Music Park: Donald Cumming @ Echostage, 7/29/15

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Donald Cumming (Photo by Kat Villacorta)

Catching a show by Donald Cumming is sort of like hanging out with a casual friend that you really like and want to get to know better.

The unassuming former frontman of The Virgins visited DC from New York City to perform at Echostage Wednesday, opening for Brandon Flowers, himself a displaced frontman.

Donald performed his first single, “Game of the Heart,” singing of the struggles of love, fixed to the center of the stage with his guitar and surrounded by a simple but talented band — guitar, bass and drums, which spun jangly and affable psych rock.

The singer-songwriter is a very precise guitarist, taking care to craft intricate melodies that might sound a little bit like Elvis Costello or a little bit like Tom Petty on occasion. He’s perfectly relaxed and comfortable in his own skin, which lends itself to his own unhurried identity, however. Although Donald only started performing solo this year, we have to keep in mind indeed that he toured two albums with his former band before he officially gave up on the outfit in 2013.

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Don’t Miss: Jenny Hval @ DC9, 9/9/15

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Jenny Hval (Photo by Jenny Berger Myhre)

Norwegian artist Jenny Hval may offer a totem for the modern DC working woman with the cover of her new album, Apocalypse, girl, which depicts a woman slumped over a medicine ball, apparently having collapsed, disconnected with the task at hand.

On the album, Jenny actually seems very connected to her surroundings, eerily so! Her songs amble along with dreampop reflections as she sometimes narrates her thoughts and at other times sings gently. The experimental nature of her albums is reflected in her videos, including the latest for the track “Sabbath,” at first glance a disjointed collection of memories but more accurately a small treatise on questions of identity.

The video features bandmates Jenny (vocals, synth), Håvard Volden (electronics), Annie Bielski (performance artist and Apocalypse, girl cover model) and Zia Anger (visual enhancement), and it was shot entirely on Zia’s iPhone during a recent tour of Europe.

Watch the video for Jenny Hval’s “Sabbath” on YouTube:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csIDglmrupc]

Tracks like “Sabbath” put the “dream” in Jenny’s dreampop, and the dream isn’t always the most lucid although it’s often concerned with sex. She launches a US tour in support of the album later in August, and the tour makes a stop at DC9 on Wednesday, Sept. 9. Seattle singer-songwriter Briana Marela opens for Jenny.

Listen to Apocalypse, girl, out now on Sacred Bones, via Soundcloud:

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/192981983″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

Tickets are available online.

Jenny Hval
w/ Briana Marela
DC9
Wednesday, Sept. 9
Doors @8:30pm
$10-12
All ages

Food Park: Alex McCoy @ Food Network Star — 7/26/15 (S. 11, Ep.8)

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Alex McCoy presents a 4th of July meal on the latest Food Network Star. (Photo courtesy Food Network)

Once again, this season’s Food Network Star Comeback Kid rose to the occasion.

And so DC Chef Alex McCoy delivered one of his best episodes yet in the reality show competition last week after nearly facing elimination from the contest in the previous week.

“Last week, I was on the bottom but it wasn’t like I edged anybody out. Someone walked off! I’ve got a lot to earn from the judges this week, and I’m going balls to the wall with the food,” Alex said.

Among five finalists last week, all were men, and the contestants faced a small challenge followed by a bigger one, as usual, this episode.

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Music Park: Little Boots @ U Street Music Hall — 7/25/15

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On her way into DC Saturday, Victoria Hesketh published a humorous tweet describing her guest list for her show at U Street Music Hall that night.

Victoria is better known as Little Boots, of course, and we applauded her reference to famous DC punk bands. In her musical evolution over three albums to date, Little Boots has gone from a bit of new wave-influenced dance-pop, which took a page from punk inspirations back in the day, to full-blown nu disco. And that journey led her to previous collaborations with UK new wave artists like Gary Numan and Phil Oakey of The Human League.

The synthpop diva has always leaned into house and disco, but she does so full tilt on her new album, Working Girl, which she brought on tour to DC Saturday night. In line with the title of the album, Little Boots has adopted a strategic marketing approach that sees her rocking out in power suits and sporting rather professional if comfortable office wear.

