Tag Archives: DC concerts

We Get Out – Foy Vance, Lee Rogers, Gareth Dunlop at the Birchmere, 5.10.22

[First, some background…] Not sure if it’s ongoing Covid concerns, growing older, or a low-grade depressive ennui, but it’s so much easier these days to just stay home. I planned to attend a picnic/graduation celebration yesterday but when a storm came up, I was content – no, delighted! – to blow it off, lay on the bed near an open window and listen to the wind and rain as it rumbled through my neighborhood. A lovely sensory experience, better than a 3D movie!

As much as I love live music, the concerts I’ve attended since 2022* began are hardly a handful, a trifecta of Couldn’t Miss Personal Favorites – Harry Styles, Courtney Barnett, and Billie Eilish. So, when a personable publicist (redundant?) whom I’ve only ever dealt with through email called me – on the actual phone! – last Monday to invite me to see one of her artists the following night, my first inclination was another “no, thanks.”

[*CORRECTION: I saw Harry last year. Guess I’ve been so consumed with all the recent hubbub, and the Coachella shows, I lost track of time. Love will do that to you.]

Not entirely superfluous shot of King Harry; he’s one of the few concerts I’ve seen in the past year. And get this – Harry follows Foy Vance on Twitter!

But it was such a nice chat, commiserating with the PR gal over how hard it is to get writing assignments (me) or coverage (her) these days. She didn’t care that all I might offer is this humble blog, nor did I promise to write anything at all. However sweet the offer, I believe that most last-minute show invitations are to fill seats so the artist knows that an effort was made.

I said I’d check out the guy’s music and get back to her.  Then my husband reminded me that I don’t get many of these invitations since my columns at Washington Post and Examiner/AXS got cancelled. So I asked my plus-one buddy, Sally, a high-school English teacher/poet/guitarist/pianist, who tells me whether the playing meets an actual musician’s standards, if she was interested in a spontaneous musical night out. She visited the artist’s website and came back: “Listened and really liked!”

This man is not as scary as he looks.

[And now we get to the music. Finally. I hear you sigh.] A singer/songwriter from the Northern Ireland town of Carrickfergus (gotta love those names) Lee Rogers just released his third official release, Gameblood. The album cover is deceptive, all brooding menace with blood red accents. But while he’s a big bear of a man, rich with tattoos (he’s a talented ink artist as well) there’s a gentle giant aspect to his music, the songs tender as well as tough. The album reflects folk influences like John Martyn and Bon Iver, with a touch of Keb Mo’s bluesy Americana. Though I didn’t catch it on the studio set, Roger’s live sound also gave me a Van Morrison vibe (without the messy anti-vaccine crazy). My favorite tune live, “Silent Song,” has a catchy chorus (“The road to heaven runs through hell”) and a stylish animated video that I can share here.

The album was produced in Belfast by another Irish singer/songwriter, Gareth Dunlop, and has a track featuring vocals from yet one more, Foy Vance, a veteran musician who earned new attention when Ed Sheeran endorsed him. (Not to be confused with Vance Joy, the guy who sings “the closest thing to Michelle Pfeiffer that I’ve ever seen” on the track “Riptide.”)

Gareth Dunlop opened the night.

These Irishmen are longtime pals and collaborators, so an American tour featuring the trio was a logical adventure. Dunlop opened solo with a very brief set, but returned later to play support in Vance’s band and sing lead on a song during the encore. Rogers also retuned at show’s end to duet with Vance on a song they recorded for Gameblood, “Barefoot in the Basement.” The bonhomie was obvious.

And so, thanks to the pretty persuasion of my new publicist pal, I got my lazy butt out the door and had a most pleasant evening. I’m not going to say it had the wild energy of a stadium show, nor the thrill of seeing a long-followed favorite in the flesh, but not every concert has to be a Major Event. With three accomplished talents onstage, I had the musical equivalent of a relaxing drive with pros at the wheel, and the sound scenery was great all the way.

Confession: I knew little about Foy Vance before this show, but he’s an Irish legend.

Since I’m not sure where you, my dear reader, actually live, here’s the rest of the tour schedule, if you care to check it out:
5/18 – JAMES K. POLK THEATER, NASHVILLE TN
5/20 –  THE CEDAR CULTURAL CENTER, MINNEAPOLIS, MN
5/21 –  ATHENAEUM THEATRE, CHICAGO, IL
5/26 –  NEPTUNE THEATRE, SEATTLE, WA
5/27 –  ALADDIN THEATRE, PORTLAND, OR
5/31 –  REGENT THEATRE, LOS ANGELES, CA

Final Note:  I’m fully aware that issues of true substance abound these days, and a music blog is a trivial, maybe even self-indulgent, pursuit. But in these times of war, racial violence, and attacks on female autonomy, music is my happy place, and I hope we can enjoy a few moments together to celebrate it before we return to the fight.

