Live Review: Near Northeast @ Songbyrd Music House — 7/1/22

Near Northeast take a bow at Songbyrd Music House on July 1, 2022. (Photo by Marc Caicedo)

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

That long ago lyric from Semisonic’s “Closing Time,” though now bordering on the trite, nonetheless conveys an eternal truth: All is transitory, change is inevitable, time moves forward.

Near Northeast’s final (at least for the foreseeable future) performance recently at Songbyrd Music House was poignant, celebratory, and ultimately, a triumph. The band’s four members — Austin Blanton (bass, synths-cleverly hidden in the “boopcase,” vocals); Avy Mallik (guitars, vocals), Kelly Servick (violin, cello, vocals), Antonio Skarica (percussion) — will move on to other personal, professional, and musical opportunities. But on a night filled with laughter, smiles, hugs, and most likely, a few private tears, Near Northeast demonstrated why it has long been considered one of DC’s most innovative, accessible, and accomplished homegrown bands.

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Live Review: Duane Betts @ City Winery — 6/26/22

Duane Betts (center) performs at City Winery DC on June 26, 2022. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

Lazy July and August afternoons are traditionally called the dog days of summer. The fresh buds and flowers of spring have faded as the relentless heat causes trees, people, and dogs to wilt under an unforgiving sun. Thankfully, the only withering from the last Sunday in June came from Duane Betts and his two musical pals, Berry Duane Oakley (bass) and Johnny Stachela (guitars), blazing musicianship when they played City Winery DC on the 3rd stop of their Dog Daze Tour.

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Interview: Near Northeast (@ Songbyrd Music House, 7/1/22)

Near Northeast performs live. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

Near Northeast (NNE), one of Washington, DC’s most fascinating, unique, and talented bands will perform for the last time in a farewell show at Songbyrd Music House on Friday, July 1. NNE has been making music for the past eight years, produced four albums, and toured throughout the USA and Europe.

The band’s four members each brought a unique musical resume that resulted in songs with influences from Appalachia, blues-based rock, Bosnian folk songs, and Eno-like electronics. They are Austin Blanton: vocals, electric and stand-up bass, pocket operator, volca keys, organelle; Avy M: vocals, guitars, banjo, mandolin; Kelly Servick: vocals, violin, cello, theremin; and Antonio Skarica: percussion.

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Live Review: Portside Summer Festival @ Waterfront Park (Alexandria, VA) — 06/17-6/18/22

Eric Byrd Trio performs at Portside Summer Festival in Alexandria, Virginia. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

What do you get when you mix breezy, sunny summer afternoons, delicious food and beverages, an eclectic selection of musical groups, set it all on the spectacular Old Town Alexandria waterfront, and then make it free admission? You get the Portside Summer Festival, a wonderful annual event, produced by Visit Alexandria in partnership with the City of Alexandria’s Office of the Arts.

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Live Review: One Way Out @ DC9 — 6/4/22

One Way Out performs at DC9 on June 4, 2022. (Photos by Mark Caicedo; Words by Mickey McCarter)

It’s not every day that you encounter a band that’s not old enough to drink but has more love for Led Zeppelin than they do Machine Gun Kelly.

But hearing is believing in this case! The young members of One Way Out rocked hard at DC9 recently for a hometown stop on their Music and Euphoria Summer Tour.

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Live Review: Laurie Anderson @ Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden — 6/3/22

Laurie Anderson presents Lou Reed’s Drones with Stewart Hurwood and Kaoru Watanabe, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, June 3, 2022. (Mark Caicedo)

In a secluded corner of the Hirshhorn’s Sculpture Garden, framed by pine boughs and other living greenery, Grammy Award-winning musician and multi-media artist Laurie Anderson recently performed a four-hour drone-based sonic experience in celebration of her late husband Lou Reed’s 80th birthday.

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Live Review: Jeff “Skunk” Baxter @ The Birchmere — 5/4/22

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Jeff “Skunk” Baxter performs at The Birchmere on May 4, 2022. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

Jeff “Skunk” Baxter is one of those “first call” guys, the musician you call first when you need someone who can play just about anything.

Although he’s most famous for his stints in Steely Dan (1972-74) and The Doobie Brothers (1975-79), Jeff has had a long career lending his considerable multi-instrumentalist talents (guitar, pedal steel, keyboards, percussion) supporting artists as diverse as Les Paul, Bryan Adams, Joni Mitchell, Dolly Parton, Hoyt Axton, Rod Stewart Eric Clapton, Donna Summer, and Linda Ronstadt (for whom he played congas on “You’re No Good”).

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Live Review: River Whyless @ Union Stage — 4/11/22

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River Whyless perform at Union Stage on April 11, 2022. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

For those of us who’ve seen our favorite bands multiple times (followers of the Grateful Dead and Phish come to mind), we’ve learned how to spot patterns and/or variations in the live performances of the songs, onstage banter, and the unspoken conversation between artist and audience. Although I have yet to follow River Whyless on tour, I have diligently observed their career for close to a decade and have seen the band perform nearly twenty times. This past Monday, River Whyless appeared at Union Stage showcasing songs from their new album, Monoflora, and I was just as captivated as the first time I saw them perform in 2013.

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Live Review: Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs @ The Birchmere — 3/28/22

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Mike Campbell performs at The Birchmere on March 28, 2022. (Photo by Marc Caicedo)

“I was born to play guitar and I sure do love my job!”

One might think that a Monday night is a time for quiet reflection and preparation for the week ahead: planning dinners, work schedules, going to bed early. But this time was a little different. Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs recently rolled into town and delivered a performance that, for nearly three hours, rocked from beginning to end at The Birchmere. No quiet reflection or getting to bed early this night!

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Live Review: The Smithereens w/ Marshall Crenshaw @ The Birchmere — 3/19/22

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The Smithereens with Marshall Crenshaw perform at The Birchmere on March 19, 2022. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

That the last two years have been unkind to live music might be the understatement of the season. Bands who thrived on live performance were forced to hunker down, ride out the unavoidable pandemic pause, and wait until the proverbial “numbers” came down before performing in front of actual people again.

The Smithereens were scheduled to perform in Northern Virginia in October 2020 which, not knowing how long the pandemic pause would last, was then rescheduled to May 2021. Which, of course, was rescheduled again. Last week, the long-awaited return of the New Jersey-based band finally happened. And what a show it was! The Smithereens stormed back into a sold-out Birchmere and proceeded to melt the paint off the walls.

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