Tag Archives: previews

on deck: the potomac bombs at red palace, 1.13.12

11 Jan

As much as I love DC music, there was a time when I felt something was seriously missing from my DC music world: a favorite local bluegrass band.

I’d gone to shows to check the scene and heard some great Willie Nelson covers along the way, but none of these bands fit the bill. For one, they were all clean shaven. What? Where were all the bearded bards? Second, they all had drummers. Really? Did our creator not bestow feet upon bluegrass musicians for the sole purpose of stomping a beat?

Thankfully, this all changed one glorious weekend in May 2011. As I sat in DuPont Circle, pondering why I couldn’t fill this void, three guys showed up to busk. I saw a mandolin–I was intrigued. I saw a stand-up bass–I was more intrigued. I saw beards and no drum kit– I was sold. By the time this trip launched into a smooth rendition of “Jesus, Etc.” that would have made even the most depressed Jeff Tweedy smile, the Potomac Bombs had gained an enthusiastic new fan.

Since then, I’ve witnessed the Bombs bring the house down many, many times, whether the house is as big as Rock n Roll Hotel or as small as a corner in Eastern Market. I’ve seen them spit in the face of Hurricane Irene by drawing a soaked crowd who battled Category 3 rain, wind, and hail just to attend their show; I’ve seen them inspire an impromptu dance party on an otherwise mellow Thursday night at Acre 121; I’ve seen them climb on tables and chairs on an otherwise mellow Friday night at Big Bear Cafe.

This Friday, the Bombs are back for (possibly) their last big gig in DC at Red Palace. This crowd better be prepared for the sight they will behold: Frank Sturges, a wayward Carolina man destined for the mountains, will float his fingers across his mandolin strings faster than your eyes (or ears) can keep up; Ted Collins, an unlikely scholar who solves economic development problems by day, will be making the DC ladies swoon with juicy basslines and his silky smooth vocals that night; and guitarist Nick Deprey will join forces with Ted for sweeter harmonies than you ever imagined hearing in a Ryan Adams cover. This power trio will play sauced-up covers of bluegrass, American roots, and folk favorites, along with their original blend of Chicago blues and Southern alt-country.

Play the hits. Bring the rage. I know they will.

(Rough cuts from an in-progress EP below)


on deck: orchard lounge at u street music hall, 1.11.12

10 Jan

Many friends have heard me lament the life-long affliction I dub “fear of missing out” (FOMO). FOMO often goes undiagnosed for years; sufferers may be unfairly judged as party animals, when really the only reason they go out all the time is pure, unadulterated fear. Fear that all of your friends are having a blast somewhere,  sharing fantastic experiences that will forge a lifelong bond full of “remember when…” stories that YOU will not remember. All because you decided to stay in and do laundry.

As a lifelong victim of FOMO, I am pretty much the easiest person in the world to convince to go to a show. So, true to form, let’s kick off the weekend a day earlier than planned, shall we? Because Orchard Lounge is playing at U Street Music Hall tomorrow night, and even the slight chance to see the DC crowd twirling some LED hula hoops is worth the $5 ticket price.

This DJ trio has made waves on the electro-jam festy circuit for years, and they are Camp Bisco favorites. “Space disco” might be the best way to describe their sound, and it definitely has a downtempo, futuristic house feel. I’ve heard them described as “cocaine cool”–because if my life were a movie, Orchard Lounge would be on the soundtrack during the scenes when I am dating a European investment banker and partying on a boat that feels a little too slick and a little too 80s Miami Vice, ya know?

But Orchard Lounge also ascribes to the motto “From the Dancefloor, to Your Couch,” and their sound lives up to that sentiment; the trio weaves in enough laidback, mellow grooves to make it chill enough for daytime playlists.  

Listen to “Living Room Sessions Volume 2” below. Only 2/3 of the trio are spinning on this, but it’ll get you started.

two bars three stars: fatback; or, what if the best night of your life happened every month?

10 Jan

In the world of DC nightlife, I am a firm believer in the institution of the monthly dance party. I don’t know if we’re just a city of over-scheduled Type As who love recurring Outlook invites or what, but many of my favorite nights in the District have taken place at monthly parties that have a cult following and a longstanding tradition.

As for my favorite monthly fiesta, it’s really a toss-up between All Things Gold at U Street Music Hall (for those who love electro and hate their ability to hear); Che Sera at Napoleon (bass-heavy remixes of 1960s-70s surf music? Free flowers to put in my hair? Sign me up!); or the legendary Fatback at Bohemian Caverns, where the disco child in all of us is transported back to an era when Motown, soul, and straight-up funk kept the kids’ feet moving.

