Archive for DC

The 2018 D.C. Funk Parade

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 13, 2018 by johnbuckley100

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All images Leica SL and 75mm Noctilux

It almost didn’t happen this year, the Funk Parade.  It’s the city’s greatest single day, and if D.C. had not found a way of bringing it back, we’d be poorer for it.  Thankfully a Kickstarter campaign, the persistence of the organizers, and a groundswell of support prevailed.

Herewith an experiment — trying to use the 75mm Noctilux, with its razor thin focal plane, in bright light at a street event.  We see possibilities.

Here’s the funk.

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The Ice Storm

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 17, 2016 by johnbuckley100

ice-storm-colorAll photos Leica SL and Summilux SL 50 ASPH

With apologies to Rick Moody, and possibly readers who just this morning saw us post what we believed were the 10 best color images we took in 2016, we had to go visit the Bishop’s Garden at the National Cathedral to see what was left of the ice storm this morning, and temperatures crept toward 40.  Here’s what we found.

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Suggested Alternative Album Cover Photo For The Mekons’ “Existentialism”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 11, 2016 by johnbuckley100

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Television, A Friend From Many Stages, Return To D.C.’s 930 Club

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , on September 7, 2016 by johnbuckley100

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Speaking of bands who’ve been around for 40 years, Television played at D.C.’s 930 Club, and to say they were in fine form understates the impact of the Platonic ideal.

With only one song from 1992’s Television — “1880 or So” — and none at all from Adventure, this set was Marquee Moon all the way.  Only it was like Marquee Moon from the inside out: no “See No Evil,” and we heard “Prove It” and “Torn Curtain” before “Venus.”  A special highlight was hearing the gorgeous “Guiding Light,” and the closer of the set, “Marquee Moon,” was as good as we have ever heard it — and our hearing it live traces back to New Year’s Eve 1976.

Richard Lloyd has left the band, but Jimmy Rip — who has played with Verlaine since his 1980s solo tours — filled in and then some.  Yes, it was a little odd to hear a stand-in play Lloyd’s lines, but Rip is such an excellent guitarist in his own right, it was like hearing a gifted Branagh fill in for Olivier as Hamlet.

Richard Lloyd once famously said that with while some bands look to see whether they have the crowd moving, Television always judged its performance by whether the audience was motionless.  And yes, when Verlaine and Rip traded guitar lines, the crowd reaction was transfixion.  Verlaine was as loose as we have ever seen him, fronting Television or his own band (often comprised of a similar set of musicians.)  The volume was low, the torque was loose, and it was magnificent.

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The last time we saw Television play was at Georgetown, when they were pushing their 1992 eponymous  reunion album.  The playing then was a bit like this: quieter and more self-contained than those shows we saw as they were exiting stage left in 1978.  But then and now, there was plenty that was raucous contained at an adult volume.

We once had Tom Verlaine explain to us, while sitting in our apartment in New York for an interview for the Soho Weekly News, that Television’s two-Fender guitar sound was aimed at extracting the jaggedness of wild songs.  But last night, he and Rip convened a harmonic convergence — on the unreleased, and very long, “Persia,” the fusion music had the audience guessing where the Farfisa , violins, and synths were hiding, though it was only the two guitars.  And on that post-Bolero finish to “Marquee Moon,” the return to the melody was like a post-coital urge for more, unheralded by the drums.

Fred Smith, the Harvey Keitel of rock’n’roll, was his wonderfully understated self, and Billy Ficca proved anew why he’s the greatest jazz drummer to ever center a punk-era band.  But it was Verlaine, of course, who people came to see, and both his singing and his magically elusive guitar were a reminder that one of the greatest bands in history can still evoke the era in which we first saw them, all those years ago.

At The High Heel Race

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 28, 2015 by johnbuckley100

High Heel Race

One of the great events in Washington, D.C. is the annual High Heel Race, in which ladies dress up and run down 17th Street as the pre-Halloween crowds cheer them on.

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And all the beauties come out…High Heel Race-14

And some people take it very, very seriously.

