When I first saw Beach House in 2007 in an alley in Baltimore with about 50 other people, I never would have imagined they would be headlining a show to an *extremely* packed venue of 6,000 people. I would have said the same thing about the band from Greenville, North Carolina, that opened for them by the name of Future Islands but that’s another story. Shoutout to Whartscape.
Beach House’s slow and steady rise is well deserved though, releasing album after album of dreamy, atmospheric indie pop. Their latest, Once, Twice Melody, a double album released earlier this year, might just be their best and the resulting tour brought the band to The Anthem on the hottest day of the year.
I guess hearing The Cult bang out classics like “Fire Woman” and “Sun King” got someone a little too fired up at the band’s performance last week at The Anthem because lead singer Ian Astbury took it upon himself to jump into the crowd and break up a scuffle near the front row while the band performed “Rain” late in the set. Of course, there’s video.
Originally released in 1990, The Black Crowes debut album Shake Your Money Maker was an out of the blue hit rock record in an era of Vanilla Ice, Wilson Phillips, and Mariah Carey. It’s also the band’s strongest album and the band would tour the world on the back of these songs for decades. Last week’s show at The Filene Center at Wolf Trap was a part of a Covid-delayed 30th anniversary tour of that album.
This version of the band only features two original members, the brothers Robinson, but they’re the ones that count. Flanked by lead singer Chris and guitarist Rich were drummer Brian Griffin, keyboardist Joel Robinow, guitarists Isaiah Mitchell and Charlie Starr, and bassist Sven Pipien, who has been in and out of the band since 1997.
Tears for Fears perform at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 19, 2022. (Photos by Kyle Gustafson; Words by Mickey McCarter)
Roland Orzabal emerged from the shadows with the looks of an aging wizard when Tears for Fears appeared on stage at Merriweather Post Pavilion recently. And he did what you would like Roland to do: He sang a song of loneliness and isolation. He sang of a desire for new beginnings and freedom. And he sang of how maybe we’ll never be truly understood. But his perspective had changed.
When singing “No Small Thing” from the extraordinary new Tears for Fears album, the sense of existential terror that pervaded the band’s early songs like “Mad World” and “Change” was replaced with a weariness. Roughly 40 years after the start of the band, they weren’t protesting, “What is happening?,” as much as they were wondering, “What had happened?”
Despite the shift, the resulting soul-searching remained very satisfying.
Generally when a band comes back to town touring behind the same album, it’s because they’re playing a bigger venue after winning over more fans. CHVRCHES did things a bit different earlier this week, with a very sold-out three night run at the 9:30 Club for the latter part of their Screen Violence tour. It was the band’s first appearance at the club since way back in 2014.
Loved by audiences across the country, equally loathed (I assume) by a large number of venue cleaning staffs, The Flaming Lips brought their blow up robots and confetti canons to The Anthem recently.
Wayne Coyne and Co. have long been a concert photographers dream (certainly no mid-2000s concert portfolio was complete without a shot of Wayne crowd surfing in his plastic bubble) and the tour behind their 2020 album American Head was no different. The first four songs featured confetti blasts, a blow up rainbow as wide as The Anthem’s stage width and a huge blow up pink robot (for obvious reasons). Not many bands can get away with playing an all-out anthem like “Do You Realize” second in the set but the Lips do things their own way.
Arlo Parks sings at Union Stage in DC on Oct. 26, 2021. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson)
A good, general rule to live by is when a recent winner of the Mercury Music Prize comes to your town, go see them. This certainly held up well for Arlo Parks’ sold-out appearance at Union Stage recenlty. Fresh off of an appearance at the Shaky Knees Festival in Atlanta over the previous weekend, Parks displayed talent and charisma well beyond what I expected from this 20 year-old.
Her debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams, is a fun, airy vibe of trip-hop beats (supplied by producer Gianluca Buccellati) and Parks cooler-than-ice-cold vocals. She has an ear for a hook as well, I’m still trying to get the chorus of “Caroline” out of my head days after the show. I swear to God I tried.
IDLES perform at 9:30 Club on Oct. 17, 2021. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson)
You’d be hard pressed to name a better or more electrifying live band right now than Bristol, England’s IDLES. Hard and fast enough for the punk fans, heavy enough for the metal fans and progressive enough for the indie fans, IDLES hit a sweet spot that no other band can touch right now at 9:30 Club in the first of two-sold out nights on Sunday. Their songs address a wide range of topics such as politics, depression, and toxic masculinity and more importantly give listeners the release that great live music demands.
Jim James of My Morning Jacket performs at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Sept. 7, 2021. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson)
One of my favorite summer traditions in DC is the seemingly annual My Morning Jacket show at Merriweather. Tuesday’s show with opener Brittany Howard was the band’s 8th show in Columbia since they graduated to amphitheaters in 2010. I’m not going to lie and say that I’ve been to all of those shows, but I’ve seen most of them and the 2011 and 2015 shows still stand out to me. The Circuitual tour show in 2011 might be the best show I’ve seen the band do locally.
Merriweather was a little over half full on Sept. 7, which was actually a wonderful thing. If you wanted to experience the show in a crowd, there were plenty of people around to remind you how that felt, pre-COVID. If you were still a little freaked out by maskless people singing and shouting along to the music, there were plenty of empty spaces to claim and still have a great vantage point for the show.
Lower Dens performs at Songbyrd Music House on Feb. 14, 2020. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson)
Beach House. Dan Deacon. Future Islands. Animal Collective. Baltimore has been a hot music scene for a while now, but for some reason the amazing Lower Dens never seem to be mentioned in these conversations often enough. That’s a real shame because Jana Hunter’s outfit has been pumping out quality tunes for over a decade now.