Tag Archives: Jammin Java

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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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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How’s the summer treating you so far? Been keeping busy myself and, as ever, have fallen way behind in keeping my CPFs informed here. In the most immediate past, I had a great time last night at my “local,” Jammin’ Java, for a three-act bill of MYZICA, Cheerleader and Civil Twilight, a show which I’ll be writing up for my examiner.com column tomorrow (if I’m a good girl). In the meantime, here’s a shot of Civil Twlight, the headliner, who brought U2-style arena rock to the small venue. DSC_0212

In an effort to catch up with the archival element of this blog, here’s a selection of recent articles posted since we last met:

DC Concert Photography column:

Opening of Woo Live! Concert venue (As an addendum to this news, Mei Verba, cited as the new venue’s booker in the story, has since severed her ties with the club and moved most of the shows to new venues, although the club’s web site still has shows scheduled.)

Shots from the crowd at The Earth Day concert

A review of Delta Rae at 9:30 Club

Concert previews – James Murphy, Mat Kearny, et. al

My AXS column includes the following recent posts:

Five underrated bands to see at the Firefly Music Festival

Johnette Napolitano’s new EP and tour

Meet Mikey Wax on his first nationwide headlining tour

Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield sing Elliott Smith

Peter Asher takes about the British Invasion tour

And, finally, the latest from my Digital Music column:

Sonic Boom Records – making vinyl!

Jay Burden at SXSW – When local musician (and CPF) Jay Burden, of the band dedWAX, told me that he was going to SXSW to work at a club there for the duration of the big fest, I asked him to report back with what he saw and heard. That became a four-part series for the column, including a) an introduction to Jay and his music, b) a first-hand report from Jay on his arrival and settling into the scene, c) a Q&A about his time in Texas, and d) his summation of the experience and a podcast he made while at SXSW.

And that’s only what I actually wrote about doing! Having taken care of the “housekeeping,” I’ll try to return soon – and more often – with stuff As It Happens. Stay cool!

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Battle results

Greetings, (close personal) friends!
Not a lot of time today, but last Friday night, I was a judge at the 12th edition of Jammin Java’s Mid-Atlantic Band Battle, and the evening’s host promised from the stage that I would be posting photos and such from the event here at CPF.

To make good on that promise, here is a shot of the winning band, Leesburg, VA’s own Swell Daze, with their oversized prize check and producer Jim Ebert, who will produce for them as part of their booty haul.
SD with Pat
I also wrote up the night for my column at examiner, so you can get many more photos and a bunch o’ words, too, if you click right here.

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Short month, long winter

February is the shortest month and yet it can easily feel like the longest, with the early-setting sun and bitter cold standing between me and spring – and my birthday, on March 1st. (Start planning now!)

At least this February, I have the sweet face of Harry Styles looking over my shoulder as I type, as his 21st birthday (can I buy you a drink, handsome?!) on February 2 makes him my calendar boy of the month.


Yes, my possibly inappropriate 1D fangirl obsession continues, but I was able to make it work with a recent story posted on AXS.com, when respected indie troubadour Martin Sexton covered a 1D song for his daughter, after she found out that Harry was following him on Twitter.

Other recent stories for that site include:

Courtney Barnett’s new single/video and upcoming album. Very excited for this as I loved her album and the show I caught last year, at the Black Cat. She was also very gracious afterwards, meeting fans and signing albums. Here I am with the cool lady. IMG_3992

Sufjan Stevens’ new album and upcoming tour.

Rapper/singer Lizzo gets coveted spot opening for Sleater-Kinney’s tour.

I’ve had a few other items posted recently, so here are some other links for your pleasure:

Jukebox the Ghost and Twin Forks giving away free music and touring together.

A review of The Black Cadillacs, and Knox Hamilton (a new favorite band) at Jammin Java.

A review of (charming Southern boy) Christian Lopez, also at Jammin Java.

