Tag Archives: DC live music

on my boombox: bonde do role & major lazer

1 Aug

The title of this post might read “on my boombox,” but truthfully this could fall under a couple of categories- so, COMBO POST TIME!

Anyway, artist of choice today: Bondo do Rolo. You’re already intrigued, I know. Brazilian names are intriguing.

But thankfully, these guys deserve the attention they automatically garner for their exotic roots. Bonde do Role is bringing favela funk music straight from Rio de Janeiro to the U.S., and I couldn’t be more stoked about it.

What is favela, you ask? Don’t worry, I wouldn’t know either, if it weren’t for NPR. But sometime in fall 2010, I listened to an NPR piece about this Brazilian dance music (also called “baile funk” or “funk carioca”) taking the world by storm, and I fell in love with what I heard. Ever since, I’ve hoped favela would creep out of Rio to infiltrate mainstream and indie dance music in the U.S.- rest assured, it has, and in large part thanks to these guys.
Bondo do Role got their big break in 2006 when mega-producer Diplo found the band’s Myspace page (nothing says 2006 like a Myspace page, am I right?). Ever since, their music has subtly made waves by being featured in numerous commercials, games (such as FIFA), movie previews, etc- it’s possible you’ve listened to these Brazilian party people without evening knowing it.

This summer, I’ve renewed my appreciation for Bonde do Role due to some choice collaborations and remixes that have popped up across the internet; one of them, “Bang” featuring Das Racist, I featured on RwR’s July playlist. This time, I’m featuring their work with the same man who discovered them, Diplo.

See, Diplo is not only Bonde do Role’s producer and a successful solo artist, but he is also one part of the DJ duo Major Lazer. The crazy-awesomeness of Major Lazer’s outrageous, raunchy, Jamaican dancehall-influenced electro music deserves a post of its own, but rest assured it’s epic. For now, just be excited about the below track that combines the favela force of Bonde do Role with their mentor and DJ extraordinaire, Major Lazer.

Oh, and the reason I said this post was a combo? It could also be an “on deck” post, because Major Lazer is going to blow the lid off of U Street Music Hall on Thursday, October 25. Oh. hell. yes.

Are you dancing yet?

Major Lazer, “Get Free” (Bondo do Role remix)


on deck: alex winston at gibson guitar show room

25 Jul

One great thing about being a fan of electro music is that, on occasion, a hot remix will open your eyes to not one but two new artists: both the DJ who remixed the track and the artist responsible for the original work. For instance, I would likely not know Ellie Goulding if not for Bassnectar, or Yelle if not for Madeon. The excitement of discovering two new artists in one track is the ultimate audiophile satisfaction- two birds, one stone, ya know?

Such is the case with indie pop princess Alex Winston. I fell in love with her single “Sister Wife” via the remix by Star Slinger back in 2010, and it’s been a permanent fixture on my playlists ever since. I waited patiently for her debut album King Con, and upon finally getting my hands on it in 2012, I was not disappointed.

Winston’s formula is not overly complicated. Her songs, for the most part, are straight-up pop gems; but, she has this quirk, sing-songy voice that fits perfectly against the bubblegum tunes and keeps her sound fresh. She also somehow manages to infuse a lot of personality and brightness into all of her music, without coming off as forced or obnoxious. The fact that she’s a multi-talented instrumentalist (she played all guitar, piano, and drums on her debut EP) doesn’t hurt either.

I was sad to miss Alex’ first DC performance at an All Things Gold event in April (I was in Berlin or something, I don’t know), so I’m stoked that I have a second chance this week at this Thursday’s New Noise Event at the Gibson Guitar Showroom. Be there or be square.

“Velvet Elvis”

“Sister Wife” (Star Slinger remix)

on deck: el-p, killer mike, and mr. muthafuckin exquire at rock n roll hotel

27 Jun

As much as I love both live music and rap, I’m more hesitant to buy tickets to rap shows than other genres. For one, they run notoriously late and are often unstructured and disorganized. But, more importantly, not all rappers make their name on live performances- the strength of their latest mixtape is more important.

Therefore, it’s especially telling that I would purchase $30 ticket to a rap show on a Sunday night. I’m willing to risk a truly miserable Monday morning for this one:  El-P, Killer Mike, and Mr. Muthafuckin Exquire at Rock n Roll Hotel on July 15.

For long time rap fans, you might think of El-P first and foremost as a producer, second as a label owner, and only third as a performer. However, with his most recent solo release Cancer 4 Cure being hailed as one of the year’s best hip-hop albums, that characterization may change.

It’s tough to describe El-P’s crazy, convoluted, futuristic-robot-meets-Brooklyn-rap-wiz-kid aesthetic without sounding crazy yourself. But rest assured, El-P perfects this aesthetic on Crazy 4 Cure. It’s half aggression, half chest-thumping beats. Beats so dirty that El-P once again proves why dubstep DJs should all credit him as early inspiration. El-P is all at once verbally assaulting his listeners, while cutting loose on tracks that could serve as “futuristic workout anthems for robot soldiers.” (Well-said, Pitchfork).

