Tag Archives: music

Yule Complete Me: Presenting (the second half of) My 12th Annual Christmas Mixtape, Noel Means Noel

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As usual, there were some painful cuts right at the end. I just had to get “Mistress for Christmas” on, even though I used it in (I think) 2011, to honor Malcolm Young of AC/DC. And “Every Day Is Christmas (When I’m Lovin’ You),” even though I used it in 2012, to honor Charles Bradley. That unconscionable folk song about a ski instructor whose notion of consent is such that you hope he perished in an avalanche, but not before being forced to eat his own arm while waiting in vain to be rescued, will just have to wait until the lucky 13th installment. I thought it important to keep each side to no more than, well, an hour.
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We Still Care: A Conversation with Rhett Miller of Old 97s

Old 97s play their best album, 1997’s “Too Far to Care,” at the 9:30 Club tonight. Miller is second from the left.

Formed in Dallas in 1993, the alt-country act Old 97s combines the heart-tugging wordplay of Townes van Zandt with the attack of The Clash. After a couple of indie releases in the mid-90s, the group were the beneficiaries of a bidding war, signing with Elektra Records. Their major-label debut, 1997’s Too Far to Care, remains their best and best-loved album. Despite retaining a substantial following — their show at the 9:30 Club tonight is sold out — the group never reached the level of stardom their big label demanded. Since 2004, they’ve been recording for the New West label.

Their current tour supports a 15th anniversary reissue of Too Far to Care, which they’re playing in its entirety in sequence, along with a selection of other songs. I spoke with singer-songwriter Rhett Miller (whose career as a solo artist runs parallel to that of his band) by phone about the quest for perfect setlist, the excesses of major label recording contracts and the perils of singing songs you wrote at 25 when you’re 42.

This interview appears today on the Washington City Paper’s Arts Desk. Continue reading

She Couldn’t Blame Us: Cat Power at the 9:30 Club, reviewed.

I’m sorry to say that Cat Power’s concert at the 9:30 Club last night was another heart-rending chapter in her sad history as a panicky, fragmented performer. It’s always agonizing to watch someone on stage who clearly doesn’t want to be there. I hope she’ll get the help she needs. The club was sold out, so clearly her fans haven’t abandoned her. Last night’s audience struck me as uncommonly respectful, sympathetic and forgiving. Continue reading

Soft Pack, Black Cat

While you were watching President Obama Uncle Fluffy his way through the first presidential debate Wednesday night, I was watching the Soft Pack play the Black Cat. That’s right: I went to see a band the youngest member of which is probably a decade younger than me. Usually I’m on the venerable old treasure beat, more or less voluntarily.

I reviewed their show for today’s Washington Post.

Who Would You Rather Be? Metric at the Music Center at Strathmore, reviewed.

We bought a smoke machine.

My first DCist post of 2012 is a review of a very fine show by the very fine Canadian stadium-rockers-in-waiting Metric.

The Beach Boys at Merriweather

Three out of five original Beach Boys are still kicking.

My review of Friday’s night’s Beach Boys concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion is in today’s Washington Post. I thought it was odd that the 14-piece band played along to the recorded vocal track of Dennis Wilson (d. 1983) singing “Forever” and then to a recording of Carl Wilson (d. 1998) singing “God Only Knows,” but the fact that “Heroes and Villains” made the setlist inclines me to forgive them anything. Continue reading

They Want Their Money Back If You’re Alive at 33: WSC Avant Bard’s The Tooth of Crime

John Tweel sits atop a throne of guitars as Hoss.

I struggled with Kathleen Akerley‘s production of Sam Shepard‘s The Tooth of Crime after I saw it last weekend. The play is a fascinating time capsule of how much danger and possibility pop music, and rock and roll specifically, must’ve still had when Shepard wrote it back in 1972. That gives it a charm that partially compensates for the fact the (apparently) postapocalyptic world it’s set in is so cryptic and thinly drawn. Continue reading

We Happy Few: Drive-By Truckers and Lucinda Williams at a mostly empty Merriweather Post Pavilion, reviewed

Lucinda Williams, badass

I am experienced. I’ve reviewed the great Louisiana songwriter Lucinda Williams for the Washington Post before, in 2007 and 2009.