To recap, here are places you can find me and links to a whole lotta love:


Examiner.com – National Music news

Examiner.com – DC Concert Photography (reviews, previews and slideshows)

 Whatcha Gonna Play – the set list site

Thanks for dropping by and please come back soon. It won’t all be listicles (a horrible trend in journalism, with an ugly word to match!).

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First bylines of 2015

It’s been awhile since I’ve said hello here, but not for lack of anything to talk about. Au contraire, mes amis (Je suis Charlie), I’ve been busy with fun events both musical and travel-oriented. Still rummaging through pics and such to share, so in the meantime, I give you two links:

1. My first article for the new year, a simple news items about the return of Scottish punk band The Rezillos, who will be releasing their first new studio album since their 1978 debut, Can’t Stand the Rezillos.

Rezillos copy

2.The Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critics Poll was printed/posted online today and yours truly was one of the 1000+ music writers who sent in a ballot of Top Ten albums and singles for the past year. You can see the overall results and my personal ballot.

As usually happens, shortly after I submitted my ballot, I was reminded of a song that I should have included. I was driving with Sirius XM’s alternative station on the radio when I heard a tune called “Work It Out” by a young band from Arkansas named Knox Hamilton. I liked the song so much when I heard it a few other times on Sirius that I Shazam’ed it and bought it from emusic. If I had my list to do over again, I would probably bump Sondre Lerche’s “Bad Law,” from his fine album, Please (which I reviewed for one of my examiner.com columns).

Happily, the band is coming to play this weekend at my favorite local joint, Jammin Java, so I intend to attend and will write up a review to show my interest in (and, one hopes, enjoyment of) the band.

More to come soon, including my first live reports of the year, including my night as judge at the Jammin Java Band Battle and a trip to Florida, where I visited a most wonderful record store.

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Jammin’ Java Band Battle recaps…

Two nights, 13 bands, 2 winners.

The 11th edition of the Jammin’ Java Mid-Atlantic Band Battle held its preliminary competitions last week, and I was judge on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Host Nate Ihara repeatedly touted that I’d be posting photos here, but I wound up writing up each night as stories for examiner.com instead.

And so, if you’ve come here to CPF looking for MABB coverage, please use the following links:

Tuesday night, July 1, the winning band was Skyward.


Wednesday night, July 2, the winning band was Shade Parade.

Shade Win2




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Goals and Guitars

So, tonight I’ll be back at the judges’ table for the second night of Jammin Java’s Mid-Atlantic Band Battle #11. It’s a twice yearly thing at the club now, and I’ve been happy to be asked to take part in many of the preceding events. Always a good time watching good regional musicians and seeing area pals who work at the club and on the local music scene.

Although the USA vs. Belgium World Cup game is highly distracting at the moment, I thought it would be a good idea to stop in here at the (long-neglected) blog to update some of my recent activities since, when the judges are introduced, the host/MC (hoping it’s Nate Ihara again) usually mentions the blog, where I’ll be posting photos and saying a little bit about each performer – but I won’t reveal the thoughts behind the judges’ scoring.

Because it sounds good, it’s usually mentioned that I write for Rolling Stone and The Washington Post. The correct tense should be have written, as it’s been some time since I’ve had a byline in either. RS was back when I lived in NYC, many years ago. As for the Post, I had a nice 5-year run doing a local arts events (mostly concerts) column for the Fairfax and Arlington regional sections, but when those were switched to a generic “Local Living” section, I lost that gig. And, as anyone who follows media knows, newspapers have been shrinking their staffs for some time now and freelancers like myself are the first to be shown out.

But I still writing about music, albeit online, where the pay is lousy and junk journalism runs free. I keep my hand in the game and my body in the photo pit by writing features and reviews and creating concert photo slideshows for examiner.com. I have two columns there:

Digital Music –  interviews and album reviews, plus links to free, legal downloads

DC Concert Photography – concert previews, reviews and live photo slideshows

There will be a new review up soon – country/rock/punk from Nikki Lane, whom I saw, and thoroughly enjoyed, this past Friday at Gypsy Sally’s in Georgetown. Here’s a pair of pics as preview:

whassup, Nikki Lane?

whassup, Nikki Lane?

