Entertainment, Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Our Favorite Shows of 2012

photo courtesy of The Faint

It’s the end of a great year, and the music writers of We Love DC- Mickey,  Jonathan & Alexia have pulled together their respective top 10 favorite shows of 2012.

Mickey: This has been a great year for shows! For me, it’s been a return to old favorites. I caught a few acts that I’ve been into for most of my life and a few that became new favorites in the last 10 years. Interestingly, it wasn’t a big year for acts new to me although I did some promising new stuff.

Of my top 10 shows of 2012, I reviewed eight of them for We Love DC. I didn’t review two of them because they were out of town and I was quite busy! Without further ado, here in reverse chronological order then are my top 10 concerts of 2012.


1. The Faint

930 Club, Dec. 5

It’s become all the rage for a band to tour on the strength of a single album and to perform it in its entirety these days. Most of the time, we see that happen with bands celebrating the 20th or 25th anniversary of an album. But although the album is only about 10 years old, The Faint toured earlier this month on a reissue of Danse Macabre, a record that strikes a powerful chord and compels you to dance like crazy. And dance like crazy the audience did at a very full show at the 9:30 Club on Dec. 5. The album sounded as amazing as ever and The Faint even snuck in a new song, suggesting there is more to come from Nebraska’s favorite electronic sons.


2. Shiny Toy Guns

Rock and Roll Hotel, Nov.4

It’s a great feeling when a band justifies your faith in them. And so it goes with Shiny Toy Guns at the Rock and Roll Hotel on Nov. 4. This stellar new wave band recently put out its third and best album, III, bouncing back strong after a temporary split with their female vocalist Carah Faye and a disappointing second album. The sold-out crowd welcomed the band back like old friends. (And Jeremy Dawson gave me the inside scoop on reuniting with Carah Faye.)


3. Saint Etienne

U Street Music Hall, Oct. 25

Few things are more amazing than an intimate show with one of your absolute favorite niche bands. Saint Etienne has captured a Europop sounds so fresh and invigorating that they surprisingly sound timeless and modern all at once. They captivated a large group composed of mostly men who came out to dance and fawn over Sarah Cracknell, the most modest of divas, when they played at U Street Music Hall on Oct. 25. Although I loved the actual show to bits, my experience was bittersweet as the lovely lady who introduced me to the band went to the show with someone else. As Saint Etienne knows, “Only love can break your heart!”

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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.

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