the Merriweather Post Pavilion.
I’m not traditionally the biggest fan of going to concerts at the DC-area outdoor pavilions — much less festivals after the chaos that accompanies the Virgin FreeFest annually at Merriweather. But Sweetlife made excellent use of the place, offering a mainstage, a “treehouse stage,” and a dance floor in the small 9:30 Clubhouse (officially, the 9:32 Club) on the grounds — all of which dissolved into an energetic performance by headliner Phoenix at the end of the night.
Food vendors, trucks and restaurants set themselves up in neat rows in various portions of the grounds and concertgoers queued up to patronize them around the clock. My companion and I parked and shuffled into the pavilion without difficulty and make our way toward lunch, pausing to check out Solange Knowles, performing an early set on the main stage. To our surprise, she struck up a cover of “I Could Fall in Love” by late Tejano singer Selena. While we didn’t really hang around to check her out, her soulful voice was crowdpleasing and the main stage attracted a sizable gathering for the time.
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.
When I was growing up, my fellow kids and I used the term “dark wave” to describe a certain kind of band. They were gloomy, yes, and they used synthesizers. But they also seemed more committed to putting their stamp on that thing we called “new wave,” which also consisted of a lot of rockers who picked up synths. “Dark wave” bands like The Cure, Depeche Mode, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, to us, wanted to make more distinct sounds with the same set of instruments.
When I think of this subgenre today, the first contemporary band that pops into my head is The Faint. To me, the term dark wave captures what The Faint are all about. They aren’t goth and they aren’t exclusively always about being down. In fact, some of the actual music can be quite bright, snappy, and upbeat. But they are not always the most optimistic people when it comes to human nature. And nowhere does the band capture all of these elements better than on its outstanding album Danse Macabre.
The Faint’s former label, Saddle Creek Records of Omaha, Neb., remastered and re-released Danse Macabre in October, some 11 years after its first release. The timing of this remastered project is somewhat mysterious — it seems like it comes a little too soon. Nonetheless, The Faint haven’t had a new full-length album since 2008′s Fasciinatiion, so they seized the opportunity to tour on the reissue of Danse Macabre, playing all nine songs of the album in a row in the middle of a robust set that served as an excellent career retrospective.
Sky Ferreira, she of slight frame and smoldering voice, took to stage backed by a three-piece band at DC9 Friday night, presenting a short set of occasionally melancholy but consistently wonderful songs.
Her latest EP, Ghost, turns out to be a collection of five wistful songs full of longing and daydreams. Ferreira sang them plaintively but earnestly to a packed room that seemed pretty impressed with the 20-year-old’s range. “Sad Dream” was full of regret for a lost love while “Ghost” consigns another love to the past with a recognition that the relationship must end.
At the other end of the spectrum, “Lost in My Bedroom” is a catchy reprieve, basking in the joy of being tucked away in your own private space.
Saddle Creek recently released a remastered edition of Danse Macabre, the third studio album by The Faint — not only considered the band’s best album but largely thought of in my circles as one of the best albums of the previous decade.
The Faint last put out an album–Fasciinatiion–in 2009 and toured with Ladytron in support of that release, which they put out on their own label. But they’ve been quiet until now, when they decided to mount a tour in support of the Saddle Creek remaster of their masterpiece.
And what an album it is. Instantly danceable with new wave panache, the album lyrically offers up quite embraceable lyrics that otherwise mostly reflect modern goth sensibilities. The nine songs include such instant classics as “Agenda Suicide,” which looks with disdain upon working one’s life away to achieve stale victories, such as buying “pretty little homes,” preferred by mainstream society. “Posed to Death” seems to express disdain for false celebrities while “Violent” laments seemingly ubiquitous crime headlines.
The Faint come to the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, Dec. 5, to perform Danse Macabre in its entirety along with other selections from their career. Don’t miss this opportunity to catch a great band revisiting their best material.
What’s in a name? That which we call Men without Hats By any other name would sound as sweet; -New Wave Juliet
Men Without Hats today occasionally will wear hats. Half the quartet also are women. So are they Men and Women Maybe Without Hats?
The Men Without Hats who visited The State Theatre Thursday were a lineup recruited by lead singer Ivan Doroschuk and not the classic band. But does it matter? Ivan was the only consistent member throughout the years anyway and the new lineup sounded amazing with James Love on guitar and duo synthesizers played by Lou Dawson and Rachel Ashmore — a killer duo with impressive synth skills.
The band opened with “This War,” a song whose lyrics may remind us that “love is a battlefield” but it has a wonderfully driving electronic sound that could have sprung right from a basement club in 1979. The song hails from the new album, Love in the Age of War. Released in June, it’s a collection of 10 songs by the current lineup that serves as a mighty credit to the Men Without Hats catalog.
