The year started out typically enough. But the way it began and how it’s ending are startlingly different. By the end of March, so many plans and hopes were dashed that now, as we race toward 2020’s conclusion, many of us feel they may never be realized.
Like so many others in this Year of Covid, I’ve had a chance to reflect, reassess, and reset for the coming year, sorting out what is, and isn’t, important. I enjoy photographing people, whether it be portraiture, cultural documentation, or musical performance. As a photographer, I strive to become invisible and capture moments as they are, not as I or the subject, would like them to be. Although photographing live music has been challenging as of late, I’ve been afforded the luxury of time to go through my archives and, as a result, have made a belated but important discovery: the final image must also render the photographer invisible.
David Goodrich performs at Gray Ghost Vineyards on Sept. 6, 2020. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Live performances are returning to the DC metro area. The return to “normalcy,” though, has been achingly slow and many argue we are still nowhere near normal. But despite the continued shutdown of many of the region’s larger indoor music venues, the past few weeks have seen many local artists performing outdoor gigs at Jammin’ Java and the State Theatre. In addition, ever resourceful musicians have been performing sidewalk and porch shows, at drive-in concerts and even outdoor shopping malls. Of course, live streaming continues unabated, but as I’ve written before, watching a performance on the screen just doesn’t compare to being in the same room, in front of the players, enveloped by the music.
Bobby Thompson performs at Jammin’ Java on Sept. 20, 2020. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Famed American multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter David Bromberg wrote, “you gotta suffer if you wanna sing the blues.” The irony, of course, is that when the bluesman (or woman) sings, everybody else feels good. So it was when local blues musician Bobby Thompson performed recently on a brilliant late afternoon show at Jammin’ Java.
Cat Janice performs at Jammin’ Java on Sept. 18, 2020. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Cat Janice’s simultaneously powerful and subtle voice took center stage at Jammin’ Java on a recent crisp fall day and it figuratively blew the roof off the place. In a single word, it was indeed “fierce!”
Cat won the 2019 and 2020 Washington Area Music Award (Wammie) for Best Rock Artist/Group. Clearly, audiences are taking note of her songwriting, performing, and vocal talents.
Karen Jonas performs at Jammin’ Java on Sept. 10, 2020. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Playing a parking lot is not exactly the dream of every working musician but in the age of Covid it may be the best gig in the world. The cool evening, the sweet scent of recent rain, and the soft city lights helped make Karen Jonas’ album release show on a recent night at Jammin’ Java if not a dream, a lovely end of summer outdoor show.
If one’s imagination was allowed to wander, even the fading daylight on the western horizon transported us to fiery desert sunsets as Karen and her band performed songs from her new album, The Southwest Sky and Other Dreams (Yellow Brick Road).
Greg Svitil of Teething Veils performs at Capital Fringe on Jan. 20, 2018. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Teething Veils, the DC-based chamber folk band will release its fourth studio album, Canopy of Crimson (Etxe Records), on Aug. 10. ParklifeDC recently had the opportunity to preview the album’s collection of eight new compositions.
Kathleen Edwards performs at The Birchmere in 2013. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Required Reading is Parklife DC’s essay series on music appreciation.
“The next time Kathleen plays here, we’ll be opening for her.”
Eric Brace of Last Train Home uttered those prophetic words at Arlington, Virginia’s Iota Club back in summer 2003. One of those NPR drive-way moments had put Kathleen Edwards on my radar when I heard one of her first interviews.
Her first album, Failer (Zoë Records), had just been released and when I heard its first single, “Six O’Clock News,” I was hooked.
Oh He Dead performs at Jammin’ Java on July 3, 2020. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
More than once it’s been said that, despite our differences, music’s greatest gift is its ability to break down barriers, bring people together, and unite us in common cause. In this age of pandemic lockdowns, economic uncertainty, and just plain fear of the future, that those in need, particularly struggling local musicians, would work to support causes larger than themselves, is a beautiful testament to the power of song.
Oh He Dead recently performed for a packed, but socially distanced, crowd as part of Jammin’ Java’s “A Song & A Slice: A Socially Distanced Outdoor Concert Series.”
Oh He Dead performs in Bethesda, Maryland, on Jan. 25, 2020 (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Jammin’ Java’s Summerfest continues this Friday, July 3, with Oh He Dead. Originally founded as a duo in 2014 by Andy Valenti and CJ Johnson, the band now consists of five players: CJ on vocals and Andy on rhythm guitar with Alex Salser (lead guitar), John Daise (bass), and Adam Ashforth (drums). A healthy mix of classic R&B, funk, and folk, the Washington Post calls Oh He Dead’s music an “infectious and soulful sound.”
The show is currently sold out, but read on to see what you can expect if you’re going!
Beth Cannon fronts Elizabeth II at Jammin’ Java on June 20, 2020. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Normally, summer has been in full swing for weeks by this point each year. Concerts, festivals, parades, baseball, road trips and, of course, late evenings out with friends. But as we all know, this summer ain’t normal.
So when Jammin’ Java announced its “A Song & A Slice: A Socially Distanced Outdoor Concert Series” to celebrate the opening of Union Pie (Jammin’ Java’s new pizza shop), a glimmer of hope sprang up that maybe summer had actually returned. And that maybe things could feel a little more normal.
Recently, Elizabeth II turned in a 90-minute, stripped-down, acoustic set to kick off the series.