Neko Case and Patty Griffin have long admired each other’s work, but hadn’t shared a stage before a recent double bill at Wolf Trap. Griffin, who played first, let the audience know how excited she was to see Case. Case, for her part, talked about coming up in the ’90s and said, “Forget about Townes Van Zandt, I wanted to know about Patty Griffin.”
That comment might be a dig at journalists’ attempts to pin Case’s influences, a game which is typically not found amusing by the artists themselves.
Eric D. Johnson leads Fruit Bats in a performance at 9:30 Club on April 23, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
The transformation of a songwriting vehicle from an individual endeavor into a full-fledged outfit is one of the more remarkable progressions to behold.
Especially so when the person driving the operation is a genuine, gifted soul with a penchant for crafting songs that can captivate in an intimate setting, but yet can be expanded and embellished into prosperous compositions at the group level to engage a much more active audience in larger venues.
Fruit Bats, the musical motorhome of singer and guitarist Eric D. Johnson, used a red-letter, late-night appearance at 9:30 Club recently to demonstrate the entity’s continued evolution as a sophisticated, dynamic folk rock troupe and, now in its second life, possessing a rare wisdom and imparting spirit.
With support from Merge Records, Fruit Bats released two albums in 2021 — The Pet Parade and Siamese Dream! This year, the band followed those albums with a compilation, Sometimes a Cloud Is Just a Cloud: Slow Growers, Sleeper Hits, and Lost Songs (2001–2021).
Son Volt perform at The Birchmere on March 2, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
I’m going to begin this review with a digression, but trust me: it’s going to make sense. Every time I go to my favorite record store in DC, Joint Custody, I’m reminded of how many amazing albums you can get at incredible prices. If you look past the biggest, brightest names, the most highly-sought ought bands and artists, you can find all-time great records in the range of $5-$10. Getting The Kink Kronikles for 10 bucks feels like some sort of cosmic victory in the face of all unjust bullshit this life has heaped upon me.
The same thing that’s true about records is true about concerts. Look beyond what’s most popular, especially what’s most popular right now, and you can find some amazing experiences. Road-tested bands with deep songbooks who know how to connect with a crowd consistently, every night. You’ll get to feel — to actually be — close to the band. No, you’re not going to get a pyrotechnics display or a laser light show. What you are going to get is incredible music, played by incredibly talented, deeply committed artists, who have given their lives to it.
Alt-country pioneers Son Volt is set to perform at The Birchmere on Wednesday, March 2, in support of their tenth studio album Electro Melodier. The new album is infused with sounds of folk, country, blues, soul and rock.
Mavis Staples performs at the Lincoln Theatre in DC on Oct. 19, 2021. (Photos by Ari Strauss)
Amy Helm, perhaps, put it best Tuesday evening at the Lincoln Theatre when she said, “How deeply it moves me to stand on this stage before an American treasure” in Mavis Staples. Mavis headlined the evening, which was a fundraiser for JusticeAid.
JusticeAid is an umbrella progressive fundraising organization that raises money to support various grassroots organizations. The concert was a benefit for the Neighborhood Defender Service. The Neighborhood Defender Service is concerned with police violence, particularly against communities of color. In the evening’s opening remarks, we learned that, so far this year, JusticeAid has been able to give $300,000 to NDS and, following the successful concert, they plan to donate another $100,000 to the cause.
Just before things started closing down, just before 2020 was the last time I saw Wilco perform at The Anthem and hot on the heels of the release of their last LP, Ode to Joy. Since the nearly two years since I’d seen them last, Jeff Tweedy and the band have kept fans engaged with things like the Instagram show (there has to be a better word for this) “The Tweedy Show,” broadcast from Jeff’s home with his family and sometimes guests like the other members of Wilco — a homemade variety show with Jeff, Sammy, and Spencer Tweedy often singing / guitar playing / drumming to Tweedy and Wilco songs along with some fantastic covers.
And just in the past month, Jeff has even started a weekly substack which is like a personal newsletter / inspirational / confessional, maybe called “Starship Casual” where the songwriter shares musings and even rough bits of new songs (or songs-to-be). Basically, the band has been keeping things fresh and us fans fed, so to speak. So, after the announcement that Wilco would be touring again this summer, I couldn’t wait to see the guys — Jeff, John, Mikael, Nels, Pat, and Glenn — back again in the DC area. This time at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland.
Halloween may look different this year, but Stabbing Westward is intent on making it feel special by releasing a brand-new covers EP today as a special “treat” for fans.
Hallowed Hymns, released on COP International Records, features four tracks that were instrumental to the industrial band’s beginnings and conjure the feeling of the season. One of those is a cover of “(Every Day Is) Halloween” by Ministry!