I’ve also reviewed Drive-By Truckers, one of my favorite bands, for the Post in 2009, and I’ve interviewed Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, the band’s two frontmen, separately for DCist, The Examiner, the Washington City Paper and Washingtonian. I was at DBT’s year-ending shows at the 9:30 Club last December, which were amazing.

Saturday night I covered the bill Williams and DBT shared at Merriweather Post Pavilion for the Post. It was a beautiful night and a good show. Too bad almost nobody saw it.

Alabama Shakes in Baltimore

Alabama Shakes opened the great show I saw the Drive-By Truckers play at the 9:30 Club with Booker T. Jones on New Year’s Eve. Their debut album, Boys & Girls, dropped this week.

I reviewed Alabama Shakes’ headling gig at Ram’s Head Live! (sic) in Baltimore Saturday night for the Washington Post.

Bradley Beats Budos

And here‘s my Washington Post review of The Budos Band‘s headling gig at the 9:30 Club Thursday night. Wish I’d seen opener Charles Bradley’s full set, because when he returned to sing “Why Is It So Hard” with Budos during their encore he fairly mopped the floor with them. Continue reading

He Paid the Cost to Be The Boss: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Verizon Center

"44 years of performing experience! 30 years of psychiatric evaluation!" Photo by Erica Bruce.

Last Thursday, I road-tripped up to Philadelphia for what I think was my 15th Bruce Springsteen concert (but only my 14th with the pants-droppin’, heart-stoppin’, Earth-shakin’, booty-quakin,’ love-makin’, Viagara-takin’ etc., etc. E Street Band) since 1999. Three nights later, I saw my 16th (15th) here in DC at the Verizon Center.

For the City Paper, I wrote up some thoughts on the DC show, which differed significantly from the Philly one as you can see from the handy setlist table I have prepared below. Clip it out of your iPad’s retina display and post in your cubicle as a source of hourly inspiration! Continue reading

When the Star Talks Himself Blue: Ryan Adams at Strathmore, considered

Adams: "I got a plan."

I saw Ryan Adams and the Cardinals open for Oasis (!) in 2008 (!!!) but I only caught part of their set from across a basketball arena and anyway it was not an especially memorable experience. But I quite enjoyed the talky, sloppy Adams solo show — and opener Jason Isbell — that I review in today’s Washington Post. Continue reading

More on Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball: Mistakes Were Made, by Me

Bruce Springsteen announced U.S. tour dates this morning. He’ll be here in DC on April Fool’s Day. So I’ll just get this over with: Bruuuuuuuce!

Thank you. And now, let us proceed.

When The Boss announced the title and release date of his forthcoming album Wrecking Ball last week, I just couldn’t see past its abysmal cover, an area in which he has been a career offender. I noted that Wrecking Ball is also the title of a very fine Emmylou Harris album from 1995. Dana Stevens, Slate’s superb film critic, noticed that too.

(When I was on the Filmspotting podcast the week after Stevens, I tried to say how much I admire her writing and how honored I was to follow her on the show, but it came out wrong. I apologize for that, Ma’am.)

Anyway, we exchanged a few Tweets about that title. “Title re-use doesn’t infringe copyright, but it’s crass,” Stevens wrote. I pointed out that Emmylou got the title from Neil Young, whose song “Wrecking Ball” (from his 1989 album Freedom) Emmylou covered on her album Wrecking Ball. Got all that?

“If Bruce covers the Neil Young song on this record, then the nab is vindicated,” Stevens concluded. Continue reading

Bruce Springsteen to release another album with an ugly cover on March 6

You can’t judge an album by its sleeve, and that’s good news for Bruce Springsteen.

My admiration for The Boss is a matter of public record, and it was from a place of love that I took the occasion of his last album’s release three years ago to point out that nearly all of his album covers are terrible. Today he announced that his 17th studio album will be called Wrecking Ball and will be released for sale on March 6. Any resemblance to Emmylou Harris‘s great album from 1995, Wrecking Ball, is completely coincidental, probably.

