Preview: They Might Be Giants @ 9:30 Club + Lincoln Theatre, 6/9, 6/10 + 6/11/22

They Might Be Giants (Photo by Sam Graff)

They Might Be Giants released the dazzling album and coffee table art book project, BOOK, last Fall. And now they are finally hitting the road for an oft-delayed tour, rescheduled due to pandemic lockdowns.

Many dates on the tour are sold out, including three DC dates — at 9:30 Club on Thursday, June 9, and at the Lincoln Theatre on Friday, June 10, and Saturday, June 11. For those of us attending, these are sure to be shows to remember!

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Live Review: Big Thief @ The Anthem — 4/21/22

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Adrianne Lenker leads Big Thief in a performance at The Anthem on April 21, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)

How do the very best musicians keep their creative focus amid skyrocketing popularity and success? Aiming to reduce external noise and interruption might very well help a band or a group preserve and even hone its identity in the same direction and with a similar rationale that inspired the endeavor to begin with.

Big Thief, the beloved and inexplicably bewitching indie rock group out of Brooklyn, has somehow adhered to what appears to be a fundamental set of guiding principles while managing meteoric growth since its inception less than seven years ago.

At a highly anticipated appearance at The Anthem in DC recently, Big Thief was able to shrink the ultramodern venue, effectively diffusing any potential distraction presented by its large size and cutting through its deep space to reach the audience clear and to emotional effect.

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Live Review: Parquet Courts @ 9:30 Club — 4/4/22

Andrew Savage performs with Parquet Courts at 9:30 Club on April 5, 2022. (Photo by Mickey McCarter)

Colored lights strobed across Parquet Courts as they performed at 9:30 Club recently, and the effect was akin to an artist splashing paints across a canvas, allowing subjects to emerge from pastoral hues rather than appear fully formed from the outset.

The lighting suited the Brooklyn quartet, who have become increasingly psychedelic with their new album Sympathy for Life, released last fall via Rough Trade, in an effort to capture the essence of late-night dance clubs and perhaps also the sense of solitary souls coming together within a city’s communal space.

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Live Review: Joan Osborne @ The Birchmere — 3/31/22

Joan Osborne (Photo courtesy the artist)

Joan Osborne achieved breakthrough fame and success in the ’90s with “One Of Us.” It didn’t come overnight, though; she had been playing small clubs for years. And while she still sings that song, her career arc has gone back to mining much of the interpretive work in roots music she came up doing. Along the way, she’s received a Grammy nomination (for Best Blues album for Breakfast in Bed), recorded the songs of Bob Dylan and others, and still found time for her own original songs along the way.

Joan’s influences are eclectic, but she probably draws most heavily from the blues, so it’s fitting that she began her performance at The Birchmere recently with a cover of Muddy Waters’s classic “I Want To Be Love,” which she recorded on Bring It On Home.

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Live Review: Zachary Williams w/ Early James @ The Miracle Theater — 3/29/22

Zachary Williams of The Lone Bellow (Photo courtesy Grandstand Media)

Before he found success as a member of the Americana trio The Lone Bellow, singer-songwriter Zachary Williams made his bones as a solo performer. He put in hard times singing in bars in New York City, where he was not even shown the courtesy of having the basketball game turned down. In 2009, he managed to scrape things together to record and release an album on a shoestring budget, and the printing contained not one but two typos.

During his set at the Miracle Theater on Tuesday evening, the similarity of his name to Christian artist Zach Williams was a bit of a running gag. When he discussed that first solo record, Zachary mentioned that Spotify has misplaced under that other Zach. He also brought up Zach’s recent duet with Dolly Parton, and someone in the audience joked, “Living vicariously!” Zachary wryly observed, “Living vicariously, indeed. He’s a Christian artist, so God only knows what he has to put up with.”

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Live Review: Mitski @ The Anthem — 3/28/22

Mitski performs on night two of two-sold out shows at The Anthem on March 28, 2022. (Photo by David LaMason)

Back in 2019 after two successive tours following a massive LP, Be The Cowboy, Mitski took a step back from touring to focus on her own self. But time and distance has a way of changing perspective, and soon songs started to work their way back out again. With a global pandemic that put the brakes on touring, that focus ended up creating the brilliant Laurel Hell, with its name taken from thickets of rhododendron bushes that sprout white fragrant blossoms in the summer heat but are toxic. And that mirrors the complexity on the album of the same name.

Over the break between albums and touring, Mitski also found herself in the strange world of TikTok and videos that have highlighted works like “Washing Machine” and “Nobody” from Be The Cowboy, creating a groundswell of new fans that sing along to every word. And this was no more evident than at the second of two sold-out performances at The Anthem Monday night.

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Live Review: The Mastersons w/ The Whitmore Sisters @ City Winery — 3/23/22

The Mastersons (Photo by Curtis Wayne Millard)

One day, as The Mastersons were driving down that endless highway on the way to another gig, a song came on the radio. As they tell the story, it was a sort of a sort generic Americana tune with a songstress going on about trains and whiskey. Eleanor Whitmore, who makes up half of the duo with her husband, Chris Masterson, said, “If I hear one more fucking song about trains and whiskey…”

This was seed for what would become the title cut of their fourth and most recent record, 2020’s No Time For Love Songs. They released it, and they took off on tour opening for alt-country heroes The Jayhawks, which came to a stop after just a few days. While the record got some strong buzz, the pandemic killed all their momentum in 2020, just as it did for everyone else in a similar situation.

The Mastersons regained that momentum significantly in a star turn at City Winery DC recently, when Eleanor headlined with Chris and then opened for herself with her sister.

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Live Review: Del Water Gap @ Black Cat — 3/12/22

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Holden Jaffe leads Del Water Gap in a performance at Black Cat on March 12, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)

Grabbing listeners’ attention with music in the first place seems a tall enough task — transporting them into your own realm where they can truly absorb the stories and ideas you’re conveying requires a gift for persuasion, charisma, and maybe even a little showmanship to bring it to life on stage.

S. Holden Jaffe, the man behind indie pop-rock outfit Del Water Gap, has an otherworldly ability not just to write deep, enthralling tracks built from a slew of emotions, but to then take those songs and translate them into stunning, unabashed displays of expression in a live, intimate setting. Del Water Gap accomplished exactly that at Black Cat recently.

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