Music Park: Donald Cumming @ Echostage, 7/29/15

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Donald Cumming (Photo by Kat Villacorta)

Catching a show by Donald Cumming is sort of like hanging out with a casual friend that you really like and want to get to know better.

The unassuming former frontman of The Virgins visited DC from New York City to perform at Echostage Wednesday, opening for Brandon Flowers, himself a displaced frontman.

Donald performed his first single, “Game of the Heart,” singing of the struggles of love, fixed to the center of the stage with his guitar and surrounded by a simple but talented band — guitar, bass and drums, which spun jangly and affable psych rock.

The singer-songwriter is a very precise guitarist, taking care to craft intricate melodies that might sound a little bit like Elvis Costello or a little bit like Tom Petty on occasion. He’s perfectly relaxed and comfortable in his own skin, which lends itself to his own unhurried identity, however. Although Donald only started performing solo this year, we have to keep in mind indeed that he toured two albums with his former band before he officially gave up on the outfit in 2013.

Although Donald is no longer with The Virgins, you get a real sense of what it must be like to hang out with this easy-going chap in a video made by Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records, which released the band’s second and last record in 2013:

Watch Donald chat about recording in the Cult Records video from March 11, 2013:

Donald and his band shine when they take up an instrumental odyssey, such as with the long break on his song “Scarecrow,” also from his debut solo album Out Calls Only. The sonically mesmerizing tune held the audience’s hushed attention as the band focused on their guitars. As others have noted, “Scarecrow” owes a tip of the hat to Television’s “Marquee Moon,” so in some ways Donald hasn’t strayed too far from the influences on the post-punk sound of The Virgins.

You can listen to “Scarecrow” online at YouTube:

With his guitar as his guide, Donald navigates each song deliberately, going where his spirit takes him and often transitioning genre labels.

In his song “Working It Out,” for example, Donald strikes an alt-country note, demonstrating that his psychedelic tendencies are grounded in roots rock.

Listen to “Working’ It Out,” released by label Washington Square Records, via Soundcloud:

Donald continues touring as the opening act for Brandon Flowers tonight in Cleveland, Ohio, and then next week with dates in Boston and New York City. (DC will surely see him headline a solo tour in support of his album soon!)

If you go to the show, go early and give your attention to the newly solo singer. You’ll surely find that you’ll want to get to know him better.

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