Samantha Fish performs at The Birchmere on Oct. 19, 2020. (Photo by Ari Strauss)
I wasn’t sure what the experience of a concert would be like when I attended my first show since early March at The Birchmere on Monday evening. I knew that the concert hall would be a half-capacity, sold out for blues guitarist extraordinaire and singer-songwriter Samantha Fish. But I wasn’t sure what kind of energy such a crowd would generate.
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong performs at Showtime at the Drive-In in Frederick on Oct. 15, 2020. (Photo by Casey Vock.)
While the memories of live music as we once knew it slip more distant into our collective memories, it’s likely that no one will forget their first experience watching a drive-in style pandemic performance.
Originating in Europe and cropping up shortly thereafter throughout the United States, drive-in concerts have already become, for some, a norm in times of required or suggested social distancing. And thanks to the work of All Good Presents and Baltimore Soundstage, music fans in the DMV this fall are being offered a somewhat unexpected harvest of live music by way of the Showtime at the Drive-In series being held at the Frederick County Fairgrounds.
Jeff Tweedy performs live. (Photo by Matt Ruppert)
Jeff Tweedy has amassed a following in old and new-fashioned ways, building his base across the decades with albums and songs of his own across at least a half-dozen acts (Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Golden Smog, Loose Fur, Tweedy, solo) and expanding it with Wilco’s Solid Sound festival (reinventing the festival in the modern age), writing a memoir, keeping a steady live sitcom on his wife’s Insta during covid-times, and now sharing a slice of his wisdom with a book about songwriting: How to Write One Song (out now via Dutton).
Bobby Thompson performs at Jammin’ Java on Sept. 20, 2020. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Famed American multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter David Bromberg wrote, “you gotta suffer if you wanna sing the blues.” The irony, of course, is that when the bluesman (or woman) sings, everybody else feels good. So it was when local blues musician Bobby Thompson performed recently on a brilliant late afternoon show at Jammin’ Java.
Cat Janice performs at Jammin’ Java on Sept. 18, 2020. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Cat Janice’s simultaneously powerful and subtle voice took center stage at Jammin’ Java on a recent crisp fall day and it figuratively blew the roof off the place. In a single word, it was indeed “fierce!”
Cat won the 2019 and 2020 Washington Area Music Award (Wammie) for Best Rock Artist/Group. Clearly, audiences are taking note of her songwriting, performing, and vocal talents.
Karen Jonas performs at Jammin’ Java on Sept. 10, 2020. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Playing a parking lot is not exactly the dream of every working musician but in the age of Covid it may be the best gig in the world. The cool evening, the sweet scent of recent rain, and the soft city lights helped make Karen Jonas’ album release show on a recent night at Jammin’ Java if not a dream, a lovely end of summer outdoor show.
If one’s imagination was allowed to wander, even the fading daylight on the western horizon transported us to fiery desert sunsets as Karen and her band performed songs from her new album, The Southwest Sky and Other Dreams (Yellow Brick Road).
Daryl Davis and his band entertain music fans with a high-energy blues and rock & roll performance at The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA, July 11, 2020. (Photo by Ari Strauss)
A sight for sore eyes appeared on Mount Vernon Avenue in Alexandria, Virginia, this past weekend as the iconic Birchmere sign light up with news that it is once again open for business.
After a four-month hiatus since early March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the legendary Northern Virginia music venue reopened recently at a limited capacity using enhanced health and safety measures set forth by the CDC and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Parklife DC’s Ari Strauss went to see the Daryl Davis Band perform on July 11 and reviews his experience with photos of the performance.
Kathleen Edwards performs at The Birchmere in 2013. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Required Reading is Parklife DC’s essay series on music appreciation.
“The next time Kathleen plays here, we’ll be opening for her.”
Eric Brace of Last Train Home uttered those prophetic words at Arlington, Virginia’s Iota Club back in summer 2003. One of those NPR drive-way moments had put Kathleen Edwards on my radar when I heard one of her first interviews.
Her first album, Failer (Zoë Records), had just been released and when I heard its first single, “Six O’Clock News,” I was hooked.
Eze Jackson performs as part of the Creative Alliance’s Sidewalk Serenades on July 4, 2020. (Photo by David LaMason)
On a hot afternoon recently, right outside of my house in East Baltimore, the amazing Eze Jackson gave a spirited Sidewalk Serenade.
Sidewalk Serenades is a program through the Creative Alliance in Baltimore that helps local musicians provide socially distanced performances as a way to provide a vital line from artists to audience in the age of COVID-19. But it has the added benefit of highlighting the best musical artistry in and around Baltimore. And Eze Jackson is certainly one of the best.
Oh He Dead performs at Jammin’ Java on July 3, 2020. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
More than once it’s been said that, despite our differences, music’s greatest gift is its ability to break down barriers, bring people together, and unite us in common cause. In this age of pandemic lockdowns, economic uncertainty, and just plain fear of the future, that those in need, particularly struggling local musicians, would work to support causes larger than themselves, is a beautiful testament to the power of song.
Oh He Dead recently performed for a packed, but socially distanced, crowd as part of Jammin’ Java’s “A Song & A Slice: A Socially Distanced Outdoor Concert Series.”