It’s such a cool feeling to come to a show and find something new, something you didn’t expect to find. And opening for Alicia Keys at Baltimore’s Pier Six Pavilion recently, David Bowden, known by the stage name Pink Sweats, brought the perfect balance of charm and soul.
Joe Grushecky is “the first one on either side of the family out of the coal mines,” he told his audience recently at Jammin’ Java. A lifelong resident of Pittsburgh, his career has had its ups and downs, but he’s stayed faithful to the place he comes from.
“Grushecky,” he explained is a Ukrainian name. And while that might not be unusual in his hometown, record executives wanted him to change it. “They will never get that name in Alabama,” they said — and, as Joe conceded, “They didn’t.”
Joe never did change his name, nor did he ever leave his hometown, which appears in songs like “East Carson Street.”
Langhorne Slim performs at The Birchmere on March 22, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
I feel a certain kinship with soulful folk-Americana troubadour Langhorne Slim. We’re a couple of Jewish kids who were born just two days apart, and we grew up in neighboring states; he named himself for the suburb of Philadelphia he hails from, while I grew up just outside of Akron, Ohio. We love a lot of the same stuff: Dylan, Waits, Cat Stevens, Woody Guthrie, Captain Beefheart, Will Oldham, and Uncle Tupelo.
Langhorne is a high-energy performer, someone who is more than dynamic enough to capture an audience when he’s out there on his own with just an acoustic guitar. There’s a lot of motion in his performance and you couldn’t miss it at The Birchmere in his recent date there: He moved around the stage, he came out from behind the mic, he went into the crowd. Slim had a lot of energy, and I could relate to that!
Jazmne Sullivan performs at The Anthem in DC on March 20, 2022. (Photo by Will Colbert)
Jazmine Sullivan has never been one to mince words. In 2008, the multi-Grammy nominated R&B singer-songwriter voiced the fury of jilted lovers — and possibly inspired a few felonies — on the revenge anthem “Bust Your Windows.” Sullivan’s latest release is titled “Heaux Tales.” The conceptual project is a collection of perspectives on sex, insecurity, loss, and the power of the P — which doesn’t stand for prude. The Philadelphia soul singer shared these provocative stories during a recent sold-out show at The Anthem in DC.
The Ward on Drugs performs at The Anthem on Feb. 2, 2022. (Photo by Ben Eisendrath for IMP)
From the late ’70s into the ’80s, two of the most vibrant strands of American popular music were heartland rock and the American underground. These two traditions were very distinct, and there was no overlap. The former, the more mainstream of the two, was the domain of rock gods like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, as well as acts like Bruce Hornsby. These artists and bands often employed keys and the saxophone, although they were primarily guitar-driven.
The American Underground evolved from the fast, aggressive, stripped-down attack of punk into the no-wave sound of bands like Sonic Youth and the shoegaze of My Bloody Valentine. Distortion was a key feature of their sound, and they tended to eschew large arrangements, often sticking to guitar, bass, and drums.
Formed in Philadelphia in the early ‘oughts by Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile, The War on Drugs combines these two disparate traditions, with a heavily guitar-based sound that uses lots of distortion.