Equally as exciting, El-P will be performing with two of his most talented cohorts: Killer Mike and Mr. Muthafuckin Exquire. Killer Mike’s latest album, the El-P-produced R.A.P. Music, might even surpass Cancer 4 Cure in my list of “best rap albums of 2012.” Mike is lyrically dexterous with a strong, forceful voice- which is necessary to back up the heavy political themes he tackles on certain tracks, such as “Reagan.”

Check out the tracks below. Buy a ticket. And maybe take it easy that Saturday night.

El-P, “Drones Over Brooklyn”

Killer Mike featuring El-P, “Butane”

Mr. Muthafuckin Exquire, “Huzzah”

weekend roll out: architecture in helsinki at black cat, anniversary edition

15 Jun

Exactly one year ago today, I paid a little too much money to see a band I didn’t care about that much: a ~$35 Stub Hub ticket to the sold out Architecture in Helsinki show at the Black Cat.

For reasons other than the quality of Architecture in Helsinki’s performance, it was $35 very well spent. Sometimes, factors other than the music lead to you considering a particular show a highlight of your week, month, year, or even life. It might be that you discovered a new venue, made new friends, celebrated a big accomplishment, or just busted out new dance moves- whatever. That’s the magic of live music, isn’t it? It’s never just about the music.

Don’t get me wrong, Architecture in Helsinki put on a great show (if I remember correctly, there was a whole smorgasbord of artists and instruments and accordions on stage), but on that night is was all about the company.

Roll out to a beautiful weekend, friends.

Architecture in Helsinki, “Contact High”

Architecture in Helsinki, “Heart it Races”

i was there: radiohead at the verizon center (guest post)

5 Jun

You all are in for a treat this week. This week, instead of reading my same old stuff, you get to read the thoughts and ideas of some special guest contributors. First up, a review of Radiohead at the Verizon Center this past Sunday, written by a friend with whom I attended the show. Enjoy!


Guest contributor: Sean F. Dugan

I came across Radiohead late. It was 2008, one year after In Rainbows had been released, and most of you had spent years feasting on their work. I, on the other hand, had yet to listen to OK Computer. I hadn’t even heard of The Bends.

This all changed after a night of heavy drinking during the summer before my senior year in college, whenI awoke to the usual sounds coming from my alarm clock. I had to be at work in less than an hour, I still felt drunk, and I was going to Lollapalooza that night. Yet for some reason, my roommate was standing over me in my room with his iPod in hand.

“You should take this into work today,” he said.

I asked why.

“Because you’re going to see Radiohead tonight. You should probably get familiar.”

And so I did. I was half asleep on the bus to work (that’s the 147 for you Chicago folk), I turned on OK Computer, laid my head against the window, and closed my eyes. I didn’t really know what to expect; I was listening to them just 10 hours before I was set to see them that night, and I wasn’t in the mindset to have a musical epiphany.

But then, an airbag saved my life.

The distorted and almost nauseating guitar rhythms, intricately woven together into a harmonious barrage of sound and brought to greater heights by Thom Yorke’s vocals, immediately grabbed my attention; four years later, they still haven’t let go. Fast forward to June 2012, and there I was seeing Radiohead at the Verizon Center. “Airbag” was the second song in their incredible set last night, and it sounded as fresh and new as it did that morning on the bus – back when the song was already 11 years old.

It’s difficult to convey just how much Radiohead took over my life after I saw them for the first time at Lollapalooza. I must have listened to every album at least thirty times since then, and some maybe double that. They are the only band I can jot down a set list for at a show without even thinking. They are, perhaps too often, the standard by which I compare other bands’ musical talent. They will forever remain the band that moved my musical interests away from classical and classic rock toward genres I never knew existed or thought I would like. Forgive my hyperbole, but I believe them to be the greatest working band alive.

Radiohead proved my hyperbole correct yet again last night in Washington, D.C. During this 2012 tour, almost every set has started with “Bloom,” just as every set of their 2008 tour started with “15 Step,” which rang loud in last night’s first encore. Like “15 Step” for In Rainbows, “Bloom” is the first song off 2011’s The King of Limbs, and the live rendition of it is extraordinary– especially with the extended harmony sections between the song’s two parts. Even at 43, Yorke’s vocal range is incredibly impressive. The distinctness of his tenor voice and beautiful use of falsetto hasn’t changed much in his 20 years of touring. The indoor arena was a marvelous setting in which to be enchanted, and at times haunted, by his voice as it echoed through the Verizon Center.

Of the 23 songs played last night, seven were from The King of Limbs, and the rest of the show came primarily from In Rainbows, Hail To The Thief and Kid A. Needless to say, when “The National Anthem” came blasting through the towering speakers halfway through, the crowd was surging.

