Live Review: Bright Eyes w/ Christian Lee Hudson @ The Anthem — 4/9/22

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Bright Eyes performs at The Anthem on April 9, 2022. (Photo by David LaMason)

Introducing “Mariana Trench,” Conor Oberst, the lyricist/vocalist for Omaha-bred indie folk band Bright Eyes said, “There’s been a lot more ups than downs these last few years.”  “Mariana Trench” is the fourth track on the band’s newest album, Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was, and it was also the fourth song played by the band in their recent set at The Anthem.

Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was was released after a long hiatus — it had been nine years since the release of their previous album, 2011’s The People’s Key — in 2020. As Conor drolly pointed out, it did not go particularly well. They were only now getting to tour behind that album.

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Live Review: John Moreland w/ Will Johnson @ Union Stage — 2/20/22

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John Moreland performs at Union Stage on Feb. 20, 2022. (Photo by David LaMason)

 “Play a sad one!” someone called out to John Moreland during his recent set at Union Stage. The irony here is that they are almost all “sad ones.” The Oklahoma resident’s songbook is filled with electric guitar-driven, minor choir-filled melodies and tales of hardscrabble, working class folks in America’s heartland. Moreland’s voice is gruff but tender, and he’s not afraid to bare his heart. Through his narrators, he reveals scars and vulnerability.

Though he plays a mixture of roots rock and Americana, Moreland didn’t follow the most straightforward path to this point. The foundation was there, in that his father introduced to the music of Neil Young and Creedence Clearwater Revival. But as he learned to play guitar and entered his teens, he followed a different route, playing in punk and metalcore bands. It was only when he was in his 20s that he began to gravitate toward the musical style he now favors.

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Live Review: Hiss Golden Messenger @ 9:30 Club — 12/8/21

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Hiss Golden Messenger performs at 9:30 Club on Dec. 8, 2021. (Photos by David LaMason)

MC Taylor, the singer/songwriter at the helm of roots music outfit Hiss Golden Messenger, isn’t afraid to let his California influences show. Though he now lives in Durham, North Carolina, he began his musical career on the Pacific Coast with alt-country band The Court and Spark, and his music is deeply indebted to Laurel Canyon folk-rock and the psychedelic country-rock of the Grateful Dead.

The Grateful Dead never played DC’s 9:30 Club, but HGM’s recent performance there was perhaps a glimpse into what that might’ve been like. After an opening set by Philadelphia singer-songwriter Rosali, HGM took the stage for a set that ran far more than two hours, with plenty of long instrumental jams. They even closed the evening with a cover of the Dead’s “Bird Song.”

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Live Review: Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker @ 9:30 Club — 1/18/20

CamperVan4 David Lowery fronts Camper Van Beethoven at 9:30 Club on Jan. 18, 2020 (Photo by David LaMason)

As I was listening to Camper Van Beethoven at the 9:30 Club recently, I was reminded of the title of a Spotify playlist of ’80s alternative rock: Left of the Dial. To the crowd’s delight, the band opened with their delightfully odd cult hit “Take the Skinheads Bowling,” from their 1985 debut LP, Telephone Free Landslide Victory.

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Live Review: Son Little @ Rock and Roll Hotel — 11/30/19

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Son Little performs at Rock and Roll Hotel on Nov. 30, 2019. (Photo by David LaMason)

Philadelphia artist Son Little (the alias of Aaron Livingston), a sometime collaborator with The Roots and alternative hip-hop artist Rjd2, combines blues, soul, and hip-hop in his unique singer-songwriter style. Playing solo on acoustic and electric guitar, Son Little entertained a post-Thanksgiving crowd of music lovers at the Rock and Roll Hotel on Saturday.

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Live Review: Thelma and the Sleaze @ 9:30 Club — 8/23/19

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Thelma and the Sleaze performs at 9:30 Club on Aug. 23, 2019. (Photo by David LaMason)

Nashville all-female rock band Thelma and the Sleaze got some well-deserved exposure recently, opening for Brittany Howard at the 9:30 Club for two nights. By turns, they were hilarious, crude, and brash. Led by their charismatic frontwoman LG, the band also includes Whiskers (guitar), Queenie (bass), Cootchie (keys), and Snowflake (drums). Together, they entertained the sold-out house and laid down some heavy jams.
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Live Review: Brittany Howard @ 9:30 Club — 8/23/19

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Brittany Howard performs at 9:30 Club on Aug. 23, 2019. (Photo by David LaMason)

Brittany Howard, lead singer of the Alabama Shakes, absolutely tore down the house in a solo appearance at the 9:30 Club on Friday evening. Following an excellent opening set by the all-female rock band Thelma and the Sleaze, Brittany took to the stage to a deafening chorus of cheers.
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Live Review: Dawes @ Lincoln Theatre — 8/6/19

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Dawes performs at Lincoln Theatre on Aug. 6, 2019. (Photo by David LaMason)

Dawes treated a full house at the Lincoln Theatre to an evening of pure rock ’n’ roll magic recently. Their muscular grooves and tender lyrics echoed vestiges of the great Americana and folk-rock tradition, bringing to mind Crosby, Stills, and Nash, The Band, and Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers.

As Dawes jammed out, traces of the Grateful Dead colored their sonic palette. When bassist Wylie Gelber crossed his ankles and almost leaned into his monitor, his lithe frame and wide shoulders resembled the figure of the Dead’s Phil Lesh.

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