Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Mike Peters (of The Alarm) @ Gypsy Sally’s — 8/7/14

SONY DSCMike Peters and his bandmates met with their new manager one day some 30-odd years ago, and told him they already were done being a supporting act.

“From now on, we only headline shows. We don’t want to be a supporting act,” the members of The Alarm said to their sympathetic manager.

Very soon, however, he called them back with an offer they really might want to consider–opening for U2 on their tour in support of the album October. Gobsmacked, Peters nonetheless reluctantly began to explain the band should stand behind their manifesto. But before they could turn down the deal, drummer Nigel Twist grabbed the phone and shouted, “Of course, we’ll do it!”

The tour was successful, and U2 invited The Alarm to tour with them in America well, introducing their Welch friends to the United States. The bands remained friends through the years, and U2 recorded a cover of The Alarm’s “Blaze of Glory” for a BBC Radio Wales special on the 30th anniversary of The Declaration, the first-full length album from the band, which aired in April.

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We Love Music: Kaiser Chiefs @ 9:30 Club — 6/18/14; Firefly Music Festival — 6/20/14

Kaiser Chiefs (courtesy Press Here)

Kaiser Chiefs (courtesy Press Here)

At one point in the latter half of the sold-out performance of the Kaiser Chiefs at the 9:30 Club, singer Ricky Wilson swung from the stage to the stage left bar, where he promptly reviewed his drink options and ordered a shot of Jameson.

Before consuming said shot (while still standing on the bar), Wilson reminisced on how he did a similar thing in his last visit to the 9:30 Club two years ago, when he swung to the bar to pull himself a beer from the taps.

The audience, of course, ate it up. Wilson and the Kaiser Chiefs delivered exactly what they sought in both antics and music — a lot of energy, a big dash of rowdiness and the occasional cheeky flourish.

The band opened its set with “The Factory Gates” from its cool new album, Education, Education, Education and War, revisiting a familiar theme in their songs — perhaps there is more to life than being a drone or “part of the crowd.” Indeed, many of the new songs were really strong songs, sitting atop the best of the Kaisers’ catalog, in my opinion. New songs “Coming Home” and “Meanwhile Up in Heaven” offer some slower moments of reflection while “Ruffians on Parade” and “Misery Company” provide fuel for frenetic sing-alongs and dancefloor stomping, laughing (literally in the case of “Misery Company”) in the face of danger with a devil-may-care flair.

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We Love Music: La Roux @ 9:30 Club — 6/8/14

La Roux, Coachella 2013 -- Indio, CA

Elly Jackson, with her fair skin, fiery hair and slight frame, seems like a mythical creature who could disappear in a puff of pixie dust if you looked at her sideways.

And disappear she did for a few years while working on the second album for La Roux.

But thankfully, La Roux and her lovely soprano vocals made a welcome return to the 9:30 Club late Sunday night in a sold-out performance that included some strong new songs in addition to first-album favorites.

Jackson opened the set with new song “Let Me Down Gently,” a wonderfully lovelorn, mature recognition that love may not be going your way. Thematically, the song is a bit of a departure from most of the songs on the self-titled first La Roux album, which dealt largely with romance largely from a capacity of being unavailable, whether due to suffering heartbreak (“Bulletproof”), gaining wisdom (“I’m Not Your Toy”) or just being too awesome (“In for the Kill”).

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We Love Music: June 2014 Concert Round Up

The start of June finds the music reporters of We Love DC in far-flung quarters at the moment, as Rebecca is away at Governors Island catching up on all of the latest bands and Rachel is off actually creating new music somewhere! That leaves yours truly to present a brief concert round up for you this month.

La Roux
9:30 Club
Sunday, June 8

La Roux, aka Elly Jackson, is an act that could have been perfectly designed to appeal to me. Spunky female lead! New Romantic synths! Catchy and meaningful lyrics! Visual flair! Terrific debut album! Well, it took Ms. Jackson three attempts to finally perform at the 9:30 Club in support of the first album, so here’s to better luck seeing her this time around in support of the second La Roux album, Trouble in Paradise. Sadly, the brilliant Ben Langmaid is gone from the second record, but initial reports suggest that it too is wholly amazing.–Mickey

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We Love Music: Boy George @ 9:30 Club — 4/21/14

As Boy George covered a song by Yoko Ono, “Death of Samantha,” in the first song of his encore Monday night at the 9:30 Club, two gents broke out in dramatic dance in front of the coffee bar upstairs. They, like much of the audience at the sold-out show, had giddily enjoyed the entertainment and could no longer hide it. So they seized what opportunity they could to throw themselves into it.

