Archive for D.C.

The Five Songs Amen Dunes Played At The Anthem In DC

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 19, 2018 by johnbuckley100

Amen Dunes Processed

Touring as the opening act is a bitch, even if it offers a young band exposure.  We’re not sure when or even if Amen Dunes had played D.C. before, but we weren’t going to miss them, even if it meant seeing only a 30-minute set.  After all, Freedom, which came out at the end of March may just be 2018’s best record, and Love, which came out in 2014 ranks high among the best recs of the decade.  So we went to see them at The Anthem.  Let’s view this band, as we did last night, through the prism of the five songs they were allowed to play.

Bedroom Drum, the opening song, was released on 2011’s Through Donkey Jaw and it gives a good preview of the kind of gauzy dream pop Damon McMahon was gearing up to make. Parker Kindred’s drums last night (we assume that’s who was drumming) weren’t muffled, as the drums were on that eight-year old album, and Delicate Steve and McMahon’s strumming invoked Galaxie 500.  It was good to hear McMahon’s voice in the wild, that unique quaver sounding strong after five weeks on the road.  Preserved of course because as the opener you only get 30 minutes to play.

Amen Dunes Processed-2

Blue Rose is one of the highlights of Freedom, a real departure for Amen Dunes after Love.  If the prior album was a gorgeous freak folk outing, a mostly acoustic psychedelic tour de force, “Blue Rose” sounds like it could have been an outtake from David Bowie’s Young Americans, blue-eyed soul from Philadelphia.  McMahon dropped the guitar and just sang, his dance moves about the equivalent of Bowie’s, but his voice gorgeous, as the song is.

L.A. closes out Freedom, and it’s really two songs, a pretty folk song coupled with a less melodic extended meditation.  Live it was truly compelling and we could see what a great band this foursome is, or would be if allowed to stretch out and play a full set.  McMahon is an incredibly compelling singer, and his delicate, sinuous songs get under your skin.

Splits Are Parted was a pleasant surprise, with McMahon introducing this highlight from Love as an offering from that album on the anniversary of its 2014 release.  If you want to understand what all the fuss is about, why someone would shell out the big bucks to scalp a ticket to see this band open for another band, start here.  His voice warbled a bit like Devendra Banhart, an obvious influence on Love.  While Delicate Steve’s guitar work last night didn’t quite bring to the fore that oddly charming counter riff, this was the highlight of the evening.

Believe is perhaps the most conventional rock song of McMahon’s career — the song on Freedom that got us to understand just how grand are his ambitions — and as a closer it showed how close he is to producing music that might actually bring him a mass audience.  It is a beautifully melodic song, and on this one, the combination of Kindred’s drumming and Steve’s lead guitar was utterly enchanting.

And that was it.  No “Miki Dora,” Amen Dunes’ astonishing invocation of the ’60s surf legend, which builds like a wave before crashing to the shore.  They played it Thursday night in Pittsburgh, according to Setlist.com, but not last night in D.C. And that, we’ll admit, was a disappointment.  But like we said, touring as an opening act is a bitch.

Oh yeah, Fleet Foxes also played.

Grappling With P.J. Harvey’s Windshield Tour Of My City

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 16, 2016 by johnbuckley100

You’ve probably heard about P.J. Harvey’s new album, The Hope Six Demolition Project.  If you live in D.C., as I do, and haven’t paid attention, you may not know that over the past two decades she’s created at least two of the best albums in the history of rock’n’roll.  Yeah, a little obscure on this side of the pond, but a major artist. Her drive-by songwriting about some of Washington’s bleakest neighborhoods has caused a bit of a stir, and we admit that, based only on one of the early songs released, “The Community of Hope,” we were concerned.  Now that the entire album’s out in full, it’s easier to understand, and admire.  And yes, The Hope Six Demolition Project ranks with those two aforementioned masterpieces, Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea (2000) and Let England Shake (2011).

In this morning’s Washington Post, Chris Richards does a nice job of defining Harvey’s work as observational journalism.  On at least those songs emanating from a trip here in 2014, Polly’s artistic process seems to have been opening her eyes and her notebook, recording what she saw, and in a reportorial fashion, putting it to music.  And what she saw and reports on was, if not original — many artists, not to mention journalists and propagandists, have made comment on the disparities between Washington’s power and wealth and our disastrously neglected neighborhoods —  then it’s at least heartfelt and unique to her sensibility.  She serves up an unflattering slice of the city I live in, it may come from a “windshield tour”narrated by a D.C. reporter who didn’t even know the slight woman in the backseat of his car was one of the world’s most important rock stars, but because of her sensibility, she serves it up as art.  And make no mistake about it, it may be tonally flat, but it is art, and put your fears aside, it is real rock’n’roll.

