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Live Review: Voices of Mississippi @ Strathmore Music Center — 2/4/23

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Voices of Mississippi

Sharde Thomas performs in the Voices of Mississippi program at the Strathmore Music Center on Feb. 4, 2023. (Photo by Ari Strauss)

The roots of American music lie in the deep South. In a recent performance and presentation at the Strathmore Music Center, a fantastic program called Voices of Mississippi explored these roots through musical performances and photography and video footage compiled by William Ferris. Based on a 2018 boxed set of the same title that won Grammy Awards for Best Historical Album and Best Liner Notes, this long-gestating live show finally made its way to our area, and it didn’t disappoint.

Musicians included some of the most prominent names in the blues. Guitarist Luther and drummer Cody Dickinson form the core of the North Mississippi Allstars. Ferris introduced the brothers as sons of one of his musical heroes, Jim Dickinson, a larger-than-life figure who worked as a producer, helming albums for Big Star and many others, and who played piano on the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses.” Luther and Cody are deeply indebted to the North Mississippi Hill Country Blues tradition; Luther singled out the influence of Junior Kimbrough and mentioned how the tradition is being kept alive by Cedric Burnside, the grandson of legendary bluesman R. L. Burnside.

Live Review: Neal Francis @ The 8×10 — 1/31/23

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Neal Francis - The 8x10 Baltimore MD - 01.31.23

Neal Francis leads his band in a performance at The 8×10 on Jan. 31, 2023. (Photo by Casey Vock)

There’s a logo etched into the steel panels on each side of the balcony railing at The 8×10. Most patrons might not know what it is, and only the most veteran live music goers in the Charm City can likely recall when that same symbol was lit up on the front of the building as the venue’s official title from 2003 to 2005.

The establishment would revert to its original name and would change ownership too, but the “Funk Box” emblems have remained and still display just above stage right and left.

Yet even the business’ current co-owners, Brian Shupe and Abigail Janssens, weren’t fully aware that the logo’s true origins. Then, one day while perusing a nearby FYE retail store, they were suddenly beheld by a seductive four-compact disc collection featuring a lush red velvet jacket and a glossy logo that popped right off the cover — The Funk Box.

Live Review: The Hold Steady @ Black Cat — 2/3/23

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The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady perform at the Black Cat in DC on Feb. 3, 2023. (Photo by David LaMason)

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the band, The Hold Steady embarked on a USA tour that made several stops along the East Coast, landing in DC at the Black Cat Friday night. And, although this was my first time witnessing “America’s greatest bar band,” as Rolling Stone quipped early on, it wasn’t my first time either seeing a performance by frontman Craig Finn. 

Way back in the mid-1990s, Finn and guitar maestro Tad Kubler’s pre-Hold Steady band Lifter Puller, a Midwest indie rockin’ outfit, ended up playing the go-to place at that time, Memory Lane, in the Pigtown neighborhood of Baltimore. I had the great fortune to see Finn again at a Baltimore house show at Club 603 — one of Baltimore’s best kept secrets, if you ask me — and I mentioned the show, figuring he couldn’t possibly remember that night out of hundreds (if not thousands) of shows that he had played since then.

To my surprise, Craig Finn not only remembered the show but could tell me who opened for them.  What’s not surprising, though, was Finn’s singular ability to tell seemingly complex stories in the span of three or four minutes. That memory and storytelling are the focus on his recent podcast, “That’s How I Remember It,” is also not surprising.

Live Review: Mike and The Moonpies @ Pearl Street Warehouse — 2/3/23

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Mike and The Moonpies (Photo by Dave Creaney Photography)

Mike and The Moonpies (Photo by Dave Creaney Photography)

One of the coldest nights of the year became one of the hottest when a sold-out crowd packed the Pearl Street Warehouse on Friday night for Texas band Mike and The Moonpies. The wind chill, which neared single digits, couldn’t keep folks away. Before the band took the stage, the atmosphere was raucous: the packed venue sang along to classic country songs like David Allan Coe’s “You Never Even Called Me By Name” and Hank William’s Jr.’s “Family Tradition.”

