Interview: Midge Ure @ Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, 3/8/15

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Midge Ure (Photo by Andy Siddens)

Editor’s Note: Midge Ure has announced his return to Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016! (Tickets are available online.)

I had the distinct pleasure of chatting with a great Scotsman, singer-songwriter Midge Ure, best known in the United States as the frontman of Ultravox in the 1980s. Midge is in the midst of a solo acoustic tour at the moment, and he stops by the DC metro area to perform at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda, Md., on Sunday, March 8. Tickets are available online and at the door.

Midge was quite generous with his time and shared his perspectives on touring in America, writing hit songs and his history with Ultravox as well as his late friend Steve Strange, his bandmate in Visage. (This may be a lengthy interview, but there was so much wisdom in so many of his answers that I couldn’t bear to cut it!)

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Music Park: Spirit Animal @ DC9 — 2/25/15

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“Who came to dance?” asked vocalist Steve Cooper of Spirit Animal. He was about to play a dance song.

Despite occupying a very full room at DC9 on Wednesday night, the crowd gave a very noncommittal murmur.

“That’s a tepid response!” Steve said. “Then, this is a stand-the-fuck-still song!”

I couldn’t help but chuckle. The entertaining banter is part of the Spirit Animal stage show, as they bring their party rock and carefree attitude to any stage they play. Spirit Animal then launch into “Party in the Back,” a new song from 2014, and along the way they manage to get the crowd to indeed dance along, starting with the people in the back of the room.

Despite their position as the opening band (for Paper Route in this case), Spirit Animal’s lengthy repertoire and charisma demand co-billing status of any main act. The audience cannot help but unwind when the prolific Brooklyn quartet take the stage with such good chemistry and crowd-pleasing songs. With their infectious enthusiasm and funky anthems, they are kind of like a young New Yorker’s answer to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

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Around Town: Mari Vanna’s Second Anniversary Celebration, 2/24/15

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Mari Vanna’s house infused vodkas

Russian restaurant Mari Vanna (1141 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC) kicked off its second anniversary Tuesday with a birthday party in its swank third level, welcoming guests with a DJ spinning the likes of “Mr. Saxobeat” by Alexandra Stan and “Cool Kids” by Echosmith.

The lovely third floor lounge of the restaurant is playfully adorned with Russian records and photos of Russian musicians along its walls, and guests were seated in comfortable booths and homey settees.

Although the ambience was cozy, the real draw of the night for Mari Vanna’s patrons was its wide selection of house infused vodkas.

The house infused vodka bar includes such diverse delights as horseradish, cowberry, honey pepper, plum, cucumber and dill, and seaberry vodkas. This reporter, purely in the interest of exploring the vodkas, sampled tastes of less adventurous raspberry and apple and cinnamon vodkas. Both are absolutely wonderful full-bodied drinks with a plentifully powerful fruit flavor. The juiciness of the raspberry vodka particularly made it surprisingly easy to drink.

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Records adorn the walls of Mari Vanna’s third floor lounge

Outside of the DJ on the third floor, guests on all three levels of the restaurant were treated to the music of accordionist Peter Dranga, who wandered minstrel-like among diners and revelers as he played traditional folks tunes.

Since its DC opening in February 2013 (its fourth location after the original in St. Petersburg, Russia, and expansions to London and New York), Mari Vanna has offered its Slavic food and kitschy atmosphere to enthusiastic crowds, and judging from its birthday party celebrations, we can expect it to continue to do so for years to come!

Around Town: Oscars Red Carpet Party @ Malmaison, 2/22/15

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Every year, I get very wrapped up in the race to the Oscars, and I get invested in my favorite nominees!

On Sunday, I’ll go to Malmaison (3401 Water St. NW, DC) in Georgetown for the Washington Film Institute’s Red Carpet Party. Join me there if tickets remain available!

My Oscar “picks” aren’t always who I think will win but they are always those that resonated the most with me personally. This year, for example, I had a lot of love for “Birdman” but I didn’t think too much of “Boyhood,” and so I don’t think the latter film should win too many awards.

In this post, the first of two parts, I’ll share my thoughts with the nominees for Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. Find me later for additional thoughts on Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress.

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Don’t Miss: Leisure Cruise @ DC9, 2/22/15

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Born in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Leisure Cruise pairs the synth-driven instrumentation of Dave Hodge (known for Broken Social Scene and Bran Van 3000) and vocalist Leah Siegel. As the story goes, Hodge saw Siegel passing by while sitting in a Brooklyn café after the storm and shared some songwriting with her. And now together, they have written a debut album, Leisure Cruise, set for release on May 6.

Last year, Leisure Cruise released their debut album, and now they set sail on a 12-date tour of east coast and west coast cities, starting in Boston today making their third stop DC9 in DC on Sunday, Feb. 22.

I’ve been listening to the 11 tracks listed on the Leisure Cruise SoundCloud, and these are some excellent songs.

The album opens with the soaring synths and lush vocals of “Double Digit Love” (a truly catchy song), progresses to the relaxed and hypnotic “Earthquake,” and the very new wave “Crime Tip.” The album gets more exciting as it progresses with sci-fi allusions to sex and travel.

According to the band’s press, the album is “something sounding like the future as imagined in the past-yet rooted in the now. Imagine the music of a John Hughes film if it had been written by Bowie, remixed by Johnny Jewel, and fronted by a female Prince, and you’ll start to get the idea.”

Watch a live performance of “Crime Tip” from BalconyTV:

Tickets are available online and at the door.

Leisure Cruise
w/ Tigers Are Bad for Horses
DC9
Sunday, Feb. 22
Doors @8:30pm
$10
All ages

Music Park: Priests @ Black Cat — 2/7/15

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Gideon Jaguar and Katie Greer do the rock.

Katie Greer’s voice is half kitten purr and half jet engine roar.

Priests took to the stage as an opener for Parquet Courts in a sold-out show at the Black Cat Saturday night, and they blasted out of the gate so rambunctiously, you could be forgiven for forgetting everything that followed them.

Katie and company opened with “New” from their EP Bodies and Control and Money and Power, released in June 2014. The song has all of two lines really — and they are about the sensation of things being “new” when you’re a kid.

But the lyrics matter less in this case than how they are delivered. Katie’s growl grows more powerful as the song goes on while Daniele Daniele pounds away on the drums behind her, yelping out a high-pitched refrain behind her bandmate’s lower register. Taylor Mulitz completes the rhythm section with some deft handling of bass.

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