i was there: a week of shows in review

25 Sep

As I’ve mentioned previously, the tough thing about writing a live music blog is that live music often happens during prime blog writing time. As such, allow me to do some catch-up.

Last week was my birthday week, and in true celebratory fashion, I attended not one, not two, but three shows over the course of five days. What could be better/more appropriate? Also, each of the shows was a totally unique and diverse experience- I traveled to see a cult-status jam band, caught a local up-and-comer at a loft party in my neighborhood, and saw the Pitchfork-band-of-the-moment change lives at the 930 club. I think that covers all of my concert bases, no?

Here is the rundown:

1) Saturday, September  15: Lotus at FDR Park in Philadelphia

For the past 10-15 years or so, a troupe of electro-funk-dance bands have garnered Grateful Dead-like followings with their own sub genre of jam. Usually, if you’re into one, you’re into them all- it’s such a great live experience that once you’ve seen one, you’re drinking the Kool-Aid. The group of bands I’m talking about include festival favorites such as Disco Biscuits, Umphreys Mcgee, String Cheese Incident, and (my personal favorite) Lotus.

Lotus got me totally hooked on this genre when I saw them for the first time back in college, and it’s been a jam love affair ever since. Unlike some of the other bands I mentioned, Lotus’ studio albums are pretty enjoyable on their own; however, your appreciation totally changes after just one live experience. This show in Philly was my fourth time seeing them; it was my favorite thus far, and it certainly won’t be the last.

For beginners, I suggest checking out Lotus’ most recent album, which you can stream for free.99 on their website. Here is a sample. First listen up, then find out when is the next time they’re coming to your town, then buy tickets immediately.

Lotus, “Molluskunk”


2. Wednesday, September 19: Margot MacDonald at a “Loft Soiree” in Adams Morgan

Even though my birthday was not until yesterday, my boyfriend and I celebrated on the 19th due to some out-of-town travel this weekend. Well, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as there just so happened to be a DIY show happening in my neighborhood that night.

One can argue that DIY shows are hit-or-miss in terms of quality; but honestly, I’m so on board with the concept itself that I’m willing to see rougher shows if it means that people are putting in the effort to cultivate the DIY scene in DC. There is something incredibly refreshing and special about having the opportunity to see live music in an intimate, personal setting that is not at all driven by profits. It blends the best aspects of a house party and a show into one multipurpose night of fun, not to mention that it’s a terrific way for local artists to build up their following.

Case in point: Margot MacDonald. Standing in that Adams Morgan loft last Wednesday, Margot’s voice kicked me square in the stomach, in the best way possible. Her voice is opera-quality good, and she is blending her vocal talents with some incredibly cool, minimalist Zola Jesus-style beats that I dug so hard. This is definitely a local artist to watch, closely.

Check on Margot’s music here.


3. Thursday, 9/20: Grizzly Bear at the 930 Club

A few months ago, or whenever tickets for this show originally went on sale, I made the tough decision not to go after tickets. Don’t get me wrong, I like Grizzly Bear and thought their 2009 breakthrough Veckatimest was great. I also would’ve been thrilled to see Unknown Mortal Orchestra, their weirdo-cool opening act. However, I was trying to save money and cut back on ticket purchases, so I passed.

Then, Shields came out last week, and all bets were off. You guys, this album is incredible, and Grizzly Bear is doing beautiful crazy things with their instruments that’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard. The guys got super ambitious in the composition of this album, and their risks paid off big time. The resulting album is so layered and full of texture that it feels like you could never listen to it the same way twice- and isn’t that the most rewarding kind of album for a fan?

I lucked out big time finding tickets to this show, and I’m so glad I went. As a friend captioned in this show photo, Grizzly Bear “destroyed song structures and changed lives” that night.

Here is a sample track, and then go listen to the full album over at NPR First Listen.

Grizzly Bear, “Sleeping Ute”


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