Similar sentiments broke out around the club as Boy George received a hero’s welcome from a diverse crowd of young and old, gay and straight, black and white. Concert-goers expressed their enthusiasm in generally raucous cheer, happy to receive the maverick performer who clearly had been missing from the United States for far too long.

George, for his part, was a professional and gracious performer. At a point about two-thirds through the main set, he attempted to engage audience enthusiasm for an acoustic cover of “It Ain’t Me Babe” by Bob Dylan. After realizing that the dance-hungry crowd wasn’t going to focus enough for the quiet hush of the song, George merely used it as an interlude to segue into other songs from his new album, This Is What I Do, and the new material was very well received by those looking for more of what they expected from the former Culture Club frontman.

That’s not to say Boy George has become a one-trick pony at this point in his career. He wasn’t afraid to go glam or even country from song to song. His voice these days has a husky sweetness that suits the older George, a little weathered, a little wiser. And he used it well in the reggae-flavored dance tunes that dominated most of his set.

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We Love Music: The Sounds @ 9:30 Club — 4/12/14

Maja sings at Jesper in Philadelphia

Maja sings at Jesper in Philadelphia

The Sounds brought plenty of shake-shake-shake to the 9:30 Club Saturday.

In a very nearly totally sold-out room, the Swedish quintet kicked off the night with “Emperor,” a song from their new album. If some in the audience didn’t know it that well, the band got their attention with better-known “Song with a Mission” from their popular second album, Dying to Say This to You, and kept the crowd jumping and squealing in delight for the rest of the night.

All members of The Sounds performed with a furious energy. Vocalist Maja Ivarsson was in good form, singing huskily through selections from all five of the band’s albums as she writhed, hopped and slinked across the floor. Ivarsson however did not perform too many of her trademark kicks Saturday. I caught The Sounds earlier in the week at the Union Transfer in Philadelphia, and Ivarsson was striking out with her legs in dramatic fashion as she pranced along the stage in heels with some disregard as to how much of her underwear she showed off. Still, Ivarsson stomped and vamped through the set — at one point during the end of the show, she even slid down on her belly to sing seductively into a microphone that had fallen on the ground.

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We Love Music: Cut Copy @ Echostage — 3/20/14

Cut Copy (by Michael Muller)

Cut Copy (by Michael Muller)

The first time I saw Cut Copy, the band performed with The Presets at the 9:30 Club in a September 2008 show that people universally remember as being really damn good.

Part of the reason for the success of that show was some pretty strong material the band released earlier that year in its sophomore album, In Ghost Colors, which was all around a great album. Indeed, I’ll go so far as to hail it as one of the Very Important Albums of the past 10 years—a definitive moment in the full embrace of New Wave-inspired dance music as indie kids again were deciding that dominant synths were not only socially acceptable but completely desirable. At Echostage on Thursday, March 20, the audience still gave its biggest reaction to “Hearts on Fire” and “Lights and Music” in the Cut Copy setlist, underscoring how those songs have managed to stick in the collective consciousness of the dancehall masses.

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We Love Music: White Lies w/ Frankie Rose @ 9:30 Club — 2/22/14

whiteliesShortly after the halfway point in their show at the 9:30 Club on Saturday, White Lies played “Unfinished Business,” their very first single, which was released nearly five years ago now.

The very full club listened respectively and bobbed along in place to the catchy melodies of the song as lead singer Harry McVeigh sang plaintively to the crowd. “You’ve got blood on your hands/And I now it’s mine/I just need more time/So get off your low/let’s dance like we used to.”

That first song serves as a blueprint for the post-punk trio, who perform as a quintet. In a very real way, by sticking to their formula of uplifting melodies but darkly reflective lyrics, White Lies have grown their name recognition and their audiences in the United States tremendously on their latest tour, heralding last year’s album Big TV.

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The Winning Ticket: Cut Copy @ Echostage, 3/20/14

PrintAs a way to say thanks to our loyal readers, We Love DC will be giving away a pair of tickets to a concert sponsored by or held at the 9:30 Club 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 Cut Copy at Echostage on Thursday, March 20.