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I’m Just Wild About Harry

The title above is a reference to a very old song that very few of the 20,000 fans in Capital One Arena for the Harry Styles concert (September 18) would recognize. The crowd was, I’d guess, 95% female (shout out to the guys wearing “Watermelon Sugar” t-shirts; perchance suggesting they’d go where DJ Kahled fears to tread?), and they were mostly 30-something or under, with the addition of very willing moms there to share the joy with their daughters.

We had great seats (not scalped!) in the third row of the highlighted section.

I, too, was there with my younger girl, Grace (31 y.o.), and oh, such joy it was! I consider a good concert a near-spiritual experience, being in a room with a big group of people who share a passion for music, finding a sense of community in dancing and/or singing along. Harry’s fans are truly passionate, so we rarely sat down and loved sharing vocals, starting with a massive spontaneous crowd rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” during the pre-show music, after a well-received opening set by Jenny Lewis, one of many wonderful women whom Harry has asked to tour with him. (Last tour, we were introduced to Kacey Musgraves, who’ll headline Cap One herself next year.)

Our seats gave us a perfect view for “Falling,” one of my favorites songs from Fine Line.

Harry’s motto, often displayed on merch like T-shirts, totes, and hair-ties, is “Treat People With Kindness,” and his fans have taken the message to heart. The smiles, the polite lines, the constant “‘scuse me”‘s were more than I can ever recall at such a large event. Everyone was masked (required, as were vaccinations or negative tests) and many had dressed up in rainbows, glitter, and boas for the occasion, echoing Harry’s status as a fashionista and LGBTQ+ ally. Speaking of kindness, during “TPWK,” I watched a stagehand hand a small-size crew T-shirt to the mother of a young (12ish) Down syndrome girl sitting in front of us. Not a moment to show off or be displayed on the Jumbotron screens. Just a nice person, doing something nice for someone else. That’s the kind of affirming night it was

Care for a free “prom photo” momento of the night out with your besties?

This concert was an adventure two years in the making. The tickets were purchased in the summer of 2019 as a Christmas present for that year, and the show, originally set for June 2020, was scrapped when the world stopped. Having had a marvelous bonding experience at Harry’s last DC date, in June 2018, Gracie and I were looking forward to this event for a very long time with a giddy, girlish glee. When her job wouldn’t let her telecommute, she had to drive down from Canada on Thursday night and leave on Sunday to make the Saturday night show. It was exhausting she’ll tell you – but SO worth it.

My fellow Harry fangirl.

I just read Close Personal Friend’s report on seeing @Harry_Styles in DC. Pics, too!

P.S. just for fun, some other shots from the show…

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My li’l Sphere of Influence

This here newsletter/blog/what-have-you has been launching at friends and music-biz acquaintances for many, many years now and, while my bylines in major publications ebb and flow, I’m eternally grateful that musicians and publicists still reach out to me with offers to share music and concert access, as if my words here have some ability to shine light on worthy acts. When you reach out to Close Personal Friend, I listen and so, in the midst of the firehose of online media content, I humble suggest a few droplets of pleasure in the manner of two upcoming DC-area shows:

The Turbos at Seasons & Sessions, September 26

I got an email from Cameron Reck, bassist from this Columbus, Ohio-based rock band offering me an interview in advance of next week’s show. I declined that last bit but said sure to hearing some music. A CD arrived in the mail, labeled 2018 Singles Collection, that contained 13 tracks.

It turns out that the Turbos are a solid alternative rock quartet with two lead voices, “the powerful sultry” (their words) Alex D and “the gritty wailing” Lucas Esterline. It’s not a groundbreaking sound that’ll have you racing to your media player, but this is clearly a band that can get a crowd rocking in a club setting. The Turbos are about to embark on a three-month trek that takes their “dual-vocal rock” through Pennsylvania, all along the north- and south-east coasts, and even into Texas, Mississippi, Kentucky, and West Virginia, so if you’re out there somewhere (tour dates here), pop in and tell them I sent you. It’ll freak them – and me – out.

The Way Down Wanderers at Jammin Java, September 25

You can’t get much more “heartland” than Illinois, so it’s not surprising that bluegrass is the foundation of this Peoria-based quintet’s sound, but it also offers accents from the players’ varied backgrounds in rock, jazz and classical to create something a bit different in the crowded nu-grass field.