Early in her performance, Little Boots performed her latest single, “No Pressure,” which encapsulates all of the wonderful things about the new album and the new attitude. The song is about the possibility of a change and escaping your expectations, and its accompanying video cleverly stages the message in a workplace environment.

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Don’t Miss: Django Django @ 9:30 Club, 7/29/15

DjangoDjango_FionaGardenPhoto courtesy of Pitch Perfect PR

Django Django, whose members met in Edinburgh and later migrated to London, England, are described as an ‘art rock’ band, or experimental or avant-garde rock, that draws from many influences, including classical and psychedelia.

They bring their stylistic rhythms and harmonies to the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, July 29th, in support of their second album, Born Under Saturn. Their first self-titled album, ranked among Rolling Stone’s Top 50 albums of 2012. Their second album is on track for similar acclaim.

The funky single, Spy Hunter theme crossed with beach music, “Shake and Tremble”, is a good example of the range their sound can take on. A sound that defies pure categorization.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lqy3l63px9U]

 

The first single off of Born Under Saturn, was the deeply resonating but airy, “First Light”.
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/185533328″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”150″ iframe=”true” /]

Tickets to their show, which should prove to be a lively and unique experience, are available online here.

Come out and see Django Django!

Django Django
w/ Beat Connection
9:30 Club
Wednesday, July 29
Doors @ 7:00pm
$25
All ages

Don’t Miss: Donald Cumming (Opening for Brandon Flowers) @ Echostage, 7/29/15

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Donald Cumming, Out Calls Only (Photo courtesy Tell All Your Friends PR)

When I last saw Donald Cumming, he was on tour with his former band, The Virgins. And the band was opening for The Killers at Merriweather Post Pavilion in August 2013.

Now Brandon Flowers, frontman of The Killers, is coming around to Echostage on Wednesday, July 29 in a tour to support his solo efforts, and he’s bringing newly solo Donald around with him. Donald released his first solo album, Out Calls Only, in June on Razor & Tie subsidiary Washington Square.

As a solo artist, Donald’s voice and his guitar remain distinctive. And his songs still sound to me like they carry hallmarks of early Elvis Costello. (And I still think of The Cars when I hear Donald play for some reason!) But on Out Calls Only, Donald certainly sounds more lovelorn, and perhaps more grown up?

Donald recently released a video for his latest single, “Game of the Heart,” a jaunty song that suggests “Somebody wins everybody else loses” in the struggle of love.

Watch the video for “Game of the Heart” on YouTube:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uN_vAZnjpHk&w=640&h=360]

I had the pleasure of interviewing Donald in 2013 when I was blogging for We Love DC, and he said his meeting with The Killers and then Brandon came about quite unintentionally.

All the same, it’s good to have one of New York City’s finest guitar players in town, so get to Echostage early on Wednesday and catch Donald in his DC solo debut.

Donald Cumming
(Opening for Brandon Flowers)
Echostage
Wednesday, July 29
Doors @7pm
$43.45
All ages

Sports Park: Navigating the DC Social Sports Scene – Metro Sports Leagues

Soccer Ball

 

Social sports are a big deal in DC. From soccer to softball to volleyball to bocce and everything in between, there are many leagues and sports available.

How do you determine which league to join? The sport you like and where you’re willing to play will impact your decision. Let’s look at three leagues you should try out.

Part 1: Metro Sports Leagues

I’ve played volleyball (both outdoor and indoor) with Metro Sports Leagues since 2012 and have found the league to be fun and worthwhile. The volleyball teams tend to be cheaper than other leagues and you play seven matches per season, which is more than some leagues.

The locations of the different sports are all across the city, so you should be able to find something that is convenient for you.

 

Jeff Schrumm, of Metro Sports Leagues, chats with ParkLife DC:

ParkLife: How and when did your league come about?
Jeff: Metro Sports Leagues started in 2001 when a company doing the same thing went out of business. It started real small but has since grown into a pretty large organization of 500+ teams a year with multiple sports, divisions and locations.

ParkLife: Why should someone choose your league over other social sports leagues?
Jeff: We take pride in the fact that we have been established for 14 years. This isn’t by luck. We work very hard at running organized leagues. We first focus on the sports being played and use the best facilities with the best umpires/referees.