This Australian quartet became fast indie favorites after their first album, Bright Like Neon Love, and continue to win praise with their fourth and latest album, Free Your Mind, which was released in November. With their latest songs, the new wavers have become even more chilled out, but they still remain all about making catchy dance music. To my mind, Dan Whitford built upon the perfect formula when he combined his synths with Ben Browning’s bass in particular as well as guitars from Tim Hoey and drums from Mitchell Scott. While I’ve always felt while they owe a debt to New Order, they are by no means imitations, and they are well worth catching live on their latest tour.

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 I encourage you to share your favorite song by Cut Copy, because I think they are great! One entry per email address, please. Tickets for this show are also available through Ticketmaster.

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 Echostage Guest List window 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.

Cut Copy
Echostage
Thursday, March 20
doors @7pm
$43.45
All ages

Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Charli XCX @ U Street Music Hall—11/16/13

The fashionable Charli XCX was perfectly at home at U Street Music Hall, backed by a talented all-girl band, as she purred and roared to a sold-out audience in the packed underground club.

But U Street Music Hall was absolutely packed so full that space to breathe was difficult to find unless you were far at the back end of the hall, suggesting that Charli really ought to be in the 9:30 Club or some other larger venue next time she comes to DC!

Charli’s cool visual style—in a pale dress and white leather jacket, contrasted to the short black dresses of her band—set the tone visually for a buoyant and electric show. She opened, however, with a rap song, “What I Like,” which isn’t in step with her overall darkly new wave sound. Once into the set, she really hits her stride with “Nuclear Seasons” and “Lock You Up”—both stunningly lush yet spiky pop songs that really set the tone for her album True Romance. It’s songs like these—songs of loneliness and alienation set to a powerful dance beat—that really form the foundation of True Romance, and I was absolutely thrilled to her sing them with vitality and passion.

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Hot Ticket: 80s Dance Party@Black Whiskey, 11/16/13

80sdanceparty

It’s been pretty darn cold these past few days but DC is expected to warm up considerably this weekend! What better way to celebrate the warmth than to get out and dance?

And if you want to get out and dance, you might as well go for the gold and dance to some good synthpop. And that just happens be the theme of this month’s 80s Dance Party @ Black Whiskey, which this month presents Secret Circuits, a new recurring theme night.

The affable and capable DJ Neal Keller and I were once brainstorming after he was no longer hosting events in Adams Morgan. We hatched a concept for another dance party that he could spin somewhere–and to differentiate it from the pack of other 80s parties, we thought to focus it specifically on bands like OMD, Ultravox, Erasure, Soft Cell, Heaven 17, New Order, Yazoo, the Eurythmics and others!

To my delight, Neal (aka The Angel) has run with the idea, and he has recruited an extremely knowledgeable guest to assist in the form of DJ Bill Mallison, who hosted his own Kids in America party for a few years not too long ago. Monsieur Mallison is the master of pinpointing electronic and new wave music, breaking out everything from Book of Love to Tones on Tail. And I’m going to attempt to put up a video playlist at the Secret Circuits Tumblr to make the party interactive. (This is a *video* dance party after all!)

See you there!

80s Dance Party: Secret Circuits
Black Whiskey
Saturday, Nov. 16
doors @9pm
$5
21+

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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We Love Music: A Love Letter to The Sounds

The first time I saw The Sounds, they were promoting their second album, Dying to Say This to You, with a performance at the 9:30 Club. It was April 10, 2006, and the Swedish new wavers were there with Morningwood and Action Action.

It goes without saying that it was love at first listen—I was instantly hooked by the feminine but tough vocals of Maja Ivarsson and the rock star sensibilities of her bandmates. Guitarist Felix Rodriguez, bassist Johan Bengtsson, drummer Fredrik Blond and keyboardist Jesper Anderberg all are remarkable musicians—and instruments in The Sounds come together from a delightfully cohesive sound. They quickly became my favorite new band.

The Sounds release a new album, Weekend, on Tuesday, Oct. 29, and they leapt over to the United States to play some dates in support of their fifth LP. It’s an excellent mix of some of the raucous dance tunes for which the band is celebrated and some of the softer, reflective ballads that somehow still manage to surprise with their sincerity. Those who like The Sounds for their great dance numbers like “Tony the Beat” and “Dance with the Devil” will welcome the first single, “Shake Shake Shake” and the rebellious “Outlaw.” If “Night After Night” or “Dorchester Hotel” appeal to you, then you’ll likewise welcome the reflective “Hurt the Ones I Love” or the sweetness of “Weekend” (thematically a reflective and forward-looking companion and counterpart to the Pet Shop Boy’s more immediate “Thursday).