On the band’s latest album, Illusions, the track “All My Words,” for example, shuffles to a reggae/island beat, then adds a mid-song rap and ends with breakneck banjo. The song’s video is unlike any roots/rock clip you’ve seen, with modern dance and sign language integrated within.

not your typical bluegrass video
If further name dropping helps to seal the deal, Illusions was produced by Grammy-winner David Schiffman, whose impressively eclectic credits include Johnny Cash, HAIM, System of a Down and Rage Against the Machine. Much of the electric guitar and keyboard flourish in the studio comes courtesy of guest Roger Manning, a cult legend from his time in Jellyfish and Imperial Drag.
 
I wish this show wasn’t happening the same night that my favorite local cinema, Alamo Drafthouse Loudon, is planning a screening of Quadrophenia so I have to make a tough choice. Life in the DMV can be an embarrassment of riches. Hooray for First World Problems!
Finally, a teaser: heading out tonight to see Saintseneca so there will be photos and a review coming soon.        

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We Get Out – Niall Horan at Fillmore Silver Spring, Nov. 4, 2017

I would like to write a long, chatty post, and catch y’all up on recent musical doings, but I’m preparing for some travel and time is tight. So I’m just dropping in with a link to my latest review – Irish cutie, Niall Horan, once (and, hopefully, again in the future) of One Direction. I took pics and wrote words for AXS.com.

Niall Horan at Fillmore Silver Spring.

At the show, I gave out a few CPF biz cards to a few nice fans, and I want them to see the review if they drop by the site. More soon!

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I Went, I Took Pictures, I Wrote About It

This little into bit here is always the hardest part of having a blog, trying to come up with some pithy way to say hello and fill in the gap from last we met. So I’m going to cut to the chase – I’ve been to some fine shows lately and wrote them up for my examiner.com column, with photo slideshows for all but one (the venue didn’t allow me to shoot). Here’s some links to bring you up to date, with photo samples to, hopefully, tease you into clicking through:

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, with members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, with members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Wolf Trap summer season opener, with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Preservation Hall Jazz Band

The two Daves - Cousins and Lambert - of Strawbe

The two Daves – Cousins and Lambert – of Strawbs

The Strawbs revisit “Hero and Heroine” (an album that looms large in my personal legend) at AMP by Strathmore

The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers with Brett Dennen (8th row seats for an amazing show!) at Eagle Band Arena (formerly the Patriot Center)

Thao and the Get Down Stay Down (she went to high school with Dr. Daughter), plus Saintseneca (a new favorite) at the 9:30 Club

Robyn Hitchcock and Emma Swift (a veteran hero and a bright newcomer) at the Barns of Wolf Trap

Gaz Coombes (from Supergrass) and Piney Gir at Jammin Java

A trio of great local acts at Jammin Java – Sub-Radio, Swell Daze and Belmira

And there’s more coming soon, as I’m editing pics and writing text about another recent fine show – Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats (“S.O.B.”!!)

close gtr

who opened for Lord Huron. See ya soon!

pink smoke

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Where I’ve Been, What I’ve Seen, What I’ve Written

Hey there, CPF people. I’m not sure how many of y’all (as we say in Virginia) follow the articles I write for examiner.com or the postings I make to the Set List Site, WhatchaGonnaPlay, where I share concert photos and actual set lists from shows I’ve seen. (I would love to hear if you do via the comments section or direct email.)

Being busy elsewhere often keeps me from this here blog and I don’t want to be repetitive. But since I can’t assume that you know what I’ve been up to,  I thought I’d do a little catch-up summary here to remind you where else you can find my work…

Over at examiner.com, I write two columns. One is for reviews and previews of DC area concerts. Since my last posting here, the following have run:

Glenn Tilbrook at Jammin Java

Sept. 20 weekend preview – Travis, Virgin FreeFest, Laura Veirs, The Selecter

BOY at the 9:30 Club

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Atlas Genius at Fillmore Silver Spring

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I also have a Digital Music column, where I write about free, legal downloads and review albums and, as in the case of the One Direction movie (which I thoroughly enjoyed. So there!), other music-related stuff:

Freebies from Matt Pond, Army of Me, Wolfcolony,  samplers from the Mountain Oasis EDM fest, and the ATO label

“One Direction: This Is Us” movie review

And then, as I mentioned, there’s Whatcha Gonna Play, the set list site. I’ve been very lucky lately in that I’ve gotten lists from every show l’ve been to in the past month, and I’d love for you to check ’em out:

Glen Tillbrook

BOY

Atlas Genius, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. (below) opening

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And here’s a link you won’t find anywhere else yet. While I’m still working on the examiner.com review of this show, you can see the set list and pics from Wednesday night’s 9:30 Club appearance by Noah and the Whale.

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I hope this collection of links offers you something new to see or at least explains my absence from CPF. I’ll try to be better about staying in touch.

Hope you’re well!

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