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two bars, three stars: body jam at looking glass lounge

9 Jan

About one year ago, I waxed enthusiastically about what was then one of the best monthly dance parties in DC: Fatback at Bohemian Caverns. Sadly, the end of 2012 also brought the end of Fatback. While I undoubtedly found this news disappointing, all good things must come to an end, and I understand the DJs’ desires to spread their wings on other projects.

I particularly support these DJs pursuing other artistic endeavors when it results in other ill dance parties, such as Body Jam at Looking Glass Lounge.

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Now, Body Jam did not begin as a replacement for Fatback- in fact, it’s been going on for over a year, if I’m not mistaken. However, Body Jam certainly plays a more important role now that we don’t have Fatback to relieve our disco fever every month, am I right?

The musical vibes for Body Jam have a lot of overlap with your favorite Fatback mixes- I’m fairly certain I could hear Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” at either party, and that is a very, very good thing. If I had to totally oversimplify the distinction between these two parties, I would say Body Jam leans more towards 70s/80s exercise video nostalgia versus Fatback’s 60s/70s disco/soul persona.

It is pretty magical how Body Jam DJs cultivate this 80s dance party meets exercise video aesthetic into a truly awesome party. First of all, Looking Glass provides the perfect venue for this sort of event; much smaller and more laid back than Bohemian Caverns, it is literally impossible to lose your friends on the dance floor here. It is possible, however, to take a break from grooving and have a beer with your friends downstairs- a dual experience that Fatback, in all its crowded sweaty glory, could never provide. Not to mention the superior beer list, slightly off the beaten path location (which usually leads to a more intimate crowd), and infinitely interesting decor. Yeah, I love Looking Glass on any old night, even without the musical stylings that are guaranteed on Body Jam nights.

Next, the Body Jam DJs have fostered an aesthetic that is fun, quirky, and full-o’-neon with the whole throwback exercise video vibe. The first time I went to Body Jam, there was a video montage of old Jan Fonda-esque butt buster workouts playing on the walls. If electric blue thong leotards won’t inspire you to do some lunges across the dance floor, what will? Also, word on the street is that soon you’ll be able to enjoy those workout views all year long, as a Body Jam calendar is in the works.

Finally, and most importantly, the tunes. I don’t know how, but with Body Jam, these DJs have given me a playlist that feels exclusively tailored to my personal taste- even moreso than Fatback. Jumping from the Talking Heads to Prince to remixes of The Smiths, I can’t get enough. I never considered myself an 80s fanatic until I heard so many of my favorite songs mixed into one set and realized I couldn’t stop dancing if I tried.

Thankfully, I can tide myself over between monthly parties with the Body Jam Soundcloud, which has been my go-to way to get through the work day with memories of ridiculous dance moves streaming through my mind. And that’s always the best way to get through the work day, isn’t it?

Check out the mixes below (and the rest on their Soundcloud page), and then tackle your New Years fitness resolutions at Looking Glass Lounge for the next Body Jam party.

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two bars, three stars: familiar faces at adams morgan day festival

10 Sep

A few months ago, I moved into a new apartment and became an Adams Morgan resident. I had already spent a ton of time in the neighborhood previously, given that my office, yoga studio, and favorite drinking establishments are all in the area. Naturally, the move was a perfect fit, and I’ve fallen more and more in love with the neighborhood ever since.

I could write endlessly about why I consider AdMo my favorite neighborhood in DC, but a lot of it is nuances that you’d probably have to live here to fully appreciate. For instance, the architecture. Next time you’re stumbling around 18th street searching for a drink/empanada/jumbo slice/falafel, try looking up. It’s subtle, but if you look closely, the buildings in Adams Morgan (particularly up 18th street and along Columbia Road) are so fantastic- each is unique, and full of color and kitschy details. I’ve also slowly learned more about the neighborhood’s long history (and status as one of DC’s oldest neighborhoods), and I’m starting to understand why so many people who call Adam’s Morgan home choose to stay. That’s not even mentioning the most obvious draws of Adam’s Morgan- great food, great nightlife, great shops full of interesting art and clothes, and numerous places to enjoy live music.

Today, all of AdMo’s best traits were on full display at the annual Adams Morgan Day Festival, the oldest neighborhood festival in DC. The festival surpassed my expectations, and I was thrilled to see large crowds of Washingtonians enjoying my neighborhood and all it had to offer. The businesses along 18th street (as well as businesses from all over the city) pulled out all the shops to put on a great festival- there was a plethora of food, art, performances, and joie de vivre to go around.

I was particularly impressed by the music, which was set up at the top and bottom of the 18th street strip- one stage at Vernon, one at Columbia. I walked into the festival at around 5 p.m. from Columbia Road, and I walked straight into the crowd gathered in front of the music stage. There was a go-go band playing, and they had the whole crowd moving.

