Live Review 3-pack: Wye Oak, The Joy Formidable, Gold Panda

Hey all. Been a little while since I rapped at ya. Here’s a sampling of what I’ve been seeing lately. More posts to follow soon!

Wye Oak

Mar 11 / The Black Cat / Washington, DC

Baltimore’s Wye Oak make a squall of sound that suggests ample rehearsal space. Singer/guitarist Jenn Wasner confidently plows through her chorus-less grunge, letting up occasionally to allow the built-up noise unfurl, as she did that night, to an appreciative, mostly visiting Bmore crowd. Partner Andy Stack fills in the cracks with a right arm at drums and a left hand stamped down on various keys. It all pours into the wash of guitar and feedback, but without loosing too much definition. The NPR stream posted days later revealed a fairly hoarse Wasner at the mic, unfortunately battling a cold at the start of a large tour. We couldn’t hear her well enough to mind. Highlights included the title track from the new Civilian and the off-kilter, 11/8 jam “My Neighbor“.

The Joy Formidable

Mar 25 / The Black Cat / Washington, DC

Riding a wave of buzz including a Rolling Stone “Artist to Watch” feature and a prime slot on the NPR Music stage at SXSW, it was surprising that the upgrade in venue granted Welsh trio The Joy Formidable over last year’s DC show occurred within the same building (from Black Cat’s downstairs Backstage to upstairs Mainstage). But if spunky guitarist/vocalist Ritzy Bryan, bassist Rhydian Dafydd, and drummer Matt Thomas want to bring their winning brand of pulverizing pop to a capacity-800 bar just three months before they play to tens of thousands more at Glastonbury, then I’m there with bells on. Humerously working the back of the room (the coatcheck?) with emphatic between-riff fist pumps, Dafydd seemed especially anxious to take the festival stage. Bryan, who lived in DC onceuponatime, seemed more comfortable in front of the low ceiling-ed crowd, determined to build her stateside audience the honest way (outsized riffs notwithstanding.) Check out “Cradle“, “Austere“, and “I Don’t Want to See You Like This” from this year’s The Big Roar.

Gold Panda

Apr 2 / Red Palace / Washington, DC

A night of worldly dance grooves made all the more rare by the attic-like performance space at Red Palace: a NE DC bar that frequently hosts burlesque shows and has display cases of cat sculls and (faux) fetuses-in-jars all over the walls. Hunched over his laptop and sampler, Gold Panda spun a mostly continuous cloud of sound, the more headphones-y tracks from last year’s Lucky Shiner (Like “Parents“) nixed in favor of the meatier beats. Stuttering album opener “You” sure got the canned microbrew sippers moving, as did the sitar twangs of “India Lately“. For my money, I’d like to hear Gold Panda’s Eastern influence even more on record and in person. (He didn’t even play Shiner standout “Same Dream China“). But for an electronic DJ set in DC (Have you seen Dupont at 2:00 on a Saturday night?), this one felt fresh, inspired, and fun. (Great recent NPR piece on Gold Panda’s creative process here)


RE: Top-40 artists apologetically returning $millions earned from party hosted by Muammar Qaddafi’s son

Yeah, about that. Think you might want to go ahead and take down that tweet, there, hip-hop magnate Russell Simmons? You know, the one that implicates you (and presumably everyone you talked to that night of nights) in knowing full well who it was bankrolling the soiree? Like, especially since Usher, Beyonce, and Mariah Carey have all been denying that they knew a thing about who exactly it was handing them millions of petro-dollars to perform for an hour each at a private New Years party on St. Barts? ‘Cause, you know, that Tweet is still up. And it kinda makes you look like an asshole.


Hear This: Peter Sellers reading Beatles lyrics in silly voices

Just in time for St. Patty’s, here’s comic legend Peter Sellers performing the Beatles classic “She Loves You” in a cheery brogue (five more after the jump!):

Continue reading ‘Hear This: Peter Sellers reading Beatles lyrics in silly voices’


On Tour Bookings, Pt. II: Iron & Wine, Beirut, James Blake

Last month I sounded off on my distaste for Fleet Foxes’ choice in booking DC’s 3,700-seat DAR Constitution Hall instead of the more acoustically-friendly, third-of-the-size 9:30 Club. I also praised indie legends Low for resisting the temptations of the large venue in favor of the cozy Black Cat Mainstage (capacity 700).