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We love the way it has become a family event, and the crowd it draws is a mixture of the real D.C. — black and white, gays and straights, young and old.High Heel Race-7

Who knows where everyone goes during the daylight hours.High Heel Race-8

All we know is that as Halloween nears, inhibitions seem to drop, and you meet the most interesting people.High Heel Race-13

There’s drama and fun, and wild-side walking makes for a gorgeous evening.

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Until next year.

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All images taken with a Leica Monochrom (typ-246) and 50mm Noctilux.

D.C.’s H Street Festival Has Gotten Huge

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 20, 2015 by johnbuckley100

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Time was when the H Street Corridor — the last section of D.C. to burn in the days following the assassination of Dr. King — was a symbol of D.C.’s decline.  These days, it’s a symbol of the city’s revival.

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Even two years ago, the H Street Festival in September drew maybe 50,000 visitors.  Yesterday, though, it seemed the whole city came out.  Or put differently, the multi-ethnic city was drawn, even if just for an afternoon, to a stretch of town with new amenities and much easier coexistence than existed here even a decade ago.

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Sure, you had the guys from the Nation of Islam seeing a neighborhood almost unrecognizable from what it looked like 20 years ago.

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But you also had young artists showing their wares near The Rock and Roll Hotel, which seemed to have started the trend, eight or nine years ago, in which the H Street Corridor became a natural rival to U Street for urban nightlife.

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It was a perfect September day, a little warm, maybe, but with perfect light.

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And everywhere we went, we were reminded of the uniqueness of our city, where wonks carry the world on their shoulders.

Courtney Barnett At 930 Was Like Hearing Stiff Records’ Greatest Hits Played By Nirvana

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 14, 2015 by johnbuckley100

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We overheard someone in the audience next to us say that the last time Courtney Barnett played DC, it was at DC9, a venue considerably smaller than the 1000-and-change-sized 930 Club.  Given the roars of approval — as loud as we have heard them in 20+ years going to shows in this venue — and the quality of the performance, it seems almost inevitable that she’s going to make the leap to venues a quantum larger.

We love the Australian singer and guitarist’s debut album Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, as readers of Tulip Frenzy well know.  Sometimes we prefer her real introduction to the States, 2014’s The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas.  Mostly, though, the hesitancy we had before fully embracing the album was that we were unprepared for the transition, the way the sound had been torqued tighter, louder, with more pop urgency. It would be like riding in your favorite ’73 BMW 2002 and suddenly getting into its most recent 3 Series descendent: familiar, but scary in way, once you put your foot to the pedal and saw how it had been modernized for the Autobahn.

Last night, she played virtually the entire new album, plus a number of our favorite songs from the double EP, and we realized how they both connect, and why we think she’s the strongest talent to emerge since Ty Segall five years ago. For what we liked most about The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas was the way she updated the sound of a particular era of British pop music that coincided with the emergence of punk but preceded Power Pop — those early albums by Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Nick Lowe.  Last night, that particular proto-Power Pop song sensibility was apparent — though powered along with a thunder more like Nirvana than any other trio we can remember.

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Barnett is a great storyteller, but that may make her sound twee, and she’s anything but: she and her band kick harder than any Aussies we can think of since Radio Birdman.  From “Elevator Operator,” which opened the set, to “History Eraser,” which finished the encore, the Courtney Barnett 3 played like a band with twice the instruments.  There may come a time when they’ll need sidemen to fill the arenas she’ll headline.  Yeah, after a thoroughly entertaining show last night, the first of two sold-out shows at 930, we have no doubt that’s where she’s heading.

What We Learned From Bruce Davidson’s Lecture At The Phillips Collection

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 12, 2015 by johnbuckley100

When you see a photograph taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson, the sound you hear is of the shutter closing at 1/125th of a second.  When you see any of the photographs Bruce Davidson has taken over his long, distinguished career, the soundtrack is musical — for the pictures from his 1959 Brooklyn Gangs project, we hear Dion singing “A Teenager In Love;” Miles Davis’ trumpet haunts the pictures taken for the East 100th Street series; The Clash’s Sandanista, or maybe Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks,” accompany the images taken in 1980 deep in the New York subway system.  For Davidson is not merely a photographer whose lyrical, softly dramatic work lives in individual photographs.  He is a cinematic storyteller who emerges from deep within an atmosphere he’s inhabited with poignant, touching pictures that, yes, swirl with their own soundtrack.

