Home Live Review Live Review: Lilly Hiatt w/ Molly Martin @ DC9 — 3/1/24

Live Review: Lilly Hiatt w/ Molly Martin @ DC9 — 3/1/24

Live Review: Lilly Hiatt w/ Molly Martin @ DC9 — 3/1/24
Lilly Hiatt performs at DC9 on March 1, 2024. (Photo by James Todd Miller)

Lilly Hiatt has an underrated sense of humor. “I’m a big gas station enthusiast,” she recently told the crowd at DC9, introducing her song, “Kwik-E-Mart.” “I feel unguarded and seen at the gas station,” she added.

This might sound a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I suspect it’s quite sincere. To me, that makes it even funnier. I find people’s idiosyncrasies incredibly charming. Lilly’s a real one; she wears her heart on her sleeve, and she isn’t afraid to make herself vulnerable. Her vulnerability creates a sense of connection between her and her audience.

At DC9 on March 1, Hiatt made her first appearance with a full band in the DC area in two years; she performed a solo acoustic set to open for the Mountain Goats at The Birchmere last February. Her band was great, with her guitarist leaning into a sound reminiscent of ’80s and ’90s roots rock. On “Imposter,” a song Lilly wrote for her father, the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter John Hiatt, I noticed a musical phrase like one in Los Lobos’ “One Time, One Night.”

Speaking of “Imposter,” it’s a delicate balance for creatives, dealing with our internal critics. They can overpower us and get in the way of making anything. Many mornings, I have sat down in front of the computer with the intent to write, but the negative self-talk hijacks my brain and makes it nearly impossible. Sometimes I wish I could silence my internal critic (I am writing a story about a writer who hires a hitman to do this), but we can’t live without them. We need a voice that tells us when an idea isn’t any good, or that the idea is good, but the execution is flawed. As much as one might like to bludgeon one’s internal critic to death with a soup spoon, you must learn to live with your internal critic.

Watch Lilly Hiatt perform “Imposter” live for Paste Studios on YouTube:

Hiatt has been characterized as “country” by sites like AllMusic, but I disagree with this assessment. I’ve written before about how many female artists who play rock/pop – including Neko Case and Jenny Lewis – have been strangely mislabeled. Interestingly, many of these artists are heavily influenced by Aimee Mann, who has served as a prototype for quirky, brilliant women in music. Sure, there’s some Lucinda Williams in the background of what Hiatt is doing, but Lu has moved strongly in the direction of rock forward from Car Wheels on A Gravel Road. Lilly’s latest album, Lately, the title track of which was the penultimate number in her set, flirted with experimental pop, in ways like what Wilco did on A.M.

Lilly kicked off her set with “Nowhere To Be.” I relate to this one, as, aside from a show or two a week, I don’t really leave my house much. (I plan to go pick up some comics at the library across the street this afternoon, which qualifies as an Event for me. I’m a regular party animal.) Next up was “P-Town,” which took us to Portland, Oregon. “Brightest Star” may be her finest love song.

The title track of her 2017 breakout album Trinity Lane is all about Lilly’s favorite street, which runs east to west, and has “seen a lot of shit go down.” It’s lucky for her that her favorite street has such a great name, because “Smith Road” or “Market Street” doesn’t have the same lyrical quality.

After “Imposter” and “Kwik E-Mart,” they played “Somewhere,” then “Never Play Guitar,” a worthy addition to the canon of songs about songs. “Three Days” is an older song, written about the time she went to Austin with her friends Margo Price and Beth Finney to play a single show for sixty bucks, and came home “happier than I’d ever been.” (I imagine another zero on that payout would have made her even happier.)

For the next number, Hiatt invited the show opener, Nashville based singer-songwriter Molly Martin to sing with her on “Hidden Day.” They explained the song was cowritten with Scott Sax, who Molly described as a “human Muppet,” a description I can relate to. (I have the heart of Kermit, the corny sense of humor of Fozzy, the weirdness of Gonzo, and the hyperactivity of Animal. I contain multitudes, as Uncle Bob would say.)

Watch the official music video for “Hidden Day” by Lilly Hiatt on YouTube:

The set rounded out with “Face,” “Rotterdam,” and “See Ya Later,” and ended with “Stirs Me Up.”

Molly Martin began the evening with a fantastic opening set that rocked hard. She has a ’90s-influenced alternative sound, especially evident on a cover of “Torn,” which was a hit for Natalie Imbruglia. Along with the direct, raw quality of her songs, it reminded me a bit of Liz Phair. After the opener, “Take My Pills,” Molly told the audience, “That was my anti-depression banger.” She introduced the next song, “That Girl Margaret,” as “my queer banger.” The set also included “What You Need” and “Wannabe.” In a more serious moment – most of her banter was quite lighthearted, even bouncy – she spoke about being sexually assaulted four years ago, and how the next song was the first she wrote after that. She closed with “I Like Losers,” which is a sentiment I can get behind.

Molly’s music was new to me, but I really enjoyed it. She expressed some nervousness about her ability to play the guitar, but she sounded great, and I really liked the garage-y quality of her playing. She was a great compliment to Hiatt, similar enough to fit the show while sounding distinct enough to add something different to the experience. Molly will be back in town to open for Aaron Lee Tasjan on April 27 at the same venue, so be sure to come check her out.

Here are some photos of Molly Martin opening Lilly Hiatt at DC9 on March 1, 2024. All pictures copyright and courtesy of James Todd Miller.

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Here are some photos of Lilly Hiatt headlining DC9 on March 1, 2024. All pictures copyright and courtesy of James Todd Miller. DSC_4675


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