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Archive for the ‘Washington DC’ Category

Cutting-edge music - shirt, tie, soullessness required

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

An update to the actual site is coming tomorrow evening, but two quick things tonight:

One: I’ve been listening to the new Meshuggah all night tonight. It’s already my favorite of theirs so far, although admittedly it’s been a while since I listened to Destroy Erase Improve.

Two: There is an article at Georgetowner lamenting the state of independent music in DC and hailing “a new indie scene” starting up in Georgetown. Now, if you know anything about Georgetown, you’re probably already skeptical. And rightfully so: the Georgetowner’s idea of an “indie music” scene involves shows at a venue where there’s a jacket and tie dress code, tickets are $60 at the door, and one of the headlining artists boasts on his Myspace page that he is featured in an issue of DC Modern Luxury Magazine.

Some highlights from the article include:

There are those that dismiss the independent art world as catering to the common people. But let us not forget that some of the most celebrated works of William Shakespeare and Mozart played in the common theatre houses during their lifetimes. At times, their work was not widely accepted by the power elite of their day. It was often viewed as subversive, offensive, and a direct challenge to those in power. It is only years later that we realize their artistic contributions are a preservation of the politics, struggles, and social ideologies of the age. Are we marginalizing the next great commentator of our time?” (emphasis mine, because, just… wow.)

Or even better, “[DC INDIE's founder] realized that DC’s power elite were searching for a richer environment than the local night club to while away there [sic] evening hours.” Ah yes, because the REAL audience of indie music is obviously DC’s power elite! Seriously… these folks are like the bastard children of two of the most annoying types of people in our society: one, the ignoramuses who whine about how “music was so much better when…” while calling anything remotely innovative “just noise.” And two, the fucking assholes who sit in their multimillion-dollar homes wondering why all those poor people out there don’t just work harder so they, too, can afford two BMWs and a house in Georgetown. I guess it makes sense that they wouldn’t want to “while away there evening hours” at a grungy nightclub with the filthy unwashed masses.

Naturally, these clueless folks are getting hammered by anyone who feels like they have a claim to the label “indie music” in DC. Perhaps the most gratifying response is at Brightest Young Things (the picture of the venue is priceless). “In case you forget your collared shirt, Banana Republic is located next door… KICK OUT THE JAMS MOTHER FUCKERS!!” Amusement at the expense of Georgetown aristocratic tools whose idea of cutting-edge “indie music” is fine dining with a generic downtempo electronica artist playing in the background: priceless!

In the end, though, I suppose live and let live: those people can fork out $60 and feel like they are helping out the cause of cutting-edge indie music. I’ll keep going to Transparent Productions shows, or Velvet Lounge shows, or whatnot. I can get the same feeling for 15-25% of the price. And without having to put on a fucking jacket and tie.

A couple DC-related things

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

Ionarts, easily the best DC-area classical music blog out there, has a fantastic preview of the fall 2007 concert season. Among the concerts of interest for folks like me are Kronos Quartet (this Friday; sadly I’ll be out of town), Alarm Will Sound, and The Rite of Spring arranged for two pianos. Of course, none of this excites me nearly as much as the concert that Iva Bittová will be playing next year with the Takács Quartet at the Library of Congress

The second thing is a neat little retrospective at Black Plastic Bag about Melody Records, a long-running independent CD store here in the District. Melody Records has always been my local store of choice, even though there’s a smaller, more hipster-friendly place that opened a year or two ago (Crooked Beat). They have a phenomenal world music section that doesn’t especially interest me, but also a good rock section and a small but excellent jazz section — my initial adventures into the worlds of Cryptogramophone Records, Tim Berne and Cecil Taylor all happened thanks to this record store.

I buy most of my music online, and download a fair share as well from eMusic, so I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t been to Melody Records for a while (many months now). But this little retrospective has inspired me to go back sooner than later. I should probably avoid bringing my credit card though.

New music blog at the Washington City Paper

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

For the active DC music fan, the Washington City Paper recently launched Black Plastic Bag, a music blog that appears to aspire to being more than just another indie-rocker’s blog. They’ve just gotten off the ground, but already there is a big post about Transparent Productions‘ 10th anniversary, so this seems promising. Could be a great addition to the lackluster DC music blog “scene” (is there a scene at all? I guess I only really follow DCist, whose popular music coverage is somewhat limited to generic indie-rock and indie-pop and a smattering of rather straightforward jazz).

