Live Review: Jason Isbell and Father John Misty @ Merriweather Post Pavilion — 6/21/19

Jason Isbell
Jason Isbell performs at the Old Settlers Music Festival on April 12, 2019. (Photo by Dave Hensley)

“There’s a specific kind of fucked up person who pays good money to see this much sad music,” declared Rockville native Father John Misty after he finished singing “The Palace” recently. After playing “Elephant,” co-headliner Jason Isbell told the crowd at Merriweather Post Pavilion, “That’s a sad song. I made the fucking thing up and I know it’s a sad song. I’ve sung it 150,000 times and it still makes me sad.”

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Live Review: Deer Tick @ Wolf Trap — 6/20/19

Deer Tick
Deer Tick performs at The Charm City Bluegrass Festival in April 2019.  (Photo by Matt Ruppert)

In so many ways, Deer Tick is the quintessential modern American band. Started sometime in the mid-2000s and officially releasing War Elephant in 2007, theirs is a sound born of something many of us can find familiar: as at home on a small stage in the corner of a bar/coffeehouse, in a party club, or on a big stage in the middle of a national park.

They came into Wolf Trap ostensibly touring either Mayonnaise (recently released and gently confusing companion album to last year’s double album) or Deer Tick Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, their first releases since Negativity in 2013. With John McCauley decked out in mint green and the rest of the band dressed to party like it’s either 2019 or 1975, the band brought their trademark rock and roll (minus the endless booze of the early days).

Stream Mayonnaise by Deer Tick on Spotify:

Deer Tick has become somewhat more democratic, with Ian O’Neil and Dennis Ryan taking the lead at times, but the songs are still very much driven by John, the main voice of the band since the beginning. First started as John’s solo project, then adding the Ryan brothers (Dennis on drums, Chris on bass), and eventually including Ian (and others, at times), it makes sense that the band would eventually morph into something a little different. Ian’s “Dreams in the Ditch” and “Hope Is Big” have become standouts, and Dennis’s “Me and My Man” evoking the simple joy of walking a dog in the park is more than a simple joy of its own, always ending with a quick, crashing drum solo.

These moments of John stepping away from the mic allowed some textural changes to their sound, to their live show. Ian still strutted like a madman, holding his guitar in the air while high-stepping and snarling; Dennis still thrashed behind the kit, sometimes almost loose, but always tight. Chris never failed to pose at the right moments, to lean into the show. And John still did his backbends (for which he must work out on a damn-near daily basis because there is absolutely no way knees can handle that without some kind of very specific muscular fortification). But it felt a little different, a little more like controlled, a little more organized; the band looked like they’re having fun without relying on starting a party, and that’s a kind of special joy.

At Wolf Trap on June 20, Deer Tick brought a few gifts for the audience, many of whom danced and sang along on the lawn. As is often the case when falling in love with new music, the moments at the beginning stand out, so the privilege of “Easy” from Born on Flag Day alongside “Twenty Miles” from The Black Dirt Sessions is hard to overstate, followed by the transcendent “Christ Jesus” (either from War Elephant or The Black Dirt Sessions, depending on your perspective). “Easy” was the first song I heard way back in college, but “Christ Jesus” still represents the first time I truly fell in love with the band and their songs, the moment when I decided to always buy their albums.

And then, toward the end of the (too-short) set, John and Ian set ablaze the giant Wolf Trap stage with dueling guitars on “Jumpstarting” before bringing out “Ashamed” from War Elephant, eliciting a venue-wide singalong. They ended the show with a brief rendition of “You Are So Beautiful” to close their set.

I’d love to see Deer Tick headline a show coming through the area again, maybe at the 9:30 Club. I hope we get to see them again soon.

Live Review: Courtney Barnett @ The Anthem — 6/19/19

Courtney Barnett
Courtney Barnett performs at The Anthem on June 19, 2019. (Photo by Matt Ruppert) 

Courtney Barnett is the best friend everyone wishes they had — deadpan witty, desperately honest. Her songs grapple with the sorts of emotions familiar to the current generation, that balancing of self-doubt, anxiety, and the expectations for success in a world set against often overwhelming challenges.

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Live Review: The National @ The Anthem — 6/19/19

The National @ The Anthem
The National performs at The Anthem on June 19, 2019. (Photo by Matt Ruppert)

We grow up with the music we love. Maybe that’s the funniest, the best, and/or maybe the very most tragic thing about music and getting older, and maybe that’s why we sometimes stop loving the things we used to love.

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