When Mike and The Moonpies took the stage, the atmosphere became even more electric.

Live Review: Dry Cleaning @ Howard Theatre — 1/31/23

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Dry Cleaning

Florence Shaw fronts Dry Cleaning at the Howard Theatre on Jan. 31, 2023. (Photo by Mickey McCarter)

Florence Shaw is a true poet who values the economy of words. She speaks more than sings in the lyrics she writes for her band, Dry Cleaning, and the Englishwoman appreciates a phrase that gets straight to the point.

In a recent inaugural visit to DC, Florence charmed the bustling Howard Theatre using her way with words. Take fresh number “Don’t Press Me,” for instance, a short song sang halfway through the show that essentially tells the recipient of the song’s lyrics that “you’re always stressin’ me out.”

But the “rat” in the song doesn’t seem to have surprised narrator Florence, who maintained an abundance of sangfroid.

Around Town: The Wammie Awards @ Capital Turnaround, 4/1/23

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2023 WAMMIES BANNER

The 35th Annual Wammie Music Awards, presented by The MusicianShip on Saturday, April 1, 2023, at Capital Turnaround will be the hottest ticket of the Spring for nearly a thousand engaged artists and music fans who are anticipated to attend.

Live Review: Dan Mangan @ The Kennedy Center — 1/28/23

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Dan Mangan @ Millennium Stage Kennedy Center Washington DC Photo by Casey Ryan Vock

Dan Mangan performs on the South Millennium Stage at The Kennedy Center on Jan. 28, 2023. (Photo by Casey Vock)

With all the challenges faced in recent years by the live music industry, it’s become a special occasion to take in a performance from an international guest.

Conversely, for artists who are so fortunate to tour the USA and to make a stop in the nation’s capital, it’s a valuable and important chance to make yourself known to a music-minded city and to leave a lasting impression.

Dan Mangan, a heralded folk and indie rock musician based in Vancouver, recently gave a convincing demonstration of how a solo artist might best maximize the time and the opportunity to play a Millennium Stage show at The Kennedy Center.

Preview: Junior Boys @ Black Cat, 2/24/23

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Junior Boys

Junior Boys (By Hollie Pocsai and Dilyara Mukhamedzhanova)

Candian R&B duo Junior Boys have returned with a fantastically synthy new album, Waiting Game, released last year via City Slang.

The band now hits the road for the first time in a stretch, and they perform at Black Cat in DC on Friday, Feb. 24.

Live Review: Rubblebucket @ 9:30 Club — 1/26/23

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Rubblebucket @ 9:30 Club Washington DC 01.26.23 Photo by Casey Ryan Vock

Annakalmia Traver leads Rubblebucket in a performance at 9:30 Club on Jan. 26, 2023. (Photo by Casey Vock)

Taking risks in the studio and on stage might not always pan out as adventurous musicians hope.

But with all they’ve experienced through more than 15 years of making music together, Annakalmia Traver and Alex Toth have formed a bond that seemingly empowers them to challenge each other and continue elaborating on the extraordinary sounds they first began making as students on the eastern shores of Lake Champlain.

The former romantic partners and the brains behind the wildly innovative dance pop vehicle known as Rubblebucket, the longtime duo has persevered through more than just typical artists’ challenges on the way to establishing the now Brooklyn-based operation as a pioneer in fusing the sounds of jazz, pop, funk, and so much more to create absorbing, contagious grooves of every shape and size and that tickle all the senses.

Preview: Kula Shaker @ Union Stage, 2/23/23

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Kula Shaker

Kula Shaker (Photo courtesy Union Stage)

Last year, Kula Shaker released 1st Congregational Church of Eternal Love and Free Hugs, the band’s sixth studio album.

The psychedelic Brits are now set to tour the USA, and they perform at Union Stage in DC on Thursday, Feb. 23.