The music of Durham, North Carolina duo Sylvan Esso was introduced to me last year by my friend and Spotify buddy Jenny, in the form of a YouTube video for their song “Hey Mami.” Straightaway, I admired singer Amelia Meath’s energy and extro-expressiveness, both on display in a sold-out show at 9:30 Club on Saturday.
James McMurtry steps on to an unadorned stage at The Birchmere Tuesday night, appropriately understated in his style and unpretentious in his presentation.
Cold Cave open their show Wednesday night at DC’s Rock and Roll Hotel with “Love Comes Close,” coincidentally the song that first initiated my interest in the band. For the duration of their opener, the look of the stage is appropriately understated.
Taking in the reaction from the crowd attending The Faint’s show at the 9:30 Club Saturday night, it’s clear that I’m amidst a pack of longtime fans.
While the band’s video for “Agenda Suicide” was on my playlist at some point way back, I am otherwise rather pathetically uninitiated with their extensive catalog. It’s evident that the band richly deserves the enthusiastic fan base that surrounds me, though. They let it be known that they have been paying attention for the preceding seventeen years.
Ruby the Rabbitfoot stepped on to the 9:30 Club stage Wednesday night as the opener for Of Montreal, making a striking first impression in her bright blue and red bolero jacket and skirt. As she begins her set with the song “Second Wind,” Ruby’s splashy look and punkish peroxide locks contrast with the subtle introspective nature her sound.
Punctuated with tight electronic rhythms and bright sounding keyboard flourishes, Ruby the Rabbitfoot’s music is nevertheless moody and contemplative. Equally balanced between romantic optimism and cheeky cynicism, this is a sound suited to a Sunday afternoon journal writing session. Yes, it’s very pleasant, as the sunbeams cut through the curl of steam rising from her coffee mug, but the words she commits to the page nevertheless look back on a love affair that could have gone better.
The Residents perform at the 9:30 Club on Friday, April 29, 2016. (Photo by Crystal Dunn – http://www.ladyvile.com)
Prior to their show at the 9:30 Club Friday night, I have previously seen The Residents perform live on only one other occasion. This was at the George Washington University Lisner Auditorium back in 1990, and it was for The King and Eye Tour.
I have been a longtime if sporadically engaged fan since the 1980s, having discovered the group through my interest of the Swiss band Yello. The Residents’ record label, Ralph Records, was the source of a lot of wonderfully strange music back in the early 1980s. In addition to the first two Yello LPs, their roster also included releases by Renaldo and the Loaf, Snakefinger, and Tuxedomoon.
The catalog insert inside of my copy of the “Claro Que Si” LP led me straight to Residents fandom. This was a period of near-fanatic record collecting for me, accompanied by some of the most memorable live performance that I have witnessed. It was in that same period of time that Lisner also hosted Laurie Anderson, The The, and an amazingly rare performance by David Sylvian. These were the kind of shows and the kind of creatively unbounded music I saw myself pursuing as I grew with the music scene — intricate, thought-provoking, cinematic, and ambitious. Seeing The Residents at the 9:30 Club this past weekend, a seated show that offered a cerebral experience, helped me reminisce about the heyday of “new music,” prior to grunge and hip hop’s reset of popular sensibility to digestible rock and roll idolatry.
Editor’s Note: To mark the 30th anniversary of the movie, a special viewing of John Hughes’ “Pretty in Pink” screened nationwide on Sunday, Feb. 14. You can see it also on Wednesday, Feb. 17, in DC metro at AMC Hoffman Center 22 (206 Swamp Fox Rd., Alexandria, Va.), with showtimes at 2pm and 7pm. Tickets are available online. Parklife DC contributor Neal Keller caught the film and shared some thoughts with us in this essay.
A Valentine for Andie
Among the things I could appreciate without hesitation was the soundtrack of now-classic 80’s New Wave tunes in “Pretty in Pink.” There were some misgivings nonetheless. While the film’s music credits were definitely a draw for nascent hipsters like myself back then, I’ll confess that I never liked the New Order song that debuted on the soundtrack. I always thought “Shellshock” was New Order by the numbers, and a sign that they were getting ready to sell out. Already a strike against the film, before it even hit the theaters!
But let’s talk about the notion of “selling out.” It’s an entirely teenage accusation that probably shouldn’t survive into adulthood. Nevertheless, the accusation was thrown at the character of Allison (Ally Sheedy) in “The Breakfast Club.” Allison forsakes her proto goth girl soul for a date with a member of the wrestling team. Well, if submitting to a makeover for the sake of the jock in “The Breakfast Club” counts as a transgression, then threadbare Andie’s leap to the other side of the tracks for the sake of a preppie rich kid in “Pretty in Pink” must rate as a mortal SIN.