Musically, this is pretty similar to Let England Shake, her award-winning album that focused on, of all things, the consequences of World War I on Britain.  Yeah, she’s never been content with “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” There’s the same martial drumming, the Greek chorus adding folk textures to her and John Parish’s guitar.  It is beautiful music, a complex and tonally gorgeous collection of songs.

And the thing you have to realize, also, is that The Hope Six Demonstration Project is an art project within an art project.  P.J. Harvey traveled with photographer and filmmaker Seamus Murphy to Kosovo and Afghanistan, as well as Anacostia and Ward 7 here in D.C., emerging not only with this album, but also a series of films (Murphy), and a book of photography (Murphy) and poetry (Harvey), entitled The Hollow Of The Hand.  And not only did this evolve into her new album, she recorded the album in a studio under observation, with fans able to purchase tickets to watch the creative process unspool.  This may seem like she simply spilled her notebook onto vinyl, but Harvey’s not an artist to do things simply.

We admire and empathize with what Harvey’s tried to pull off here, mostly successfully.  Yes, she was a “poverty tourist” when she came to Ward 7 D.C.  But at least she came.  She saw it from behind the safety of a windshield, but at least she came.  And when she adds the spiritual “Wade In The Water” to her take on the filthy Anacostia River, it’s powerful.  And when she captures the ironic poetry of liberal dreams cratering by the government having to destroy what HUD called Hope Six housing in order to improve the lives of poor people here, she’s merely revealing she has a very good ear.  (“The Hope Six Demolition Project” is an irresistible string of words, but you had to be there, as she was, to capture it.) And when she creates an album this beautiful, and this powerful, she’s revealing, once again, that Polly Jean Harvey is one of the very few artists in 2016 using rock’n’roll to grapple with the world at this level.

Ty Segall’s 9:30 Club Show And The Triumph Of Willful Perversity

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 26, 2016 by johnbuckley100

Ty 2016 TFrenzy

It’s a little perverse when a brilliant musician, whose typically raw but highly polished albums feature him playing every single instrument, turns over the playing to a band of aces.  At this point in his career, though, Ty Segall knows exactly what he’s doing: his perversity is willful.

Ty is a once-in-a-generation inspiration, a revivalist of real rock’n’roll who has an impact on the entire West Coast punk rock environment, but he’s a primitive, right, so it’s okay if we don’t delve too deeply into the meaning of his baby’n’umbilical-chord persona with which he came out flogging his new album, Emotional Mugger.  It’s okay if we don’t accord him the depth of a Bowie, or even a Stephen Colbert, when he abandons the guitar and instead plays a character on the album and stage.  Let’s take this at the level at which we have always viewed him: pure rock’n’roll power, a character like Iggy Pop is a character, not on the level of Ziggy Stardust.

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The Muggers picked our pockets and left us bowled over on the floor, with Evan Burrows of Wand creating his own little breeder reactor on the drum kit, his fellow bandmate Cory Hanson filling in on synth and guitar, and King Tuff, looking like he’d just stepped off of a Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band photo shoot, laying down the leads that heretofore Charles Moothart (whose CFM was an amazing opening act), or Ty himself would have played.  Not having to play guitar left Segall able to tiptoe to the edge of the crowd, inspiring all manner of surfers, including one girl who safely was carried back to the sound booth, returning to the stage with a game face and no doubt minor bruises.

Ty 2016 TFrenzy-3The last time Ty hit the 9:30 Club stage, he was touring behind his most commercial album ever, Manipulator, which had Black Keys hooks with a sharkskin sheen.  Emotional Mugger is at once as ambitious as Manipulator but also deliberately repellant and obscure, but live — and with this stellar band backing him, baby head and all — the tornado force of the music was nothing less than fun.

Ty 2016 TFrenzy-6We don’t really pretend to know why, midway through the set, he went back into character with the baby head and all, just that by the time he played “Candy Sam,”the crowd would have followed him to pillage all the chocolate shops on U Street.

Ty 2016-2When he’d completed the full rendition of Emotional Mugger and we heard the familiar chords of “Thank God For Sinners” from Twins, still his best album, it was great to have him shed the mask, ditch the character, and get back to Ty Segall, the tyro of his age.  “Manipulator” and “Feel” from his last real album were a reminder of what this guy can do, especially when a drummer like Evan Burrows is banging a gong.  In this miserable political year we’ve witnessed one guy with blonde hair get crowds to respond to his manipulations in an ugly manner.  Great it was last night to see another guy with blonde hair whip a crowd into a frenzy with the benignity of the cathartic arts.

