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.”
Loved by audiences across the country, equally loathed (I assume) by a large number of venue cleaning staffs, The Flaming Lips brought their blow up robots and confetti canons to The Anthem recently.
Wayne Coyne and Co. have long been a concert photographers dream (certainly no mid-2000s concert portfolio was complete without a shot of Wayne crowd surfing in his plastic bubble) and the tour behind their 2020 album American Head was no different. The first four songs featured confetti blasts, a blow up rainbow as wide as The Anthem’s stage width and a huge blow up pink robot (for obvious reasons). Not many bands can get away with playing an all-out anthem like “Do You Realize” second in the set but the Lips do things their own way.
Wolf Alice performs at Union Stage on Nov. 15, 2021. (Photos by Jason Nicholson; Words by Mickey McCarter)
Ellie Rowsell grabbed the microphone and sang in a manner both hypnotic and snarling. With “Smile,” a recent single and the concert opener at Union Stage on Monday, Ellie declares her intent to do things her way, and she doesn’t give a damn if you don’t like it.
To her side, guitarist Theo Ellis wrapped Ellie’s snapping mission statement in wonderfully layered psychedelia, ad Wolf Alice was officially on the prowl for the first of two-sold out shows in DC.
The Midnight North perform at The Hamilton Live on Oct. 7, 2021. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
After a two-year absence, Midnight North recently made a much-anticipated return to the DC area, even briefly renaming The Hamilton on the strength of the two “Graham(e)” bandmembers. The show featured an appearance by Phil Lesh, beloved Grateful Dead bassist and father of Midnight North guitarist and founder, Grahame Lesh. For two-plus hours, the “Gramilton” felt like an extended family reunion with fans from differing generations and bands reuniting after a too-long pandemic hiatus.
Trey Anastasio leads his band during a performance at The Anthem on Oct. 1, 2021. (Photo by Casey Vock)
The pandemic and the impacts of COVID have been seen across the music industry since it began and especially hard hit has been the live music segment, with it being a challenge for both touring acts and venues to get all this right in an uncertain environment.
Maybe nowhere has that been more obvious lately than the Trey Anastasio Band tour, an outfit that, just a few weeks ago, would have looked entirely different. Then came a couple positive tests, and trumpet player Jen Hartswick and drummer Russ Lawton were sidelined, putting the back half of the tour in jeopardy.
Dr. Dog perform at 9:30 Club on Sept. 16, 2021. (Photo by Casey Vock)
“All good things come to an end” has to be one of the most extremely overused, inflated perspectives on any favorable scenario, especially relationships, and it seems that statement is most often inappropriately used to sum up the end of relationships built around music.
But, nevertheless, the proclamation does tend to be true, as is currently demonstrated by the Philadelphia-based band Dr. Dog, a group that sold out consecutive gigs at the 9:30 Club Thursday and Friday — its last shows in the nation’s capital on what has been announced as its last tour together. [Parklife has learned Dr. Dog does indeed have one more sold-out show at 9:30 Club on Oct. 1! — Ed.]
Jim James of My Morning Jacket performs at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Sept. 7, 2021. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson)
One of my favorite summer traditions in DC is the seemingly annual My Morning Jacket show at Merriweather. Tuesday’s show with opener Brittany Howard was the band’s 8th show in Columbia since they graduated to amphitheaters in 2010. I’m not going to lie and say that I’ve been to all of those shows, but I’ve seen most of them and the 2011 and 2015 shows still stand out to me. The Circuitual tour show in 2011 might be the best show I’ve seen the band do locally.
Merriweather was a little over half full on Sept. 7, which was actually a wonderful thing. If you wanted to experience the show in a crowd, there were plenty of people around to remind you how that felt, pre-COVID. If you were still a little freaked out by maskless people singing and shouting along to the music, there were plenty of empty spaces to claim and still have a great vantage point for the show.