Lane was down to a terry-cloth bathing suit by show's end. (The club was hot.)

Lane was down to a terry-cloth bathing suit by show’s end. (The club was hot.)

And then there’s my own special “baby,” a web site that I designed and run, dedicated to concert photography and the sharing of my personal holy grail at shows – the set list. Like a fingerprint, each one is different. Like a mixtape/CD, how it’s put together gives you insight into a band or artist’s own feelings about his/her/their music. Here, for example, is one from a recent Foo Fighters show:


The web site is called Whatcha Gonna Play.com and I hope you’ll take a look.

We’ve just hit the mid-game break and the score is Nil-Nil. (I know a kid named Nils and he’s not nothing.) Gonna wrap this up and concentrate on sending the US team my positive karma for the second half.

Thanks for dropping by. Band Battle words and pics coming soon!

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Band Battle Redux, January 9, 2014

Last night  (Thursday, 1-9-13), I was back at my favorite local joint, Jammin Java, for the final night of preliminaries in the club’s Mid-Atlantic Band Battle #10. (You can read a summary of Tuesday night’s contest two blog entries back.)

Good news – it was a particularly fun night with lots of friendly chat with judges, patrons, band members and staff. Bad news – the night ran long, with extra time between sets causing the evening to finish about an hour later than scheduled.

That’s what’s known as a First World Problem. Any time you can set in a comfy spot, hear lots of local music, eat good food (for free; it’s a judges’ perk) and hear people clap for your name (host Nate Ihara makes the judges introductions a fun ego-boost), it’s a good time.  Here’s what went down, with blurry photos taken from the judges table. (For good photos, check out Act Of Light’s web site; their photog Frank was taking pro shots all night.)

First band up was Static, a quintet with a female lead vocalist. It’s always tough to be the first band, with people still drifting into the venue, but Static did a good job, made more admirable when I discovered that some of the band members are still in 8th and 10th grade! Let’s hear it for young talent!


The second act was Skypunch, another quintet with a female lead vocalist. In talking with a few members of this DC-based band later, I learned that they’ve only been together a short while and hasn’t much live performance experience. Their set was nonetheless smooth and enjoyable.



The third act, Don’t Look Down, is not to be confused with a similarly named band that made some news (including a mention in Seventeen magazine!) a few years back. This quintet (five out of six acts this night were five-member bands) has been together about three years and plays an invigorating pop/punk blend that made for a bracing mid-show set. A revved-up cover of Blessid Union of Souls’ “Hey Leonardo” (a.k.a. “She Likes Me for Me”) was a good choice, too.

Don't Look Down

Don’t Look Down

With a band name like His Dream of Lions, you expect something a little different, and our fourth act, another young band, stood out for its mix of good looks and pop/rock licks.  The group is looking to release its first album later this year and opened for Aaron Carter at Fillmore Silver Spring last fall.

I’m glad I got a clear shot of the band as they were getting ready to play, since I was too busy enjoying the music to take a lot of shots once they began.


His Dream of Lions

His Dream of Lions

The only band to break the quintet rule this night was the fifth act – DTMG (no, I don’t know what it stands for, and they weren’t telling) – which filled both the stage and the room by virtue of six players and two female singers. A true party band, DTMG mixed a lot of funky cover tunes into its set, including bits of Chuck Brown’s “Bustin’ Loose” and Sly Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin”).



Such a crowd-pleasing set made for a tough act to follow, but the night’s final contestants, Motorcade, our fifth quintet, with a female support vocalist and guitarist/singer frontman, brought the show to a close with a set of mid-tempo originals.



