Notes from last night (and a request for feedback)
Last night I headed out to DC9 to see French atmospheric black metal/shoegaze band Alcest. (Apparently it was quite the week for atmospheric black metal bands in the U St corridor, since Liturgy opened for Sleigh Bells at the 9:30 Club on Tuesday). Their set focussed mostly on their newest album, Les Voyages de L’ame, which sounded great, despite the absurdly omnipresent smoke machine. (Seriously, it’s as if those guys were pumping enough smoke for a space the size of the 9:30 club). Oddly, the crowd seemed to be the biggest for opening band deaf heaven– either that, or people just pushed closer for the headliner’s set. Other openers were locals Black Clouds and Auroboros.
Hey, while I’m at it, it seems to be a SLDC Music Notes tradition to ask for feedback on the last weekday of the month. What do you like/dislike in this daily round-up? Are their things I could add or change? Feel free to let me know, either via a comment on this post or by email, email@example.com.
• Chris Richards muses on musicians who wear masks [Washington Post]. As the hyper-connectivity of social media pulls our planet into a tighter huddle, [Aaron] Jerome [of SBTRKT] is one in a growing number of vanguard pop artists flirting with the idea of anonymity. They often wear masks. Some conceal their names. A few refuse to perform in public altogether. Many make electronic music, including Deadmau5, the Bloody Beetroots, Redshape and Zomby. And although artists and authors have worked under pseudonyms for centuries, protecting one’s anonymity today feels like an implicit protest against our increasingly Facebookish society. These artists are asserting their power by refusing to be identified, asking us to like them without clicking “Like”.
• Uber-hipster blog Brightest Young Things is expanding to New York [Washington CityPaper]. 2011 was Brightest Young Things’ most successful year, and its first profitable one, [BYT leader Svetlana] Legetic says. But she isn’t inching back from the operation’s online presence to take advantage of the breathing room that comes with a bigger staff. (The site now has six full-time employees with benefits, plus two part-timers and an army of volunteer contributors, compared to three full-timers a year ago.) As far as bylines go, Legetic will still write the site’s weekend events newsletter, and guide its more ambitious editorial projects. But a lot of her energy in the next few months will involve Brightest Young Things’ more imperial ambitions. This summer, the site is expanding to New York.
• The Washington Post’s sixth annual Peeps contest (sorry, we just can’t bring ourselves to call it by its official name, “Peeps Show”) has concluded. We do love this music-related one, so kudos to Derek Hills and Brinda Krishnan (of the band Not My Sister) for their sugary creation! There are a few close-ups here and here and here.
• Local arts news: Scott Tucker (Cornell University’s choral director) will be taking over as the head of the Choral Arts Society [Washington Post]. The Society’s current head, Norman Scribner founded the organization 46 years ago and is retiring at the end of this season. Tucker’s experience includes fundraising (of particular interest in today’s climate), commissioning new work — he commissioned more than 30 new pieces while at Cornell, including works by Augusta Read Thomas, Chen Yi and Libby Larsen — and world music. He spent part of a sabbatical year in South Africa, learning traditional music by rote from an expert who requested that he not write anything down, saying, according to Tucker, that “those staff lines are like prison bars to the music.”
• Monica Hesse tells us all about Japanese girl group AKB48‘s trip to DC [Washington Post]. How to explain AKB48. The group contains 60-ish members, selected through a rolling “American Idol”-esque audition process. It is the largest pop group in the world. When its members get older, they graduate and are replaced with trainee AKB48s. The group’s past 11 singles have topped Japanese charts, and Japanese citizens get to vote on which members will appear in which videos. Tickets to the band’s shows are distributed via lottery. AKB48 is huge.
• Ally Schweitzer continues the Lincoln Theatre saga– oh, and hey, she’s got a copy of Blues Alley owner Harry Schnipper‘s bid to purchase the venue [Washington CityPaper].
• Anne Midgette talks about the Johansen Competition for string players ages 13-17 [Washington Post]. [T]he naked honesty of many of Friday’s performances awakened in me all of that gee-whiz, ain’t-classical-music-amazing sentiment I so often seek to combat.
So I spent most of the weekend out in Reston for the annual SingStrong a cappella festival, which featured a long list of performers including Sing-Off winners Pentatonix, locals– and Sing-Off alums– Afro-Blue, and live-looper Julia Easterlin. Easterlin was by far my favorite performer of the weekend; her original compositions were outstanding, and it was really impressive to watch her build her layered harmonies live.
Then last night, I headed up to Baltimore to see technical instrumental trio Dysrhythmia at Sonar’s Talking Head Lounge. Really awesome show– the guys previewed all new songs from their as-yet-unrecorded album, and bassist Colin Marston broke a string twice. (Luckily, both of the opening bands on the tour played 6-string basses, so he just borrowed one for the rest of the set.)
