Bill Frisell Trio (Photo by Monica Jane Frisell)
Few musicians have demonstrated an eternal devotion to the exploration and discovery of sound like Bill Frisell. The 69-year-old made a name for himself as a studio guitarist for ECM Records in the 1980s and went on to become a tremendously influential presence on the New York City jazz scene working with John Zorn, Paul Motian, John Scofield, and many others on a long list of projects.
Guided by his life-long pursuit of melody, Bill left the City in 1988, intentionally breaking out of the walls of jazz he’d constructed around himself, and moved to the West Coast, but his desire to create new music would take him all over the globe.
The Del McCoury Band performs at Ram’s Head On Stage in Annapolis in November 2017. (Photo by Casey Vock)
Ronnie McCoury, the eldest son of bluegrass legend Del McCoury and the longtime mandolin player for The Del McCoury Band, says he’s never had this much free time in the four decades he’s been performing music.
Ronnie was just a 13-year-old kid when he got his first glimpse of his father’s buddy Bill Monroe playing the mandolin, and, not long after, he was playing gigs alongside his dad. All these years later, Ronnie’s an eight-time International Bluegrass Music Association Mandolin Player of the Year and, just last year, produced the association’s Album of the Year — “Del McCoury Still Sings Bluegrass” — with his dad.
The Districts perform at 9:30 Club on March 10, 2020. (Photo by Casey Vock.)
Sometimes an album comes to life when a band needs it most, and the tour to support it is how the group actually reaps the spiritual, and financial, benefits of their work.
The Districts’ latest release — You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere — is said to have almost never happened: the band had nearly exhausted itself after an intense few years on the road and seemed to be searching for direction when founder and head singer Rob Grote isolated himself and put pen to pad to nurture the words that would comprise the newest LP.
Destroyer performs at Black Cat on March 9, 2020. (Photo by Casey Vock.)
Strange times are best scored with a bizarre and darkly complex soundtrack. We are clearly in such times, and thanks to the Black Cat’s eclectic schedule, including the occasional Canadian band, DC area fans were recently given a healthy dose of avant-garde rock, only a couple days before local venues started canceling shows.
Nap Eyes performs at Black Cat on March 9, 2020. (Photo by Casey Vock)
When Canadian bands make their way into the United States, they oftentimes tour with a posse of fellow Canucks. Such was the case recently at the Black Cat, where Nap Eyes performed as the opening act for a much-anticipated Destroyer show.
The Revivalists perform at The Anthem on Feb. 29, 2020. (Photo by Casey Vock)
The Revivalists, an eight-piece outfit from New Orleans, recently sold out The Anthem in as part of the band’s ambitious Into the Stars Tour, and Parklife was there to take it in.
Todd Snider performs at Rams Head On Stage on March 1, 2020. (Photos by Casey Vock)
Cautiously emerging from the dressing room, stepping wide-eyed onto the stage at the Rams Head on Stage recently, he seemed unsure if he was even supposed to be there. Or maybe he was given pause by the full venue, either way, the audience might have wondered for a second what was going on.
But as he settled into a couple notes on the guitar and began to blow the harmonica, if tears hadn’t already started to well in their eyes, attentive onlookers were already able to decipher the genius that is Todd Snider.
Tank and the Bangas performs at The Anthem on Feb. 29, 2020. (Photos by Casey Vock.)
There’s something invincible and miraculous about a musical act that never really fit into a specific genre and probably never will.
But it’s tough to understand where a record store clerk might slot albums from the Grammy-nominated Tank and the Bangas, an inexplicably fascinated posse of musicians who about eight years ago in the birthplace of jazz — the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans — and have become one of the hottest acts on tour today.
Circles Around the Sun performs at The 8X10 in Baltimore on Feb. 27, 2020. (Photo by Casey Vock)
What’s the best way to pay respects to a friend who left too early? There’s probably no perfect answer to that question, but it’s an admirable deed to carry out the last known wishes of a beloved one you’ve lost.
That’s the density of the mission that recently brought Circles Around the Sun to Baltimore for a performance at The 8×10 to kick off the band’s first multi-state tour since the death of the group’s shepherd, Neal Casal.
Trampled by Turtles performs at Baltimore Soundstage on Feb. 22, 2020. (Photo by Casey Vock)
What separates one band from the next might be the degree to which it challenges itself within the confines of whatever genre it is pigeonholed — and exercising creativity while respecting particular forms and traditions of your craft isn’t always easy.
For going on two decades, Duluth, Minnesota-based Trampled by Turtles has earned a reputation in the studio and on the road for testing the upper limits of bluegrass power and tempo while simultaneously honing the sweetest harmonies to ever come out of the Zenith City.