The Wallflowers at Rams Head Live, Aug. 23, 2019. (Photo by Matt Ruppert)
Towheaded and impressionable, I found Bringing Down the Horse at Sam Goody’s end-of-row display shelf in the Towsontown Mall, its stamplike W and stars drawing my eyes. I pulled a pile of ones out of my pocket, the slowly-earned financial detritus of chores completed and change received, counting out the $16.99 required. Then (and maybe now), spending my money filled me with some worry, concern that my decision would ruin my mood. That, somehow, this thing I’d promised my time wouldn’t be worthy of it.
Deer Tick performs at The Charm City Bluegrass Festival in April 2019. (Photo by Matt Ruppert)
In so many ways, Deer Tick is the quintessential modern American band. Started sometime in the mid-2000s and officially releasing War Elephant in 2007, theirs is a sound born of something many of us can find familiar: as at home on a small stage in the corner of a bar/coffeehouse, in a party club, or on a big stage in the middle of a national park.
Courtney Barnett performs at The Anthem on June 19, 2019. (Photo by Matt Ruppert)
Courtney Barnett is the best friend everyone wishes they had — deadpan witty, desperately honest. Her songs grapple with the sorts of emotions familiar to the current generation, that balancing of self-doubt, anxiety, and the expectations for success in a world set against often overwhelming challenges.
The National performs at The Anthem on June 19, 2019. (Photo by Matt Ruppert)
We grow up with the music we love. Maybe that’s the funniest, the best, and/or maybe the very most tragic thing about music and getting older, and maybe that’s why we sometimes stop loving the things we used to love.
Brandi Carlile bows as she walks onto the Merriweather stage on June 14, 2019. (Photo by Matt Ruppert)
We’ve seen Brandi Carlile before, we’ve walked the very same steps at Merriweather Post Pavilion, sat under the same stars, even heard some of the same songs. But no part of us could prepare for the joy-letting, the rampant release of emotion, the impossible catharsis, and the absolute connectedness of this recent show.
Rodrigo y Gabriela perform at Wolf Trap on June 7, 2019. (Photo by Matt Ruppert)
The summer air dances before the solstice at Wolf Trap, thrumming with music, thick with humidity, a gentler crowd settling onto its lawns. In early June, as the sun sets and the scent of flowers still percolates on humid breezes, Wolf Trap finds its easiest sense of beauty.
Jim James and his band perform at the 9:30 Club on May 17, 2019. (Photo by Matt Ruppert)
Jim James has a totemic hold over the indie-rock scene — My Morning Jacket very much a universe unto itself (I bristle at the idea of calling them a jam band). Jim dropped by 9:30 Club for a pair of solo shows recently, and I caught the first of the two.