I was pretty stoked to stumble upon a live go-go performance, because go-go is a genre of music that can be fairly elusive to a recent DC resident. I’ve casually investigated opportunities to see live go-go, especially given that it is such a quintessential DC art form, but I’ve been discouraged at what I’ve learned. Basically, go-go has been somewhat marginalized as many of the clubs that hosted the shows have been shut down. The performances have edged more and more to the peripherals of the city (or even Prince George’s county), and thus would be nearly impossible to attend without a car.

As soon as I got home, I checked the Adams Morgan Day website to find out the name of the band I’d seen. As it turns out, the band was no joke- it was Familiar Faces, a well-established 13-person go-go outfit that includes six members of Chuck Brown’s band, including his daughter. I can’t pretend that I love every go-go song I’ve ever heard, but their stuff is pretty great.

I absolutely appreciate and understand go-go a bit more after finally seeing it come together in a live performance. The way the performers weave together so many disparate beats and sounds into an old school dance tapestry is incredibly energizing- you can’t help but move to it. And I have Familiar Faces to thank for facilitating this experience for me- I’m hoping it won’t be the last live go-go I get to see.

Familiar Faces, “Thank You”

two bars three stars: local tribute to pussy riot

28 Aug

If you belong to any social media network, there is no way you haven’t seen at least vague mentions of the Pussy Riot debacle currently unfolding in Russia. I won’t rehash all the details, but in case you need an outline: back in March, a feminist Russian punk group called Pussy Riot released their most controversial work yet. The group, which is part of a broader opposition movement to Russian president Vladimir Putin, released a music video of themselves performing a sacrilegious, anti-Putin song in a Russian church. In reaction, Russian police swiftly arrested several members of the group, and they were taken to prison. Currently, three members of the collective are charged with “hooliganism” and received two year prison sentences, while two others have fled Russia to avoid prosecution.

While this story is devastating in so many ways and should outrage every single one of us, the silver lining to this tragedy (and many others like it) is the rallying of support that has bubbled up from all angles. Many world-famous artists, from Red Hot Chili Peppers to Sting to Madonna, have voiced support for the group; Vivian Girls will play a Pussy Riot tribute show; and Bjork is even selling Pussy Riot t-shirts on her website. Most importantly, Bikini Kill, one of Pussy Riot’s biggest influences thanks to their work as part of the riot grrrrl movement in the 1990s, has touted this event’s historical and artistic significance.

But it’s not just international superstars who are rallying to speaking out against this whole mess- local musicians are getting in on the action too. I was recently exposed to this tribute song, “Already Winning,” which was composed by a group of DC artists operating under the psuedonym “Coward Collective.” The song is definitively punk, but tailored to the event at hand: we’ve got an eery, church-like falsetto in the intro, which quickly melts into an aggressive guitar riff. Most interestingly, the lyrics were written based entirely on Pussy Riot’s letters from prison, culminating with the chorus “scared by a punch of pussies.” Whoa.
This track is a solid, well-crafted punk song in its own right (let alone the importance of its message, let alone the creativity behind using Pussy Riot’s letters as  lyrics fodder). Between the aggressive instrumentation, the jarring lyrics, and the sheer weight of the situation that the song speaks to, this song hits hard. Talk about locally-sourced, globally-focused art.

Check it out and spread it around. This is local music of which to be proud.

“Already Winning (Pussy Riot Tribute),” Coward Collective

two bars three stars: upcoming DC shows

20 Aug

Rainy Sundays can be so ideal for people who enjoy music and writing, because staying indoors is the ideal environment to enjoy both of those pursuits. This blog, like the American agriculture industry, could benefit from a little more rain this summer.

So, let’s catch up, shall we? There have been a flurry of ticket purchases recently, and I’d like to bring your attention to all of them.

1. Thursday, August 23: Nighttime Adventure Society with Mike & Cody at Rock n Roll Hotel (local music alert)

I’ve blogged about both of these bands’ shows recently, so if you haven’t seen either of em yet, then you’re in luck! They’re playing again this week at RnR. The show will act as a nice lead-up to NAS’ debut album release in a few weeks. It’ll be on sale for only $7, so check them out and cop that ish when it drops on September 4.

