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.
Carla Bruni was a model, then a singer and actress, and then the First Lady of France! With her husband Nicolas Sarkozy out of office, Carla returned to performing, and she released French Touch, her firth album, last year via Teorema and Barclay Records. With the album comes a US tour, and Carla will perform at The Birchmere on Tuesday, Feb. 13.
The Struts @ Firefly’s Treehouse Stage (6/19/16) (Photo by: Jeremy Bailey)
The Struts are showmen through and through.
This glam rock band from England is certainly channeling Queen, especially with Luke Spiller’s voice as pure and resonate as Freddy Mercury’s. After all, their name is The Struts and that is what they did.
Their music is classic, exuberant rock and roll. They mobilized the Firefly crowd at the Lawn Stage to great heights of excitement and sing-a-longs. Anyone that didn’t know them going in, certainly walked away with full intention of adding them to their playlist on repeat.
Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir from Of Monsters and Men (Photo courtesy of Firefly Music Festival)
Firefly 2016. The fifth annual version of the music festival that takes over Dover, Delaware for four days in June, had a solid number of good bands and artists to choose from. The headliners were not as strong as previous years (I still like the first year’s headliners the best). I spent a majority of the time bouncing between one stage or another, eventually catching 30 full sets and another seven half sets.
Thursday, June 16, 2016
Day 1 was more about logistics, traveling to Delaware, picking up my credentials (long line!), parking and finding the press tent, but I arrived in time to see a few acts.
Lyndsey Gunnulfsen of PVRIS @ The Coffee House Stage
Sometimes it’s fun to just show up to a set with no expectations and no prior knowledge of the band. And walk away having thoroughly enjoyed it.
Maybe copying CHVRCHES, with the letter ‘V’ replacing a vowel, PVRIS (pronounced like the city) brought an incredible energy to their opening set (12:30pm) on Firefly’s Backyard Stage on Saturday, June 18th.
Or as they introduced themselves, “We’re Paris, we spell it with a ‘V’ because we’re third graders that don’t know how to spell.”
I highlight PVRIS (of the 35+ sets that I saw more than half of over four days), apart from enjoying it, because I witnessed two of their sets (they were rockstars and actually played three in total), to compare and contrast the concept of the main stage set and the acoustic stage set. Many bands/performers did this, and I intentionally went to both sets for three of those.
Like all things, too much of a good thing can be overwhelming, and may even become addicting. With a music festival, the sheer volume of music and sights and sounds and bands and experiences all packed into four days, all the good starts to blur together and ultimately leads to drastic mood swings bordering on exhaustion.
I attended the 5th annual Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware from June 16-19 (now my third time at Firefly) and you get to hear about it over the week. Steel yourself, it may become too much of a good thing.
Let’s start simple. What were the highlights in blurb form?
Mike Peters on the Strength Tour 2015 in Winchester at The Railway. (Photo courtesy Mike Peters Organization)
Mike Peters of The Alarm spent much of 2014 celebrating the 30th anniversary of his band’s first full-length album, Declaration. In doing so, he made a solo visit to Gypsy Sally’s in Georgetown.
“All in all, Peters put on an incredibly satisfying and entertaining show in a venue well suited for his solo performance and witty recollections,” I reported for the sadly defunct We Love DC on the show, held August 7, 2014.
A little over a year later, Mike is back, celebrating another anniversary! This time around, it’s the 30th anniversary of The Alarm’s second full-length album, Strength. And the celebration takes place locally in a solo show at the Hamilton Live on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
As a “one-man band,” Mike will play the album Strength along with other songs while sharing stories and images to honor the album, his band and their history. The album includes such beloved classics from The Alarm as “Spirit of ‘76” and “Walk Forever by My Side.” The album and much of its material is inspired by Mike’s own fight against cancer.
Watch a somewhat recent acoustic performance of the “Spirit of ‘76” in a video for the song on YouTube:
Mike continues his own cancer fight, but he also fights to help others. Over the last four years, Mike’s Love Hope Strength Foundation:
found over 1,500 potentially life-saving bone marrow donor matches;
built the first ever children’s cancer center in Tanzania;
supported the Bhaktapur Cancer Center in Nepal with life-saving equipment; and
registered over 90,000 donors through its “Get On the List” program.
Midge Ure performs a solo acoustic show at Iridium in New York City on Feb. 27, 2015.
When Midge Ure reunited with the other three members of Ultravox in 2008, the band embarked on discussions to tour. To determine the reunion tour setlist, the four band members each voted their preference from a list of potential songs, and those songs that received four votes would definitely be part of the set.
As it turns out only four of those potential songs received four votes. One of those songs, the archly lush and mournful “Lament” also landed on Midge Ure’s solo setlist Sunday night at Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda, Md., in the last stop of a tour in support of his 2014 album Fragile.
Although Ultravox attempted to go about its business in as democratic a fashion as possible, Midge faced no such considerations on this tour. He remarkably undertook the U.S. portion of the Fragile tour completely on his own — without any roadies, management or other tour support. He traveled without any support whatsoever, bringing only a single guitar onto stage to powerfully perform more than 20 songs to audiences like that of the supper club, which nearly managed to sell out all of its dining tables to the eloquent Scot.
Editor’s Note: Midge Ure has announced his return to Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016! (Tickets are available online.)
I had the distinct pleasure of chatting with a great Scotsman, singer-songwriter Midge Ure, best known in the United States as the frontman of Ultravox in the 1980s. Midge is in the midst of a solo acoustic tour at the moment, and he stops by the DC metro area to perform at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda, Md., on Sunday, March 8. Tickets are available online and at the door.
Midge was quite generous with his time and shared his perspectives on touring in America, writing hit songs and his history with Ultravox as well as his late friend Steve Strange, his bandmate in Visage. (This may be a lengthy interview, but there was so much wisdom in so many of his answers that I couldn’t bear to cut it!)