Best of the Year: Top 10 Musical Moments of 2021 by Mark C.

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The Allman Betts Band performs at The Birchmere in June. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

2021 saw a gradual return to live music as venues and musicians did their best to return to “normalcy” and keep everybody safe. Things didn’t always go according to plan: People still got sick, tours were canceled or postponed, and attendance to indoor shows still sometimes lagged.

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Live Review: The Allman Family Revival @ The Fillmore Silver Spring — 12/10/21

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Joanne Shaw Taylor performs at the Allman Family Revival at The Fillmore Silver Spring on Dec. 10, 2021. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

So, let’s drop all pretense of objectivity: I adore the music of the Allman Brothers Band. The ensemble formed in 1969 by brothers Duane and Gregg took the blues and infused it with rock, soul, and jazz, and invented what would eventually be called “southern rock.” That legendary band enjoyed a career that stretched to 2014, albeit with several personnel changes and multi-year long breaks. Nonetheless, the band were and still are a huge influence on the American musical landscape.

Friday night at The Fillmore Silver Spring, Devon Allman and Duane Betts brought The Allman Betts Band to town to celebrate the Allman Brothers’ music with a who’s who list of guest performers: Eric Gales, G. Love, Robert Randolph, Donavon Frankenreiter, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Alex Orbison, Lilly Hiatt, Lamar Williams Jr., Jimmy Hall, among others. The three plus hour show was much more than a concert, though. For many of us, it was a beautiful reminder of music we grew up with and have cherished for decades.

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Live Review: Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles featuring Eric “Roscoe” Ambel @ Jammin’ Java – 12/1/21

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Sarah Borges performs at Jammin’ Java on Dec. 1, 2021. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

Sarah and her band, the Broken Singles, rolled into town recently, hitting the Jammin Java stage with Eric “Roscoe” Ambel for another of her typically rockin’ and quip-laden performances. Having seen Sarah previously, I was prepared for a seriously fun rock and roll show. This one, the first in our area since 2020, featured plenty of new additions to the setlist as she road tested a few new songs from her forthcoming release, Together Alone.

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Live Review: Midnight North @ The Hamilton Live – 10/7/21

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The Midnight North perform at The Hamilton Live on Oct. 7, 2021. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

After a two-year absence, Midnight North recently made a much-anticipated return to the DC area, even briefly renaming The Hamilton on the strength of the two “Graham(e)” bandmembers. The show featured an appearance by Phil Lesh, beloved Grateful Dead bassist and father of Midnight North guitarist and founder, Grahame Lesh. For two-plus hours, the “Gramilton” felt like an extended family reunion with fans from differing generations and bands reuniting after a too-long pandemic hiatus.

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Live Review: Oh He Dead @ 9:30 Club — 9/25/21

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Oh He Dead perform at 9:30 Club on Sept. 25, 2021. (Photos by Mark Caicedo)

“Poppy enough for ya…bitch?”

Those words, spoken in jest years ago between Oh He Dead’s CJ Johnson and Andy Valenti, actually signaled a dogged determination to never compromise on their dream. Saturday night, during their headlining 9:30 Club debut, the two Oh He Dead (OHD) founders related the story of demoing one of their new songs, only to be told that it wasn’t “pop” enough. That long ago, unnamed producer might be a little humbled to find that OHD has amassed an exhaustive repertoire of original and cover songs, has legions of fans around the world, and this past Saturday played to a packed 9:30 Club (only the first, no doubt, of many such appearances to come).

And judging by the crowd of swaying, dancing, and singing fans, not a single one would accuse OHD of not being “poppy” enough.

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Live Review: Jonny Grave w/ Elizabeth II @ Pearl Street Warehouse – 9/10/21

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Jonny Grave performs at Pearl Street Warehouse on Sept. 10, 2021. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

Two of the finest DC area musicians performed this past Friday evening at Pearl Street Warehouse. Elizabeth II opened with a subdued but nonetheless passionate solo acoustic performance while Jonny Grave’s blues rock provided a raucous counterpoint.

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Live Review: Hayley Fahey @ Pearl Street Warehouse – 8/15/21

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Hayley Fahey performs at Pearl Street Warehouse on Aug. 15, 2021. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

Hayley Fahey, surrounded by family, friends, and fans, performed her new EP, Good Old Days, at Pearl Street Warehouse (PSW) last Sunday evening. Arriving to the venue shortly before showtime, I was struck by the level of anticipation and excitement in the air. Although one might think the recently reinstated mask mandate in DC might have dampened the celebratory mood, I detected no drop in enthusiasm or support for the hometown multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter.

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Live Review: Julian Lage @ Jammin’ Java – 8/13/21

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Julian Lage and Jorge Roader perform at Jammin’ Java on Aug. 13, 2021. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

The evening threatened to be a major disappointment. Crawling along the beltway under ominous skies, dodging felled trees from the day’s earlier storms, a late arrival seemed inevitable. Pulling up to Jammin’ Java just before showtime, we were greeted by a gloomy, darkened venue — apparently the power had gone out! Although prospects for the show actually happening remained in doubt, we entered the venue with hopes checked.

Despite glum prospects, harried servers scurried about, attending to the chatty sold-out crowd, who nonetheless remained in high spirits.

Then, as if by divine intervention, the lights popped back on 10 minutes before showtime. And they stayed on. Friday the 13th turned out lucky after all and for the next two and a half hours we enjoyed expert, soothing, and truly mind-blowing guitar performances from opener Luke Brindley and headliner Julian Lage.

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Preview: Hayley Fahey @ Pearl Street Warehouse – 8/15/21

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Hayley Fahey (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

This Sunday, Aug. 15, DC native Hayley Fahey’s return to Pearl Street Warehouse promises to be a celebration in all respects: a return to her old stomping grounds, the joy of live, in-person music, and most significantly, the release of Hayley’s new EP.

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Live Review: RoseRiot @ Jammin’ Java – 7/23/21

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Rose Riot pose for the camera at Jammin’ Java on July 23, 2021. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

Anyone who’s familiar with the DMV’s music scene knows Cathy DiToro, an incandescent ball of energy whose bands So Fetch (aughts covers), The Legwarmers (’80s covers), and Party Like It’s (ska/dance) clearly don’t occupy enough of her time.

A songwriter in her own right, Cathy has assembled a fresh quartet, the aptly named RoseRiot, to perform original songs, and the band made a long-awaited return to live performance with an outdoor appearance at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Virginia this past Friday.

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