• Michael J West on Kevin Eubanks at Blues Alley [Washington Post]. While most Americans know Kevin Eubanks for his 15 years as Jay Leno’s bandleader and sidekick, jazz devotees remember the guitarist’s straight-ahead bop and funky, world-music-imbued experiments from his pre-”Tonight Show” career. The audience that packed Blues Alley to see him Thursday night, however, got neither of the above.
• Local power metal band A Sound of Thunder has just released a music video for “Muderous Horde” (recommended if you like snakes!). The band’s new album Out of the Darkness comes out next week, and the band is celebrating with a CD release show at Empire in Springfield (formerly Jaxx) on Saturday 3/31.
• The Onion has ended circulation in DC [Washington CityPaper]. No great surprise from us (most of the Onion bins we saw were always empty, with the exception of the ones right outside the Columbia Heights metro station– the paper had clearly been cutting back its distribution this year).
We’ve gotten some feedback that we should change our section headers on this blog, so we’re going to be testing out some formatting over the next few days. If you like (or hate!) what you see, feel free to let us know, either with a comment on this blog or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes from Last Night
Last night, I went out to the Black Cat to see Bowerbirds. The show itself was lovely, but I really couldn’t hear much of anything above the audience chatter. I guess that’s becoming the norm now, but seriously: especially at quiet shows, if you want to talk, please just move to the back! I couldn’t understand why so many people were holding loud conversations right underneath the stage. Maybe people figure that once they’ve paid their $15 cover, they can do whatever the hell they want to, even if it’s completely disruptive to everyone else in attendance– and to the band on stage. I went to over 130 shows last year, and I don’t remember a single one being as chatty as the show last night, which is a disappointment for sure.
• Sweetlife Festival has announced the lineup of its second stage: Delta Spirit, Twin Shadow, Zola Jesus, the Knocks, RAC, U.S. Royalty, Yuna, Corey Haim, LP, Cut Copy’s Ben Browning, and Bluebrain. Jonathan L. Fischer reacts [Washington CityPaper].
• Scott Crawford is putting together a documentary of the D.C. punk scene from 1980 to 1990 and needs your help, says the Washington Post. The film is slated to be called Salad Days, and you can check out their facebook page for ways to get in touch.
Over the past few years, the pop airwaves have been hip-hop-dominated but, during the past several months, the music has segued into rhythmic-leaning pop and then into straight-ahead pop. “Acts like Katy Perry and Rihanna have paved the way for pure pop music’s return,” says Keith Caulfield, Billboard’s associate director of charts. “What’s been missing were girl groups and boy bands. It’s such a good environment for this kind of act in pop music right now.”
• Not local but still worth mentioning: We reminded you yesterday that flash mobs aren’t cool, but apparently Renee Fleming and Yo-Yo Ma didn’t get the memo. The pair performed at a food court in Chicago with some Chicago high school students and members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (apparently the CSO sent out an email announcing the concert, which reminds us that the only thing less cool than a flash mob is announcing the flash mob in advance. Seriously, people!). Anyway, as much as we hate flash mobs, we can bet that this performance was a step up from Fleming’s 2010 album Dark Hope, a collection of covers of songs by Muse (“Endlessly”), Band of Horses (“No One’s Gonna Love You”), Arcade Fire (“Intervention”), Tears For Fears (“Mad World”), and Peter Gabriel (“In Your Eyes”). (No, we did not make any of that up.) At the flash mob performance, Fleming kept with a safer song choice: “America the Beautiful”.
• Concert updates: Fiona Apple‘s show tonight at 6th & I has been posponed a week, to Wednesday 3/28. Here’s a quick report from the Washington Post. The Washington Examiner, on the other hand, didn’t get the memo that the show is postponed and instead published this preview of the concert.
• Documentary alert: The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye opens this Friday at Landmark’s E Street Cinema. That’s “Genesis” as in Genesis P-Orridge of Psychic TV, and Chris Porter wrote this column about the two [Express].
• We’re still a little sick of seeing the word SXSW, but we don’t at all mind reading DCist’s SXSW 2012 Scouting Report, especially since they kept it local by telling us when those bands would be performing around here.
The method serves mostly to slow people down by having to retype the barely legible wavy words, while it allows scalpers to buy up every ticket to, say, a Bruce Springsteen show at Verizon Center on April 1 that sold out in one minute according to my computer. Can’t figure out why I got shut out while the local scalper Web site lists literally hundreds of tickets available at prices up to $1,000 each.
The problem is: everybody KNOWS how much Ticketmaster stinks, but if you want to go to a concert at a Ticketmaster venue, you’ve gotta use ‘em.
In “Guitar Zero,” Marcus uses his musical midlife crisis to frame a discussion of the science of adult learning and music’s effect on the human brain. For the past couple of decades, developmental psychologists have believed that complex skills, such as playing an instrument, are best acquired during brief windows of time, usually in early childhood, when the brain is more malleable.