We can dance if we want to We can leave your friends behind Cause your friends don’t dance And if they don’t dance Well they’re no friends of mine!
I have trouble telling you my favorite song on any given day, but I can absolutely list in perfect order my top 10 dance anthems of the 1980s. Clocking in at #3 is the eternally awesome “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats, who broke out from Montreal in 1982 with their first album, Rhythm of Youth.
Before Men Without Hats broke up less than 10 years later, they hit the international charts a big way a second time with “Pop Goes the World.”
The classic lineup of the band consisted of three brothers and a drummer but singer and keyboardist Ivan Doroschuk reformed the band in 2010 with three new musicians, a la Terri Nunn and Berlin and similar reenergized bands. The new band has a new album, Love in the Age of War, which itself could have broke out in 1982. The Montreal new wavers come to the State Threatre in Falls Church, Va., tomorrow on Nov. 29, marking the first time to catch Doroschuk and company locally in quite a while!
They band has been touring with The Human League and the B-52s — and they once were set to join Martin Fry and ABC on one of those Regeneration Tours — but they haven’t made it to the DC area until now. Buy a ticket but bring your friends along! (Because they *will* dance…)
Los Angeles quartet Right the Stars serve as openers.
Carah Faye and Jeremy Dawson. Copyright and Courtesy, CJ Lucero.
The Shiny Toy Guns rode into DC Sunday night on soaring symphonic sounds and pulsating waves of light that dazzled a sold-out crowd of very enthusiastic admirers at the Rock and Roll Hotel.
Actually, the Shinys literally rode into town in a tour bus dragging a trailer packed full of supplies for victims of Hurricane Sandy in Hoboken, NJ, where they were headed not only to donate those supplies but offer a cadre of fans a lift across the river to a Monday night show in Manhattan. And that’s part of the appeal of this four-member band, which was celebrating the return of original singer Carah Faye Charnow — they are such genuine folks despite their love of glam glitz and big gothy boots.
Carah Faye does more than sing damn well — she trades off on synths and bass with Jeremy Dawson, keyboardist, bassist and all-around mastermind. Carah was away for the band’s second album but now she’s back for their third, III, and the chemistry between her and the rest of the band was superb. Besides jumping onto the keyboards when Dawson rotated off, she meshed very well with her fellow vocalist Chad Petree, who also mesmerizes on the guitar. Drummer Mikey Martin, of course, ably supported all three of his band mates with delightfully glam percussion.
The most incongruous thing about Pip Brown, better known as Ladyhawke, is her look — the grunge aesthetics of flannel and t-shirts all the way — despite her sound — a catalog comprised of very accessible and danceable new wave rock gems.
The rest of it all comes together rather well! Sonically, Ladyhawke dwells in that space in the late 1970s when female rock musicians began to be backed by an increasing amount of technology, notably synthesizers. With many of those women, like Pat Benatar, the electronic edge remained just that — an edge. With others, like Kim Wilde, the synthesizer permeated the songs, tripping the wire that fuses guitar to keyboard and thus producing new wave.
Ladyhawke, as her adopted name from the 1985 movie suggests, is very much aware of how to produce that sound but she does it so easily and so naturally you are left with the impression that the music just happens that way. How could it sound any differently?
Well, with selections like her most popular song, “Paris Is Burning,” which she played to enthusiastic, thumping cheers toward the end of Monday night’s show, it could not possibly sound any better. Ladyhawke took the stage roughly half an hour late (par for the course at the Rock and Roll Hotel) and the audience instantly swelled from about 70 polite bystanders for her opening acts to nearly 200 enthusiastic dancers.
What can I say? This show has been sold out for quite some time. But you should definitely see if any of your friends has a spare ticket!
Welsh-born Marina Diamandis is an awesome and attractive presence in the burgeoning new wave scene. She has all of the sophistication and self-awareness of a post-modern Madonna with a healthy infusion of attitude from off-kilter new wave women like Lene Lovich and Toni Basil. The final product is undeniably hot and sounds more exciting to my ears than almost anything else being released right now. Marina’s second album, Electra Heart, dropped last month, bringing with it a fuller sound and an even more intense interest in glam ballads than her simpler albeit totally fun debut.
Ms Mr, visiting from Brooklyn, bring with them a newly released dreampop song “Hurricane” — an initial listen to which pleasantly places them alongside contemporaries like The Hundred in the Hands. The unnamed female vocalist (Ms) and unnamed male synthesizer player (Mr) have preferred to remain mysterious to the press so far, but their talents will be on display Tuesday night as Marina’s opening act.
