Best of the Year: Top 10 Musical Moments of 2021 by Mark C.

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The Allman Betts Band performs at The Birchmere in June. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

2021 saw a gradual return to live music as venues and musicians did their best to return to “normalcy” and keep everybody safe. Things didn’t always go according to plan: People still got sick, tours were canceled or postponed, and attendance to indoor shows still sometimes lagged.

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Live Review: Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles featuring Eric “Roscoe” Ambel @ Jammin’ Java – 12/1/21

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Sarah Borges performs at Jammin’ Java on Dec. 1, 2021. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

Sarah and her band, the Broken Singles, rolled into town recently, hitting the Jammin Java stage with Eric “Roscoe” Ambel for another of her typically rockin’ and quip-laden performances. Having seen Sarah previously, I was prepared for a seriously fun rock and roll show. This one, the first in our area since 2020, featured plenty of new additions to the setlist as she road tested a few new songs from her forthcoming release, Together Alone.

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Live Review: Buck Meek @ Jammin’ Java — 11/5/21

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Buck Meek performs at Jammin’ Java on Nov. 5, 2021. (Photo by Casey Vock)

Buck Meek is best known as the guitarist and harmony vocalist for the band Big Thief, but he also makes excellent records of his own. On Friday evening, he appeared with his band at Vienna’s Jammin’ Java for an intimate performance.

A native Texan, Buck was raised in Houston and Wimberley, a small town in the Austin hill country that’s currently home to musicians like Ray Wylie Hubbard and recent Grammy winner Sarah Jarosz. By the age of 6, he was already playing guitar, having learned the instrument from his mother, and, in his teens, he was playing outlaw country and jazz manouche. He later attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, graduating in the late 2000s.

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Live Review: Julian Lage @ Jammin’ Java – 8/13/21

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Julian Lage and Jorge Roader perform at Jammin’ Java on Aug. 13, 2021. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

The evening threatened to be a major disappointment. Crawling along the beltway under ominous skies, dodging felled trees from the day’s earlier storms, a late arrival seemed inevitable. Pulling up to Jammin’ Java just before showtime, we were greeted by a gloomy, darkened venue — apparently the power had gone out! Although prospects for the show actually happening remained in doubt, we entered the venue with hopes checked.

Despite glum prospects, harried servers scurried about, attending to the chatty sold-out crowd, who nonetheless remained in high spirits.

Then, as if by divine intervention, the lights popped back on 10 minutes before showtime. And they stayed on. Friday the 13th turned out lucky after all and for the next two and a half hours we enjoyed expert, soothing, and truly mind-blowing guitar performances from opener Luke Brindley and headliner Julian Lage.

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Live Review: RoseRiot @ Jammin’ Java – 7/23/21

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Rose Riot pose for the camera at Jammin’ Java on July 23, 2021. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

Anyone who’s familiar with the DMV’s music scene knows Cathy DiToro, an incandescent ball of energy whose bands So Fetch (aughts covers), The Legwarmers (’80s covers), and Party Like It’s (ska/dance) clearly don’t occupy enough of her time.

A songwriter in her own right, Cathy has assembled a fresh quartet, the aptly named RoseRiot, to perform original songs, and the band made a long-awaited return to live performance with an outdoor appearance at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Virginia this past Friday.

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Live Review: The Nighthawks @Jammin’ Java — 6/11/21

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The Nighthawks perform at Jammin’ Java on June 11, 2021. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

Institution. If there’s any word to describe The Nighthawks, it’s one that connotes longevity, durability, strength, maturity, and endurance. And of all Washington DC’s institutions, none has the grace, consistency and joy that The Nighthawks delivered on a recent Friday night at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Virginia.

Originally planned as a free outdoor show, the threat of rain moved the performance indoors. With the easing of pandemic-related restrictions, for many of us the concert became an impromptu, and welcome, return to indoor live music.

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Live Review: Sam C. Jones and The Sinners @ Jammin’ Java — 5/23/21

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Sam C. Jones performs at Jammin’ Java on May 23, 2021. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

Sam C. Jones is a threat. Or better said, a triple threat. After experiencing his two-set performance at Jammin’ Java this past Sunday evening, I was blown away by his singing and guitar chops, his dance moves, and the ease with which he commands a stage.

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Best of the Year: Top 10 Musical Moments of 2020 by Mark C.

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The year started out typically enough. But the way it began and how it’s ending are startlingly different. By the end of March, so many plans and hopes were dashed that now, as we race toward 2020’s conclusion, many of us feel they may never be realized.

Like so many others in this Year of Covid, I’ve had a chance to reflect, reassess, and reset for the coming year, sorting out what is, and isn’t, important. I enjoy photographing people, whether it be portraiture, cultural documentation, or musical performance. As a photographer, I strive to become invisible and capture moments as they are, not as I or the subject, would like them to be. Although photographing live music has been challenging as of late, I’ve been afforded the luxury of time to go through my archives and, as a result, have made a belated but important discovery: the final image must also render the photographer invisible.

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Live Review: Bobby Thompson and Friends @ Jammin’ Java – 9/20/20

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Bobby Thompson performs at Jammin’ Java on Sept. 20, 2020. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

Famed American multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter David Bromberg wrote, “you gotta suffer if you wanna sing the blues.” The irony, of course, is that when the bluesman (or woman) sings, everybody else feels good. So it was when local blues musician Bobby Thompson performed recently on a brilliant late afternoon show at Jammin’ Java.

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Live Review: Cat Janice @ Jammin’ Java – 9/18/20

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Cat Janice performs at Jammin’ Java on Sept. 18, 2020. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

Fierce!

Cat Janice’s simultaneously powerful and subtle voice took center stage at Jammin’ Java on a recent crisp fall day and it figuratively blew the roof off the place. In a single word, it was indeed “fierce!”

Cat won the 2019 and 2020 Washington Area Music Award (Wammie) for Best Rock Artist/Group. Clearly, audiences are taking note of her songwriting, performing, and vocal talents.

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