If most of 2020 (and, let’s face it, most of 2021) was a pressure tank waiting to explode, then the packed house at The Fillmore Silver Spring was the symbolic release Wednesday night as Japanese Breakfast performed to an audience eager for live music. And they certainly got that rush of excitement when, straight off a New York Times bestseller, “Crying in H Mart,” and an acclaimed new album, Jubilee, Michelle Zauner, the creative force behind Japanese Breakfast, kicked off her US Tour with the first stop at The Fillmore.
Steve Earle performs at The Birchmere on July 20, 2021. (Photo by Ari Strauss)
Steve Earle has been playing The Birchmere regularly for decades, since even before his debut album, 1986’s Guitar Town. He first visited the famed northern Virginia venue when he was playing bass in his mentor’s, Guy Clark, band. (Steve’s other mentor was the brilliant but deeply troubled songwriter Townes Van Zandt.) On Tuesday evening, Earle and his band, The Dukes (get it? it’s a pun on the early rockabilly song “Duke of Earl”) played the first of two nights at the club.
In the three and a half decades since the release of Guitar Town, Steve Earle has created a deeply respected and wide-ranging body of work. A self-described “cult artist,” his songwriting is held in the highest esteem by other writers, musicians, and artists. Although Steve may have left school after the eighth grade, his work is informed by a prodigious mind that delves incessantly into literature, history, and current politics. There’s a fearsome intelligence in his work, which has been noted by interviewers like Chris Shifflett, who has hosted Earle several times on his podcast, Walking the Floor.
Sam Bush performs at Stages Music Arts on July 18, 2021. (Photo by Casey Vock)
Though many musicians are admittedly brushing off rust as live performances return to order, you’d be hard-pressed to find any flaws in the skillset of the world’s most talented bluegrass musicians, a group as passionate about their craft as you’ll encounter.
One of the most critically acclaimed and seasoned bluegrass trendsetters, Sam Bush made his way to Cockeysville this past weekend for an early Sunday evening performance at Stages Music Arts, a venue that has hosted an impressive list of highly regarded musicians in just a short time.
Japanese Breakfast, the alt-pop project of Michelle Zauner, released its third album, Jubilee, on June 4, via Dead Oceans. The album arrived on the heels of Michelle’s memoir, Crying in H Mart, which was published on April 20.
Not to sound like a Doubting Thomas, but as recently just a few months ago, I don’t think I would have believed it. But Wednesday night, I found myself walking into the Ottobar for the first indoor club show I’ve experienced in nearly a year and a half. Definitely the longest time I’ve gone without stepping foot in the my home away from home in probably 20 years. But if there was a show that bring us all back home it was seeing Mac McCaughan and Jim Wilbur of Superchunk on that raised stage, playing to a rapt, and vaccinated, audience that night.
Steve Earle & The Dukes pay tribute to Steve’s late son, Justin Townes Earle (J.T.), who passed away on Aug. 20, 2020, in Nashville with their new album J.T. The album was released digitally on what would have been Justin’s 39th birthday on Jan. 4, via New West Records.
Sierra Ferrell performs at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival VIII last weekend. (Photo by Chester Simpson)
The Red Wing Roots Music Festival was held over three days, on July 9, 10, and 11, beneath the towering 500-million-year-old rock formations of Natural Chimneys Park and Campground located in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
It was a breath of fresh air, to voyage out of our confined space for the first time to a music festival that’s near and dear to our hearts. COVID canceled all gatherings of this type last year, but gave us a new appreacation for what everyone had missed … sweet love of music.
Peter Rowan has played at The Birchmere many, many times. His career spans six decades, beginning in the early 1960s, when he was a member of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys. During that time, he wrote the bluegrass classic “Walls of Time,” which he shared with the audience on Monday night in his latest turn at storied venue in Alexandria, Virginia.
Since his time in the Bluegrass Boys, Peter has played with a number of bands and artists that encompasses the range of roots music. He joined David ‘Dawg’ Grisman in Earth Opera, a band that was sort of an East Coast Grateful Dead, and he later joined up with the Dead’s Jerry Garcia in Old & In The Way. Somewhere in there, he was also a member of the eclectic group Seatrain.
Dominique Bianco performs at Pearl Street Warehouse on July 11, 2021. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
There is a unique joy to experiencing emerging musical artists. You can see their determination, feel their ambition, and hear the purity of their performance. Or as music critic David Ackert says, “[giving their] lives to a moment – to that melody, that lyric, that chord or that interpretation that will stir the audience’s soul. Singers and Musicians are beings who have tasted life’s nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another’s heart. In that instant, they were as close to magic, God, and perfection as anyone could ever be.” No matter the genre, or level of talent, new artists have an utter lack of cynicism, almost naivete, that embodies the drive and desire to be acknowledged and accepted on their own terms-an attitude that virtually guarantees a pure, energetic performance.
This past Sunday, an enthusiastic Pearl Street Warehouse crowd watched and heard Dominique Bianco exemplify that passion and determination. Backed by an equally talented quartet of local DC musicians, Dominique reminded us that training, hard work, overcoming setbacks, and “serving the song” are the ingredients of a successful artist.