Felix, Johan, Maja, Jesper, Frederik

Felix, Johan, Maja, Jesper, Frederik

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We Love Music: Blondie w/ X @ 9:30 Club — 9/9/13

Chris Stein, Exene Cervenka and Debbie Harry (Photo by Mark Weiss)

Chris Stein, Exene Cervenka and Debbie Harry (Photo by Mark Weiss)

Maybe it’s true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but sometimes there is remarkably more to be found in those old tricks than you might think.

Such might be said to be the case with Blondie, the iconic new wave group that now refuses to go away despite a 15-year break in the 80s and 90s. Recharged and on a roll, the band is back with a 10th studio album dropping this fall–Ghosts of Download–which comes only two years after their last album, Panic of Girls. The group took to influences from the current world of electronic dance music (EDM) when coming up with songs for the new album. And the EDM-flavored material blends very well with a group that was equally comfortable putting out disco smashes and space-punk rockers. In that way, Blondie were well ahead of the game when it came to adapting to the times.

To prove the point, Debbie Harry and her cohorts opened their super sold-out show at the 9:30 Club on Monday night with the crowd-pleasing “One Way or Another” from their very excellent third album Parallel Lines, released in 1979. They then rolled into a song from the new album called “Rave,” a dance number that with a crisp upbeat tempo that pairs well with Harry’s voice. The discoesque number melded very well with Blondie classics and also sounded like it would be a welcome new song to mix in with new EDM beats.

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Hot Ticket: Blondie and X @ 9:30 Club, 9/9/13

Chris Stein, Debbie Harry and Clem Burke (Photo courtesy of Press Here)

Chris Stein, Debbie Harry and Clem Burke (Photo courtesy of Press Here)

As a young music collecting kid, I undoubtedly came across the sixth studio album by Blondie, The Hunter, in the cassette selection of a retailer like K-Mart or Ames. “Neat!” I probably said while snapping it up in 1982, little realizing that the band already had broken up and this likely was their last album.

Flash forward to 1997, and I’m living here in DC, so I get to go the HFStival at RFK Stadium, where Blondie stage an unlikely reunion to play their first public show in 15 years. Wow! And then the band awakens to put out a few more albums before continuing to tour for many more years.

Recently, the band has surprised me yet again with another burst of creative activity, releasing the calypso-flavored Panic of Girls in 2011 and now returning with a new album, Ghosts of Download, to be released this fall. The first single, “A Rose By Any Name,” featuring The Gossip’s Beth Ditto on guest vocals, is a welcome dance number with nu disco flourishes. The album reportedly holds quite a few tracks influenced by today’s electronic dance music (EDM) movement.

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We Love Music: The Return of the 80s Dance Party (@ Black Whiskey — 8/31/13)

For many years, the toast of Adams Morgan was a video dance party playing music generally from the 1980s at Heaven and Hell on Thursday nights. The 80s Dance Party eventually came under the management of DJ Neal Keller, calling himself “The Angel,” and promoter Steve Donahoe, who kept it going strong for all that time.

For various reasons, that team eventually parted ways with the club and pursued different nightlife opportunities. But now, they have reunited to bring back the 80s Dance Party as a monthly party on Saturday nights to Black Whiskey on 14th St. NW near Logan Circle. The event debuts this Saturday, Aug. 31, at Black Whiskey, at 9pm.

I chatted with Mr. Keller, an old friend of mine after hosting me at many of his dance nights, about the expectations for the new party, the importance of good partnerships and the excitement of being in a vibrant, albeit different, neighborhood.

Mickey: Let’s get down to what’s important! What are people going to hear at the new 80s Dance Party?

Neal Keller: 80s Dance Party has always put an emphasis on the New Wave, Post Punk, Synthpop, Underground and New Romantic artists from the era. That means New Order, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, The Cure, Duran Duran, Yazoo, The Clash, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Love and Rockets, Flock of Seagulls, Blancmange, Heaven 17, Clan of Xymox, Simple Minds, Visage, Psychedelic Furs, Talking Heads, Joy Division and similar artists.