Fatback had intrigued me for ages, and I finally, finally got myself there in December 2011. Needless to say, every hope, dream, aspiration, and fantasy for the night came true (and then some).

There were disco balls. And glitter.  And seamlessly mixed Motown songs I used to (err…maybe still) sing with my mom while listening to oldies radio. There were Santa hats and red-and-white-striped onesies (possibly because DC Santarchy took place that day). Everyone in the crowd seemed equally entranced by the crew of DJs slinging old school dance favorites, and we were all myopically focused on the mission at hand: to dance, dance, like it’s the last, last, night of your life, life, Fatback DJs gon’ get you right…sorry, I digress.

Fatback was a utopian disco world where normal party problems don’t exist because everyone was just so happy to be there and be alive. Case in point: looking back, the bathroom line was atrociously long. But, you know what, I made some of my BFFs of the night grooving in that bathroom line—shout out to the girlfriend who belted some falsetto “Dancing in September” with me, you’re a peach (whoever you are)!

ANYWAY, I am obviously giddily excited to return to this land on January 21, and not just for any old Fatback– it’s Fatback’s 4th Anniversary Party. If you need any more convincing that this will be the pièce de résistance of January’s nightlife offerings, take a look (/listen) at this BYT post, where Fatback DJs graciously compiled their top 40 tracks from this year’s parties. I’ve posted my favorite from the list below: a soul cover of Free’s “All Right Now,” you don’t get any more quintessential Fatback than that.  See you on the dance floor, kids.

on my boombox: the ladies of 2012 (part two)

6 Jan

Continued from part one (below).

6. Annie Erin Clark (St. Vincent)

This lady has always been a bit of a question mark for me. Sure, she toured with Sufjan Stevens. Sure, she was a 2009 Pitchfork darling with no hit singles. So were dozens of girls from Brooklyn with bad haircuts, big deal. But Annie Erin Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent) pulled away from the pack, and not just because of a well-timed Bon Iver collaboration, or because I kinda started to dig her haircut. Like many great female indie songwriters, St. Vincent displays extreme depth of emotion in her lyrics; but unlike many, she matches her lyrical prowess with music that is just, well, interesting. Masterpieces like “Cruel” are erratic and unpredictable and imaginative and try to do a million things at once but somehow get it right. It’s audial impressionism, and I can only imagine that many others will stop and stare this year.

St. Vincent, “Cruel”

7. Tin Roots

I can’t assert that the Tin Roots will make it big in 2012, as I don’t know what they have on deck for the new year besides some one-off live shows. But I’ll allow my stubborn optimism to influence this list, because these guys deserve a listen from anyone who considers themselves a reggae fan. Lead female vocalists are conspicuously absent from most mainstream reggae, but Tin Roots’ Ruby Taylor expertly fronts this six piece reggae/ska/dub fusion group with subtly powerful vocals. Listen up. Spread the word. Praise jah.

8. Kathleen Hanna (The Julie Ruin)

Kathleen Hanna messed with synthesizers before synthesizers were cool as part of Le Tigre, but first the punk rock goddess experimented as a solo artist under the moniker Julie Ruin. Now with a five-piece band called *The* Julie Ruin, Hanna, with her intimidatingly large brain and progressive feminist views, is proving she is STILL way cooler than anyone else. Who else can rant political tirades and hate on most mainstream pop artists, and then turn around and get the party started five minutes later? If their live performances are any indication, the group’s soon-to-be-released album will receive plenty of critical acclaim and hopefully some commercial attention to match. Besides, Hanna should earn bonus points with D.C. audiophiles for her eloquent ode to Fugazi in the wake of their new online archive. Respect.

9. Iggy Azalea

Another Toure-inspired discsovery, this hyper-sexualized white female MC was highlighted in his New York Times article “White Female Rappers Challenging Hip-Hop’s Masculine Ideal.” While the jury is still out on that claim, I love how Iggy’s music fits into his argument: her machine gun flow is aggressive, not playful, with lyrics that demonstrate Iggy’s ability to dominate, whether musically, personally, or sexually. One need only watch the video for the best song on her Ignorant Art mixtape, “Pu$$y,” to know she’s no joke when it comes to shock value (but really… watch it. NSFW). Her looks are fierce, not cute, and she is overtly sexual, without the slightest hint of submissiveness. Circling on a record contract, Iggy could storm the rap world in a way that is unprecedented for a white woman (i.e., in a way that was unprecedented for a woman of any color—until Lil Kim came along).