ParkLife: What sports/activities do you offer?
Jeff: Volleyball, soccer, softball and now lawyers league basketball.

ParkLife: What is your most popular sport/activity?
Jeff: Soccer is very popular in Metro Sports Leagues. We offer Coed, Men’s and Women’s leagues. Soccer runs every day/evening but Friday.

ParkLife: What sport/activity that you offer are you most proud of and why?
Jeff: We are proud of all of our sports. As a league we are proud of the numerous relationships that form from players meeting each other through Metro Sports Leagues.

 

Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3.

Music Park: KATIEE @ Black Cat — 7/23/15

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KATIEE (Photo by Sabine Rogers)

With a low and smoky voice, Katie Eastburn likes to let her inner cinephile run wild when composing songs with her latest band, KATIEE, a smart electronic quartet from Brooklyn.

In performance backstage at the Black Cat on Thursday night, Katie described their song “Sudden Fear,” for example, as inspired by the 1952 movie of the same title starring Joan Crawford.

KATIEE certainly have a sound appropriate for a modern reflection on such film noir, combining Katie’s sometimes hushed voice with unhurried percussion and ambient synths. Jim McHugh, Jeff Tobias and Jason Robira fill in the atmospheric sounds of assorted synths, saxophone, guitar and drums along with Katie, who plays a synthesizer herself.

Resulting tunes like “Bad and the Beautiful” are crisp and sometimes a little eerie. “Bad and the Beautiful” of course takes its title from another classic movie starring Lana Turner and Kirk Douglas.

The artful video for “Bad and the Beautiful” reflects the feeling of listening to KATIEE’s songs, and it also underscores Katie’s keen experience and continued interest in choreography.

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Don’t Miss: NE-HI @ DC9, 8/16/15

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NE-HI (Photo by Xavier Juarez)

Chicago quartet NE-HI have planned a tour of more than a dozen dates throughout August, bringing their jangle pop to DC9 on Sunday, August 16.

The band consists of guitarist/lead singers Alex Otake and Jason Balla, bassist James Weir, and drummer Mikey Wells, and they recently released a new single, “Drag.”

Listen to “Drag” by NE-HI on Soundcloud:

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/213551901″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

The new single follows a self-titled album from March 2014 released by Chicago’s Manic Static. Of that record, the Chicago Tribune said, “The quartet’s guitar-driven indie rock hits that magic spot — evoking nostalgia and familiarity while sounding excited and young, melding disparate eras (surf licks, ’80’s college rock) into something whole.”

Listen to the self-titled album NE-Hi on Bandcamp:

[bandcamp width=100% height=42 album=1722612064 size=small bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5]

Initially, the four musicians pooled their talents to score a film for a friend but then stuck together, citing college rock such as R.E.M. as an influence. But now they are flying free and rolling across the country to DC9.

Tickets are available online and at the door. Local indie rockers StereoRiots open for NE-HI.

NE-HI
w/ StereoRiots
DC9
Sunday, August 16
Doors @8:30pm
$10
All ages

Don’t Miss: Laura Marling @ 9:30 Club, 7/31/15

Laura Marling18810_Final_RT2Photo courtesy of PRESS HERE

In support of her new album, Short Movie, Laura Marling comes to the 9:30 Club this Friday, July 31st. Short Movie is her fifth full length album, and has been described as ‘bolder and looser’ than her previous work. The album is an introspective work, brought about by time spent reading (poetry), hiking (near the Joshua Tree) and reflecting, which led to songs about salvation, peace, and humanity.

Rolling Stone said “Marling is the most compelling singer-songwriter of the U.K. roots-revival scene, with a voice that conjures young Joni Mitchell.

Marling is from Eversley, England and won the 2011 Brit Award for Best British Female Solo Artist. After three of her previous albums were nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, and having received critical acclaim for her last album, Once I Was An Eagle, she brings a new sound and a new attitude.

Let’s join her this Friday!

Tickets are available here.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQA2Z9oDmgM] “I Feel Your Love”

Laura Marling
w/ Marika Hackman and Johnny Flynn
9:30 Club
Friday, July 31
Doors @ 8:00pm
$30
All ages