Awesome WaPo piece about Joshua Bell, sort of

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

More nifty music content in a major national newspaper — this past Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine featured an article about how Joshua Bell, acclaimed classical violinist, played in a busy DC metro station at rush hour as a kind of social experiment. Surprising no one who has ever been in the DC metro at rush hour, he was resoundingly ignored, despite the predictions of Leonard Slatkin, director of the National Symphony Orchestra, who either has never been in the metro, is shockingly out of touch with the modern world, or both:

“Let’s assume,” Slatkin said, “that he is not recognized and just taken for granted as a street musician… Still, I don’t think that if he’s really good, he’s going to go unnoticed. He’d get a larger audience in Europe… but, okay, out of 1,000 people, my guess is there might be 35 or 40 who will recognize the quality for what it is. Maybe 75 to 100 will stop and spend some time listening.”

So, a crowd would gather?

“Oh, yes.”

To be fair, it seems that a few people did stop and listen for at least a few seconds or minutes, which is generally more than you can say for most street musicians in this city. But in any case, Bell’s reactions to the stunt are especially fun to read: “‘I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change.’ This is from a man whose talents can command $1,000 a minute.”

The article includes audio of the full 45-minute “performance,” plus selected video clips which are good fun.

Twin Earth makes the case for paying attention to the local DC music scene

Monday, March 19th, 2007

The live recording of the moment is a particularly interesting one for me, a wonderful recording of a DC-area band called Twin Earth playing at The Red and the Black. These guys play a kind of sludgy, heavy instrumental psych-rock that sounds like it draws influences from the likes of Acid Mothers Temple, Sonic Youth, chunks of Black Sabbath, and so on. This is a pretty good recording, and the material is fairly interesting if a little too straightforward at times. Twin Earth have no releases as yet, but there’s a few cuts from the aforementioned live recording up at their MySpace page. The dude who recorded the show and put it up on Dimeadozen also recorded the Sleepytime Gorilla Museum show last Friday — a great recording of a great show. In any case, if he is to be believed (he includes with all his torrents very, very extensive show notes and entertaining ramblings), there are a bunch of underground DC bands in this sort of jammy, heavy neo-psych style that sound very interesting — the best-known of these probably being Dead Meadow, whose discography I’m beginning to explore. Maybe I’ll have to stop ignoring the local music scene as I’ve been doing for so long.

DC sells out (lots of shows)

Monday, January 29th, 2007

The Washington, DC live music scene continues to surprise me. Last year, weird-ish shows like Animal Collective and Joanna Newsom sold out easily; Massive Attack sold out two consecutive shows at $40 apiece. This year, the madness has begun early, as The Decemberists instantly sold out a show at a $40 ticket price (nearly double what they asked for when they played here just a few months ago!), and the line to get tickets for a free Sufjan Stevens at the Kennedy Center numbered in the thousands.

I was in that line for free tickets — they were to be given out at 9am last Saturday, and I got there with a few friends at about 7:45am. When I saw the line of tents alongside the building, I knew we were in trouble. By our estimates, there were somewhere in the range of 1200-1500 people in front of us, with at least another 500 behind us by the time we realized it was hopeless and left just before 9am. Wow.

Upcoming DC-area concerts

Friday, February 25th, 2005

Speaking of live music, after a long winter drought, there are suddenly a lot of DC-area shows I’m interested in going to in the near future:

  • March 1 - Rachel’s at the Black Cat
  • March 20 - Ozric Tentacles at the State Theatre (Falls Church, VA)
  • March 22 - Slint at the 9:30 Club
  • April 20 - The Fucking Champs at the Black Cat
  • May 6 - Autechre at the Black Cat
  • May 6 - The Decemberists at the 9:30 Club

The Autechre/Decemberists conflict is really unfortunate. I would be fascinated to see Autechre live - I imagine it’s just a couple guys sitting in front of their laptops, but the idea piques my interest. However, I’ll definitely be going to see The Decemberists instead, as those guys have become one of my favorite indie-rock bands in recent memory. Too bad.