At each of these events, as the scores are tallied, I share the audience’s anticipation in wondering who will win. The judges don’t talk about their favorites and we don’t see each other’s sheets, filled out with marks for songwriting, presence and other performance aspects, so I don’t know who the winner will be until Nate Ihara, our genial host, announces it from the stage.

Nate Ihara

Nate Ihara

Tonight, that winner happened to be…DTMG. And they seemed to be quite happy about it…

DTMG celebrates

DTMG celebrates

So, that means that the finals, to be held on February 28th, will feature these four acts:  Christian Lopez & Joe Taxi, CODA,  Beggars Made Believers, and DTMG.  All the details – including the full list of prizes and how to get advance tickets – here.
Until then, have fun and support local music!

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Live from Jammin Java’s Mid-Atlantic Band Battle, Jan. 7, 2014

On Tuesday night, I sat at the judges’ table during the second of four nights in the preliminary rounds of Jammin Java’s Mid-Atlantic Band Battle #10 (yes, #10!). Six bands performed, but only one advances to the finals, the winner of which will get a range of prizes like studio time, a professional photo shoot, a Jammin Java headline show and even an official press bio written by a published music journalist (me?!)

As usual, it was a great chance to catch up with some fine local bands and this particular night had two recurring themes – youth and hard rock. The first band on was Whyte Crimson, a four-piece instrumental band that brought some heavy riffage to the club. (BTW, I must apologize in advance for the quality of the photos. I was using a basic camera, not my SLR, and shot mostly from a distance, while sitting at the judges’ table.) Here’s the Reston-based Whyte Crimson, complete with congas!

Whyte Crimson

Next up was Bachs of Rock, a group that made an impression for bringing a big sound despite the fact that all the members are under 16. Their set included covers of the Beatles and Metallica.

Bachs of Rock

Bachs of Rock

Third band up was Good Morning Tides, who had a howling lead singer, a wild guitarist and a sense of dynamics, moving from quick tempo to slow…

Good Morning Tides

Good Morning Tides

As the night moved into its second half, another young band took the stage – Coda – whose band members are also teens. One of the judges mentioned that he saw the band open for a Tool cover band at Fillmore Silver Spring and was impressed. So was I when they began playing. Even though I’m not, by nature, a frequent hard rock  listener, I can appreciate a lead singer who knows how to sing/scream with control and good pitch, and this kid had it.



The Maryland-based band has studied its Led Zeppelin songbook well, playing with equal parts power and hooks, especially on a song that I’m guessing could be called “Messenger/Prophesy.” At its end, I turned to the hard rocking judges next to me and asked if it was an obscure metal classic I didn’t know, but was told it was an original. Points! (I’m writing this while watching “@Midnight.”)

Our evening’s host, Nate Ihara, shared a photo of Coda that he took from his vantage point closer to the stage and it’s a great action shot…



Things heated up with the arrival of the penultimate (I love that word) band, Skyward, a five piece with U2-like ringing guitars and catchy, anthemic choruses. They also had a great moment when everyone played various drums/percussion for a mighty noise. (This is another photo from Nate.)


a Skyward

And last but not (as the saying goes) least, came another quintet, Playground Etiquette, from Baltimore. This group also had a fierce singer (this one female) who played guitar as well, and offered  the unique accents of violin. (I grabbed this shot on the way back from the ladies room, so there’s a little better focus and perspective.)

Playground Etiquette

Playground Etiquette

I’d like to think there are no losers in these Band Battles, as all the musicians who make it to the preliminaries, after scores of acts submitted music for consideration, have shown themselves worthy of a hearing. As for the judging, with points given for musicianship, look, crowd response and other factors, it sometimes comes down to very tight margins. On this night, the winner was…Coda!

The guys will go on to play against the three other preliminary night champs on February 28.

I’m judging again tonight (Thursday, January 9) and have to hit the road shortly, so better wrap it up.  Thanks for reading and support local music!

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