Iggy Zalea, “D.R.U.G.S.”


10.  Carrie Brownstein, Janet Weiss, Mary Timony , and Rebecca Cole (Wild Flag)

While some might think I am biased toward Wild Flag because front woman Carrie Brownstein listed Beyonce as an influence for the group’s 2011 self-titled album, I promise my admiration extends further. Besides, they don’t sound even a little bit like Beyonce (I know, I was disappointed too). Nor do they sound like Sleater-Kinney, Brownstein’s and drummer Janet Weiss’ former musical life. But Carrie’s statement speaks to Wild Flag’s unabashed embrace of catchy hooks and pop song structure, making for an album full of vintage female power-group charm without an ounce of cheesiness.

Wild Flag, “Romance”

11. Charli XCX

Thank you, Charli XCX. Thank you for giving me hope that a young, crazy, “dark pop” songstress with an affinity for eyeliner and glitter can also demonstrate legitimate talent (and, therefore, not be Ke$ha). Charli XCX has been a wild child on the London scene for some time, leading some to claim that her opportunity to shine has passed. To them I say, “slow your roll, this chick is 19 and barely out of grade school.” And Charli stepped in up in 2011: while attending London’s Slade School of Fine Art, she simultaneously worked on her debut album to release this spring, priming her to seize the spotlight in 2012. If her banging fall 2011 singles “Stay Away” and “Nuclear Seasons” didn’t catch your attention, did I mention said debut album is being produced by Robyn?! Yeah. Don’t be late to this party because it’s gonna be huge.

Charli XCX, “Nuclear Seasons”

on my boombox: the ladies of 2012 (part one)

6 Jan

I hear a lot of music snobs/blog enthusiasts complain about the deluge of “best of” and “2012 preview” music compilations around this time of year. You know what I say to that? Good problems. Year-end lists are one of my most effective ways for finding those bands that I was not quite hip enough to discover when they were really underground (but maaaaybe pretend I knew about all along). The preview lists? Those help me find music I might have otherwise considered boring and inaccessible until I hear some electro remixes of said indie music, and then I will revisit it and discover it’s actually pretty good.

So, in order to set my 2012 preview list apart from the pack, I decided to use gender as my crucial differentiator. Partially because I love chick musicians and lament their underrepresentation, and partially because it helped me prioritize among the crowd of talented musicians who will undoubtedly rock the scene this year. Again, good problems.

So, in no particular order, here are the ladies who I predict will make a splash this year. If nowhere else than on my boombox. I’ll split this into two posts because I got a little carried away.

1. Santigold

Oh Santigold. I liken my relationship with you to that with Four Loko: you rocked my world for a brief, memorable period, before you became suddenly elusive and disappeared. Santigold produced one of the greatest albums of the decade in 2009, back when she still went by “Santogold.” This album’s effortless fusion of hip hop, electro, and soul still sounds innovative when I listen to it (incessantly) today, which proves how truly groundbreaking Santigold’s aesthetic was three years ago—I can’t wait any longer to hear what she has up her sleeve. After claiming she would complete her sophomore effort in fall 2011, she whetted appetites in September with “Go,” an electrifying collaboration with Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, as well as a guest spot on the Spank Rock track “Car Song,” but mum is still the word on an official album release. Enough is enough: give us more, give us more!

Spank Rock featuring Santigold, “Car Song”

2. Lana Del Rey

In the most ingenious marketing and branding campaign of the year, indie songstress turned sex bomb Lana Del Rey managed to become the biggest thing to hit the internet since tabbed browning—all with very little work of her own. Armed with stunning good looks, a carefully cultivated Nancy Sinatra-gangster persona, and a whopping two tracks, Lana ignited the blogosphere. After riding the internet hype wave straight into a major record deal in October, Lana will release her debut EP “Born 2 Die” in early 2012. So, the time has come: put up or shut up, Lana. The world is watching. No pressure.