Last night at the Phillips Collection, the 81-year old Davidson provided commentary on many of the pictures from his most celebrated series of images, stretching all the way back to the ’50s.  It was part of the Phillips Collection’s “American Moments” show, which for the first time displays works from the plucky little museum’s permanent collection of photography.  If the pictures in the show are any indication of what the Phillips Collection has in store for us as their focus on photography becomes more ambitious, Washingtonians are in for a delightful ride.  And if their choice of photographers to invite to speak is any indication, the Phillips Collection is intent on making a mark.

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Davidson is not a household name, even in households that care about photography; he’s an American master, a photographer’s photographer, less famous than contemporaries like Garry Winogrand and Joel Meyerowitz, but a giant in the world of 20th Century photography.  What was clear last night is that his humanity and commitment run deep: he could cite, by name, what has happened to members of that Brooklyn Gang 60 years after the pictures came out, knew what kind of life the children of sharecroppers he’d photographed in the 1960s ended up having once some of the barriers to their integration in American life had toppled.  He spoke with just a touch of pride about the impact his photographs had had, in knocking down racial barriers, in helping people in an impoverished community in Spanish Harlem be recognized for their dignity — and the intolerable housing conditions they lived in.

Meyerowitz used to talk about “tough pictures,” photographs that showed how real were the dangers the photographer used to put himself in to come back with an image.  And Davidson took his share.  But mostly his images reflect the degree of intimacy he had with his subjects, showing the people on East 100th Street what the work would look like, so they’d trust him.  He repeated the famous story of persuading a fellow with a scarred face who sat across from him on the subway and threatened to smash his camera, to let him take his picture.  He did it by engaging him, talking to him, showing him his work.  Getting street subjects to sit for a photograph is an act of seduction, he said.

He told us there are three things you can do to get a picture of someone.  You can sneak the photo, take it and run, or you can ask them.  This is a man who has made a career, for the most part, asking people and being told yes, because with his direct Midwestern sensibility and occasionally impish twinkle in his eye, he was jovially seductive.

Asked whether he could undertake multiple projects simultaneously, he said no, and likened his work to a “bullfighter getting in rhythm with the bull.”  This is not someone who shows up on a street, takes a snapshot and walks away.  He said he had patience, and surely he must have, and ingenuity in spades: he told the story of advancing a beach in Brooklyn where the gang said they would hang out the next night, and bringing a light bulb to screw into a socket he’d identified, knowing it would illuminate his subjects.

Immersing ourselves, as we have over the past few weeks, in the great Steidl three-volume collection, we found ourselves thinking of another photographer whose work would not automatically be compared to Davidson’s.  Sebastiao Salgado also tells stories in great project arcs, deeply immersing himself in the lives of his subjects, his individual photos amazing, his series even greater than the sum of the parts.  Growing up in Illinois, Davidson’s immersed himself in subcultures perhaps less exotic than Salgado’s, which isn’t surprising given the latter’s growing up in a remote Brazilian agricultural community right out of Garcia Marquez.  But there is the same sensibility, the same commitment, the humanity, and the turn, in his career’s last innings, to nature and more lyrical images.  He’s a hell of a photographer, and we are so glad to have heard him.

Wire Plays A Pearl Of A Well-Made Show At D.C.’s Black Cat

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 7, 2015 by johnbuckley100

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Almost 40 years since creating the most intriguing, and in many ways, long-lasting debut of the punk era, Wire came to DC last night to play a show that was sinewy, powerful, and occasionally transcendent. From the opening “Blogging” — which kicks off their eponymous 2015 album Wire — to the gorgeous encore close of “Used To” from 1978’s Chairs Missing, Wire proved they are no oldies act.  This was one of the strongest shows we’ve seen in years, old masters comfortable in their skins, who can still show the young ‘uns a trick or two.