The first encore brought us “Paranoid Android,” which, along with “Airbag,” were the oldest songs they performed last night. But for me, the biggest surprise of the evening was “You And Whose Army?” Perhaps the most fun song on Amnesiac, this took the audience by storm, and you could truly feel the band’s excitement as they played it.

When they came back out for the second encore, I knew it would be the last. But before taking their final bow, they left us with “Reckoner,” my favorite track off In Rainbows.

See, one of Yorke’s strengths as a lyricist is that he can truly jar a listener; he leaves you feeling a little strange and pondering the mind (and mental state) of the writer. Is Thom Yorke insane? What does he mean when he says “Cut the kids in half” on “Morning Bell”? Yorke very well may be at a perpetual distance from us, but in the last lines of “Reckoner,” and also in the final lyrics of the concert, we see Yorke reaching out to all of us when he says, “Dedicated to all of you, all human beings.”

on deck: yellow ostrich at black cat

11 Apr

Sometimes, I am skeptical of bands for no reason. I have a love/hate relationship with many music blogs, and often when I see a band popping up on the blogs that I consider too hipster for their own good, I immediately assume I will find the band boring.

Sometimes bands that fall into this category don’t thrill me upon first listening, but upon second and third revisiting I hear them with new ears. Maybe my musical IQ just isn’t high enough to understand the greatness behind bands like the XX and Devotchka right away, because I gotta tell ya- I considered those guys snoozeville for a long time. But I’ve since come around.

Such is the case with Yellow Ostrich. I didn’t dislike them at first, but I didn’t feel compelled to listen more (well, to be fair, they only had one album to explore at the time). I felt neutral but unexcited by them, kind of how one might feel about drinking a Yuengling. You don’t want to rave about it/jump up and down/tweet+Instagram it, but it goes down just fine.

However, in the world of Steph, Yellow Ostrich upgraded itself to microbrew status last month with the release of their second album, Strange Land. GD, for a relatively unknown group from Wisconsin (/now Brooklyn), these guys are turning out pop gold. Seriously, listen to “Elephant Man,” and tell me if you can’t sing along to every word after three listens.

Also note the endearing album title- Alex Schaaf, the band’s only permanent member, spent two decades confined to small-town Wisconsin before setting his sights on Brooklyn to pursue his music career. Strange land, indeed. That history very much displays itself in Yellow Ostrich’s sound, which is all at once earnest, honest, optimistic, hip, and romantic. It’s a pleasant head-bopping experience with juuust enough edge to keep it interesting.

See them tomorrow at Black Cat!

From The Mistress, “Whale”


From Strange Lands, “Marathon Runner”

i was there: sleigh bells at the 930 club, 3.28.12

29 Mar

Not wearing earplugs last night was a supremely poor life decision.

Sleigh Bells. The loudest band around. The only one that can make bang your head, shake your groove thing,  pump your fist, and cover your ears in pain/pleasure, all in a 49-minute sprint of a show.

Tuesday was my third time seeing the Bells, but the first since they released their second album Reign of Terror. My expectations for a Sleigh Bells show are always incredibly high, but I always come away with the same conclusion: so damn good. Too damn short.

These whippity quick sets were easier to justify when the Bells had only released one album- they somehow toured for over two years on just 32 minutes of recorded material(!!!). Now with two albums under their belt, I expected more longevity during this tour. But, true to form, the Bells stormed the stage for 49 minutes that passed in a snap. However, given the bone-crushing energy that the New York duo pour into each and every song they perform, I can forgive it.

The biggest thing that struck me about the Bells’ performance on Tuesday is just how much they have, despite their best efforts to hide it, matured. Sure, bad ass frontwoman Alexis Krauss still howls like a werewolf at opportune moments. Also, for the first half of the show, I thought she was wearing sunglasses- nope, just layers upon layers of dark eye makeup. The basic formula of the Bells’ show remains the same: they thrash and scream and the audience moshes and it’s a big sweaty mess. But now, it feels a bit more professional.

Most importantly, the Sleigh Bells I saw on Tuesday convinced me that I actually like their new album. When I first listened, I was intrigued by the direction they took with their softer tunes like “Crush” and “Leader of the Pack.” But the album as a whole felt a little disjointed, and I wasn’t confident it would work live.

Fortunately, I was wrong. The Bells have fine-tuned their craft and know exactly how to weave the hard and fast with dance-y and soft and everything in between. They commanded that show like expert puppet masters who understood what each song would do to the audience. They brought us up and down and threw us all around, but the entire show felt perfectly balanced. They seamlessly wove all of their disparate sounds into a very cohesive show that displayed the best of everything Sleigh Bells does well.

Third time was a charm, but here’s hoping the fourth and fifth times are just as swell.

Sleigh Bells, from Reign of Terror