Nighttime Adventure Society, “Past Life”

2. Sunday, September 30: St. Vincent and David Byrne at the Strathmore

David Byrne is an especially gratifying musician to admire, because not only has he been a musical pioneer for decades, but he also chooses excellent, exciting musicians for collaborations. Remember when he remixed Zola Jesus? Incredible. Now, he’s teaming with guitar goddess (and object of my extreme affection) St. Vincent for the ultimate genre-blurring, line-pushing, too-much-talent-fueled duo album, Love this Giant. The first single off of said upcoming album, “Who,” was featured on RwR’s July playlist, and I still cant stop listening to it as we near September- the horns, the funky grooves, St. Vincent’s voice with David Byrne’s crazy beats… amazing. The second single, “Weekend in the Dust,” has only added to my intense excitement for what will undoubtedly be a highlight of my fall show schedule- and perhaps unlike any show I’ve seen before. I mean forreal, can one stage really hold all of that talent? It might just collapse under their metaphoric weight.

St. Vincent and David Byrne, “Weekend in the Dust”

3. Friday, October 3 – Sunday, October 5: Sweet Tea Pumpkin Pie Music Festival (lots o’ local music alert)

Back again and bigger than ever, STTPFest will take over various clubs, restaurants, and cafes all over the city and infuse them with live, local music for all of Columbus Day weekend. For those who have visited Austin for South by Southwest, the set-up is similar: live music takeover. If this fest has it’s way, you wont be able to avoid running into a plethora of local and visiting acts performing at your favorite places in Adam’s Morgan, U Street, and Cleveland Park.

4. Thursday, October 25: Major Lazer at 930 Club

I blogged about this guy recently as well, when I hyped one of his proteges (Brazilian club bangers Bonde do Role). But here’s a bit more background: Major Lazer was formerly a collaboration between mega-producer/DJ Diplo (the mastermind behind much of M.I.A.’s music) and DJ Switch, though now Major Lazer is solely a Diplo project. Major Lazer encompasses Diplo’s interest in fusing Jamaican dancehall beats with more traditional electro house. With thumping reggaeton beats, the familiar uhn-tiss of house, and some smashing guest vocals from Santigold, Amanda Blanks, and Nina Sky, the result is nothing short of boombastic. Major Lazer is the musical equivalent of the party that’s so intense and outrageous that you’re not even sure if you should be there, but eventually you just embrace it and have a buck-wild good time. Hence, the 930 Club will be one hot sweaty mess come October 25.

Major Lazer ft. M.I.A. and Busy Signal, “Sound of Siren”

5. Friday, December 7: Japandroids at Black Cat

Somehow, back in June, I failed to notice when Japandroids made their first DC appearance following their incredible spring release, Celebration Rock. I have no idea what caused that dire inattentiveness to show calendars, but suffice to say I was disappointed. I’ve been listening to Celebration Rock with ever-increasing frequency since April, and it truly is a gem. These guys are noisy in all the right ways, but not abrasive or obnoxious. The lyrics are simple and relatable, and their music makes me feel like these guys are just my good buddies, singing songs about the house party we went to last weekend. DC, how lucky are we that these guys are coming back in just a few short months, at one of the city’s most perfect venues?! Snipe your tickets now, they won’t last long.

Japandroids, ‘Fire’s Highway”

two bars three stars: mike and cody, bright light social hour at DC9

14 Aug

Normally I don’t post show retrospectives for local music. Half the fun in writing about a local, up-and-coming band is to get readers excited about the music and promote the show. I tend to be overly enthusiastic about music I enjoy, so if I can infect a smidge of that enthusiasm among DC readers (and maybe even inspire you to check out a show you wouldn’t normally attend), then I’ve done my job.
However, last week got the best of me- I attended a wonderful show by a newish DC band, but it came up a bit spontaneously and I didn’t get to the blog in time. So forgive the lack of timeliness, but enjoy the abundance of awesome tunes. You’re welcome.
So, last Thursday, I saw a sweet double line up of Texas meets DC: Austin-based South by Southwest favorites Bright Light Social Hour, and two DC kids called Mike and Cody.

Bright Light Social Hour are a pretty well-established quartet, and they made such waves during SXSW 2011 that they received the coveted title of “Band of the Year” at the Austin Music Awards, which coincides with the festival. Honestly, you could hate their music, but you can’t not admire their collective facial hair. They’ve got 70s handlebar mustaches, mop-tops, ponytails, and mountain man beards- holy follicle power. Plus, they sound like the most awesome, bluesy dive-bar band you’ve ever heard.
Bright Light Social Hour, “Detroit”

But on the local music front, Bright Light Social Hour brought in a great local group to kick things off- Mike and Cody, a band with only two permanent members currently (named, you guessed it, Mike and Cody). I first heard about Mike and Cody as members of another favorite local band, the Nighttime Adventure Society. Riffing on the theory that one good band leads to another good band, I checked out their debut EP “Let’s Go” on Bandcamp. The songs were good, but in all honesty, all I heard was “DANCE PARTY!,” and attending the show was a no-brainer.