If you had them, tickets to this all ages show would have cost you $22 plus fees. If you don’t have them, check with those aforementioned friends for extra tickets, search Craigslist, or go stand in front of the 9:30 Club begging for them. You won’t regret it. Doors at 7pm; Marina at 9:30pm.
Walk the Moon, a new wave quartet from Cincinnati, Ohio, comes to headline a sold-out show at the Black Cat this Friday, June 22, after passing through DC a couple of times already in the past year. They arrive on the heels of their debut album, Walk the Moon, available today. We Love DC caught up with Eli Maiman, the band’s guitarist, to talk about mostly other awesome bands like the Talking Heads and The Police, as it turns out, but also about appreciating dedicated fans and getting big fast.
Mickey McCarter: The first time I ever heard of you guys, I was here in Washington, DC, and I was hanging out at the Black Cat. And the band played a sold-out show at the backstage room at the Black Cat. All of your fans were going in there and I saw all of these young girls in the warpaint and the feathers. I was like, wow! That visual really left an impression on me and I didn’t even know who you guys were yet.
How did that come about? How did the warpaint get started?
Eli Maiman: The very idea of the facepaint occurred when we were working on the idea for the “Anna Sun” video. Our director, Patrick Meier, wanted to include some reference to The Lost Boys. The facepaint was his idea. And it became the central theme in the “Anna Sun” video. At our video release party, we had a facepaint station and people really took to it. They really enjoyed it, so much so that people started showing up at other shows in facepaint.
It’s evolved from there where people will come in facepaint and we will provide facepaint at shows. We’ll wear the paint ourselves on stage. It has really become this unifying element of the live show. It’s a visual expression of the community that we have and this group experience we all have together.
As a diehard new waver, I actually dislike the term “80s music,” because my genre is a growing one that started up around 1976 and continues to see new bands and innovations until this day. (New wave is indeed enjoying a major renaissance now.) Thaaaaaaaat said, everyone knows what I mean when I use the term and these parties build their set lists based on the idea that you know what they mean when *they* use it as well.
So without further ado, here is a brief tour of the major 80s parties going on in the District right now with an emphasis on what you can catch next.
Thomas Dolby’s fifth studio album, A Map of the Floating City, came out last year and it was somewhat appropriately named as you practically require a map to assess all of the influences that go into Mr. Dolby’s musical compositions these days — from blues to jazz to calypso to zydeco. He passed through the DC metro area Sunday night in support of the album in a tour that gives one an opportunity to reflect on his strengths and weaknesses over the years.
A Map of the Floating City is Dolby’s first album in 20 years, so some growth and divergence in his sound is expected. Not surprisingly, as an older artist, he is much more sedate in his composition and performance. With his first two magnificent albums — The Golden Age of Wireless and The Flat Earth — Dolby was associated with the subgenre of music then identified as New Pop. It was bombastic and heavy on synthesizers, having grown out of the pure synth arias of the New Romantics. Producer Trevor Horn championed New Pop and his label ZTT Records supported the likes of Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Grace Jones.
Could it be? Could it be that you’re joking with me and you don’t really see you with me?
The Kaiser Chiefs weren’t joking at all as they pummeled the sold-out 9:30 Club Friday night with a one-two punch in a testosterone-fueled new wave rampage. The lads from Leeds (UK) never missed a beat as they rocked out through songs about hanging out with their fellows, scoffing at the lack of intelligence among the masses, and questioning the veracity of women.
I always absolutely loved the music of the Kaiser Chiefs after being introduced to the upbeat songs from their first album Employment, which skillfully married punk sensibilities to new wave dance tunes. The Kaiser Chiefs delivered great advice for men by men on that album: watch your back, love your friends, mind your diet, and keep a wary eye on women. Indeed, the band writes music primarily for men while many of their new wave contemporaries create music for girls.
New Wave icon and synthesizer guru Gary Numan performed at the Black Cat on Wednesday night to a packed house of devoted fans. It was a weird but enjoyable performance that felt like two very different concerts in one. For the first hour, a very ill Gary Numan lead his band through a performance of his 1979 classic album “The Pleasure Principle”. The performance was a strange one due to Numan’s illness; the band sounded fantastic however as Numan tried to make the best of not having a voice by asking the crowd to sing some of the songs for him. The situation lent some impromptu fun to the performance of Numan’s ice-cold classic. By the end of the album portion, I was beginning to visualize my forth-coming rave review. Then, as if magically revitalized, Numan and his band suddenly launched into a set of guitar-driven, psuedo-industrial tunes that saw Numan belting out vocals like a banshee.
The two hours of Wednesday night’s concert featured very different sounding music, had entirely different energy levels, and felt like they were performed by two completely different bands. I am a fan of the first band, not so much of the second.