That’s the cover of Bruce’s Finger-Painting With Bird Shit Wrecking Ball at the top of this post. Hideous, right? He probably paid Danny Clinch a lot of money to take the photo before scrawing his name over it in Wite-Out. What this says to me is Eh, only a fraction of those of you who bother to listen to this at all are actually going to pay for it, so why I should I sweat the packaging? Just sit tight, we’re gonna play “Badlands” later.

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Drive-By Truckers 9:30 Club Setlist Table II: The Secret of the Ooze

It’s not much of a photo, but it was a pretty fantastic way to spend New Year’s Eve. That’s Booker T. Jones, stage-right, performing at the 9:30 with the Drive-By Truckers, a band I love and that I’ve written about a lot. The first time I saw them play was at The Troubadour in Los Angeles in 2003 or 2004. All I remember about that show is that my then-girlfriend had a pain in her leg and we left early. Since then, I’ve seen DBT play the 9:30 probably 10 times. When they were there for a Friday & Saturday night stay last February, I made a table to show how different the two setlists were. Hey, some people care about baseball statistics. (DBT singer-songwriter Mike Cooley does not.) Continue reading

Presenting HARK HARK, DECK DECK: Yule-Tunes Eclectic & Inexplicable Team VI – The NOW SOUND of Christmas [Side A]

Yippe kai yay, Christmas lovers! My sixth annual audio Christmas card has arrived to illuminate and/or obfuscate your yule! At two hour-long sides, the first of which you can hear right now, this is the longest yulemix ever. Remember those 120-minute blank cassettes introduced in the twilight of the analog era that allowed you to record more music at lesser quality and were highly prone to breakage? Continue reading

Postcards from “Postcards from Italy”: Beirut at the 9:30 Club, reviewed.

I covered the first of Beirut’s two-night, tour-ending stand at 9:30 Club last night for the Washington Post. Read all about it in the paper-paper version, or see the version on Click Track for a few more of Josh Sisk’s fine photos from the show.

Hey, I Like the Quarry House, Too: Kid Rock at the Fillmore, discussed.

So the Washington Post sent me to a Kid Rock show. One of the best things about working as a critic is that it forces you to broaden your taste! It was my first visit to the Fillmore Silver Spring, the new Live Nation concert venue across from the AFI Silver Theater that finally opened its doors two months ago after years of preamble. Here’s my report of what all went down.

Kid Rock is 40 years old. His most recent album, the year-old “Born Free,” was produced by late-career rejuvenation specialist Rick Rubin and evokes 1970s Bob Seger more than it does the Clinton-era rap-rock that made Rock a multiplatinum star. He hasn’t been arrested at a strip club or a Waffle House in years. He’s recorded a duet with Sheryl Crow. Twice, actually.

But chin-and-middle-fingers up, Kid Rock fans. While these harbingers of mortality are unmistakable, Rock’s 105-minute set at a tightly-packed Fillmore Silver Spring last night demonstrated that maturity hasn’t laid its liver-spotted hands on him just yet. Continue reading

Deleted Scene: Hayes Carll

Hayes Carll's devotion to the songwriter's art entails contemplating sex with Ann Coulter if necessary.

I’m a big fan of Austin singer-songwriter Hayes Carll, whose work I have written about before. I talked to him last week for Washingtonian; you can read that here. In honor of his appearance at the Birchmere tonight, I’d like to share a question I asked him when last I interviewed him, in June of this year. I wasn’t able to use what he said in the piece I wrote then, so here it is now for you enjoyment and/or edification. Take it away, Me. Continue reading

I Wanted to Ask You: A Conversation with Matthew Sweet

Matthew Sweet, photographed by Matthew Sweet

I chatted for a minute with Matthew Sweet about the 20th-anniversary-of-Girlfriend tour he’s bringing to the Birchmere tomorrow night, for Washingtonian. It’s my first piece for them.