There’s another side to this discussion, of course — when popular artists choose venues too small to accommodate their rabid audience — which DC is currently experiencing with at least three upcoming tours.

Iron & Wine, Beirut, and James Blake all recently announced DC dates for spring/summer that sold out nearly instantaneously. I&W booked the 9:30 Club where they could have probably filled DAR. (That one sold out in less than five minutes, trust me!) Beirut, a band with no new album and only a small handful of U.S. dates announced, quickly sold out a Black Cat show that should be held at the 9:30 club. (A Tuesday nighter three months from now, no less.) And dubstep wunderkind James Blake — recipient of a whopping 9.0 on Pitchfork for this self-titled debut — chose the ridiculously undersized Rock and Roll hotel (capacity 400) for his first U.S. tour.

Continue reading ‘On Tour Bookings, Pt. II: Iron & Wine, Beirut, James Blake’


Album Review: Clive Tanaka y su orquesta, “Jet Set Siempre No. 1”

That’s actually a cassette cover you’re seeing up there: Hokkaido, Japan artist Clive Tanaka chose to issue his debut album in the antiquated format first, months before even a digital release. The idea behind this (and I’m assuming here… the elusive Tanaka has yet to show his face to the blog world, let alone announce a SXSW showcase) is to resurrect the spirit of the mixtape – that old piece of lovingly prepared plastic exchanged between friends and would-be lovers.

Listening as I write to an actual mixtape of vintage world music created by Tanaka (it’s posted to the cassette-friendly site International Tapes), I’m definitely feeling the revival. In contrast to mp3 playlists, you don’t always know what you’re going to get with a mixtape. Song names, artists, and (most crucially) running times are all privileged information, dispensed by the curator at his or her pleasure.

So it goes with Jet Set Siempre No.1, an album of eight original disco and slow jam tracks by Tanaka. To reduce fast-forwarding, the songs are neatly divided into uptempo Side A (“For Dance”) and chillaxed Side B (“For Romance”). And like the meticulous mixtaper, Tanaka’s production is seamless, blending samples and live instruments into a warm wash of sound.

Continue reading ‘Album Review: Clive Tanaka y su orquesta, “Jet Set Siempre No. 1”’


R.I.P. Dylan Muse Suze Rotolo

Suze Rotolo was Bob Dylan’s girlfriend during the folk legend’s Greenwich Village days in the early-early 60’s. She might not be as famous as other women from Dylan’s life like Joan Baez or Sara, Bob’s longtime wife and mother of four Dylan children. But she was with the man when it mattered. For all the legend of his mercurial rise, Bob must have felt pretty vulnerable upon his arrival in New York in early ’61 (after dropping out of the University of Minnesota). He met Suze, then a 17-year-old activist with the Congress of Racial Equality, in July of that year. Having been raised in the city by left-wing Italian-American parents, Suze was instantly more cultured than Bob at the time of their meeting. Who knows the extent to which she turned Dylan onto Civil Rights and modern art, standing as a rock of support to the budding songwriter during his first forays into a competitive Village folk scene? (I imagine Rotolo’s memoir, A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties, helps address some of these unknowns.)

Suze is probably best remembered as being the girl on Dylan’s arm on the iconic Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan cover. But how about the luck at being muse for some of Dylan’s earliest, absolute best love songs, like “Boots of Spanish Leather”? Suze Rotolo died last Friday at the age of 67.


Hear This: Scott Walker’s “The Old Man’s Back in Town” (1969)

Has the kniving, union-bashing, billionaire-pandering, doo-doo face Governor of Wisconsin got you down? Well, here’s another Scott Walker I hope we can all agree with! It’s a track from the artist’s fourth self-titled LP, known as Scott 4, which I recently heard Thom Yorke promote in an interview. Actually, see if you can spot the resembelence to Radiohead’s first hit, “Creep”. And feel free to interpret the abstract lyrics as though they’re spewing from the mad mind of Gov. Walker himself, perched atop his ivory tower! 

The crowds just gathered, their faces turned away
And they queue all day like dragons of disgust

All the women whispering
Wondering just what these young hot-heads want of us

For more on the protests in Madison (and actually for some good points from the other side), check out this recent Fresh Air interview: link



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