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.
Temples perform at U Street Music Hall on Jan. 20, 2020. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson)
Sometimes when it’s cold as hell out, the best thing to do is pack into a small crowded room and watch a killer rock show. That’s exactly what I did on Monday, catching a brilliant show from Temples at U Street Music Hall.
Cage the Elephant performs at The Anthem on Dec. 3, 2019. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson)
It’s been a good year for Cage the Elephant fans in DC. The band has been through town twice this year, playing Merriweather over the summer with Beck and Spoon and also headlining the recent DC101 holiday shindig at The Anthem. Add in October 2018 performance at the new Entertainment and Sport Arena, and that’s three shows in just over a year. Not too shabby.
Billy Bragg performs at The Birchmere on Sept. 19, 2019. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson)
Not many solo artists armed with only an amp and a guitar have done it longer or better than Billy Bragg. Accordingly, the recent trend of artists playing classic albums in their entirety is a great opportunity for Bragg, a master storyteller in addition to being a master songwriter, to look back on his career, but with a bit of a twist.
The Hives perform at Franklin Music Hall in Philadelphia on May 18, 2019. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson)
Look, I don’t make the rules. But the rules clearly state that if THE BEST DAMN LIVE BAND ON THE PLANET decide not to play D.C. on their tour, but they are playing Philadelphia on a Saturday night, well you gas up the car and hit the road. So that’s what we did, trekking north to the City of Brotherly Love to catch Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, Nicholaus Arson and the rest of The Hives on the opening night of their all too brief US tour.
The Dandy Warhols perform at 9:30 Club on May 6, 2019. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson)
The Dandy Warhols are 25? For serious? If you would have asked me back in mid-’90s, I would have said no chance. And how wrong I would have been. The Dandys have carved out a nice career for themselves, being smart about song placements for ads and video games, making friends in right places (they opened for David Bowie!), investing back into a home studio and most importantly, making a steady stream of their wonderful brand of oddball pop.