We’ve Posted Our High Heel Race Photos At Tulip Frenzy Photography

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 1, 2015 by johnbuckley100

High Heel Racer Gallery Tfrenzy

We collected some of the best images from the last two years of D.C.’s High Heel Race and posted them on a gallery at Tulip Frenzy Photography: Images By John Buckley.

And This Is What They Fought For

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 25, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Memorial Day’s eve, Washington, D.C., May 24th, 2015

Memorial Day Color Speed Racer Crop

Memorial Day Color 2

Memorial Day Color kayaks

The Vaselines’ At The Rock & Roll Hotel In DC

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on January 15, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Vaselines 1

If all you had to go on was the stage patter from last night’s glorious show by The Vaselines at D.C.’s Rock & Roll Hotel, it would be easy to understand why the Scottish band is known as much for their absence as their presence, for their breaking up 25 years ago the week their debut album was released, for their not recording another album for 20 years, even as their having been championed by Kurt Cobain as his favorite pair of songwriters made them the stuff of legend.  Long since broken up as lovers, too, though lately reformed as the Western world’s greatest purveyors of melodic punk rock, endearingly sweet Frances McKee and the faux supercilious Eugene Kelly still quibble and quarrel and goad each other on the stage, ah, but the music, the music was sublime.

Drawing from all three of their albums, The Vaselines live consist of the core members surrounded by apple-cheeked young folk, including Michael McGauphrin, a kick-ass punk rock drummer, Scott Paterson, the most tasteful lead guitarist since John McGeoch, and in Graeme Smillie, a thumpingly powerful bassist.  From the early work, it was fun hearing two of the songs Nirvana recorded, “Molly’s Lips” and “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam,” as well as the song that announced them to us as a force to be reckoned with: “Sex Sux (Amen.)” Their triumphant return album, 2010’s Sex With An X was well represented, with “Ruined” and “The Devil Inside Me” a reminder of how thrilling it was, just a few years ago, to find out that The Vaselines were real, not a rock’n’roll snipe hunt one pursued without being certain the band actually existed.

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It is V For Vaselines, which took the # 3 slot on The 2014 Tulip Frenzy Top Ten List (c), that provided the most fun — and the most hope that this present incarnation of The Vaselines lives on for as many years as they were absent. Live, “Earth Is Speeding” was a reminder that as simple as their songwriting is, The Vaselines have the texture of a band like Roxy Music in its antic prime. “Crazy Lady,” which thankfully was restarted after it got off on a false note, is the Platonic ideal of a Mekons classic.  The three-guitar structure, punctuated by a propulsive rhythm section, shows that while Eugene may hate the ’80s, it was the front end of that decade, and the preceding fours years of British punk, that gave The Vaselines their wall-of-sound power.

“Bubble gum meets Velvet Underground” is the way they once described the band.  They’re a wee bit more complex today than that.  Let’s hope The Vaselines slide through a great American tour, that their stage antics are shtick, and Eugene and Frances can keep it going for years to come.

Loved By A Tornado: Neko Case At The Lincoln Theater

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on November 1, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Neko Tornado 1

 

Leica C

On a raucous Halloween in the Nation’s Capital, Neko Case dressed like Adam Ant, but sang like a tomboy angel.  On this tour, with a show built on her front catalogue — particularly her career-highlight The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You — seeing Neko perform is a combination of listening to our favorite singer backed by ace musicians and our favorite writer read from her best short stories.  For by now, this is what Neko Case has become: no longer simply the girl with the gorgeous twang, but Flannery O’Connor with a backup band.  Last night, it worked to a fare-thee-well.

When she released 2004’s The Tigers Have Spoken, Neko’s live sound was an Americana counterpart to her work with the New Pornographers — upbeat, occasionally straight-ahead rock’n’roll with gorgeous country tones.  Even given how Blacklisted showed darkly comic and American gothic literary sensibilities, the Neko of that long-ago era was less complex, her music alternating between the Arizona desert sounds of her Calexico collaborators and her natural home as an Alt.country belter.  By Middle Cyclone, though, Neko had become maybe the most fascinating lyricist since Dylan, wildly ambitious, her words as complex now as her music, her gift for writing equal to her gift for singing.  Last night brought a full measure of this later, more mature Neko Case, and it was fine.

Neko Tornado 2

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The only song we really yearned for that we didn’t hear was “Prison Girls,” but that’s a trifle.  From gorgeous versions of “The Tigers Have Spoken” and “Calling Cards,” which showed off the delicacy of a band led by Jon Rauhouse to full effect, to the flat-out thunder of “I’m A Man,” we were treated to all our favorite late-period Neko songs, sung in close harmony with Kelly Hogan.  We could have stood to hear something other than a pair of Heart songs for the encore.  But as we stumbled out onto a U Street filled with goblins and witches, Neko’s baroque landscape seemed almost normal, and a great place to spend a few hours.

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