When you’ve been around as long as Wire, there are distinct eras, or at least clusters of albums connected by time and personnel.  What’s most delightful about the Wire of today is that, like Dylan on his great run between Oh Mercy and Modern Times, they’ve shown themselves at ease working within the construct that made them great as young men, while still putting out music more vital than most other working bands.  With 2011’s Red Barked Tree, 2013’s Change Becomes Us, and this year’s Wire, their output is, sure, not as “important” as 154 was in 1979.  But that’s like saying Love and Theft isn’t as important as Bringing It All Back Home.  Who cares? Wire’s most recent albums make the case for one of the most vital acts in rock music history, and it’s an exceptionally high quality output for any band, not to mention one formed in 1976.

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Robert (Gotobed) Grey and Graham Lewis still have the metronomic precision of the Atomic Clock, and it was a joy to hear Lewis sing “Please Take” and “Blessed State.”  Grey looks like a beatific and elongated version of Jeff Bezos, closing his eyes in meditation as he directs the band with the certainty of a Swiss train conductor. Colin Newman has always done double duty as an effective punk shouter and a pretty pop singer; harder to do these days live, but all in, his voice was fine.  What was really fun to see was how young Matthew Simms can extend and augment Newman’s guitar playing, occasionally playing these John McGeoch-like leads, often letting Newman carry the song on his electric 12-string.

Many years ago, when assigned to review Document And Eyewitness for NY Rocker, and thinking that the band was kaput (they broke up in 1980, only to come back five years later), we said that Wire was at its most interesting precisely at the moment when its reach exceeded its grasp.  That was true then, but there’s little outside its grasp today.  Last night’s show at The Black Cat saw a band pulling off the hardest trick imaginable: playing a set mostly with songs from albums four decades into their run, leaving no room for nostalgia.

Today’s Question: What Are The Five Essential Fleshtones Albums?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on November 2, 2014 by johnbuckley100

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Hard though it may be to believe, at last night’s bravura performance by the Fleshtones at D.C.’s Gypsy Sally’s, some friends came who had never seen the band before.  You shake your head in disbelief, we know.  Never seen the only CBGB era band that has toured continuously for close to 40 years… that still puts on the most entertaining performance in all of rock’n’roll… that has almost single-handedly carried the garage rock movement since Jimmy Carter was president.

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Yes, they’d never seen the ‘Tones, but loved them, and asked, “What are the five best Fleshtones records?”

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So we emailed them this:

“1. Take A Good Look (2008), is probably the closest the ‘Tones have come to a real hit record in the past two decades. A very good collection of modern Fleshtones songs, it was heralded by rock critters as a way for the uninitiated to catch up, which makes sense to me.  Listen to this and you will immediately want to hear more.

2. Roman Gods: their first official album, an attempt by IRS Records to make them radio friendly off the bat, and though it provides something of a false picture, it will give you a sense of why they were so powerfully different from their peers circa 1977-’82. The way you likely can find it is as a 1985 combo with their first IRS EP, which takes great early songs, but does not render them well on vinyl. Which I wrote, disappointed, in NY Rocker in 1980.

3. Beautiful Light,1994, produced by Peter Buck of REM. Just a great album. Maybe a highpoint in terms of reflecting the Fleshtones as a serious band, beyond the entertainment value.  Though Lord knows there is plenty of that.  But people sometimes forget the Fleshtones are a serious and deep band, and Beautiful Light, to me, makes that case.  Also, listen to this record and then go listen to REM’s Monster, which came out a year later.  Yeah, that’s why REM’s sound was so different and better: Buck grafted Keith Streng’s guitar sound onto his band!

4. The Fleshtones Vs. Reality —  This was the first record to truly capture the early Fleshtones sound on vinyl. “Whatever Makes You Happy” may be my favorite Fleshtones song of all time. Really great.

5. The Fleshtones Live At Double Door: 2004, actually captures a version of what you saw last night! Alas, you really need to see them to grok how much fun they are, but this does provide an audio record.”

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So we just spent the afternoon with the band and read them our list.  They found it respectable, though when we referenced the live album, they’d never heard of it! Though we bought it on iTunes, it’s a bootleg!  So don’t buy that.

Mulling it over, their consensus fifth choice would be More Than Skin Deep, a really great record that came out in 1998.

So thus would be our list of the records, though of course you should also read SWEAT, the excellent history of “America’s Garage Band,”and don’t forget to watch Pardon Us For Living But The Graveyard Is Full, the excellent documentary about the most fun, hardest working combo in showbiz.

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