I think the change of scenery over to the 14th Street area will allow us the opportunity to focus more on the alternative and underground sounds of the 80s, and to back away slightly from the mainstream pop and cheesy stuff.  During much of the history of the event, we were catering to a more touristy crowd in Adams Morgan, and so we became known for the Top 40 music from the 80s.  But even back then there was a strong contingent of DC’s night people, replete with thick eyeliner and Manic Panic, who exerted a strong pull toward the more obscure material. You may remember, they pretty much annexed the seating to the left of the DJ booth, near the projector screen.

At the new location, Black Whiskey, there’s an edgier feel, and we hope that will attract more discerning New Wave enthusiasts.  In fact, the look of the place is a lot closer to the kind of places that first got me out clubbing back in the 80s. I’m hoping the atmosphere will be reminiscent of the humble beginnings of the event, when you were about ten times more likely to hear an Echo and The Bunnymen track than you were to hear Loverboy.

Having said that, I still want to honor guilty pleasures like “The Safety Dance” and “Love Is A Battlefield” — with the video. You’d be amazed how many alternative people request When In Rome. And I reserve the right to play some Prince — maybe more “Controversy” era, though.

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The Winning Ticket: Tommy Keene @ 9:30 Club, 9/13/13

TommyKeeneF

As 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 Tommy Keene at the 9:30 Club on Friday, Sept. 13.

The prolific Keene, a DC-area native, has returned with a new album, Excitement at Your Feet, on Second Motion Records. His return to the 9:30 Club marks a continuation of his long-time relationship with co-owner Seth Hurwitz, who managed Keene at the start of his solo career in the early 1980s! In the past few years, Keene has shown no signs of slowing down, releasing several albums and putting out a two-disc career retrospective in 2010. (Indeed, he kinda strikes me as our hometown version of Elvis Costello!)

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 Tommy Keene (or one of his many collaborations)! One entry per email address, please. Tickets for this show are also available through Ticketfly.

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 9:30 Club Guest List window 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.

Tommy Keene
w/ The Deadmen (with Justin Jones), Hero Jr.
9:30 Club
Friday, Sept. 13
doors @5pm
$15
All ages

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We Love Music: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark @ 9:30 Club — 7/13/13

If you are head over heals in love with a woman, and you don’t know what to say to her, you might take your cue from Andy McCluskey, a bouncy dynamo of a man at age 54, when he sings “Sailing on the Seven Seas”:

Because I’m so in awe of you/That I don’t know what to do/And I’m sailing on the seven seas so blue

If you wish she were closer, and you still don’t know what to say, Paul Humphreys, a vibrant virtuoso of the keyboards, might have some words he could lend you from “(Forever) Live and Die”:

I never know, I never know why/You make me wanna cry

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Hot Ticket: OMD w/ Diamond Rings @ 9:30 Club, 7/13/13

Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey (Photo courtesy Big Hassle)

Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey (Photo courtesy Big Hassle)

For my money, one of the top five acts at the Coachella Valley Music Festival this past April was Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, or OMD. The synthpop band was in top form, performing fresh with the release of its latest album, English Electric. This new album is a little more mellow than the jaunty History of Modern, released in 2010 after the reformation of the classic OMD lineup of vocalist and guitarist Andy McCluskey, keyboardist Paul Humphreys, drummer Malcolm Holmes and keyboardist Martin Cooper.

OMD return to the 9:30 Club to promote their new album on Saturday, July 13. With English Electric, OMD have gone straight back to their love of Kraftwerk, paying homage to the German electronic pioneers in particular on their song “Metroland,” which clearly has influences of Kraftwerk’s “Endless Europe.” The new single “Dresden” recalls some of the very best of OMD’s work like “Enola Gay” and “Joan of Arc.”

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We Love Music: CSS @ 9:30 Club — 7/1/13

Lovefoxxx and her rowdy gal band CSS stormed through the 9:30 Club Monday night, playing a ridiculous amount of catchy new wave and reggaeton.

It’s a show more people should have come out to see! Sponsored by Nylon magazine, CSS actually shared the bill with newcomers Io Echo. When the Brazilian girls took the stage at 9:30pm, they opened with a curious selection, “Art Bitch” from their first album, but it really set the mood for funky fun, which they delivered through to the end with their last song, the goofy rap “I’ve Seen You Drunk Girl and You’re Not Drunk Yet,” which way more entertaining than I would have anticipated.

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