My suspicions were correct; particularly in a live format, the songs are obviously well-crafted and intricate, but also supremely catchy and danceable. Some disco elements lurk in those synth-pop melodies, and it all comes together in songs that are utterly charming and a tad earnest- but not without a “they-mean-business” guitar solo here and there. Perfect combo, yes?

Keep an eye out, DC.

Mike and Cody, “Let’s Go”

two bars three stars/on deck: thinkSPEAK at rock n roll hotel

2 Aug

I attended a pretty neat new music event a few weeks ago, but sadly it only made it into my Twitter feed and not the blog: the Flashband Summer Showcase at Half Street Fairgrounds on July 14. The concept was simple: a bunch of DC musicians got together, threw their names in a hat, and formed impromptu bands. These “flashbands” had one month to get together, write music, rehearse, and prepare for a showdowncase.

It’s awesome to see how the bands respond to this challenge- you can tell that some threw it together at the last minute, some composed  and perfected multiple original songs, and one band just decided to play five LCD Soundsystem covers. I wasn’t complaining.

But sometimes, these flashbands can become something more. What if, in the course of one month’s preparation, you stumble upon something golden? You wouldn’t want to just throw that progress away, would you?

Such is the case with thinkSPEAK, a DC band that debuted at the Flashband showcase and hasn’t stopped there. After closing their Flashband performance with an indisputable hit single, “Tiller,” the band refined, recorded, and posted the single on their Soundcloud page. Next up? An opening performance at Rock n Roll Hotel tonight.

Cheers to flashbands that aren’t fleeting and good ol’ fashioned toe-tapping singles.

“Tiller,” Think Speak

i was there: M83 at 930 club, early show

14 May

Wow, three weeks without a post? How did that happen?! Oh, I know: I went to Europe for two weeks. And, as anyone who travels knows, the week following a 15-day trip pretty much requires exhaustive effort just to get out of bed in the morning and deal with the fact that you’re not traveling. Sigh.

BUT! I am back in action. Specifically back in show action, with the long-awaited M83 double show at the 930 Club this past week. While I had tickets to both instances of the double-header, I decided to share the wealth and sell the tickets to a friend.

Those of you who went probably recall that this show wasn’t originally listed as a two-parter. Back in February, 930 Club announced the show and it sold out instantly (as in, less than 5 minutes instantly). Those of us who scored tickets felt beyond victorious- our time spent glued to Ticketfly and hitting refresh had paid off!

But our gloating was short-lived. A few weeks later, the show time was moved up and a late show was added. All of the sudden, “the show” was now “the early show.” I don’t think I was alone in feeling a little perturbed by this move. The tickets were pricey, and having an early and late show implies that each one will be at best short and at worst incomplete. So, while I was obviously stoked for this musical experience that was months in the making, it felt a little strange arriving at the 930 Club when it was still light outside for an event that was supposed to be the highlight of my show season.

Nonetheless, I went in with a positive attitude and was antsy to see if the band would live up to my friends’ raves about their Coachella set. And ultimately, the show met all of my expectations. Yes, the sound/energy/song choices were awesome; yes, it was too early and too short.

Given the structure and content of M83’s albums, at least their two most recent ones (Hurry Up We’re Dreaming and Saturdays = Youth), I was less concerned about the actual song choices, but more concerned about their order and how they fit and flowed together. More so than almost any band I listen to regularly, I refuse to listen to an M83 album out of order. The songs are strong, but the album is really a mosaic; the beauty is in the holistic experience. If you listened to their tunes as singles, many of them simply wouldn’t make sense. You wouldn’t get why a voice track of a little girl talking about frogs is awesome and not random (“Raconte-Moi Une Histoire,” sadly not played).

With that criteria in mind, I think the actual performance was spectacular. The band played a wide spectrum of songs, ticked off most of the hits (except no “Kim and Jessie” whaaaat?), but- most importantly- it flowed really well, even though the songs obviously didn’t follow album order.

I was also pleasantly surprised at the number of musicians on stage with Anthony Gonzales, M83’s only permanent member. The bevy of artists and instruments on stage obviously made for a richer, fuller sound without the need to rely on loops, and many of the band members straight multiplied the amount of energy on stage- I was grateful for their presence and their head banging throughout.

Other specific song highlights include “New Map,” the anthemic “Midnight City” (obviously brought the house down), and the encore, which made the previously lackluster crowd finally get on board and move their feet.

But, of course, it ended far too soon. I’m looking forward to reading about the late show and figuring out if the experience would have been any better had I stayed for the late show, but really I feel I shouldn’t have been faced with that choice. On the bright side, though, it was quite nice leaving the 930 Club with essentially a whole Saturday night ahead of you. I could get used to that.