Lana Del Rey (Jamie Woon remix), “Video Games”


3. Azealia Banks

In the world of female MCs filled with larger-than-life personalities (e.g., Nicki Minaj’s neon alien sexpot and Beyonce’s world domination via Sasha Fierce), it’s nice to listen to a lady who seems like a real person without sinking to Taylor Swift-level beige-ness. Azealia’s style is fresh and colorful and urban, but she doesn’t allow an overly-cultivated aesthetic to cloud the important stuff: she is an amazingly talented MC with complete mastery over her flow (see: spitting rapid fire rhymes in “Grand Scam”) and a sound that is both marketable and fresh to death (see: incorporating house beats into hip-hop lyrics on hit singles “212” and “Liquorice”). As if you need another reason to be amped for her full-length debut, it’s being produced by Paul Epworth, the mastermind behind Feist and Adele.

4. Alexis Krauss (Sleigh Bells)

The first time I listened to Sleigh Bells, I was following a tweet from my favorite music critic Toure, who described their sound as “sternum rattling.” Anyone who owns decent headphones or has seen these guys live can attest to the rattling—it’s real and it’s serious. While touring for their debut album “Treats,” Sleigh Bells built serious credibility by putting on a punishingly loud and bombastic live show with only 49 minutes of material. As one of the many who has been waiting with baited breath for the follow-up album, I shivered when I read the title: “Reign of Terror.” The expectedly explosive first single, “Born to Lose,” already has me picturing myself returning to the adrenaline-soaked mosh pits of yet another Sleigh Bells show, both loving and fearing for my life at the same time.

Sleigh Bells, “Born to Lose”

5. Sarah Barthel (Phantogram)

I confess that I very rarely discover long-term musical interests during opening sets; to be quite honest, I’m never on time for anything, and I spend most opening sets dealing with coat checks and bartenders. Thankfully, this was not the case when I saw the Glitch Mob at the 930 Club in July. The second I arrived, I was immediately drawn into the duo tearing it up for the early crowd with an impressive, understated energy. Phantogram’s October EP Nightlife gained them much well-deserved attention and praise, but I suspect these guys will milk 2011’s productivity into greater mainstream success this year; I’m calling a Saturday Night Live appearance at the least. Until then, I’ll keep singing along to “Don’t Move” on repeat.

Phantogram, “Don’t Move”

on deck: the knocks at u street music hall, 1.12.12

4 Jan

U Street Music Hall is a venue created by DJs, for DJs. Their sound system, responsible for my perpetual Friday morning ear-ringing, draws higher quality electro artists to the District than ever before (at the expense of my premature deafness) to its two stages.

However, while back-to-back DJs will hammer out sets on sets without a single glitch from the back booth, artists at the front stage seem to frequently encounter technical difficulties. Sometimes these difficulties aren’t terribly intrusive and only reveal themselves through too-frequent murmurs of “Can we get more on mic two, please?” from the lead singer. Sadly, sometimes the more drastic cases can prevent an otherwise rocking show from fully taking flight.

This was the case the first time I saw the Knocks at UHall for an All Things Gold artist showcase this past summer. I had barely listened to the duo before they came to DC, but I when they stepped on stage I was immediately drawn into their funked-out, soulful remixes that can appeal to hardcore electro ragers and indie kids alike—until their laptop cut out. Over and over again. At first I thought it was all part of the act, until it happened so frequently that I came dangerously close to losing my groove.

Nonetheless, these Manhattan-based guys made such an impression on me that I become a Knocks enthusiast after the show, and they have remained my treadmill favorite for the past four months. (Trust me, nothing will make a mile zip by faster than the 7-minute blissed-out dance party that is “Dancing with the DJ”).

So, I was ecstatic that these guys will return to DC next Thursday for another iteration of All Things Gold, along with perennial UHall DJ favorite Brenton Duvall and a Boston-based duo called Magic Man. At $10 per ticket, the event is always a steal. If you have any appreciation for remixes of Motown favorites like “Aint Too Proud to Beg” with just enough uhn-tiss to keep your body moving (and not too much to lose the soul), you’ll dig the Knocks’ sound, as well as their even more impressive original tunes. Check out the tracks below.

Good: “Keep Me Hanging On,” The Knocks Remix. From The Same Old Songs, a compilation of the Knocks’ Motown remixes.

Better: “Make it Better.” One of the Knock’s oldest tracks, and still one of my favorites. The whistled melody against the high-pitched vocals are a charming match made in heaven, and the pairing pinpoints what I love the Knocks’ sound.


Best: “Brightside,” a new single from the Knocks’ new EP, Magic, released after they signed with A&M/Octone Records. Signs of things to come? Oh yeah.