Live Review: Alejandro Escovedo @ The Hamilton Live — 9/17/22

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Alejandro Escovedo (Photo courtesy Prevent Cancer Foundation)

Alejando Escovedo has been playing music for a long time — longer than I’ve been alive. He recently told the audience at The Hamilton Live that he first came to DC in 1978 as part of the punk band The Nuns. They played the Atlantis with The Fleshtones. The club had an apartment — which he emphasized was terrible — and, after the show, Patti Smith came to visit.

When a veteran performer knows an intimate venue and comes with a plan, an audience can get an incredible show. That was the case Saturday evening, as Alejandro performed songs and delved into the stories behind them. The highlight of the show came when he and his band left the stage and went into the crowd to perform “I Wish I Was Your Mother” and “I Was Drunk” totally acoustic, no mics, just instruments and voices. It was Alejandro on guitar, with his bandmates on fiddle and tambourine. The former song, he mentioned, was one he wrote to take part in Austin song swaps.

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Live Review: The Fabulous Thunderbirds @ The Birchmere — 8/17/22

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The Fabulous Thunderbirds (Photo courtesy of the band)

Kim Wilson, the face of Austin-based Texas blues outfit The Fabulous Thunderbirds, made his way into the crowd at The Birchmere recently carrying a mic. Kim has spent a lifetime in bars, juke joints, and music halls, and he’s seen and done it all. When he realized the mic wasn’t live, there was only the slightest moment as he made the mental adjustment to sing with his unaided voice, wading through the crowd, placing a hand on a shoulder here and there, connecting with fans, many of whom have followed the band for decades.

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Live Review: James McMurtry w/ Marisa Anderson @ The Birchmere — 4/16/2022

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James McMurtry performs at The Birchmere on April 16, 2022. (Photo by Rashad Polk)

Popularity and respect are two entirely different things. Some artists — and I won’t name names here — are well known but may not be highly esteemed. Other artists command less name recognition, but, amongst those who are aware of them they are held in the highest regard.

James McMurtry is an artist who falls in the latter category: He’s far from a household name, but people who know James McMurtry think the world of him. Those people include his peers in the singer-songwriter community, like Jason Isbell, as well as literary figures like the bestselling author Stephen King and rock critics like Robert Christgau.

James has been making records since the ’80s, and his recent set at The Birchmere covered four decades of material.

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Live Review: Spoon w/ Margaret Glaspy @ 9:30 Club — 4/11/22

Spoon perform at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.
Spoon performs at 9:30 Club on April 11, 2022. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson)

Spoon are a big enough band to play Merriweather Post Pavilion, but they choose to play smaller venues like the 9:30 Club — as they did last week! This is because, quite simply, Britt Daniel and the rest of the guys in this band are cool. They write great songs, and they perform them well. There’s no bullshit with Spoon, just rock ‘n’ roll; they don’t waste a lot of time on chatter — it’s all about the songs. They give you enough to feel satisfied, but they also know when it’s time to leave before you’re worn out, exhausted, and you’ve had too much. Because, Spoon, as I’ve, is a cool band.

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Live Review: Sun June @ Songbyrd Music House — 2/19/22

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Laura Colwell of Sun June leads a performance at Songbyrd Music House on Feb. 19, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)

Even music aimed to comfort the listener can be adventurous and dynamic within that delicate zone, but getting there unquestionably requires a careful and credible impetus.

Sun June, an encouraging indie outfit out of Austin and yet another outstanding member of the Keeled Scales roster, doesn’t loiter purposelessly, but strolls toward bliss in discovering and reconciling the fleeting beauty of one’s own emotions.

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Live Review: Bill Kirchen’s Honky-Tonk Holiday Revue @ The Birchmere — 12/12/21

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Bill Kirchen (Photo courtesy the artist)

Known as “The King of Dieselbilly” and “The Titan of the Telecaster,” Bill Kirchen has a distinctive, powerful style as a guitarist. There’s twang, but it rocks hard, and it grooves. When he plays “Hot Rod Lincoln,” the top-10 hit he had as a member of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen in the ’70s, Bill shows off the range of his influences as a player. He spent several minutes playing a few bars in the style of many different artists during a set at The Birchmere recently.

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Live Review: Heartless Bastards @ Union Stage — 10/2/21

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Erika Wennerstrom fronts Heartless Bastards at Union Stage on Oct. 2, 2021. (Photo by Casey Vock)

Erika Wennerstrom, lead singer and songwriter for the Austin-based band Heartless Bastards, may just have the perfect rock ‘n’ roll voice. It’s deep, powerful, and rich, with some similarity to another great singer originally from the Buckeye State, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. As one fan called out between songs, “I would listen to you read the phone book.” (I suppose this would require finding a phone book, which presents a challenge, as they’ve gone the way of the dodo.)

When Erika and the Bastards headlined at DC’s Union Stage recently, that incredible voice was on display for a meaty, two-hour set.

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Live Review: Asleep at the Wheel @ The Birchmere — 7/8/21

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Asleep at the Wheel performs at The Birchmere on July 8, 2021. (Photo by Casey Vock)

For five decades, Austin’s Asleep at the Wheel has carried the torch for Western swing. Winners of 10 Grammys, they’ve collaborated with everyone from Willie Nelson to Jamey Johnson to Huey Lewis. to Old Crow Medicine Show.

Despite playing what is “hard-core country music,” the Wheel has long attracted fans who don’t normally feel drawn to country. Part of this is the great divide between country through the ’50s and the Nashville sound that succeeded it. As Tyler Mahan Coe has said on his podcast Cocaine & Rhinestones, there’s no real distinction between honky-tonk and early rock ‘n’ roll. Asleep at the Wheel may have fiddles, but they also have drums and sax, and they rock hard.

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Livestream Preview: And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead @ Livestream, 8/14/20

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And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead (Photo courtesy the band)

Following a successful global livestream kickoff event on July 31 and another on Aug. 7, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead now prepare for their next highly anticipated livestream event. The final show in this series of livestreams happens on Friday, Aug. 14.

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