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

Graham Nash

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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Poll: 2020 Thrushie Awards — Results!

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Pie Shop DC (Photo by Aiden Korotkin)

Parklife DC today announces the best in DC concerts with our annual awards program, named for our mascot, DC’s own state bird — the Wood Thrush. Our Thrushie Awards salute bands and venues in line with our mission to review live music concerts.

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Live Review: Samantha Fish @ The Birchmere — 10/19/20

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Samantha Fish performs at The Birchmere on Oct. 19, 2020. (Photo by Ari Strauss)

I wasn’t sure what the experience of a concert would be like when I attended my first show since early March at The Birchmere on Monday evening. I knew that the concert hall would be a half-capacity, sold out for blues guitarist extraordinaire and singer-songwriter Samantha Fish. But I wasn’t sure what kind of energy such a crowd would generate.

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Livestream Preview: Tommy Emmanuel @ The Birchmere (Benefit), 8/15/20

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Tommy Emmanuel (Photo by Alysse Gafkjen)

Tommy Emmanuel, the acclaimed and Grammy-nominated acoustic guitarist, singer, and songwriter, hosts two livestream events with a portion of the proceeds benefiting two prominent independent venues in America. The first event on Saturday, Aug. 15, benefits The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia.

“Without some support, we are in danger of losing some of the independent venues that are a part of our culture and our local communities,” Tommy said.

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Live Review: Daryl Davis @ The Birchmere — 7/11/20

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Daryl Davis and his band entertain music fans with a high-energy blues and rock & roll performance at The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA, July 11, 2020. (Photo by Ari Strauss)

A sight for sore eyes appeared on Mount Vernon Avenue in Alexandria, Virginia, this past weekend as the iconic Birchmere sign light up with news that it is once again open for business.

After a four-month hiatus since early March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the legendary Northern Virginia music venue reopened recently at a limited capacity using enhanced health and safety measures set forth by the CDC and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Parklife DC’s Ari Strauss went to see the Daryl Davis Band perform on July 11 and reviews his experience with photos of the performance.

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Preview: Jumpin’ Jupiter @ The Birchmere, 7/18/20

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Jumpin’ Jupiter (Photo courtesy the band)

Virginia rockabilly band Jumpin’ Jupiter has been entertaining the DC region for decades! They are always a welcome sight — and sound! — and never more so as area clubs begin to carefully welcome the return of bands to their stages.

Jumpin’ Jupiter next rocks down The Birchmere on Saturday, July 18.

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Preview: Daryl Davis @ The Birchmere, 7/11/20

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Daryl Davis (Photo courtesy of The Birchmere)

You may have heard tales of an eloquent Black man who surprisingly engages with the Ku Klux Klan, occasionally convincing its members to abandon the group by expanding their awareness of brotherhood and human rights for all men.

That man is musician Daryl Davis, a Bluesman and scholar ever there were one, and he’s heading to The Birchmere to boogie down for a show on Saturday, July 11.

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Required Reading: In Praise of Live Music

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Tim Bray and Karen Jonas (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

Required Reading is Parklife DC’s essay series on music appreciation.

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?” — Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed our worlds, collectively and individually, in ways that we are struggling to grasp. For those of us who cherish live music — artists, fans, writers, and photographers — the pandemic has made concerts impossible for the time being and the heartache at what has been lost is becoming a fear (irrational perhaps, but…) that they could be gone forever.

The abrupt, and traumatic, end to live music performances for the foreseeable future has left a sadness in me that I did not anticipate, nor with which I’m prepared to cope. I’m a diehard enthusiast of live music — from the traditional large venue concert experience to the small bars and clubs where local musicians perform for anyone who’ll listen.

But what they all have in common is talent, desire, and an otherworldly drive to share, as Los Angeles Times music critic David Ackert says, “that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another’s heart.”

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