Ryan Gustafson leads The Dead Tongues in a performance at Jammin’ Java on May 7, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
Considering the toll that life can take, credit should be given to the songwriters who make it their goal to survey and understand some of the most daunting emotional terrain. The best of them are lucky to stay the course at all, as so many aspiring artists are pushed off course not by their own inabilities or creative drought, but rather consumed or distracted by the infinite other forces defining an existence.
Jake Xerxes Fussell performs at Pie Shop in Washington DC on Jan. 23, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
Authenticity might be the most essential quality for any musician, but that trait seems to be either intrinsic or elusive for humans in general. It’s presumable then that an artist who lives and breathes or — in some rare cases — was brought up on the music they eventually make is better equipped than most to capture listeners through recorded sound and live performance.
A wizardly fingerpicking guitarist and singer who grew up in a Columbus, Georgia, household steeped in traditional music and art, Jake Xerxes Fussell has managed over the course of four studio albums to inventively restore and refashion a wide cross section of folk music from different times and places in American history.
Singer, guitarist, and folk music interpreter Jake Xerxes Fussell releases his forthcoming album, Good and Green Again, on Jan. 21 via Paradise of Bachelors. He then performs at Pie Shop in DC on Sunday, Jan. 23.
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.”
2021 Grammy nominee Hiss Golden Messenger are having a busy year! In June, the band released Quietly Blowing It via Merge Records, and they announced a tour that brings them to 9:30 Club on Wednesday, Dec. 8.
Then, Hiss Golden Messenger released a Christmas album, titled O Come All Ye Faithful, last month also via Merge.
MC Taylor fronts Hiss Golden Messenger at 9:30 Club on Jan. 15, 2020. (Photo by Casey Vock)
Anyone entering the 9:30 Club would have known immediately they weren’t attending any ordinary show. After all, you weren’t really passing into the familiar concrete space of the popular club at the end of the U Street Corridor. Rather, you were stepping foot into some sort of old-time fortune-teller’s boutique, a sacred space for sorcerers or sorceresses, or maybe some secret place of worship.
But, for what, those unfamiliar with Hiss Golden Messenger were probably unsure.
Mountain Goats perform at 9:30 Club on April 26, 2019. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
I’m way late to the party when it comes to The Mountain Goats but my excuse is that the musical road that brought me to John Darnielle and company was very long and winding. To say the least. It finally took me to 9:30 Club to see the band recently.
Moogfest, the top synthesizer festival and conference, celebrates its 15th anniversary in Durham, North Carolina, on April 25-28, 2019. The festival will feature a keynote presentation by Martin Gore of Depeche Mode as well as Daniel Miller of Mute Records, along with performances by Thomas Dolby, Kimbra, GAS, Tim Hecker (performing with the Konoyo Ensemble), Matthew Dear, US Girls, and more.